PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10: U.S. Futures All-Star Tyler Skaggs #11 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Attending a spring training game, especially early on, can be a bit of a "Who's he?" of baseball. Teams don't have the normal 25-man roster, or even the extended 40-man one, because they also pull up a significant number of additional players. These are usually either veterans on whom they're kicking the tires, or prospects they want to give a taste of big-league opposition, but you can amaze and impress your friends at games (and anyone in the rows around, if you speak loudly enough) if you can nod wisely on hearing their names and lob in a tid-bit of information.
Which is where this piece comes in. Let's take a look at the 20 non-roster invitees for the Diamondbacks this spring, and see if we can't enlighten you a bit as to who they are.
- Charles Brewer. Spent 2011 mostly in Double-A Mobile, where he went 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA, despite missing a couple of months with a broken hand. A local kid, who went to Chaparral High School at the same time as the SnakePitette.
Definitely worth a follow on Twitter, right up until he disabled his account, anyway... :(
- Mike DeMark. Plucked from indie ball last June by Arizona, and became Mobile's closer, picking up 15 saves there, striking out 48 in 34 innings. That got the 27-year old a promotion to Reno, where he got the save in both their post-season wins against Sacramento.
- Chris Jakubauskas. It's Lithuanian, before you ask. This former Nordstrom's shoe salesman (I'm just qupting Wikipedia) had 409 days between major-league starts, after getting hit in the head by a Lance Berkman line-drive. Bounced between AAA and the Orioles; a 5.72 ERA over 72.1 IP at the latter.
- Jensen Lewis. After being in the majors for most of 2008-10, 2011 was a year to forget for Lewis. He had a horrible spring, got sent to the minors, did little better there (5.14 ERA in 28 IP) and was released. Had a 3.68 ERA in 161 major-league games, so some upside if he can get back on track.
- Evan Marshall. A 4th-round pick last June, Marshall motored his way through both levels of A-ball and a cup of coffee at Double-A. He had a 1.16 ERA in 31 IP, striking out a batter per, and seems on the fast-track. Dan said of him, "I fully expect him to pitch at Chase Field sometime next year."
- Kevin Munson. Spent much of 2011 at High-A Visalia, walking a lot of people, but fanning even more - in 53.2 innings, he had a K:BB ratio of 76:41, covering 48% of all batters faced! Did better in the AFL, with a 16:3 ratio, but I'd suggest limiting yourself when he comes in, to saying, "Watch this"...
- Patrick Corbin. The 22-year old left-hander had an up and down season in Mobile, ending with a 9-8 record and 4.21 ERA. There were spells when he'd dominate, then he'd struggle. Reports suggest he was pitching to contact more this season, so we'll see how that works out in the Cactus League.
- Jason Lane. Why am I humming a Bloodhound Gang song? This intriguing guy is trying to do a Sergio Santos and become a pitcher - except, also remain a hitter. He appeared in almost 500 MLB games as an outfielder from 2002-07, but last year also pitched 13 innings for Las Vegas at AAA, allowing seven ER, but a decent K:BB rate of 12:2. While hitting .291 in 240 PAs. Micah Owings v2.0?
- Tyler Skaggs. Won't be able to drink legally for another six months, but probably drove a lot of hitters that way in 2011, striking out 198 batters, fourth-most by any prospect. The last with as many K's as a teenager was back in 2004: some guy called... Yusmeiro Petit. I think my head just exploded.
- Ryan Budde. We should call him "Crash Davis", with 2,788 PAs in the minors, and 35 in the big leagues. My research - two minutes of lethargic Googling - was unable to establish whether or not he believes in the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, and that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap
- Ed Easley. Won the Johnny Bench award, given to the best college catcher, but hasn't quite broken through - 4 1/2 years later, he spent all 2011 in Double-A, and was unprotected (and unpicked) in the Rule 5 draft once again. Will be running a training camp for kids later this month, back in his home-town.
- Rossmel Perez. Perez spent his second year in Visalia, and did improve a tad, getting his OPS up to .720, his best since coming to the US. He was signed as a 16-year old out of Venezuela, for a $150K bonus. Still only 22, so not exactly old for the level, but still some way from the major-leagues.
- Matt Davidson. Had his third year in A-ball, but won't turn 21 until near the end of spring training, so not a problem, since he was still young for the league. Most lists have him our best position prospect - but can he stick at third? Keep an eye on his defense, and nod approvingly or sigh deeply, as appropriate.
- Chris Owings. An even younger kid, 21st birthday next August, so we can tolerate his truly brutal K:BB rate - 130:15! - in High-A ball, for now. Random Googled factoid. Chris appeared at the primary school where his mom works, and talked to second-graders about "about the importance of setting goals and working to achieve those goals"
- Cody Ransom. Subject to snark for his five hits, still more than Manny Ramirez, Lastings Milledge and Special K's former sparring partner Everth Cabrera managed combined in 2011. And Cody punk'd Clayton Kershaw. Ransom has appeared in nine different seasons, without ever reaching 90 PAs - only one other player has done that, Matt Sinatro.
- Rusty Ryal. Back from Japan after a very forgettable season: he hit .198 and in September was fined and later sent to the minors for...leaving the dugout during a game. Man, they take discipline seriously there. Wonder if his return is why Hiroki Kuroda opted to leave the National League?
- Ryan Wheeler. We're particularly looking forward to seeing good Wheeler once again. Had a solid year in Mobile, hitting .294 with an .822 OPS, then .292 in the AFL. Another player whose ability to stick at third-base has been questioned, but he's working hard. Go, good Wheeler, go...
- Adam Eaton. Also a pal of the 'Pit from the AFL is Mr. Pocket Dynamite. Pretty much every story about Eaton mentions his height: at 5'8", if he makes the majors, he'd be the littlest D-back since the 5'6" David Eckstein. But if he maintains his career .340 BA, he can represent Lucky Charms, for all I'd care.
- Marc Krauss. Back in July 2010, Zephon wrote a piece asking "Who's the Diamondbacks top offensive prospect?" In the accompanying poll, Krauss just beat out.. Brandon Allen, with Goldzilla a long way back in third. Krauss struggled a bit at Double-A, losing 100 OPS points from High-A. Majored in broadcast journalism, so presumably gives a good interview.
- A.J. Pollock. Pollock is hoping this spring training isn't like 2010. There, he slipped making a throw and fractured a growth plate in his right elbow, missing the rest of the season. A good rebound year in 2011 though, hitting .307 with Mobile, and showed of his wheels by stealing 36 bases in 43 attempts.