Pitchers and catchers report next week, a sure sign baseball season is fast approaching. As well as the full 40-man roster, the Diamondbacks have invited to camp a selection of other candidates, not currently on that roster. These are a mix of up-and-coming prospects and veteran players, looking to land a spot. While they may generally be long shots, it almost always seems that injury and opportunity lead to one or two of them breaking through and making the team on Opening Day. So, in this series, we’ll be taking a look at these non-roster invitees, and filling you in on some of their background, so you have some idea of who they are. We start below, with the first half of the pitchers who’ll be in camp.
Aguilar is older than the typical prospect, but entered American baseball relatively late. He signed with the D-backs just before his 25th birthday, after playing for several seasons in Mexico. Now 28, he saw action in the Arizona Fall League last year, posting an impressive K:BB ratio of 17:1 over 12.1 innings there. His participation there was likely because he missed a lot of time in 2019 on the injured list, not pitching for Jackson until June. But Aguilar was effective thereafter for the Generals. He had a 2.12 ERA there, again with an impression K:BB of 33:4 in 29.2 innings. Aguilar was part of the Mexican roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Beasley came from the Angels in exchange for Matt Andriese. I like him already. :) A 30th-round pick, the 24-year-old right-hander spent most of last year with AA Mobile going 6-7 with a 4.06 ERA over 22 starts and one relief appearance. He did get shelled in three starts with AAA Salt Lake (ERA of 7.90), but #PacificCoastLeague. Most projections have him becoming a reliever. According to Baseball America, “His fastball sits at 93-95 mph, and his splitter is an out-pitch he can dominate with. His fringe-average slider and below-average command have most evaluators projecting him in the bullpen, where his fastball-splitter combination projects to play up and make him a potential high-leverage option.”
Part of the haul received from the Astros in the Zack Greinke deal, Bukauskas was ranked a top-100 prospect before last year by both MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. But he did seem to hit a wall in Double-A, with a 5.44 ERA across 92.2 Double-A innings between Houston and Arizona, before being shut down with elbow soreness in mid-August. That bump in the road may have helped the D-backs prise Bukauskas away from the Astros, and Mike Hazen will be hoping the first-round pick (15th overall in the 2017 draft) can regain his form in 2020. Fun fact: his middle name is “Allen,” so not anything which starts with the letter B at all...
Cabrera reached the majors while an Atlanta Brave in 2016, and had a good rookie season, with a 2.82 ERA over 41 appearances. His blazing fastball averaged triple digits, even touching 103 mph. Harnessing it has proven trickier. The next year he started in AAA, before getting sent down to Double-A, and walked 43 batters in only 40 innings across those two levels. That ratio remained the same in 2018 + 2019. Neither the Braves nor the White Sox proved able to fix the control issue. Odds seem against the Arizona coaches doing any better. But with the raw “stuff”, you can see why the Diamondbacks decided he was worth a flier and an invite to spring training.
Ok, who else misread this guy’s name as “Mark”...? Grace is one of the more experienced non-roster guys, having appeared in parts of each of the last five seasons out of the Nationals’ bullpen. All told, he has thrown 176.1 major-league innings, with a 4.29 ERA (103 ERA+). He was particularly solid in 2018, with a 2.87 ERA, only for that to balloon to 6.36 last year, before Washington cut him loose at the end of August (he passed unclaimed through waivers). He struggled with the long-ball, giving up eleven HR in just 46.2 innings. But with Andrew Chafin the only “true” left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster (Alex Young’s role being yet to be determined), Grace’s odds of making the roster may be better than most.
A 14th round pick in the 2018 draft, Green is a bit of a surprise invite, beating many picked before him to a spring training spot. He started last year in High-A Visalia, and was promoted to Double-A after a 1.73 ERA across 14 starts. There, he got chewed-up by the Montgomery Biscuits (12 ER over 11 IP in two outings). But Green was great against everyone else (11 ER in 37.1 IP for a 2.65 ERA), and pitched seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the Southern League championship against Biloxi. Winner of Arizona’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year award, he hasn’t appeared on many prospect rankings for the team yet. This spring should give him a big chance to raise his profile.
Jack will be along on Thursday, to continue our look at the pitching staff.