San Francisco Giants: Which Minor League FAs Can Make the Big Leagues?

Jun 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Jimmy Rollins (7) hits a double in the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Jimmy Rollins (7) hits a double in the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

With the big league contract portion of the offseason probably done for the San Francisco Giants, which minor league free agents can make the big leagues?

The San Francisco Giants have made their big move, signing Mark Melancon to fill their need for a dominant reliever at the backend of the bullpen. With a payroll that will approach nearly $200 million, they are done handing out that big money.

But as always, there are plenty of minor league signings to look at. From old friends to former enemies, there will be plenty of competition in the Spring, and at the higher levels of the minor leagues.

With that said, what are the chances that those minor league signings will crack the big league roster? Let’s take a look at those signings, and the obstacles they face in getting back to the big leagues with the Giants.

*Note: this is only for minor league signings with big league experience

1B/LF Kyle Blanks – signed on October 29th

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Blanks was signed by the Giants last offseason as well, and entered the Spring with a chance to be a power option off the bench. Instead, he didn’t play at all in 2016 at any level because he re-aggravated an achilles injury. He’s back for another season, but don’t expect too much.

Chances of making the big league roster – 3%

SS Orlando Calixte – signed on November 14th

Calixte just sneaks on this list, as his two games of big league experience back in 2015 makes him a major league “veteran”. Calixte probably has the best chance of any of the Giants’ minor league signings, because he’s already on the 40-man roster. The Giants added him in mid-November to protect him from the Rule V Draft. Shortstop has been his primary position, but his versatility, having played second, third, and the outfield, makes him an intriguing add. If nothing else, he should be up in September during expansion as a pinch-running option.

Chances – 95%

Jose Dominguez – signed on November 12th

Dominguez definitely doesn’t lack the stuff to be a big league pitcher. His fastball gets into the upper 90s, and his slider can reach 90 as well. The problem lies with his control (a common problem). In 52 games over four seasons, he walks four batter per nine innings and strikes out only 5.9. The strikeout numbers are higher in the minors (9.8), but so are the walks (4.7). If the organization can harness that ability, they have a good reliever on their hands. If not, he’ll be just another guy.

Chances – 26%

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May 3, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Tim Federowicz (15) throws to first base to retire Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Jason Rogers (not pictured) during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Cubs won 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

C Tim Federowicz – signed on December 13th

The Giants went through the entire 2016 season needing just two catchers, Buster Posey and Trevor Brown. The odds of that repeating are slim to none, just because of the physical demands of the position. Federowicz has 106 games of big league experience, and is a solid receiver with a very strong arm. He has great minor league numbers at the plate, but they’ve never transferred to his limited big league time. He seems a good bet to be the third-string catcher.

Chances – 67%

RHP Josh Johnson – signed on November 2nd

Johnson hasn’t thrown a big league pitch since August 6th, 2013, and hasn’t thrown in the minor leagues since facing one batter on September 4th, 2015. Once one of the bright young star pitchers in the game, his own body has betrayed him. It seems like a long-shot that he even plays at the minor league level, so expecting him to contribute at the big league level is really shooting for the stars.

Chances – 4%

1B/OF Chris Marrero – signed on November 9th

Marrero is a pretty similar player to Blanks. They’re both outfielders and first basemen, they’re both big dudes, and they both have the power to match their frames. The difference is that Marrero doesn’t have the injury history. On the other hand, he hasn’t gotten the big league chances Blanks has either. He did have a big 2016 on Boston’s Triple-A team in Pawtucket, hitting .284/.344/.494 with 30 doubles and 23 home runs. He even won the Triple-A Home Run Derby. He might actually be that depth power option that the Giants thought Blanks could turn into it.

Chances – 40%

RHP Bryan Morris – signed on December 7th

Mark Melancon‘s first act with the Giants was to spill the beans on a minor league deal with Morris during a conference call. Melancon’s former teammate with Pittsburgh has a track record as a solid major league reliever when healthy, but his 2016 season was cut short because of back surgery. If he can get back to form, his mid-90s sinker could make him a legitimate piece of the bullpen. That’s a big ‘if’, though.

Chances – 50%

1B/LF Mike Morse – signed on December 24th

Oh, the nostalgia! The lovable giant was re-signed to a minor league deal after going into semi-retirement when the Pirates released him early in 2016. While this is a happy moment for fans, the likelihood of Morse cracking the big league roster isn’t great. He’s struggled offensively over the last two seasons (.224/.303/.325 with five home runs in 104 games), and will turn 35 before opening day. But hey, the Giants have something of a track record with returning players who seem about done… (there’s also the question of whether Morse would accept a minor league assignment, which is a toss-up).

Chances – 20%

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Jul 16, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Ramiro Pena (1) makes a play on a ball hit by San Diego Padres second baseman Ryan Schimpf (not pictured) during the fifth inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

IF Ramiro Pena – signed on December 8th

After a highly successful stint during the middle of 2016, Pena is back with the Giants on another minor league deal. In 30 games, he became a valuable piece for the Giants, both in the lineup and from the bench. He was lost due to a roster crunch when the injured regulars started to return, but went unclaimed on waivers. If the Giants suffer through more infield injuries, Pena has a good chance to play again.

Chances – 45%

C Josmil Pinto – signed on December 26th

Another catcher on a minor league deal, Pinto is a powerful hitter. He showed promise during a brief 21-game stretch in 2013, slashing .342/.398/.566 with four home runs. But since, he’s only posted a .213/.310/.379 slash-line with seven home runs in 63 games. His minor league offensive numbers are respectable, but concussion issues have forced him to play first base a lot more. If he’s moving to first base on a more permanent basis, his chances of seeing the big leagues go down considerably.

Chances – 33%

SS Juniel Querecuto – signed on November 19th

A former Tampa Bay farmhand, Querecuto made his big league debut last season with the Rays, but only played in four games. He’s a natural shortstop with experience at second and third, but there’s a lot of competition in front of him (Tomlinson and Adrianza and Calixte and Rollins and Pena and…)

Chances – 17%

LHP Matt Reynolds – signed on December 11th

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The Giants initially signed the veteran lefty during the season last year, and he earned his call-up. In 20 games between Double-A and Triple-A, Reynolds didn’t give up a run while allowing just 10 baserunners. That success didn’t translate to the big leagues, where he allowed 12 baserunners and five runs in six innings. With Will Smith, Josh Osich, and Steven Okert ahead of him on the depth chart, it will likely take an injury or two for Reynolds to be back with the Giants.

Chances – 12%

SS Jimmy Rollins – signed on December 19th

A former National League MVP, Rollins will go down as one of the best to ever wear a Philadelphia Phillies’ uniform. But this has all the makings of a big leagues or bust deal. Since leaving Philadelphia, Rollins has a .224/.287/.351 in 185 games and has lost some pop and a step to Father Time. A big factor working against Rollins is his lack of versatility; he’s played all but 0.1 innings at shortstop in his big league career. If he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training, it’s hard to imagine Rollins heading to the minor leagues.

Chances – 15%

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Aug 18, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; New York Mets center fielder Justin Ruggiano (1) hits a grand slam against the San Francisco Giants in the fourth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

LHP Ricky Romero – signed on November 4th

Romero is entering his third season in the Giants’ organization, but has pitched just 16 innings over the first two. Much like Johnson, Romero is a once-promising young hurler that just couldn’t stay healthy. It’s highly unlikely he’ll get back to the big leagues again.

Chances – 0.1%

LHP Michael Roth – signed on December 6th

The 26-year-old southpaw has been a fairly durable minor league starter, throwing over 100 innings in three straight years. Despite a quite low strikeout rate, he’s done pretty well for himself (2.63 ERA in 2014, 2.97 ERA in 2016). He’s good depth to have at Triple-A, but there are a lot of pitchers ahead of him that would probably get a call-up first. Most of his big league experience is as a reliever anyway (22 of 23 games out of the bullpen).

Chances – 6%

Next: Giants 2017 Position Preview: RF

OF Justin Ruggiano – signed on December 24th

Of all the minor league signings this winter, this is the one that’s caught my eye the most. Ruggiano has big league experience at all three outfield spots and a track record of hurting left-handed pitching. With injury histories in both right and center field, and question marks with young players in left field, Ruggiano looks like a very good bet to make the big league club at some point. If nothing else, he could make for a good platoon partner.

Chances – 85%