BATTERS: Not Much Help Among Non-Roster Invitees

Last season, the Kansas City Royals invited 23 Non-Roster Invitees (NRIs) to camp. Two of them, both pitchers, made the team.

That’s pretty typical.

NRIs are guys whom major-league clubs sign to minor-league contracts and then invited to spring training. They are called “Non-Roster” because, well, they are not on the big-league team’s roster. But if they make the team, they get added to the 25-man roster (and, by extension, to the 40-man as well).

And the chances you’ll get a diamond in the rough among NRIs are about the same as finding a box of chocolates in the garage because you forgot today is Valentine’s Day.

First, the list

Here are all the batter NRIs we could identify after a semi-laborious search through the Web:

Player             Tm          Player             Tm          Player             Tm
======            ===          ======            ===          ======            ===         
Abreu,Tony         KC          Gose,Anthony      TOR          Olt,Mike          TEX
Adams,Matt        STL          Gosewisch,Tuffy   PHI          Orlando,Paulo      KC
Adduci,James      CHC          Green,Grant       OAK          Orr,Pete          PHI
Amezaga,Alfredo   CHC          Green,Nick        FLA          Ortiz,Ryan        OAK
Ankiel,Rick       WAS          Grossman,Robbie   PIT          Owings,Chris      ARI
Arenado,Nolan     COL          Guillen,Carlos    SEA          Pagnozzi,Matt     CLE
Arias,Joaquin      SF          Gyorko,Jedd        SD          Panik,Joe          SF
Arlis,Patrick     MIL          Ha,Jae-Hoon       CHC          Parraz,Jordan     ATL
Avery,Xavier      BAL          Hagerty,Jason      SD          Pascucci,Valntno  NYM
Baisley,Jeff       LA          Hall,Bill         NYY          Patterson,Eric    DET
Bandy,Jett        LAA          Harris,Brendan    COL          Paul,Xavier       WAS
Bard,Josh          LA          Harris,Willie     CIN          Paulino,Ronny     BAL
Barnes,Brandon    HOU          Hawpe,Brad        TEX          Paulsen,Ben       COL
Barnhart,Tucker   CIN          Head,Jerad        DET          Pearce,Steve      MIN
Bates,Aaron       MIN          Henriquez,Ralph   SEA          Perez,Carlos      TOR
Baxter,Mike       NYM          Henry,Justin      DET          Perez,Juan         SF
Beerer,Scott      BAL          Hermida,Jeremy     SD          Petit,Gregorio    CLE
Bernier,Doug      NYY          Hernandez,Andersn PIT          Phillips,Paul     MIL
Berry,Quintin     DET          Hernandez,Diory   HOU          Pie,Felix         CLE
Bixler,Brian      HOU          Hernandez,Luis    TEX          Pierre,Juan       PHI
Blanco,Andres     WAS          Hernandez,Michel  CLE          Podsednik,Scott   PHI
Blanco,Gregor      SF          Herrmann,Chris    MIN          Pollock,A.J.      ARI
Bocock,Brian      TOR          Hester,John       BAL          Pridie,Jason      OAK
Boggs,Brandon     PIT          Higashioka,Kyle   NYY          Quintanilla,Omar  NYM
Brantly,Rob       DET          Hill,Koyie        STL          Quiroz,Guillermo  SEA
Branyan,Russell   NYY          Hill,Steven       STL          Ramirez,Max        KC
Brown,Andrew      COL          Hoes,L.J.         BAL          Ramirez,Wilkin    MIN
Brown,Corey       WAS          Hoffpauir,Jarrett WAS          Ransom,Cody       ARI
Brown,Dusty       TEX          Holaday,Bryan     DET          Rhymes,Will       TA
Brown,Gary         SF          Hollimon,Mike     MIN          Rivera,Mike       MIL
Buck,Travis       HOU          Hudson,Kyle       TEX          Rivera,Rene       MIN
Burroughs,Sean    MIN          Huffman,Chad      CLE          Robinson,Chris    TEX
Cabrera,Ramon     PIT          Hunter,Cedric     OAK          Rodriguez,Eddy     SD
Cameron,Mike      WAS          Ishikawa,Travis   MIL          Rodriguez,Julio    KC
Carlin,Luke       CLE          Izturis,Cesar     MIL          Rodriguez,Luis    SEA
Carroll,Brett     WAS          Jackson,Brett     CHC          Rohlfing,Daniel   MIN
Carson,Matt       MIN          Jackson,Conor     TEX          Rottino,Vinny     NYM
Casali,Curt       DET          Jackson,Ryan      STL          Rowand,Aaron      FLA
Castellanos,Nick  DET          Jefferies,Jake    FLA          Ruggiano,Justin   HOU
Castillo,Wilkin   COL          Jensen,Kyle       FLA          Ryal,Rusty        ARI
Catricala,Vinnie  SEA          Jeroloman,Brian   TOR          Sammons,Clint     FLA
Chang,Ray         MIN          Jimenez,A.J.      TOR          Sanchez,Angel     HOU
Chen,Chun-Hsiu    CLE          Jimenez,Luis A    SEA          Sanchez,Gary      NYY
Choice,Michael    OAK          Johnson,Dan       CHW          Sanchez,Tony      PIT
Ciriaco,Audy      DET          Johnson,Rob       NYM          Santos,Omir       DET
Ciriaco,Pedro     BOS          Jones,Daryl       CIN          Scales,Bobby      CHC
Clark,Cody         KC          Joseph,Tommy       SF          Short,Brandon     CHW
Clement,Jeff      PIT          Kawasaki,Munenori SEA          Simmons,Andrelton ATL
Conrad,Brooks     MIL          Kearns,Austin     FLA          Singleton,Jonthn  HOU
Cora,Alex         STL          Kouzmanoff,Kevin   KC          Skipworth,Kyle    FLA
Corporan,Carlos   HOU          Krauss,Marc       ARI          Snyder,Brad       HOU
Cruz,Luis          LA          Kuhn,Tyler        CHW          Solano,Donovan    FLA
Cunningham,Todd   ATL          Lane,Jason        ARI          Solarte,Yangervis TEX
Curtis,Colin      NYY          LaRoche,Andy      CLE          Solis,Ali          SD
Danks,Jordan      CHW          Lehmann,Danny     MIN          Spears,Nate       BOS
Davidson,Matt     ARI          Leon,Sandy        WAS          Spilborghs,Ryan   CLE
Davis,Lars        COL          Lerud,Steven      PHI          Springer,George   HOU
De La Cruz,Luis   STL          Lewis,Fred        CLE          Stanley,Cody      STL
De La Rosa,Andrsn MIL          Leyland,Patrick   DET          Stassi,Max        OAK
Decker,Jaff        SD          Loewen,Adam       NYM          Stock,Robert      ST
Den Dekker,Matt   NYM          Lopez,Jose        CLE          Strieby,Ryan      DET
DeShields,Delino  HOU          Luna,Hector       PHI          Sucre,Jesus       SEA
Diaz,Argenis      DET          Maldonado,Carlos  WAS          Sullivan,Cory      LA
Diaz,Jonathan     TOR          Mangini,Matt      TAM          Susac,Andrew       SF
Dinkelman,Brian   MIN          Mather,Joe        CHC          Sutton,Drew       ATL
Dominguez,Chris    SF          Matthes,Kent      COL          Teahen,Mark       WAS
Dozier,Brian      MIN          May,Lucas         NYM          Terdoslavich,Joe  ATL
Durango,Luis      ATL          Maysonet,Edwin    MIL          Thompson,Trayce   CHW
Eaton,Adam        ARI          McBride,Matt      COL          Thurston,Joe      HOU
Erickson,Gorman    LA          McCann,James      DET          Tiffee,Terry      FLA
Esposito,Brian    CIN          McPherson,Dallas  CHW          Timmons,Wes       OAK
Evans,Nick        PIT          Mejia,Ernesto     ATL          Tolbert,Matt      CHC
Falu,Irving        KC          Mendonca,Tommy    TEX          Tolleson,Steve    BAL
Feliciano,Jesus   TAM          Michaels,Jason    WAS          Towles,J.R.       MIN
Fields,Josh        LA          Miclat,Greg       TEX          Tracy,Chad        COL
Fiorentino,Jeff   OAK          Miller,Corky      CIN          Tracy,Chad        WAS
Florimon,Pedro    MIN          Miranda,Juan      TAM          Vazquez,Jorge     NYY
Ford,Darren       SEA          Mitchell,Jared    CHW          Velazquez,Gil     FLA
Fox,Jake          PIT          Molina,Gustavo    NYY          Velez,Eugenio     STL
Frandsen,Kevin    PHI          Montanez,Lou      PHI          Villar,Jonathan   HOU
Franklin,Nick     SEA          Montz,Luke        FLA          Vizquel,Omar      TOR
Fryer,Eric        PIT          Moore,Scott       HOU          Wallach,Matt       LA
Gallagher,Jim     CHW          Morales,Jose      PIT          Wheeler,Ryan      ARI
Galvez,Jonathan    SD          Moss,Brandon      OAK          Wheeler,Tim       COL
Garner,Cole       NYY          Mota,Jonathan     CHC          Williams,Jackson   SF
Gartrell,Stefan   ATL          Murphy,JR         NYY          Wilson,Josh       ATL
Gil,Jose          NYY          Myers,Wil          KC          Wise,Dewayne      NYY
Goebbert,Jake     HOU          Nanita,Ricardo    TOR          Wong,Kolten       STL
Goins,Ryan        TOR          Navarro,Dioner    CIN          Wood,Brandon      COL
Golson,Greg        KC          Nieves,Wil        COL          Woodward,Chris    TOR
Gomes,Yan         TOR          Nix,Jayson        NYY          Young,Delwyn      CHW
Gonzalez,Alberto  TEX          Noonan,Nick        SF          Young,Matt        DET
Gonzalez,Edgar    CHC          Olmedo,Ray        CHW          Zawadzki,Lance     LA

A fair number of NRIs are organizational farmhands like KC OF prospect Wil Myers and NYY C prospect Gary Sanchez, who achieve NRI status because their big-league club wants them at camp for the coaching and the chance to play against tougher competition, but doesn’t want to start their service clock by putting them on the 40-man. We won’t be looking at them.

Instead, we’ll look at the other big cohort of NRIs: established players, usually marginal types, who are free agents. They’re invited to camp by organizations actually looking to fill roster needs, usually third catchers, fourth/fifth OFs, and utility types. 

Veteran NRIs

From the above list, here’s a subset of batters whom BHQ projects to have at least some ABs this season, as well as a handful of batters with noteworthy MLB experience:

Player             Tm    Pos    pAB      Player             Tm    Pos    pAB
======            ===    ===    ===      ======            ===    ===    ===
Jackson,Conor     TEX  1B/OF    245      Choice,Michael    OAK     OF     62
Spilborghs,Ryan   CLE     OF    218      Lewis,Fred        CLE     OF     61
Guillen,Carlos    SEA     2B    184      Garner,Cole       NYY     OF     33
Patterson,Eric    DET     OF    133      Molina,Gustavo    NYY      C     33
Kouzmanoff,Kevin   KC     3B    130      Pagnozzi,Matt     CLE      C     33
Branyan,Russell   NYY     1B    121      Solarte,Yangervis TEX     2B     33
Gonzalez,Alberto  TEX     IF     98      Ford,Darren       SEA     OF     32
Vazquez,Jorge     NYY     OF     97      Woodward,Chris    TOR     IF     32
Dozier,Brian      MIN     SS     96      Jeroloman,Brian   TOR      C     31
Hall,Bill         NYY     2B     95      Miranda,Juan      TAM     1B     31
Paulino,Ronny     BAL      C     95      Pearce,Steve      MIN     1B     31
Pridie,Jason      OAK     OF     94      Towles,J.R.       MIN      C     31
Danks,Jordan      CHW     OF     92      Ankiel,Rick       WAS     OF      0
Hawpe,Brad        TEX     1B     91      Buck,Travis       HOU     OF      0
Johnson,Dan       CHW     1B     90      Cameron,Mike      WAS     OF      0
Ciriaco,Pedro     BOS     SS     67      Clement,Jeff      PIT      C      0
Burroughs,Sean    MIN     3B     66      Hermida,Jeremy     SD     OF      0
Lopez,Jose        CLE     IF     66      Izturis,Cesar     MIL     IF      0
Wise,Dewayne      NYY     OF     66      Loewen,Adam       NYM     OF      0
LaRoche,Andy      CLE     3B     64      Navarro,Dioner    CIN      C      0
Vizquel,Omar      TOR     3B     64      Pierre,Juan       PHI     OF      0
Nix,Jayson        NYY     3B     63      Rowand,Aaron      FLA     OF      0
Pie,Felix         CLE     OF     63      Teahen,Mark       WAS  IF/OF      0
Rhymes,Will       TAM     2B     63      Tolbert,Matt      CHC     IF      0
Rodriguez,Luis    SEA     SS     63      Wood,Brandon      COL     IF      0

Comment

Of all the NRI batters on this list only two are projected to have any positive value. The first is Conor Jackson (1B/OF, TEX), who has signed on with TEX after occasionally producing value in OAK and BOS. Jackson was a top draft pick many years ago by ARI, and was part of the D’Backs’ OF of the future with Carlos Quentin, notching three straight double-digit value seasons 2006-08, when his average line was 14-71-4-.292.

But Jackson then came down with Valley Fever, which sounds a lot funnier than it is—a debilitating viral infection that causes nervous system damage and loss of strength. After two weak comeback seasons (in ARI and OAK), Jackson was back into positive value, albeit a minimal $4 in OAK and after being traded partway through 2011 to BOS.

Jackson has very useful skills: ct% routinely near 90%, double-digit walk rates, and Eye ratios above the magic 1.00 in three of seven MLB seasons, including 2010. He’s been a bit of an empty bag, though, with no speed to speak of (despite 10 SB in 2008) and a PX over 100 just once in his career, while his FB% has declined steadily.

In TEX, he’ll be battling for a 5th OF/DH/1B slot, maybe spelling incumbent 1B Mitch Moreland against LHP and filling in for Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz when they’re injured. He faces a number of challengers, though: fellow NRI Brad Hawpe, and incumbent reserves Craig Gentry, who brings far more speed and A+ defense to the role, and David Murphy, a perennial double-digit HR/SB guy and prize Roto value player.

The other batter projecting positive Roto dollars is Carlos Guillen (2B, SEA), who signed back in SEA, where he began his career in the 1940s, when the team was called the Rainiers. He was quite a player for the Mariners, and especially for the Tigers, where he provided mid- to high-$20 values in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Knee injuries took their toll, however, and at age 36, his ability to contribute meaningfully has to be in question. He’s been under 300 AB each of the last three seasons and his power has declined from well over league-average, to right around league-average, to well under league-average.

Omar Vizquel (IF, TOR) will caddy for the infielders in TOR this season, taking the role that John McDonald played for many years in SkyDome/Rogers Centre. Unfortuantely for the Jays, the banjo-hitting McDonald was Ted Williams compared with the late-model Vizquel, whose three-year line 2009-11 is 1-17-5-.271, and who hasn’t seen positive Roto value in that period. In a deep AL-only, Vizquel’s six or seven bags might offer some value, but BHQ is projecting just 1 SB in 64 AB.

Russell Branyan (1B, NYY) is currently on the BHQ depth charts getting about 10% of the ABs at DH and 1B. If so, that’s about 125 AB aiming moonshots at the short porch in right at New Yankee Stadium, and for “Russell the Muscle,” that could translate to near double-digit HR, if little else. There’s still plenty of time for the team to add other options at DH, and if so, Branyan could be among the early cuts.

Finally, keep an eye on Brandon Wood (IF, COL), who has landed in COL for spring training. His competition at 3B includes farmhand Nolan Arenado (also worth watching, by the way), Casey Blake, and a bunch of other guys who are not going to make you forget Mike Schmidt. Though Wood is viewed as washed up, after years of proving there’s no such thing as a can’t-miss prospect by mostly swinging-and-missing at LAA, he’s a plus fielder and he has that prodigious power that might make him somewhat monstrous in Coors Field.

Conclusion

Clearly, anyone on the NRI list is a longshot at best to provide fantasy value. There’s a reason they’re NRIs, and the reason is that they weren’t deemed worthy of a free-agent MLB contract. Most of the teams they are with have better options on their depth charts.

That said, while there might not be much value here coming out of ST, keep an eye on which of these NRIs were the very last cuts in camp—because they could very well be the first ones called up as replacements for injured or ineffective players.

And don’t forget the chocolates.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.