We all see the line time and time again – traditionally in agate on the statistics page of the newspaper, digitally on many sports apps today.
“Signed pitcher Joe Jones to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.”
All teams invite a few-dozen for two reasons. The first is to tale a look at a prospect in their systems who could be a big-leaguer in a few years, the second to see if a pitcher or player who was once a hot prospect still has something left in the tank.
Shortstop Tyler Webb, who will begin 2016 at Trenton, falls into the first category, while right-hander Anthony Swarzak, once a top Minnesota prospect who appeared in the majors with Cleveland last season, falls into the latter.
Swarzak is a player teams will take a shot at because he has plus-stuff and has had only injuries that mostly are zany, a broken foot caused by a line drive in 2010 and fractured ribs in the 2012-13 off-season sustained “by wrestling around.” The arm is apparently OK, and Swarzak, if all as well, could serve the Yankees as a swing pitcher.
Otherwise, an infielder such as Pete Kozma, a good defender who didn’t hit with St. Louis, or Donovan Solano, an infielder who didn’t hit with Miami, could catch on as a reserve. They were available because better players beat them out in their previous organizations and are glad to be reporting to Tampa in a few days.
“You try to catch lightning in a bottle,” a scout from a National League team said. “Solano may show something. You never know. The Yankees got (Yangervis) Solarte in 2014 as a non-roster guy. There is a reason a player like that is a non-roster invitee. They really are long shots to go north with the big club. They are extra guys on training camp.”
One who puts together a big spring becomes an interesting story. If one forces his way onto a team, can he sustain the level of play he showed in Spring Training? Solarte is an example, though the Yankees traded him and pitcher Rafael DePaula to San Diego July 22, 2014, in the Chase Headley deal. Solarte hit .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs in 152 games with San Diego last season.
Previous to his stint with the Yankees, Solarte never got a shot in either the Minnesota or Texas systems. Here are the 2016 Yankees non-roster invitees by position group and their status:
PITCHERS – Richard Bleier, Tyler Cloyd, Domingo German, Chad Green, James Kaprelian, Brady Lail, Domingo Moreno, Vinnie Pestano, Swarzak and Tyler Webb. Swarzak and Pestano both have big-league experience, while Cloyd is a former Phillies prospect who threw a Triple-A no-hitter in 2014 while in the Cleveland system. Kaprelian s a top prospect.
CATCHERS – Carlos Corporan, Francisco Diaz, Kyle Higashioka, Santiago Nessy, Eddy Rodriguez and Sebastian Valle. Corporan played in 55 with Texas on 2015, but did not hit, He, along with the others will likely populate the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Trenton rosters.
INFIELDERS – Jonathan Diaz, Pete Kozma. Jorge Mateo, Debinson Romero, Solano and Wade. Diaz got a cup of coffee with Toronto last season. Either Kozma or Solano could make for a reserve. Romero is likely a corner infielder at Scranton. Prospects Mateo and Wade are in camp for a look-see.
OUTFIELDERS – Dustin Fowler, Aaron Judge and Cesar Puello. Fowler is a rising prospect who will play at Trenton in 2016, while Judge will aim to put the finishing touches on timing off-speed pitches. His game is compete otherwise. Puello was a breakthrough Mets prospect before being suspended for 50 games August 5, 2013, in the Biogenesis situation. He showed power prior, but appeared in just a single Gulf Coast League game in 2015 due to back issues.
Some of these players come with clauses in there contracts stating if they are not elevated to the 25-man roster by a certain date, they will be released to pursue another opportunity.
Long shots just about all,