According to the Oakland Athletics via MLBTradeRumors, the Brewers have claimed minor league right hander Justin James off waivers. James is a bit old, at 29, but his numbers in the high minors suggest that he may have a big league future as a reliever.
Last season, in 39.1 IP, James posted an ERA and a FIP under 2.00 between AA and AAA. In the AAA Pacific Coast League, the most offense-inflated league in baseball, that’s doubly impressive. James struck out over 10 batters per nine innings but did walk 3.65 batters per nine. Those are exactly the kinds of numbers you like to see out of a reliever, and apparently Doug Melvin and his staff saw something worth claiming in James.
Of course, he’s no sure thing. He’s already 29 and he missed the entire 2009 season with an injury. His last season in AAA, 2007, saw a mediocre 4.64 FIP. 40 innings is a pretty small sample, so it’s possible that James was simply out of his mind in 2010 and that he’ll revert to his previous career levels this year.
Still, this is exactly the kind of guy that’s worth a flyer and a prayer. James will likely compete for a bullpen spot in spring training, and if he doesn’t make the team, no harm done. We’ve seen guys like this succeed under Doug Melvin, most prominently Mark DiFelice, Todd Coffey, and Kameron Loe, so there are reasons to think James could contribute at the MLB level outside of his solid minor league statistics.