1) Best Value
The Cincinnati Reds signed P Tomas Alonso for $910K, hoping Alonso could develop into a major league starter. While Alonso likely won’t be an ace, he could make for a decent #4 or #5 starter with his solid stamina and above average control.
Alonso was a workhorse in AA ball, with 68 starts over two seasons and an 18-8 record in Season 2. He was promoted to AAA in Season 4 and turned heads with a 13-8 record with a 4.17 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Thus far in Season 5, he looks likely to improve on those numbers.
Don’t be surprised if Alonso gets a mid-season promotion to the big show.
2) Lowest Production Per Dollar
I was tempted to give this to either Cleveland AA pitcher Willie Gutierrez ($1.8 mil) or Toronto AA pitcher Jimmy Vazquez ($2.5 mil), but there is still a chance for both pitchers to crack into AAA or higher.
No such opportunity exists for Miguel Lee. The Dominican pitcher signed with St. Louis for $1 million, but had a disappointing Rookie ball debut in Season 1. For some reason, he shuttled between Rookie and Low A in Season 2 despite an inability to keep his WHIP below 2.50.
Then, in Season 3, came the breakthrough. In Low A, Lee had a 3.23 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14 WHIP over 64 innings. Half of his appearances were starts, showing his flexibility. He was then promoted to High A, and although his 5+ ERA and 1.61 WHIP weren’t great, he had pitched less than 14 innings.
Surprisingly, instead of staying in High A for Season 4, he was demoted….all the way back to ROOKIE ball.
He pitched 38 half-hearted innings in Rookie, then retired.
3) Best Overall
Two players are worthy of mention in this category.
Honorable Mention would go to Juan Carrasco, currently on Cincinnati’s AAA roster. After receiving a $2.8 million signing bonus, Carrasco was immediately through into the fire of the AAA roster. Averaging a .296 batting average over his minor league career, Carrasco has been bounced from 3B to the outfield. He could play either position adequately and is a potential starter for the Reds in the very near future.
The award goes to Toronto pitcher Ichiro Li. The Storks dished $3 million to sign the set up man from Japan, and Li has delivered in every level of the minors that he has pitched. He was dominant in Low A, producing a sub-1.00 WHIP in 42 total innings. In Season 4, he made 50 appearances (including 2 suspect starts) in High A. Li’s 3.57 ERA and 1.34 WHIP would likely have been improved without the starts, where he simply does not have the stamina to pitch. His 40/11 K/BB ratio was especially impressive.
This season, Li is off to a great start in AA. His 2.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP could land him a mid-season promotion if maintained. Li’s potential weakness is that he produces significantly more flyballs, although he has only surrendered 12 HRs in 152 minor league innings.
***Chrispy is the author of this post ***