The following Pittsburgh Pirates players will be eligible for minor league free agency during the 2011/2012 off-season:
* = Player will be first time eligible for minor league free agency
Some of the notable names:
Jose Ascanio – He was outrighted off the 40-man roster, then proceeded to Indianapolis, where he finished the year as a starter, putting up a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings over three starts, along with a 14:5 K/BB ratio. Ascanio previously got his fastball up to 96 MPH in relief, but has spent most of the year coming back from a 2009 shoulder injury.
Jeff Clement – He had knee surgery at the start of the calendar year, and didn’t return until the final month of the season, playing with Indianapolis. Clement hit for a .271/.358/.407 line with one homer in 59 at-bats. His AB/HR ratio in the majors last year was a pace for 27 homers in a full season, although his average and on-base percentage prevented him from being a starter.
Garrett Olson – Olson played briefly for the Pirates in 2011, and spent most of the year in Indianapolis as a starter. In 71 innings as a starter he had a 2.92 ERA, along with a 52:35 K/BB ratio. He profiles more as a bullpen arm in the majors, and the Pirates have a lot of depth in that area, although you can never have too many left handers.
Donald Veal – Veal was returning from Tommy John surgery this year, then had another set back later in the season. The Pirates put a lot of work in to him in 2009/2010, and he started showing some positive results in AAA before his elbow injury last year.
Greg Picart – He’s more of an organizational player, but he plays all of the infield positions, can play in the upper levels, and even served as the team translator for the Altoona Curve. The Pirates approached him early about coming back last year.
All five players would be interesting options to bring back on minor league deals, to add depth for the major league team (or in Picart’s case, to add depth to the upper levels and add a bridge between the Latin and US players). As usual with a minor league free agent list, no one really stands out to the point of being players that must be protected. If that was the case, they’d probably be on the 40-man roster right now.