Teams are always trying to gain an edge over their opponents. Whether its installing nutrition plans or the Red Sox building a nap room at Fenway, teams are always looking for an advantage. That is what non-roster invitees present to a club: an edge. Many non-roster invitees are players who are past their prime or prospects whose time hasn’t come yet.
Some are able to stick after a strong spring training, and this season is no different. Who could emerge from spring training with a major league roster spot?
OF Michael Bourn- Baltimore Orioles
Michael Bourn enters spring training with 11 years of major league experience. After spending the tail end of the 2016 season in Baltimore, he has a good feel for the organization. He performed well for the Orioles, slashing .283/.358/.435 in 24 games after coming over from Arizona. Bourn also brings speed as he swiped 15 bases in 113 games. Bourn still has ability, but it may be opportunity that allows him to break camp with the Orioles.
Joey Rickard is listed as the back up at all three outfield positions. The 25-year-old played in 85 games for Baltimore in 2016, slashing .268/.319/.377. Rickard has age, while Bourn has experience.
If Bourn is able to outplay Rickard in spring training, don’t be surprised to see Baltimore keep Bourn for the regular season. With a team looking to compete in a deep AL East, manager Buck Showalter may go with the veteran Bourn as the fourth outfielder.
OF Anthony Gose- Detroit Tigers
Anthony Gose was once the second overall prospect in the Blue Jays system but failed to live up to the billing north of the border. He was shipped south to Detroit for the 2015 season and played 140 games for the Tigers. That was the best offensive season of his career, albeit with a paltry 90 OPS+.
After only playing 30 games in 2016, Gose enters Tigers’ camp as a non-roster invitee this spring. He has an excellent chance to make the 25-man roster.
Center field is already a question mark, and the corner outfield spots are backed up by 6-foot-7 behemoth Steven Moya. With his immense size at 260 pounds, Moya is better served as a DH than an outfielder. That gives Gose an opportunity to swipe the backup job from Moya, and maybe even compete to start in center field.
If Gose can turn it on this spring training, he will be a key reserve in an outfield devoid of depth.
IF Omar Infante- Detroit Tigers
Omar Infante broke into the league with the Detroit Tigers in 2002. After three seasons in Kansas City, Infante is back home in the Tigers’ spring training camp. Even though he has transformed from young prospect to grizzled veteran, the goal is still the same: make the major league roster. Infante will have plenty of chances to prove he still has it in spring training.
Infante played 39 games for the Royals in 2016 and put up poor numbers. His slash line of .239/.279/.321 earned him a 60 OPS+. At age 35, Infante’s days of starting may well be behind him. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute. Detroit has almost no depth at any position, slotting Andrew Romine as the backup at second base, third base and shortstop.
If Infante can put together a good spring training, he should be able to wrestle the utility infield position from Romine.
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia- Toronto Blue Jays
Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be on his fourth team in the past three years entering spring training. He has largely been a starter for the majority of his career, but will be vying for the back up catcher role in Toronto this season.
Saltalamacchia has the inside track to the job, with almost no competition to speak of. The Blue Jays have so much confidence in him that he has already been listed as the backup catcher to Russel Martin.
Over the past four seasons, Saltalamacchia has averaged 12 homers and 43 RBIs in 104 games played per season. He has a career slash line of .234/.309/.413. While those numbers certainly aren’t eye popping, they are solid for a back up catcher. He will be able to provide a solid option in Toronto whenever Martin needs a day off. Saltalamacchia can also fill in at DH when needed, given his solid power.
Saltalamacchia is a solid, if not spectacular, catcher who benefits greatly from the lack of catcher depth in Toronto. He will make the 25-man roster for the Blue Jays.
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