Matt Eddy and Baseball America released their annual collection of minor league free agents yesterday – it’s a must bookmark for those who partake in organizational rosterbation. The offseason becomes officially underway once the legions of busted prospects pop up on the radar once again, if only to cause for great reminiscing about those who the game passed by. One of the names delivered in this year’s edition is Angel Salome.
Formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers’ system, Salome ranked well on team-specific prospect lists over the previous few seasons behind having a raw bat as a catcher. He hit so well in 2008 (a .415 on-base percentage and .559 slugging percentage) in his first exposure to Double-A as a 22-year-old that the Brewers even allowed him a cup of coffee late in the season. Since then, Salome had a down year in Triple-A (.286/.351/.436 which is down by his standards) in 2009 and everything fell apart this season.
Salome decided he no longer wanted to catch after a separation period. Catchers with all the right offensive weaponry that change positions usually switch to first or third base- like Joey Votto or Carlos Delgado. Salome is too short (at five-seven) for either of those positions, but also too laterally impotent to play up the middle. Process of elimination and National League rules leave the corner outfield.
Complicating matters is Salome’s defensive skill set. His arm works just fine, but his foot speed is closer to Casanova than Incaviglia. Throwing and chasing baseballs is only part of an outfielder’s defensive checklist. The nuanced attributes, like reading the ball off the bat or taking a good route, may or may not come to Salome with time.
The one constant about Salome has been his ability to hit the baseball. He batted .358/.413/.556 in 413 Double-A plate appearances and .288/.338/.420 in 328 Triple-A plate appearances. That kind of production gained him near deity status while catching but becomes required to play in the corner outfield without defensive skills. There is a chance he could find a niche with an American League team as a designated hitter down the road. If nothing else, a team could stash him in the minors and allow him to gain reps in the outfield before eventually sneaking him out there on days with a groundball heavy starter on the hill, all the while holding onto the hope that Salome would have a change of heart about catching.