We're here! One of the fun things to check out as spring training starts is the list of non-roster invitees, if only to see who still hasn't retired. But some of these guys have a chance to break camp with the big league team. Let's look at some of the interesting non-roster invitees for each team, starting with the National League.
Yoan Lopez was the Cuban right-hander the D-backs gave a big bonus to a year ago but he struggled mightily in Double-A with 24 walks and 32 strikeouts in 48 innings. He has the stuff to impress in a few spring innings, however, and you never know what Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa may decide. Sam LeCure pitched just 20 innings for the Reds last year but has a 3.51 career ERA. Kyle Drabek is a former top prospect who hasn't been able to stay healthy. He had three relief appearances for the White Sox last year and a 4.06 ERA while starting in Triple-A.
Prospects like Dansby Swanson and Sean Newcomb will be the ones to watch early on, although I suspect both will get shipped out early in camp. But the long list of veteran pitchers includes David Carpenter, Kyle Kendrick, Jhoulys Chacin, Alex Torres and Alexi Ogando, and one or two of those guys probably make the team. Torres had a 1.71 ERA for the Rays back in 2013 but his command has gone south the past two seasons, but he's the kind of guy it makes sense for the Braves to take a chance on.
The Cubs' roster is pretty set although Cubs fans will remember Matt Murton. He's back after playing in Japan since 2010. He hit .276/.315/.375 last year and he's 34, so looks more like Triple-A insurance at this point.
Yohan Flande made 10 starts and nine relief appearance for the Rockies last year, with a 4.74 ERA. The 10 starts were more a testament to the state of the Colorado pitching staff than his stuff, which is middling. Jeff Hoffman was the big name acquired in the Troy Tulowitzki trade but he's ticketed to start in the minors.
The intriguing names are Jose De Leon and Julio Urias, two of the top pitching prospects in the minors. They don't have enough time to be on the 40-man roster yet but we could see both with the Dodgers later in the summer. Brandon Beachy is trying to complete a comeback from a second Tommy John surgery.
Is Jim Leyland an adviser for the Marlins? They've invited Leyland favorite Don Kelly to camp. Justin Maxwell has a chance to stick as a backup outfielder/pinch-hitter. Troy Patton had a couple of decent years in relief for the Orioles but was out of the majors last year, pitching 20 games in Triple-A for the Royals.
Chris Capuano returns to the organization where he won 18 games in 2005 and made the All-Star team in 2006. He had a 7.97 ERA with the Yankees last year. Will Middlebrooks' plate discipline has sabotaged a career that got off to a promising start with the Red Sox back in 2012. He's hit .213 with a .258 OBP the past three seasons. Aaron Hill is listed as the third baseman on the depth chart so maybe Middlebrooks gets one last chance.
The Mets' website lists just five non-roster invitees, which can't be right since every team at least invites some extra catchers. Jim Henderson had 28 saves for the Brewers in 2013 but was in the minors in 2015.
If you're a veteran reliever trying to salvage your career, Philadelphia must have been the destination of choice this winter: Andrew Bailey, Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri, Yoervis Medina and James Russell are all here. So is Mark Appel, and maybe a new organization will prove to be a big benefit to him.
The Pirates look pretty set. Cory Luebke had an outstanding rookie season with the Padres in 2011, but he's also trying to come back from two Tommy John surgeries. A good reminder that not every TJ surgery works.
The Cardinals have a pretty thin list of invites. Jeremy Hefner started 36 games for the Mets in 2012 and 2013, but has missed most of the past two seasons. Luke Weaver was the team's first-round pick in 2014 out of Florida State and after posting a 1.62 ERA in 19 starts in Class A, he could advance quickly through the upper minors.
The Padres don't list their non-roster invitees. They must be very confident that they don't need anybody else!
Remember Ricky Romero? Had a couple of nice seasons with the Blue Jays and then developed the yips and was unable to throw strikes. He pitched eight innings for the Giants in rookie ball last year, walking seven, but he's still plugging along and trying to find himself again. Kyle Blanks is likely Triple-A fodder, but could surface at some point during the season if someone gets injured.
Bronson Arroyo missed all of 2015 but could battle Tanner Roark, who struggled in 2015 after an excellent 2014, for a spot in the rotation. He and Dusty Baker had some good years together in Cincinnati.