We have officially entered the portion of free agency where the Cleveland Guardians begin to take fliers on guys by signing them to minor-league deals, in the hope they can catch some lightning in a bottle. It's both a maddening and fascinating time to be a fan of the organization.
However, it seems like the Guardians' front office is pretty adept at this practice and can usually uncover at least one player undervalued by other teams and help unlock their potential. Last season it was Enyel De Los Santos. In 2021 Bryan Shaw returned to the club, Anthony Gose joined the team following the 2020 season, Tyler Clippard before the 2019 season, Mike Freeman following the 2018 season, Austin Jackson ahead of the 2017 season, and Joba Chamberlain for the 2016 campaign. You see the pattern developing here.
Each of these guys was at the very least a quality end-of-the-roster type who preformed above expectations. They weren't All-Stars, but they weren't expected to be. They were all valuable pieces who filled a role and did so fairly well.
This is not to say that each of these minor-league signings will work out. For every one that does pan out we have three to four who don't. Remember the Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramírez signings?
So after that long preamble, what is my point? This week, the Guardians signed a former top pitching prospect in Touki Toussaint. He ranked as high as #53 by Baseball America and #50 by MLB before the start of the 2019 season.
Toussaint hasn't been able to put it all together at the big-league level over his first five seasons, dating back to 2018. But at 26 years old (Toussaint will turn 27 in mid-June), there may be some hope that the Guardians pitching staff can correct some issues and help him become the pitcher many thought he could become earlier in his career.
Command has been one of Toussaint's biggest issues, as he owns a 1.74 lifetime K/BB ratio, and his lifetime WHIP is nearing 1.5. That said, he has been near league average in two of his seasons, owning a 102 ERA+ in 2018 and a 97 ERA+ in 2021.
Scouting reports of Toussaint while he was in the minors indicated that he possessed a plus fastball and curve; he also had an average changeup. Toussaint now primarily uses a sinker (39.7%) and curve (32.9%) while mixing in a splitter (20.2%) and four-seam fastball (7.2%). But those same reports did indicate that his command was spotty.
If Toussaint can come in and learn from the Guardians pitching staff, he could, COULD, become the next hidden gem uncovered by the front office. A spot in the bullpen could be up for grabs, and, as always, it's also a great idea to have pitching depth in general. Time will tell if the coaching staff can help limit Toussaint's issues and see him become a contributor to this 2023 roster.