In honor of Jackie Robinson’s enrollment 75 years ago, UCLA retired No. 42 in all its sports and renamed its athletic facilities the “Jackie Robinson Athletics and Recreation Complex.”
Plenty of under-the-radar prospects were able to raise their stock a bit in the Arizona Fall League. Here are six such players that could make an impact in fantasy leagues in 2015 or beyond.
The ambidextrous Pat Venditte will take his switch-pitching talents to Oakland on a Minor League deal that includes an invitation to big league Spring Training, according to a recent tweet from his agent, Marc Kligman.
Wily Mo Pena, previously with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, has become a free agent, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Berardino further notes that there is mutual interest between Pena and the Twins. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in September that Pena would look for a deal with a US team, noting at the time that three clubs were interested. The huge 1B/OF hit 32 homers in Japan last season, batting .255/.344/.486 for Orix after playing two seasons for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. The 32-year-old Pena, who last appeared in the big leagues in 2011, struggled in parts of eight seasons in the states despite his prodigious power. After a strong season in Japan, though, big-league teams could view him as a potential option to improve their lineups, perhaps particularly at DH and against lefties.
Mike Plant has made a significant impact since joining the Braves after the 2003 season, and he calls his efforts toward the forthcoming stadium in Cobb County the “crown jewel” of his career.
According to USA Today, the Nationals have told opposing teams they would listen to possible deals involving right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister. Fister and Zimmermann are free agents after the 2015 season and general manager Mike Rizzo would like to sign them long term. Fister and Zimmermann were two of the Nationals’ best pitchers this past season.
Alex Avila isn’t sure whether a change of masks will change his fortunes when it comes to concussions. At this point, however, he’s willing to consider it.
Erik Johnson was penciled into the four-spot of the 2014 starting five, but his effort almost immediately didn’t look anything like what the White Sox envisioned. Johnson made it through five starts with a 6.46 ERA before being moved back to Triple-A Charlotte, where his ERA checked in at 6.73 over 20 starts. So where do these pronounced struggles leave Johnson moving into ’15 and beyond? Down, but not out in the mind of the organization.
Starting pitching is still the Rangers’ top priority this offseason, but if they can find the right fit, they could look to address a thin outfield.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league… The Nationals announced that they have signed right-hander Bruce Billings to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training. The 29-year-old Billings pitched four innings for the Yankees last season and split the season between the Yankees and Dodgers organizations. Overall, the veteran posted a 5.27 ERA with 6. K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 95 2/3 innings. Outfielder Xavier Avery has inked a minor league deal with the Tigers and will receive a Spring Training invite as well, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. The 24-year-old Avery spent last season with the Mariners after being acquired from the Orioles in the 2013 Mike Morse trade.