Some intrigue among Dodgers’ 17 non-roster invitees

The Dodgers on Friday announced the 17 non-roster players they will invite to Major League camp during spring training. There are some familiar names, some big-time names and some that’ll make you say, “who?”

To be clear, these players are on neither to 25- or 40-man rosters, hence the term “non-roster invitee.” That means guys like Joc Pederson and Juan Nicasio from the 25-man and Zach Lee and Scott Schebler from the 40-man roster are at spring training. And this is different than the players in minor-league camp. If you go to spring training or watch the games on MLB TV in March, the easiest way to differentiate between the two are the guys with names on their backs (despite their high uniform numbers) are in MLB camp; the ones without names are not.

Familiar names

Chris Anderson
Erisbel Arruebarrena
O’Koyea Dickson
Chris O’Brien
Josh Ravin
Sergio Santos
Darnell Sweeney

The best prospect on this list is Anderson, with Sweeney not that far behind. Anderson struggled in High-A last season before turning it on late. He has about as much a chance of making the team as you or I, so he’ll spend most — if not all — of his 2015 in Tulsa. Sweeney should see some time at second base and center field, with the latter being the most interesting. He started playing there about halfway through the 2014 season in an effort to increase his utility. He’s fast enough to handle the spot, but it remains to be seen what kind of center fielder he can actually be.

As Mike wrote last night, Arruebarrena cleared waivers and was outrighted to Oklahoma City. While he’s still being paid like an MLB player, he isn’t taking up a precious spot on the 40-man roster.

Santos is perhaps the most intriguing player on this list, as I wrote about last week. His signing became official earlier in the week. When healthy, he has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a potential wipeout slider. Problem is, he hasn’t been healthy of late and doesn’t have the best command. Ravin has a big fastball — as high as 100 MPH — but he threw just 25 1/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A last season, and that’s where he’s headed. Dickson was once a favorite prospect of mine, as it seemed he would hit his way onto a MLB team. He struggled in the second half of 2012 in the Midwest League and has been pretty mediocre ever since. He doesn’t have a carrying tool, but he had a solid 2014 in Chattanooga (.810 OPS), and there isn’t a ton of first base depth ahead of him. I mean, there’s almost no way he’s on the active roster in 2015, but it’s nice to have at least a little depth at the position (you know, after Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Van Slyke, Justin Turner, Juan Uribe, Andre Ethier and probably Alex Guerrero). O’Brien is simply so the team can have 75 catchers at its disposal.

Big-time names

Corey Seager
Julio Urias

Oh. My. It was already reported Seager would make it, and this figures to be one of the final times he’s a non-roster invitee. He should get a long look at shortstop to show the new brass what he can do. The most intriguing name here is obviously Urias. He’s 18 years old and is getting a non-roster spot. That’s almost unheard of. Hell, it was nice to see Pederson get the nod last year as a 22-year-old. Now, don’t expect Urias to start many (if any) games and go 4-5 innings. More likely, he’ll pitch later in games (when all the starters have been subbed out) and in 1-2 inning stints. There’s also a good chance he’s among the first camp cuts (meaning, he’d be reassigned to minor-league camp), simply because he’s 18. If you can get out to Camelback Ranch this year and get to see Urias, consider yourself lucky (as I was last year).

The “who?” names

Buck Britton
Ryan Buchter
Matt Carson
Robert Carson
David Huff
Kyle Jensen
Ali Solis
Shawn Zarraga

Britton was picked up from the Orioles, and Mike wrote a little about him. Buchter and Huff were just signed recently, as the press release with the 17 names was the first time the pair had been associated with Dodgers. Buchter threw all of one inning in Atlanta last season and 63 at its Triple-A Gwinnett affiliate. He struck out 63, but also walked 40. Jarret Martin, part deux? Huff pitched in the majors — better than you’d expect from an NRI — last season with the Yankees and Giants. He had a 3.36 ERA, 4.13 FIP and a not-terrible 3.5 walks per nine innings. Both of them are lefties, so that’s basically why they have potential MLB jobs.

Matt and Robert Carson probably aren’t related, as Matt is a 33-year-old outfielder and Robert is, like Buchter and Huff before him, a left-hander with a pulse, hence the NRI. He was in the organization last season (47 innings across three levels). Jensen is the not Kenley Jansen they acquired from the Marlins for Craig Stem. Jensen is a corner outfielder-first baseman-type, in the mold of Van Slyke (lazy comp). He’s one of the rare baseball players who bats right-handed and throws left-handed.

Solis and Zarraga are catching depth. Solis had seven plate appearances (four strikeouts) in Tampa Bay last season and posted a .503 at Triple-A Durham. He’ll be among the first cuts. Zarraga is much more interesting, and Mike, again, wrote about him. He has almost no power, but he draws walks, is a decent defender and, most importantly, is from Aruba.

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Seeing the way the Dodgers’ active and 40-man rosters are set up, it’d be surprising to see many of these guys breaking camp with the team (remember, there’s no ridiculous Australia trip this year). But, there always seems to be one or two guys who sneak their way onto the club (Chone Figgins from last season, for example). If I had to bet on any of these guys breaking camp with the team, I’d go with the following (in order)

  1. Huff
  2. Santos
  3. Arruebarrena

Huff strictly because he’s a left-hander with recent MLB experience. Santos because he was once a pretty good late-inning reliever. Arruebarrena just in case the Dodgers need a plus-plus glove off the bench. Other than them, the only other gys I could see making it are Buchter and Jensen — and that would be with really amazing springs. Remember, Brian Barden hit .517/.576/.621 in spring training 2013 and was (rightly) jettisoned to Albuquerque.

And don’t worry, Seager and Urias will have their days soon. Until then, watch them dominate at their respective levels — which should be Double-A (to start).

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.