A little delayed, but figured we should still have our traditional look at the players you might be seeing in spring who are outside the 40-man roster. As ever, they are largely a mix of up and coming prospects, who didn’t yet needed to be protected, and veterans who got a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training. Typically, there are usually a couple of these in any given season who make the back of the Opening Day roster, so it’s always worth knowing who might have a shot at being on the bubble. We start with the six right-handed pitchers. The next installment covers the trio of lefties and the three catchers. We will then finish with the six infielders and outfielders.
The above notwithstanding, most of the names in this section could potentially be ones you will recognize. Half of them pitched for the Diamondbacks in 2021, but ended up off the 40-man roster for one reason or another. Another two have both played parts of at least five seasons in the majors, so may well be familiar.
After a solid first couple of seasons with Arizona, posting a 3.04 ERA over 5.61 IP, the wheels fell off Crichton in 2021. All his peripherals went the wrong way, with a K:BB of only 17:12 in 23.1 innings, and an ugly 7.33 ERA followed for the year. He was DFA’d in June, but was unclaimed: a brief return to the majors in late July, for COVID-19 replacement purposes, did not go well. He was definitely part of the problem in the bullpen, so will need to start showing he can return to his 2019-20 form and be part of the solution. Fun fact: Crichton is the only active major-leaguer since 2016, and one of just fifteen in baseball history, to be born on Leap Day, February 29.
Devenski signed just before spring training started last year. While he got the team’s first save, on April 4, it was all downhill from there. He went on the restricted list a few days later, spending three weeks there. Then his season ended with a UCL sprain in his elbow, having posted an ugly 8.59 ERA over 7.1 innings. He became a free agent in October, but re-signed with the D-backs later that month. The talent is there - Devenski was an All-Star as recently as 2017 - but he’ll first have to prove he’s healthy again, and then worthy of a spot on the roster. Been a while since both of those have been true. Fun fact: when with Houston, fans took to wearing this stylish New Wave accessory for ‘Devo’. [Kids! Ask your parents!]
Like Crichton, Ginkel made a good first impression with the Diamondbacks, to the point where was at one point anointed the team’s closer by Torey Lovullo. But that didn’t last long, and Kevin has struggled to recapture that form since. He struck out better than a better per inning last season (31 in 28.1 IP), but also allowed seven home-runs, on his way to a 6.35 ERA, and a FIP which was not much lower (5.89). That got him sent down to Reno in mid-June, but he only pitched once there before apparently suffering an elbow issue while warming up and and being shut down for the year. Again: health first - he pitched yesterday - then performance. Fun fact: Ginkel is a big fan of local rock legend, Alice Cooper.
No arguing the stuff here. If you caught him pitching the other day, you’ll have seen him striking out batters with his 98 mph fastball. The problems have been a combination of control and injury: in 2018-19, he walked better than five per nine IP. However, last year was much better, albeit in a small sample size, after he signed in mid-June: in 17.2 innings for Reno, only three batters were walked. He has been around since 2012, at times being part of the Braves, Orioles, Dodgers, Pirates and Giants organizations before coming to Arizona. Perhaps new coach Brent Strom can sprinkle some pixie dust on the Jesus Lizard. Fun fact: Known as “El Sushi”. He apparently really likes sushi...
After a solid rookie season in 2017 with the Angels, when he touched 100 mph, Middleton opened the following campaign as their closer, but Tommy John surgery in May derailed that. He has been a bit of a fringe reliever since returning, averaging 18 appearances a year over the last four seasons. All told, his ERA+ of 113 is solid, but last year - getting his most playing time since 2017 - he had an ERA+ of 85 with the Mariner. He had almost as many walks (19) as strkeouts (24) in his 31 innings, as his fastball seemed to lose a bit of zip. After electing free agency this winter, he signed a minor-league deal with the D-backs on January 13. Fun fact: Was shocked to be drafted because he believed basketball was his best sport.
Can Korean lightning strike the D-backs’ pitching staff again? After Merrill Kelly, the team now has Straily, who went to play in Korea following the 2019 campaign, after an eight-year MLB career. In two seasons there, he posted a 3.22 ERA over 62 starts, with a K:BB ratio of 369:118 in his 360.1 innings. He always was looking to return to the States, and said he is “A hundred percent” a different pitcher now. Curious to see how that works out. He may not make the Opening Day roster, but I suspect we may well see him at some point this year. Be kinda amusing to have him going back-to-back with Kelly in the rotation. Fun fact: Has run a podcast, called The Journeyman, since May 2020.
[Update] As DbacksEurope pointed out, the D-backs signed Kela a couple of days ago. He’s a seven-year veteran with a 135 ERA+ over 227.1 innings, with a K:BB of 279:86. Normally, that kind of performance would get you a major-league deal, but he had Tommy John surgery last May, so won’t be back for a while yet. He could be someone who has an impact in the second half, but that’s all going to be dependent on a successful rehab. A return to pre-TJ form would be nice, though I doubt the D-backs will be in much position to benefit by the time Kela returns. It could re-unite him with Mark Melancon, since they both were with the Padres last season. Fun fact: Shares my birthday, April 16. Hey, it’s fun for me...