Friday, February 15, 2013

Non-Roster Invitees

Each year a bunch of players who are not on the major league roster get invited to be part of major league spring training. This year the Twins invited 26 non-roster players to spring training. Not all these players are really competing for roster spots. Many are AAA backup players signed as minor league free agents. They got invited as part of their minor league deals, a common way to entice minor league free agents to sign. The players want to make sure they get a chance to be noticed by the major league staff in case an opening occurs during the season. They are really competing for AAAA positions, the guys who are first in line when there is a need at the major league level.

Others, like the four catchers below, are invited because of the need for extra players. They also have no real chance to make the roster. They were invited because catchers are needed for all the extra pitchers in camp. It also allows catcher to start becoming familiar with major league pitchers they may have to work with in the future. For instance, Danny Lehman may well be the first guy called up if the Twins lose a catcher since the only other catchers on the roster are youngsters. If that happens, he will already know a little about the pitchers from working with them in spring training over the years. Of course, its also possible one of the other catchers will catch the eye of the major league staff and get the job ahead of Lehman.

Among the pitchers Oliveros is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. Blackburn, and possibly Harden, will start the year on the DL. Once healthy, they are both candidates for the rotation.

Deduno, Vasquez and Walters were all dropped from the major league roster during the winter and resigned to minor league deals. They are all candidates for the 5th starter spot, but Deduno is probably the only one with much of a chance. Vasquez and Walters are there mostly as AAAA backups, just like last year. But they ended up in a Twins uniform in 2012 and they might again in 2013. Martis has mostly been a starter, so its possible he will get a shot there.

The Twins just signed Rafael Perez to a minor league deal. Perez has been used exclusively out of the bullpen in the big leagues and was injured last year with shoulder surgery. The Twins said the initial plan was to stretch him out as a possible starter. He  is an experienced major league lefty who will likely end up in the bullpen if he is healthy and recovered. In many ways his situation is similar to Harden. Harden has been a major league starter in the past with a lot of injury issues. He will be given a shot at a rotation spot, but may end up in the bullpen.

Augenstein, Guerra, Martis, Perdomo and Slama are all bullpen candidates. Guerra is the only one without major league experience, but he may finally be starting to display a small measure of the talent the Twins thought they were getting when he was included in the Johan Santana trade. Perdomo did well for the Twins last year. Slama has done well in the minor leagues, but the Twins seem to be very doubtful that his funky delivery will fool major league hitters. Augenstein was a free agents signing.  Martis was purchased from the Pirates last season when the Twins ran short of pitching. All of them are long shots, but they all will be given a look for bullpen spots and callups when injuries occur.

Alex Meyer is in camp because the Twins traded Denard Span for him and they are hoping he is going to move the majors quickly. Its very doubtful it will be to start the season, but more likely by September. He is there to get familiar with the organization and to let the organization see him first hand.

There are three third baseman among the infielders. Deibinson Romero is a long time Twins prospect who was a free agent last fall and resigned with the Twins. Mark Sobolewski was taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. That means he does not need to be returned and can be sent to the minors. Ray Olmedo is the other third baseman and the only one with any major league experience. He can also play shortstop or second, so he might be a candidate for utility infielder. These guys are whatever competition there is for Trevor Plouffe at third base. Unlike Plouffe,  Sobolewski is a good defender. He also started to show some pop in his bat last year. So if Plouffe looks like the guy who struggled the last half of last year, its possible they would turn to Sobolewski.

Jeff Clement and Chris Carballo are both minor league sluggers who might get a spot on the major league roster as a bat off the bench. But mostly they are going to be using their bats to give Rochester or New Britain a chance to win.

James Beresford plays second and shortstop. He might get a shot as the utility infielder, but probably is only a AAA backup. He hasn't played above AA, but was a free agent last fall and resigned with the Twins.

Clete Thomas and Brandon Boggs are both candidates for fourth outfielder on the Twins if neither Hicks nor Benson are ready for the major league jobs. They can play all three outfield positions. So can Ramirez, but it is doubtful the Twins would be comfortable with him in center field. Dinkelman has played with the Twins in the past. He can play several positions, including second base, in addition to the outfield. He could be an extra player, but is probably not a candidate for 4th outfielder since he isn't a center fielder.


Pitchers

Bryan Augenstein (R)
Nick Blackburn (S)
Samuel Deduno(S)
Deolis Guerra (R)
Rich Harden (S/R)
Shairon Martis (R/S)
Alex Meyer (M)
Lester Oliveros (DL)
Luis Perdomo (R)
Rafael Perez (R/S)
Anthony Slama (R)
Esmerling Vasquez (S/R)
P.J. Walters (S/R)

Catchers
Eric Fryer (M)
Kyle Knudson (M)
Danny Lehmann (AAAA)
Dan Rohlfing (M)

Infielders
James Beresford (AAAA)
Jeff Clement (1B/DH)
Chris Colabello (1B/DH)
Ray Olmedo (3B/UT)
Deibinson Romero (3B)
Mark Sobolewski (3B)

Outfielders
Brandon Boggs (4)
Brian Dinkelman (5)
Wilkin Ramirez (5)
Clete Thomas (4)


Abbreviations:
R = Reliever Candidate
S = Starting Candidate
M = Minor League Player
UT=Utility Infielder
4= Fourth Outfielder
5= Fifth Outfielder
AAAA = Potential Backup at AAA

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