Welcome to the first of a two part, annual series looking at the best non-roster invitees in big league camps this spring. Some our prospects, some veterans being given another chance, but all are worth keeping an eye on for one reason or another.
First up, the American League.
Having not pitched in the Majors since an eight game stint in 2011, Mark Hendrickson is back in Orioles camp to try and win a job in the team’s bullpen. Always an interesting player due to his height (6’9) and basketball background (he appeared in 114 NBA games), Hendrickson has reportedly switched to a side arm delivery in an attempt to prolong his career.
Boston Red Sox
Not really a group of players to get excited about, unfortunately. Ryan Sweeney and Lyle Overbay are recognisable names that could end up making a small contribution to the major league club but they’re hardly players to cause a song and dance over.
New York Yankees
The non-roster invitee lists on MLB.com are pretty strange things. Some teams only have a handful of players listed and it takes a bit of searching to get the full list elsewhere, other teams have what appears to be half their minor league system listed. The Yankees being a case in point. Looks like Joe Girardi might have to do some Homer Simpson style cutting in the first few days of camp. Anyway, the most interesting name on that lengthy list is probably Gary Sanchez. The Yankees are clearly short in the catching department this year and Sanchez will get a chance this spring to prove he can handle the position defensively in the long term.
Tampa Bay Rays
Shelly Duncan is usually a fun player to watch but all eyes this spring will be on Wil Myers. The prize the Rays received in the James Shields trade may well start the year at Triple A but if he hits like he did in 2012 the Rays are unlikely to be as gun shy about promoting him as the Royals seemed to be. The artist formally known as Leo Nuez is also in Rays camp.
Toronto Blue Jays
Non roster invitees are often players who teams have had in the past and want to bring back because they know they can offer leadership, stability and all that other good stuff you want in camp during the spring. Dave Bush seems to be that man for Toronto as he back with the club that drafted him in both 2001 and 2002.
Chicago White Sox
Unsurprisingly, the prospect invitees at White Sox camp are a pretty uninspiring bunch, however one former prospect does catch the eye. Bryan Anderson was once a nice prospect in the Cardinals system who profiled as an offensive minded catcher, but over the last few years his Triple-A batting lines in the offensively-minded PCL have been pretty nondescript. The team will be hoping he’s a late bloomer as their catching depth is almost non-existant going into the season.
If things had turned out the way many thought they would, the Indians having Scott Kazmir and Jeremy Hermida on their roster would likely have meant we would be talking about them as World Series contenders. As it is, the careers of the two 28 year olds who were born less than a week apart have fallen flat with neither likely to make any further impact in the big leagues.
The Tigers have a well-deserved reputation as preferring a ‘more experienced’ roster so the presence of top prospect Nick Castellanos in camp will be a welcome sight for Tiger fans. Originally a third baseman, Castellanos is now more likely to make the big leagues as an outfielder and will be learning the new position in camp this spring.
Kansas City Royals
Before today I’d never heard of Sugar Ray Marimon. Now all I think about is how much I hope Sugar Ray Marimon makes it to the big leagues this year.
Twins camp is the next stop on Rich Harden’s never ending come back tour. You have to admire his determination to perserve with the game given his catalogue of injuries although whenever he does re-emerge he does seem to maintain his ability to miss some bats. Unfortunately he also proves that he can’t stay healthy or keep the ball in the ballpark. What a career he could have had with health on his side.
There’s no way around the fact that the Astros are going to be awful this year. Obviously this is by design as they rebuild but it is unavoidable nonetheless. They do at least have the owner of one of baseball’s most unique careers in camp as Rick Ankiel continues to try return to the big leagues as an outfielder.
Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim
A near empty farm system and a less than stellar crop of veteran invitees makes this a pretty lacklustre list. Bill Hall is probably the pick of them which just about says it all.
After being drafted 11th overall last summer, Addison Russell had an explosive debut in pro ball and will now be the youngest player in big league camp this spring. It’s too early to think about when the young shortstop will be playing at the big league level, but he’s showing that he might end up being the best player to come out of last year’s draft.
The Mariners currently have a pretty strong group of prospects at their disposal, the best two of which are probably Mike Zunino and Taijuan Walker, both of whom will be on display in Arizona this spring and could quite conceivably see time with the big league club later on this summer.
He might not quite be the youngest player in MLB camps this year, so Jurickson Profar will have to content himself with being most people’s top prospect in the game instead. When the team does finally decide he’s ready for the Show, the Rangers are going to be faced with an interesting positional crunch as they already possess one of the game’s best middle infield tandems in Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.