2015: Major Leaguers In The Minors #1

(originally written 9/24/15)

Like life itself, pro sports can be downright cruel—one minute, you're an All-Star, one of the best at what you do. Everybody wants a piece of you, and you collect more dough than a warehouse of pizza boxes. The next minute, you're back in the minors. Bus rides and greasy spoons have replaced those chartered flights and catered buffets you grew accustomed to. This facet of MLB life has always fascinated me—how do you basically start your career over again?

 

Whether due to injury, roster crunches, or simple sucky play, every year there are (seemingly) established big leaguers toiling away in the minors. It took me many years to understand that playing extensively in the majors doesn't necessarily make one a major league player—cough Jemile Weeks cough—and that in most cases, if a veteran guy is buried in AAA, there's probably a defensible reason why that the average fan isn't privy to. 

 

​We've compiled a lengthy (but not comprehensive) list of players who, at one time, received extensive big league run—maybe for a year, maybe for 15 years—who spent most or all of the 2015 season in AAA. This piece was originally due for a July posting, but there were far more guys to document than we realized, and their status kept changing (a number of dudes originally featured here were promoted back to MLB or released entirely during composition; most of them were removed from the list.) 

  • Brandon Allen, 1B, 29: Allen is a big first baseman who got looks with the Diamondbacks and Athletics a few years ago. From 2009-11, he homered 11 times in 324 at-bats—not enough power to ignore a .210 average with 128 K over that period. He's been mostly on the outside of the majors looking in since, including all of 2015 with AAA Las Vegas (Mets). Last in majors 2012.

  • J.P. Arencebia, C, 29: The 21st overall pick in 2007, Arencebia gained recognition after homering twice in his 2010 MLB debut. He was Toronto's #1 catcher 2011-13 and showed good power, but was plagued by K's and passed balls (top-3 finishes each year, and only three of the 34 can be attributed to R.A. Dickey). When he fell to .194 with an obscene .227 OBP—18 walks against 148 K—in 2013, the Jays cut ties. He'd been in AAA Durham (Rays) all of 2015 until a late August summons to TB, where he shined.

  • Scott Baker, P, 34: The former Minnesota Twin churned out double-digit win totals annually 2008-10...then succumbed to the dreaded Tommy John surgery in late 2011 and has won three MLB games post-op. He began 2015 with AAA Oklahoma City (Dodgers), made two starts for LA, then was sent back to OKC. He's been sidelined since early July (groin).

  • Darwin Barney, 2B, 28: If the Darwin Awards didn't already exist, they could be inspired by the career of this former Cubs second baseman—in 2012, he was in the ROTY hunt. In 2013, he was a Gold Glover. By 2015, he was buried once again in AAA—stock doesn't usually fall that far that fast. Someone with less respect for athletes than us might be inspired to recognize other similarly unfortunate major leaguers with "Darwin" awards in Barney's "honor". But we won't. For now, anyway.

    Barney spent most of 2015 with AAA Oklahoma City (Dodgers). Update: Toronto acquired Barney on 9/13 and is using him.

  • Brandon Beachy, P, 29: Beachy showed worlds of promise as a young Braves starter 2011-12, going 12-8, 3.03 in 38 starts before undergoing his first Tommy John surgery in mid-2012. He returned in late 2013 and held his own...but another UCL surgery KO'd him in the Spring. Surprisingly signed to a major-league deal by the Dodgers after Atlanta cut ties, Beachy made two uninspiring starts with LA before being outrighted to AAA Oklahoma City, where he remains.

  • Pedro Beato, RP, 28: The massive Beato, a former Orioles #1 pick who can reach 97, was a Rule V pick of the Mets for 2011 and began his career with a team-record 18.2 scoreless IP. But in '12 he hurt his shoulder, was traded, and has shuttled between MLB/MiLB ever since as consistent effectiveness eludes him. Baltimore re-signed Beato for 2015; he's spent the whole year with AAA Norfolk and had a good year (2.65, 16 saves). Last in majors: 2014

  • Jason Berken, P, 31: Berken was a regular starter for the 2009 Orioles, but "regular" doesn't necessarily mean effective (6-12, 6.54 in 24 starts). He'd go on to make 81 relief appearances in 2010-11 before making four late-season starts with the 2012 Cubs...all Cubs losses. He's been exclusively in the minors since, including 2015 with Lehigh Valley (Phillies).

  • Roger Bernadina, OF, 31: Bernadina averaged 118 games and about 350 plate appearances annually for the 2010-12 Nationals, with respectable pop and speed. But in late 2013 he hit himself off the roster, and has bounced around the league since—mostly in AAA. This year he's been insurance at Albuquerque (Rockies). Last in MLB 2014.

  • Mitchell Boggs, RP, 31: Boggs, no relation to Wade or Brandon, averaged 63 appearances per year for the 2010-12 Cardinals and pitched in the 2011 World Series. However, as can happen in sports, his effectiveness faded almost overnight—named the closer to open 2013, Boggs was disastrous to the point of being demoted and sold.

    He recorded a 9.50 ERA in 25 games with AAA Charlotte (White Sox) in 2014 and was cut from AAA Gwinnett (Braves) in July 2015. Last in majors 2013.

  • Brian Bogusevic, OF, 31: One of the space fillers on what passed for the Houston Astros in the early 00's, Bogusevic played 146 games for the 2012 squad, starting 83 of them. However, like most of his teammates, he was playing because Houston didn't have anyone better. Not diggin' his sub-.600 OPS, the team let Bogs go after '12; he's now insurance at Lehigh Valley (Phillies). Update: Bogusevic was a September call-up by Philadelphia.

  • Julio Borbon, OF, 29: In his first full season, Borbon played regularly for the 2010 A.L. Champion Rangers (122 starts). But the next year, he underwent ankle surgery and spent all of 2012 in the minors. He was a spare outfielder for the Cubs in '13, but out of the majors since—Borbon has spent '15 with AAA Norfolk (Orioles).

  • John Bowker, OF, 32: He burst onto the scene with acks in his first two MLB games (with San Francisco in 2008), but leveled off and was traded to Pittsburgh for Javier Lopez in mid-2010. Bowker regularly put up good MiLB numbers, but couldn't approach them in the bigs and eventually went to Japan for three seasons. He's back with his original organization, San Francisco, in 2015. Last in majors 2011.

  • Reid Brignac, OF, 29: The former #2 pick has had trouble sticking in the bigs since averaging 103 games for the 2010-11 Rays. From 2012-15 Brignac hit .184 in brief stints with five big league clubs; he spent most of 2015 with AAA New Orleans—about an hour's drive SE from his hometown of St. Amant—but did get in 17 contests with their parent club, the Miami Marlins.

  • Rex Brothers, P, 27: Guys like Brothers are who I had in mind when composing this piece—two years ago he was on top, stepping in for injured Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt and excelling, finishing 2013 with 19 saves and a 1.74 ERA. The following year, Brothers returned to middle relief and wasn't close to the same pitcher (1.85 WHIP). Colorado demoted him out of camp in '15, and he made only three MLB appearances before rosters expanded in September.

  • Emmanuel Burriss, IF, 30: Burriss spent parts of five seasons (2008-12) with the Giants, compiling a .243 average in just over 280 games—many of them starts, as SF gave him more than one chance to claim their second base job. But by the end, Burriss could barely keep his OBP over .200, and the team cut ties. He's now with Syracuse (Nationals). Other than five midseason PA, he's been there the entire 2015 season.

  • Jared Burton, RP, 34: Just last year, Burton got in 68 games with the Twins—his third straight with over 60. But neither the Yankees or Rangers had a spot for him in '15 outside of their respective AAA squads; the veteran reliever asked for his release from Texas in late June '15 and has sat out ever since.

  • Alexi Casilla, IF, 31: Best known for his clutch run in the infamous 2009 1-game playoff between his Twins and the Tigers, Casilla averaged about 300 PAs per year 2008-12, the vast majority at second base. He's split 2015 between AAA Toledo (Tigers) and Durham (Rays) with no major league run. Last in majors: 2014.

  • Ronny Cedeno, SS, 32: Cedeno was once the starting shortstop for the Cubs and, later, the Pirates. As recently as 2013 he played 89 big league games. But his entire 2015 has been spent with AAA Sacramento (Giants). Last in majors 2014. Update: Cedeno joined the Mexican League in July.

  • Jhoulys Chacin, P, 27: Chacin topped 30 starts and 190 innings in both 2011 and 2013 for the Rockies, but slipped to a 1-7 record in 11 starts in '14 and was released. The right-hander split 2015 with Columbus (Indians) and Reno (Diamondbacks), finally returning to the majors with Arizona in late August.

  • Louis Coleman, RP, 29: Coleman got in 117 games for the 2011-13 Royals, striking out a lot of dudes in middle relief. But as KC improved and Coleman's own effectiveness waned, he lost his roster spot in spring 2015 and spent all season with AAA Omaha until rosters expanded.

  • Brooks Conrad, IF, 35: Though he's just as soon rather have the game neuralyzed from his mind, Conrad holds a special place in my heart for committing three errors at 2B in a pivotal 2010 NLDS game—preventing my Giants from falling behind the Braves in the series. (In fairness, Conrad should have never been playing and only was because Martin Prado couldn't.)

    Conrad appeared in nearly 200 games for the Braves 2010-11, slugging a solid .448—but he's only spent short stretches in the bigs since; Conrad was with AAA Las Vegas (Mets) for all of 2015. Last in MLB 2014.

  • Jordan Danks, OF, 28: John's little bro was a White Sox teammate for parts of 2012-14; he totaled 180 games with the White Sox, batting .227 with 8 homers—and 119 K—in 344 at-bats. The Phillies acquired him off waivers in early January '15; he was with Lehigh Valley (AAA) all season until rosters expanded.

  • Manny DelCarmen, RP, 33: DelCarmen averaged 53 appearances per year 2006-10—all but nine with the Red Sox. But after a rough 2010, the right-hander could never crack another big-league roster, passing through several organizations and amassing 159 MiLB appearances for five organizations without a return to the bigs. DelCarmen was recently released from his second season with Syracuse (Nationals). Last in majors 2010.

  • Scott Diamond, P, 29: The undrafted Diamond started 51 games for the 2012-13 Twins, winning 12 in 2012 and leading the AL with 1.6 BB/9. But he regressed at the major and minor league levels and was released in July 2014. This year Diamond was 11-6, 3.71 for Durham (Rays). Last in majors 2014.

  • Chris Dickerson, OF, 33: Dickerson—no relation to Corey—is a guy who's been around for seven years, but never spent a whole one in the majors. He got extensive run for the 2009 Reds (.275 in 97 games) but hasn't stuck with anyone else for very long, averaging a few dozen MLB games annually since that '09 season. This year he's with Buffalo (Blue Jays). Last in majors 2014.

  • Scott Elbert, RP, 29: An effective lefty specialist for the 2011-12 Dodgers, Elbert underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013 and has only appeared in seven MLB games since—all in 2014. He's been with AAA El Paso (Padres) in 2015.

  • Dana Eveland, P, 31: This burly lefty has never been on solid major-league ground for long, but has accumulated over 150 appearances over 10 seasons with 27 teams (slight exaggeration). In 2008, he went 9-9, 4.34 in 29 starts for Oakland—decent enough, but it'd be six years before he matched that game total again. He's split 2015 between AAA Pawtucket (Red Sox)  the Braves, who employed him June, and AAA Norfolk (Orioles).

  • Jesus Flores, C, F, 30: Flores was a National 2007-12, topping 75 games thrice. But he's blown through four organizations since without returning to MLB. AAA New Orleans (Marlins) employed Flores in 2015.

  • Darren Ford, OF, 29: Ford's only played 33 MLB games, but anytime you have an individual game named after you, you're worthy of inclusion on this list. For the 2010 Giants, the speedster pinch-ran, stole second and scored the only run in a huge September clash with Colorado (which I saw in person.) That game came to be known as "The Darren Ford Game". Ford has spent the past two seasons with AAA Fresno and Sacramento (both Giants). Last in majors: 2011

  • Jeff Francis, P, 34: Francis, though unremarkable, was a mainstay in the Rockies rotation back in the late 00's, winning 44 games for them 2006-08. Since a 2009 shoulder operation, however, it's been a battle for a lefty who really wasn't all that great to begin with. He pitched himself off three rosters in 2014 alone, then got in a handful of games with the 2015 Jays before being outrighted to AAA Buffalo.

  • Kevin Frandsen, IF, 33: A top Giants 2B prospect erewhile, Frandsen's best opportunity with SF crumbled when he tore his Achilles in Spring 2008. He went on to find work with the Phillies and Nationals, for whom he averaged over 240 PA the past three seasons. Still, Frannie landed in AAA Reno (D'Backs) and Sacramento (Giants) for all of 2015. Update: Frandsen was a late, and I mean LATE September call-up for the Giants.

  • Dillon Gee, P, 29: When healthy, Gee was a decent enough starter for the Mets 2011-14, winning 13 one season and 12 in another. But the (re) emergence of young flamethrowers pushed Gee to the bullpen in 2015. Gee was unhappy with the move, so the Mets changed their mind—and sent him to AAA Las Vegas instead. He finished the season there, surprisingly.

  • Craig Gentry, OF, 31: The fleet Gentry got a lot of run for the Rangers and Athletics 2012-14, averaging 107 games and about 240 PAs per year in that span. But Oakland demoted him in to AAA Nashville in early 2015, where all but one subsequent week of his season has been spent. Gentry only hit .079 pre-demotion. Update: Gentry returned to Oakland as a September call-up.

  • Justin Germano, P, 33: In the mold of Dana Eveland, Germano made 23 starts for the 2007 Padres (7-10, 4.46) but hasn't been able to sustain solid MLB footing since. In fact, he's gone 2-17, 5.71 in 61 games (19 starts) from 2008-14. He put up good numbers for AAA Tacoma (Mariners) in 2015 before hooking up with the Korean League for the second time (he also spent 2009 in Japan). Last in majors: 2014

  • Juan Gutierrez, RP, 32: As a prospect, "J.C." was part of the Jose Valverde Astros/Diamondbacks trade of 2007; he went on to top 50 appearances four times between 2009-14 for several teams. Though he pitched well for the 2014 Giants (3.96 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in 63 games), he's been buried in AAA with Sacramento and Lehigh Valley (Giants and Phillies, respectively) for all of 2015.

  • Tony Gwynn, Jr., OF, 32: The veteran of eight major league seasons suited up exclusively for Syracuse (Nationals) this year. He started with the Brewers in '06 before averaging about 120 games per year with the Padres/Dodgers 2009-12—well over half of them starts. In 2014 he hit .152 in 80 games with the Phillies. 

  • Tommy Hanson, P, 28: Hanson emerged in 2009 with an 11-4 record for the Braves. But by 2012, even though he won a career-high 13 games, he was nowhere near as effective as in seasons past and was traded to the Angels that off-season. Hanson, who's now with AAA Sacramento (Giants), is 49-35, 3.80 in his major league career. Last in majors 2013.

  • Chris Heisey, OF, 30: Heisey spent the overwhelming majority of 2010-14 with Cincinnati, averaging 109 games per year the Reds while totaling only 31 MiLB games. He persevered through a strange 2015 that began with AAA Oklahoma City, up to the Dodgers, back to OKC, traded to Toronto, stashed in AAA Buffalo, then traded back to the Dodgers. In all, Heisey spent less than a month in the majors this season before being added as a September call-up.

  • Jim Henderson, RP, 32: Guys like Henderson motivated this article—two years ago, Henderson ranked among the league's best closers...and best stories, having made his 2012 major league debut at age 29. Following that 28-save 2013 season, Henderson couldn't get anyone out, losing his job and eventually his roster spot. The native Canadian underwent late 2014 shoulder surgery and was outrighted to AAA Colorado Springs in early 2015, where he spent the whole season. Pro sports are cruel.

  • Rich Hill, RP, 35: Hill was a surprise 11-game winner in 32 starts for the 2007 Cubs, but fell into a years-long slump. He ultimately re-invented himself as a lefty specialist for the Red Sox and Indians, appearing in 63 games for the latter in 2013. He split 2015 with AAA Syracuse (Nationals) and AAA Pawtucket (Red Sox). Update: Hill entered the Red Sox rotation in mid-September.

  • David Huff, P, 31: Huff was an 11-game winner for the 2009 Indians, starting 48 times for the Tribe 2009-11 and surviving a liner to the head along the way. But he's only experienced a modicum of success since, voyaging through three organizations the past three seasons. He spent 2015 with AAA Oklahoma City (Dodgers) save for six first-half innings for the Dodgers.

  • Paul Janish, IF, 32: Janish averaged 95 games a year for the 2009-11 Reds—much of it as their regular SS. But his defense and a memorable MLB debut couldn't mask splits of .225/.291/.307 forever; he's spent most of the past four seasons in AAA including 2015 with Norfolk (Orioles). Update: Janish was a late-August call-up to Baltimore.

  • Dan Johnson, 1B, 35: Johnson was Oakland's primary 1B 2005-07, averaging 14 home runs. He then became a journeyman, totaling 126 major league games in the past eight seasons (some of them were very special, however.) Johnson split most of 2015 with AAA  Louisville (Reds) and AAA Memphis (Cardinals), sandwiched around 19 July at-bats with the Cardinals.

  • Elliot Johnson, UT, 31: Johnson averaged 102 games per year 2011-13, with the Rays, Royals and Braves—contributing mostly with his speed and versatility (.215 lifetime average in well over 300 games). He only got in seven MLB games in '14 and zero in a 2015 season spent with AAA Oklahoma City (Dodgers).

  • Jair Jurrjens, P, 29: Once a regular in the Braves rotation, Jurrjens had already won 30 MLB games by age 24. As recently as 2011, he was 13-6 and an All-Star! Since then, Jurrjens has battled a severe drop in effectiveness; he's only made four major league appearances since 2013—including none this year, which Jurrjens has spent struggling at Albuquerque (Rockies).

  • Logan Kensing, RP, 33: When healthy and in the strike zone, Kensing got regular run for the 2006-08 Marlins. His time in the majors seemed complete after an unimpressive 26-game trial with the 2009 Nationals and a lost 2010 (two arm surgeries). But the tall righty got in one game with the '13 Rockies and a few more with the '15 Mariners—sandwiched around nearly 175 more in the minors.

  • Michael Kirkman, RP, 28: Kirkman's never come close to spending a whole season in the majors, surprising since he seemed to get in every one of the few Rangers games I saw during his time there (2010-14). In actuality, he racked up 94 total appearances during that period, allowing 100 hits in 106 innings with 103 K. Primarily a starter in the minors, all of Kirkman's big league work has been in relief; he pitched for AAA Colorado Springs (Brewers) in 2015 before an August release. 

  • Casey Kotchman, 1B, 32: It seems he's been around since the first Bush administration, but the defensive standout is only 32 in 2015. As recently as 2011-12 he was surpassing 140 games played with the Rays and Indians, but he lost essentially all of 2013 to a rib/oblique injury and sat out 2014 entirely. This year Kotchman was exclusively with AAA Omaha (Royals), and posted solid offensive numbers. 

  • Aaron Laffey, P, 30: Laffey is best known as an Indian 2009-12; he appeared in 80 games—more than half of them starts—for the Tribe before being let go. Laffey is one of those guys not good enough to keep, but not bad enough to cut. For his career, Laffey owns a 1.5 WHIP and 4.38 ERA, yet his home run rate is less than one per 10 innings. Laffey has appeared in six MLB games since 2013, including three this year with the Rockies who summoned him from AAA Albuquerque.

  • John Lannan, P, 30: Though it didn't really mean much in those difficult days, Lannan was Washington's most successful starter in the late 00s and remained a quality pitcher through 2011 (10-13, 3.70 in 33 starts). Still, he was pushed out of the Nats' suddenly star-studded rotation and has made only 25 major-league appearances from 2012 on. He started regularly for Albuquerque (Rockies) for all of 2015. Last in majors 2014.

  • Jason Lane, P, 38: As an Astros outfielder in 2005, Lane mashed 26 homers in helping Houston win their first-ever pennant. Two years later he couldn't get off the interstate and his career seemed finished—over the next five years, he journeyed through several organizations and countries without getting "the call". Finally, in 2012, Lane became a full-time pitcher (while still playing some outfield) and was able to return to MLB in this role with the Padres in 2014. This year he repped their AAA affiliate El Paso.

  • Sam LeCure, RP, 31: From 2011-14, LeCure averaged oer 50 appearances for the Reds, but statistically, 2014 was his worst (3.81 ERA 1.5 WHIP) and he did not make Bryan Price's staff in 2015. He spent the whole season with AAA Louisville before a late August callup to the bigs. 

  • Adam Loewen, OF, 31: Loewen made 35 appearances (29 starts) for the 2006-08 Orioles before converting to the outfield—giving him (barely) enough notoriety to be mentioned here. Since then, the vast majority of his experience has been in AAA, although Toronto gave him 37 mostly-forgettable PAs back in 2011. 

  • Ed Lucas, IF, 33: After a decade on the farms, Lucas got in 94 games with the 2013 Marlins, and 69 more the next year, batting .255 cumulatively. But Miami let him go after that season, and the utilityman—Lucas played six positions in the majors—spent all of 2015 with AAA Oklahoma City (Rangers).

    Continue To Part 2