Let’s nerd out here for a few minutes and go through each team’s non-roster invitees to spring training. Some of these are prospects just hanging out for a couple of weeks until they get sent back down to minor league camp. Some are veterans with a chance to make the team, or at least impress enough to be an early call-up when someone is injured. And some are simply blasts from the past still hanging around. Here are some of the more interesting names for each team:
There’s a reason the Orioles weren’t interested in bringing back Matt Wieters: They believe Sisco, who is ranked No. 69 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects, is close to ready after hitting .320/.406/.422 at Double-A. Giavotella could stick as a backup infielder, but he lacks the positional flexibility of Buck Showalter favorite Ryan Flaherty.
Yes, Craig is still getting paid by the Red Sox ($11 million in 2017) and Cuban flop Castillo has been removed from the 40-man roster. That’s two-time All-Star Quentin giving it one last shot, having last appeared in the majors for the Padres in 2014, when he hit .177. The guy to watch might be Travis, a career .303 hitter in the minors, although without much power (22 home runs in 934 at-bats). If Mitch Moreland falters at first base in-season, Travis could play himself into the lineup.
Kopech is the fun name here, although I doubt he’ll last long in major league camp because he hasn’t pitched above Class A. Luebke was once a rising star with the Padres before missing nearly three full seasons after two Tommy John surgeries. He returned to pitch briefly and ineffectively for the Pirates last season.
Jackson could make the roster, taking over the Rajai Davis‘ role to platoon in center field with Tyler Naquin. Zimmer has been heralded as a top prospect, but he has had major strikeout issues in the upper minors and probably needs a season in Triple-A to refine his hitting. Allen is a speed-first outfielder (45 steals) with good plate discipline, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he has a better career than Zimmer. You might remember Martinez as the guy who made the final out of the World Series after entering in the ninth inning as a defensive sub, but he’s behind Erik Gonzalez for the utility infielder role on the depth chart.
The Tigers have a gaping hole in center field — it looks as if Tyler Collins will be the starter — so you’d think they would have done a better job of bringing in some candidates to fight for that job. With Infante and Ryan in the mix, the Tigers risk continuing their long tradition of poor depth. The name to watch is Jimenez, who has a 1.59 career ERA in the minors and should break camp with the team. If Francisco Rodriguez falters, Jimenez could be closing come summer.
The Astros’ roster looks pretty set with depth across the board. Martes is one of the top pitching prospects in the minors after striking out 131 in 125 innings at Double-A, but he’s probably targeted for Triple-A no matter how well he pitches this spring.
League, Parnell, Sanchez? The Royals must be trying to turn the clock back to 2010. Withrow has the best chance to make the team; he was a promising power reliever for the Dodgers before blowing out his elbow. He returned and pitched in 46 games for the Braves in 2016 with a 3.58 ERA, but was nontendered and signed with the Royals.
Hey, it’s a Dustin Ackley sighting! All the pitchers invited to camp with major league experience and all the outfielders with major league experience combine to suggest the Angels have an opening or two on the pitching staff and possibly one for a backup outfielder.
The Twins signed Park, a big star in Korea, to a four-year, $12 million contract, but he hit a disappointing .191/.275/.409, and they removed him from their 40-man roster after signing Matt Belisle. Nobody claimed Park on waivers, so he was outrighted to Triple-A and heads to camp as a non-roster invitee. I wouldn’t rule out his making the team; when he connects, he hits the ball hard, with 12 home runs in 215 at-bats, but he also struck out 33 percent of the time.
The Yankees have elected to invite mostly younger guys to camp, sticking with their plan of going with the kids. Besides seeing how newly added prospects Torres and Frazier look, Kaprielian could be a fast mover. The team’s No. 1 pick in 2015 out of UCLA, he missed most of 2016 because of a strained flexor tendon before returning to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. Adams, a fifth-rounder in 2015 out of Dallas Baptist, gave up only 76 hits in 121 innings between Class A and Double-A to emerge as another future rotation candidate.
Oakland Athletics: P Felix Doubront, P Ross Detwiler, P Cesar Valdez, P A.J. Puk, C Ryan Lavarnway, 3B Matt Chapman, IF Max Muncy, 1B/OF Chris Parmelee, OF Alejandro De Aza, OF Jaff Decker, OF Andrew Lambo.
I think the A’s have the longest list of non-roster invitees, many with MLB experience. The two top prospects to watch are Chapman, a first-rounder in 2014 who hit 36 home runs in the minors (but with a .237 average and 173 K’s), and Puk, the sixth overall pick last June out of Florida.
The Mariners’ non-roster guys are almost all pitchers, indicating there might be a potential opening in the bullpen, especially for one of the left-handers (Hagadone, Kiekhefer, Venditte). The most interesting pitcher is Moore, a command-first right-hander drafted in the second round out of Oregon State in 2015. He had a 3.16 ERA at Double-A with only 18 walks in 108⅓ innings. He could surface at some point during the season.
Bauers is one of my favorite sleeper prospects after he held his own at Double-A at the age of 20, hitting .274/.370/.420 with 14 home runs and 73 walks. He split time between first base and right field and is a guy who could climb up the prospect lists in 2017 if he adds a little more power to his game.
Rangers beat writer Gerry Fraley estimated Hamilton’s chances of making the team a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. If he does, it would almost certainly be as their DH, with Shin-Soo Choo in the outfield and Mike Napoli at first base. Loney’s chances to stick would seem to reside in Hamilton not making the team.
Saltalamacchia could land a job as the backup catcher, and the Jays always seem to have an opening or two in the bullpen. Tellez is a big first baseman who hit .297/.387/.530 at Double-A, and if he hits in Triple-A, he could be a midseason upgrade over Justin Smoak.
No, Conger and Thole aren’t really fighting for a roster spot as the D-backs already have Chris Herrmann, Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis to share their catching duties. Blanco had a nice run with the Giants, including winning two rings, but is coming off a .224/.309/.311 season. He’s battling Jeremy Hazelbaker and Socrates Brito for a backup outfielder slot.
The Braves’ list is a mix of prospects (Albies, Peterson, Newcomb, Weigel, Minter) and veterans trying to hang on. Albies has soared through the system and reached Triple-A last season as a 19-year-old. After hitting .321 at Double-A, he hit .248 in 56 games at Triple-A, so there’s no need to rush him to the majors.
First off, it’s awesome that Kawasaki will be invited to camp. This is why we need a 26-man roster, just so the Cubs can carry him all season. Jimenez put on a show at the All-Star Futures Game and exploded up prospect lists, and while he’s targeted for high-A ball or Double-A, you know Cubs manager Joe Maddon wants to take a look at him.
Jennings is a good risk for the Reds, although he has missed much of the past two seasons because of injuries. Gutierrez is a 21-year-old Cuban righty the Reds signed last September for $4.75 million.
Reynolds would seem just about a lock to make the team, even if he slots behind Ian Desmond on the depth chart. But adding Reynolds would allow Desmond to slide to the outfield against left-handers if necessary.
The Dodgers’ website lists only Davis and Wilson, but they’ve invited several others, including top prospects Bellinger, Verdugo and Calhoun. All three played at Double-A Tulsa last year, so there’s a chance we could see them in Dodger blue at some point this season. Morrow has never been able to stay healthy, although he has managed to appear in every season since 2007, so he could crack the Opening Day roster with a good spring.
Maybe owner Jeffrey Loria looked at the uninspiring list of non-roster invitees and decided to sell the team. If that’s what it takes to get rid of him, good riddance and nice job, Marlins front office. Lobstein pitched a bit in relief with the Pirates last year but given the Marlins’ thin rotation, he could get a chance to start and surface at some point.
The fifth overall pick in 2016, Ray should be on the fast track to the bigs even after a so-so debut season in Class A, hitting .247/.307/.385 over 57 games at Brevard County. Sogard and DeJesus have plenty of big league experience, but the Brewers seem set in the infield unless they send Orlando Arcia back to the minors after his struggles in Milwaukee in his debut season (.219/.273/.358 in 55 games).
New York Mets: 1B Dominic Smith, P P.J. Conlon.
After getting drafted 11th overall in 2013, Smith’s stock has been all over the board. It’s rising again after he finally flashed some power in Double-A. Conlon was born in Belfast, Ireland (he moved to the U.S. when he was 2), and while 47 Irishmen have played in the majors, all but one was born there in the 19th century. The left-handed Conlon was a 13th-round pick in 2015 out of San Diego and posted a 1.84 ERA in 142 innings in Class A.
Crawford, the No. 5 prospect on Keith Law’s top 100, is probably headed back to Triple-A after struggling there in 2016 with a .244/.328/.318 line in 87 games. The glove is ready, and he has good plate discipline, but the lack of power remains an issue. Coghlan and Nava certainly could stick, with the Phillies hoping either could bring a low-level prospect at the trade deadline.
Meadows and Newman — ranked No. 9 and No. 33 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list — will certainly get long looks in camp. While neither will break with the team, both are possible in-season call-ups. Not invited to big league camp is Mitch Keller, who had a huge breakout season in Class A and is ranked No. 16 on Law’s list.
Yes, that’s the former outfielder Jordan Schafer, now trying to make it as a pitcher. He pitched in the Dodgers’ system a year ago, mostly in Double-A, and gave up 56 hits in 49⅓ innings, but he did strike out 59 batters against 18 walks.
The Padres have Luis Sardinas and Rule 5 pick Allen Cordoba as their rostered shortstop candidates. Sardinas can’t hit, and Cordoba played in the Appalachian League a year ago (although he did hit .362), so there’s a chance Aybar sticks around.
San Francisco Giants: SS Jimmy Rollins, OF Justin Ruggiano, OF/1B Michael Morse, 3B Jae-gyun Hwang, 1B Kyle Blanks, IF Christian Arroyo, C Tim Federowicz, C Josmil Pinto, P Tyler Beede, P Jose Dominguez, P Bryan Morris, P Neil Ramirez, P Matt Reynolds, P Michael Roth.
The Giants win for most intriguing list of invitees, although I don’t know if that’s a good thing. It seems unlikely Rollins has anything left in the tank, but if Eduardo Nunez ends up playing some outfield, maybe Rollins has a chance. The Giants are hoping they strike gold with Hwang, who hit .330/.391/.558 in Korea with 26 home runs and 24 steals. Morse had eight at-bats for the Pirates last year, went hitless, was released on April 21, and nobody picked him up.
Hey, who says the Nationals haven’t acquired a closer? They have Joe Nathan. He’s 42 now and was last effective in 2013, but I guess you never know. Worley had a 3.53 ERA with the Orioles last year and certainly has a chance to make the roster as a bullpen guy.