The carousel has started spinning.
For minor league players, the time may come when they are minor league free agents, which means they can offer their services to any major league team. This is a far cry from major league free agency, when players are paid millions upon millions of dollars along with a multi-year deal. Minor league free agents are often looking for a little raise and a spring training invitation. Most of these players are signed as organizational depth, with the chance to be added to the 40-man roster and a major league appearance or two, if they’re lucky.
After a player is drafted, the “uniform player contract” can be renewed six times, and then the player is either a free agent or is added to the 40-man roster. So for 2010 draftees, their contract can be renewed through 2016, and if not on the 40-man, they are free (technically 5 days after the World Series ends, that is).
Baseball America lists 534 players who fit this designation this offseason. Eleven of them are former Valley Leaguers. Here they are:
- Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10). Drew pitched for the Los Angeles Angels in the majors in 2014 and 2015 (in 7 games), and spent 2016 in Triple-A Iowa of the Cubs’ system.
- Chris Berset (Winchester 2008). Chris, a catcher, was drafted by the Reds in the 20th round in 2010. He hasn’t appeared in a major league game, and he spent 2016 in Triple-A Louisville.
- Tyler Bortnick (Front Royal 2006). Tyler was drafted in the 16th round in 2009 by the Tampa Bay Rays. He has spent time in the Diamondbacks’, Mariners’, and Tigers’ systems as well. He played in three different levels for the Tigers in 2016. He has not reached the majors.
- Alex Fernandez (Staunton 2012). Alex is a free agent because he was released by the Marlins during the 2016 season. He was signed by the Tigers, but now he’s back on the market.
- Rico Noel (Covington 2008). Rico appeared in 15 games for the Yankees in 2015, and spent most of 2016 in Triple-A Oklahoma City, toiling in the Dodgers’ system.
- Alex Wimmers (Luray 2008). Alex was a first round pick, #21 overall, of the Twins in 2010. He pitched in 16 games in the majors in 2016.
- Eric Campbell (Luray 2006). Eric has played in parts of three seasons for the Mets in the majors, racking up 505 plate appearances.
- Eddy Rodriguez (Luray 2006-07). Eddy appeared in two games with the Padres way back in 2012… but he hit a home run in one of his five at-bats. Eddy spent 2016 on the Yankee’s Triple-A team in the International League.
- Kevin Munson (Covington 2008). The former JMU Duke appeared in 19 games for Triple-A Tacoma in 2016, after a stint in Indy Ball. He has not pitched in the majors yet.
- Scott Copeland (Staunton 2007). Scott pitched in five major league games for the Blue Jays- all in 2015. He also pitched in 13 games in Korea in 2016, and the rest of the way for Triple-A Buffalo, back in the Jays’ system.
- Erik Kratz (Waynesboro, Harrisonburg 2000, 2001). Over 7 years, Erik has appeared in 225 games, and has a total of 599 at-bats in the major leagues (for 5 different teams). Erik helped get this blog off the ground way back in November of 2006, when he sat down for a huge interview with ATVL.
Hopefully all 11 of these players will be able to continue their careers in 2017! ATVL will keep everyone posted as anything develops!