Non-roster invitees are exactly that. Players outside the 40-man roster who receive an invite to spring training. These tend to be a mix of young prospects who haven't been with the team long enough to need protection in December's Rule 5 draft [requiring a 40-man roster spot], and veterans who are looking to make an impression. The latter is probably with a view to being minor-league depth, but occasionally, they can perform so well and/or catch a break in those ahead of them falling down, as to make their way on to an Opening Day roster. Last year, for example, the NRIs included Ryan Rowland-Smith, who ended up going home to Australia with the team.
In this edition, we'll look at the right-handed pitchers. On Wednesday, we'll cover the lefties along with the plethora of catchers. And on Friday, we'll finish up by discussing the infielders and outfielders.
Potentially the next Arizona-born player to appear for the Diamondbacks, the Mesa native went to Desert Ridge High School, and then ASU, after opting not to sign with the Blue Jays [who picked him in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft]. He was picked again in the third round of the 2012 draft, and signed with Arizona. As we mentioned in our bullpen preview, he lost weight for camp this year [cross 'Best shape of his life' off your spring training bingo card!], and hopes this will help him make a good impression: "They're going to see that and be like, 'Whoa, this guy looks different. He's trying to fight,'. That's what I'm going for. It makes a difference."
A former first-round pick (2007), he was part of the package of prospects dealt by Texas to Seattle in exchange for Cliff Lee in 2010. At one point, he was groomed for the Mariners' rotation, starting 26 games for them in 2012, including the loss when Philip Humber threw a perfect game for the White Sox. Even as early as June 2012, it was being declared: "It’s time to just pull the plug and admit that Beavan doesn’t have any kind of future as a starting pitcher in the big leagues." And, indeed, he fell out of favor due to injury and ineffectiveness, electing free agency last November, and signing with us three weeks later. Likely organizational filler, a sacrificial lamb to pitch in Reno.
While maybe not receiving the degree of hype others have seen, Blair has been getting more national respect of late, making the top 50 prospect lists of both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, while coming in at #80 on MLB.com's ranking. He's still only 22, but dominated Double-A hitters in eight starts there last season, holding them to a .185 average and striking out virtually a batter per inning. Over his last five games he allowed three earned runs in 28 innings, which helps explain why some, including our own John Baragona, now rank him our #1 prospect. 2015 may very well be the last year when he appears in this section.
After his first outing on Thursday, Chip Hale praised Bradley, saying he "pitched with a purpose." We hope Archie can get his stock going in the right direction, after a 2014 derailed by injury, where he never seemed to put everything together. Even the pressure last spring got to him, he thinks. "I was so concerned with what everyone thought and what the media thought, instead of really worrying about myself and what I could control... I kind of lost sight of the more important goals in front of me -- like what I could do every day to get better." A couple of months younger than Blair, hopefully a year more maturity and less pressure will get Bradley back on track.
May or may not be Arizonan - Wikipedia and Baseball America say Tucson, MiLB.com and B-R.com go with San Diego! It's a mystery - particularly when you add that he was part of the Italian roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic! Crabbe spent six seasons in the minors with the Cincinnati organization, but Arizona chose him with the first pick in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft in December. Unlike the major-league portion, there's no necessity for Crabbe to make or stay on the 25-man roster, but finding gold there is even rarer. According to Baseball America, that portion is "an inexpensive way to add depth to the minor league clubs by acquiring a player who fills a need"
This spring will be our first chance to see our second shiny Cuban acquisition of the winter in action, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the 21-year-old handles major-league hitters. If you can't wait that long, Fangraphs posted some (admittedly not brilliant quality) video the other day, and enthused, "ind of looks like a scout’s wet dream to this untrained eye. Long levers, athletic, smooth delivery, and easy velocity are at least strong building blocks for a major league pitcher." While a work in progress, to be sure, and he may not get the same attention this spring as Yasmany Tomas, it may not be that long before he's also no longer covered here.
Coincidentally, he's the second of these pitchers to be involved a trade for Cliff Lee - Ramirez was part of the one which brought Lee to the Mariners from the Phillies, in December 2009. He made 18 appearances out of the Philadelphia bullpen in 2013, but walked 15 and allowed six home-runs in 24 innings. He spent most of last year with the AAA Indians affiliate in Columbus, but became a free agent at the end of the season and signed with Arizona. At a listed weight of 250 lbs, he's the heaviest of all our NRIs; seems to have the raw "stuff", it's more a question of whether he can harness and control it consistently.
Damn, you have to say: the upper levels of our farm system seems positively stocked with pitching talent. Even if there's a 50% flameout rate, we should still get a couple of solid starting pitchers out of this crop alone, and that's not even considering those further down the pipeline. Shipley seems aware he likely won't make the Opening Day roster, and is fine with that. "I don’t expect myself to get there because I’ll feel like I’m asking too much of myself. I have one (expectation) for myself and that’s to prepare the best I can to get ready for the season where ever I might end up." Mobile perhaps seems likely, having had a cup of coffee there in 2014 (four starts).