The significance of offseason Minor League contracts was highlighted this year when players including Víctor Arano, Carl Edwards Jr., Maikel Franco, Joey Meneses, Erasmo Ramírez, Aníbal Sánchez, Dee Strange-Gordon and Jordan Weems began the season competing for Major League roster spots on Minors deals.
This Spring Training, a new group of players will look to make the same mark. Last week, the Nationals signed infielder Leonel Valera, infielder/outfielder Erick Mejia, outfielder Derek Hill and right-hander Hobie Harris to Minor League deals. (Left-hander Sean Doolittle will also be back on a Minor League contract as he looks to return from season-ending elbow surgery.)
Get to know these players contending to stick in the bigs.
INF Leonel Valera
Major League experience: N/A
Minor League experience: Six seasons
Valera split his time last season between the Dodgers’ High-A and Double-A affiliates, where he slashed a combined .265/.340/.442 with a .782 OPS, 81 runs scored, 15 doubles, seven triples, 18 home runs, 83 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in 130 games. He played the majority of his innings at shortstop, and he also has experience at second and third base. Valera signed with the Dodgers in 2015 as an international free agent from Venezuela.
INF/OF Erick Mejia
Major League experience: Two seasons (most recent: 2020)
Minor League experience: 10 seasons
Mejia slashed .261/.330/.443 with a .763 OPS, 72 runs scored, 29 doubles, 15 home runs, 58 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 120 games this season for the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate. He logged most of his time at the hot corner, while also playing the entire infield, left field and right field. Mejia appeared in a total of 17 games for the Royals from 2019-20. He signed with the Mariners in 2012 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic.
OF Derek Hill
Major League experience: Three seasons (most recent: 2022)
Minor League experience: Eight seasons
Hill appeared in 31 games (26 starts in center field) for the Tigers in 2022, slashing .229/.270/.289 with a .559 OPS, two doubles, one homer, three RBIs and three stolen bases. He was designated for assignment by Detroit in August and claimed off waivers by Seattle, where he finished the season with its Triple-A affiliate. Hill was the 23rd overall pick in the 2014 Draft by the Tigers. He has played 95 games at the Major League level.
RHP Hobie Harris
Major League experience: N/A
Minor League experience: Seven seasons
Harris went 4-3 with a 2.04 ERA and eight saves across 53 innings in as many relief appearances for the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate last season. He recorded a 1.075 WHIP with a rate of 4.8 walks per nine innings (BB/9) and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). A 31st-round pick by the Yankees in 2015, Harris pitched five seasons in New York’s organization, one in Toronto’s and one in Milwaukee’s.