A look at the 21 non-roster invitees to Dodgers’ Spring Training

Bobby Wilson (Via)

The Dodgers announced last week they’ll be inviting 21 non-roster players to Spring Training. Inevitably, one or two of these guys find a way to make the Opening Day roster — be it because of performance or injury to other players.

In the last few years, the likes of Charlie Culberson and Chone Figgins have cracked the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. Things appear to be a bit different this year, as there aren’t a lot of openings for an NRI — even if there are injuries.

The intriguing part about some of these NRIs is that they include some of the Dodgers’ top prospects. First up, the pitchers (*- astrerik denotes player is in my Top 100 prospects).

Pitchers

Ralston Cash*
Fabio Castillo
Steve Geltz
Brandon Morrow
Trevor Oaks*
Josh Sborz*
Patrick Schuster
Yaisel Sierra*
Madison Younginer

Some familiar names here in Cash, Oaks, Sborz and Sierra. All of them should pitch at no lower than Double-A, with all of them definitely seeing time in Triple-A. It’d be a surprise if any of them make the Opening Day roster as the Dodger bullpen is pretty full as it is.

Of the other pitches listed above, none were with the organization last season. The one who is the most intriguing is Morrow. Chad wrote about him on this very weblog last week.

“Morrow is interesting in that he has always seemingly had the ability to be a productive pitcher, as evidenced by being selected two spots ahead of one Clayton Kershaw in the 2006 draft. That ability was showcased in 2012 when he threw 124.2 innings of 2.96 ERA ball, but it all fell apart for him from there. Morrow has dealt with shoulder, forearm, elbow, hand, and oblique injuries in his career, limiting him to 120.2 innings from 2013-15 as a starter. In 2016, he gave up on the starting role, instead becoming a member of the Padres bullpen. Morrow showed flashes there, putting up a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings (with a 4.37 FIP and 5.26 DRA), but he only threw 16 innings due to lingering problems with shoulder surgery that ended his 2015.”

Morrow definitely has the most upside among the other NRI arms. Geltz is also intriguing, which is weird to say for a guy with a 5.36 FIP in 104 1/3 career innings. He has a solid fastball in the 92 MPH range, a low-80s slider and changeup. Despite poor results and a higher-than-wanted walk rate, he has a career 10.4 percent swinging strike rate. But, his 28.8 percent ground ball rate is terribly unappealing for a bullpen that already has plenty of fly ball pitchers.

The rest of the guys are mainly warm bodies who will likely end up in Triple-A or on the waiver wire.

Catchers

Jack Murphy
Wynston Sawyer
Bobby Wilson

No surprises here. Murphy was with the organization last year, while Sawyer and Wilson weren’t. Wilson is notable because he’s at least an average framer, and we know the Dodger front office values that.

Infielders

Cody Bellinger*
Willie Calhoun*
Charlie Culberson
Ike Davis
O’Koyea Dickson*
Darnell Sweeney

Now it’s getting fun. Bellinger had a great spring last year and then went to Double-A Tulsa and had a great season. He’s a bonafide Top 10 prospect in all of baseball and, if Adrian Gonzalez wasn’t a thing, he’d have a legitimate chance to break camp with the team. If Calhoun were a better defensive second baseman, an argument could have been made for him being the starting second baseman in 2017. Culberson is back for a second season and Dickson is coming off a strong ’16 season with Oklahoma City. Speaking of being back, Sweeney returns to the org after a year and a half with the Phillies.

Davis has fallen off quite a bit since his days with the Mets. When you think about him hitting 32 home runs in 2012, there’s optimism … until you realize 2012 was five years ago. In the four seasons since, he has been worth -0.3 fWAR and hit 23 home runs in 1,058 plate appearances with a slash line of .222/.327/.354. If he can regain any of his former glory (and I use the word loosely), he could be an option to be a left-handed bat off the bench or if Gonzalez goes down with an injury and the Dodgers don’t want to rush Bellinger up to the bigs.

Outfielders

Stetson Allie
Tyler Holt
Henry Ramos
Alex Verdugo*

Allie was drafted as a pitcher and threw just 26 2/3 innings before switching to the outfield because of command issues (37 walks). Holt has seen time with Cleveland and Cincinnati over the last three seasons (.228/.306/.274), while Ramos came over from Boston and has a “meh” minor-league track record (.265/.329/.365).

Verdugo is one of the Dodgers’ best prospects. While an early comparison to Joc Pederson was made, he hasn’t hit for as much power — and doesn’t profile to. He might be the best bat-to-ball prospect the Dodgers have, however. His time will come, possibly as soon as 2018.

The fact is, none of these four outfielders should make it. The Dodgers are extremely deep in the outfield and if one of these guys makes it, something has gone terribly wrong.

——

With the 40-man roster currently full-up, the Dodgers could make room for one of these guys. But, they don’t absolutely have to, and probably won’t. If I had to make a shortlist of who might be on the Opening Day roster, it’d look like this:

  1. Morrow
  2. Wilson
  3. Geltz

I’m not confident any of them will make it. Morrow has the best pedigree and pure ability. If he’s healthy (and that doesn’t happen … ever), he could be a late-inning relief option. Wilson is there in case there’s an injury to Yasmani Grandal or Austin Barnes. I’m not sure the Dodgers feel Kyle Farmer would be ready to take over the backup catching duties if someone goes down. As I said above, Geltz has some positives, but also a lot of negatives.

With the roster projected to be really good and without a lot of holes, I’d be surprised if anyone makes it. But if someone does, the best money is on Morrow or Wilson.

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.