The D-backs announced last week that there will be 66 players invited to spring training this year. That number may well go up: for example, further signings may occur, or if Collin Snider (removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Joc Pederson) makes it through waivers, he will likely also get an invite. We’ll cross that bridge as necessary. But for now, we’ll be talking only about the 26 players beyond the 40-man roster, who will get a look in spring. It’s obviously harder for them to make the Opening Day squad, as they first have to be added to the 40-man squad, and someone else would need to be kicked off, probably exposed to waivers and thus potentially lost.
There therefore has to be a clear advantage to these NRIs, and even in the event of injury, the likely replacements will first come from the 40-man roster. However, even if they don’t make it on Opening Day, they will likely be part of our minor-league depth, and available to get called up during the season. Last year, for example, there were 28 non-roster invitees. None were on the Opening Day roster. But almost one-third of them did go on to appear for the Diamondbacks at some point in 2023. There were six pitchers (Austin Adams, Slade Cecconi, Tyler Gilbert, Bryce Jarvis, Brandon Pfaadt, Peter Solomon) and three position players (Dominic Canzone, Buddy Kennedy, Jordan Lawlar). So NRIs will matter.
We start off by looking at the first batch of right-handed pitchers in this category. There’ll be another batch of those in a few days, to be followed by left-handed pitchers, catchers and position players in subsequent installments.
Luke Albright (88)
First up is our sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft, out of Kent State in Ohio. The 24-year-old Albright was part of the Amarillo rotation last year, making 25 starts with a 5.46 ERA. That number may not look impressive on first glance, but Luke had 136 strikeouts over 112 innings of work. It’s also very much worth noting that the Sod Poodles play in what Jack described as “the most hitter friendly environment in all of affiliated minor league baseball.” Albright is the poster-boy for this: his road ERA in 2023 was barely half of the figure when he pitched in Amarillo (3.84 vs. 7.58). That he’s getting an invite to camp along with the big kids, indicates the D-backs feel he has something to offer.
Humberto Castellanos (54)
This is a name you should recognize, as Castellanos was part of the D-backs in 2021 and 2022, after being a waiver pickup from the Astros. Across those two seasons he made 16 starts and 9 relief appearances, with a 5.30 ERA. Progress was halted by an elbow injury in late May 2022, which led to Tommy John surgery in August, and being taken off the 40-man roster in November. He returned to action this winter, pitching for the Charros de Jalisco in the Mexican Winter League. Humberto had a 5.58 ERA over 30.2 innings, with a 34:12 K:BB. It’s good to see him back healthy again, but the lost season and a half will be difficult to replace for the 25-year-old, with other pitching options now ahead of him.
Dakota Chalmers (96)
He has been around the minors forever, being a third-round pick by the Athletics back in 2015. Out of high-school admittedly, but he has been dogged by health issues since being selected. Approaching nine years later, he has only 81 total appearances in pro ball - and that’s including eleven last year with the delightfully-named Gastonia Honey Hunters of the independent Atlantic League [their 2023 roster also included Randall Delgado, Zack Godley and James Sherfy] A demo this winter in which he was reportedly hitting 97 mph, got him a contract with the D-backs. Hopefully it’ll go better than his 13 innings in Triple-A last year, where he walked nineteen batters.
Josh Green (85)
Green’s stock has definitely risen the the 2018 draft, when he went to Arizona with the 429th overall pick. He started 2023 with Amarillo, and despite what was said above, Green held batters in check out of the Sod Poodles bullpen. A 15.1 inning scoreless streak there got him promoted to Triple-A in mid-July, but the change initially proved tough as he allowed 16 ER over his first 8.1 innings for Reno. Josh then settled in, with a 3.42 ERA in 26.1 AAA innings the rest of the way, and a 21:6 K:BB. He also looked good this winter in Mexico. Josh posted a 0.93 ERA over 29 innings, playing alongside Castellanos for Jalisco, with an impressive 30:6 K:BB ratio.
Ricky Karcher (70)
What has Karcher got in common with Byung-Hyun Kim? Both earned a save in their MLB debuts. Ricky threw a scoreless tenth inning for the Reds on June 12 last season, stranding the Mannfred Man to get the save in a 5-4 victory (his post-game interview is kinda fun). But unlike Kim, that has been it so far, the game being Karcher’s sole appearance in the majors. He’s therefore likely the only NRI to possess a zero ERA. He struggled with control in the minors, walking more batters than he struck out in Triple-A (70:72 in 60.1 IP). But in that debut, he reached 98.6 mph, so you can see why Arizona is interested in seeing if that raw stuff can be harnessed effectively.