Dodgers invite 22 interesting non-roster players to Spring Training

Yaisel Sierra (Photo: Dustin Nosler)

The Dodgers announced on Tuesday that they’re inviting 22 players to Spring Training as non-roster players. This year’s list is a bit intriguing, even if none of them have a great chance of breaking camp with the team.

Last year, no non-roster invitees broke camp with the Dodgers, but six of them appeared in the majors in different capacities in 2017:

  1. Cody Bellinger
  2. Fabio Castillo
  3. Charlie Culberson
  4. O’Koyea Dickson
  5. Brandon Morrow
  6. Alex Verdugo

There’s a lot of talent in this year’s crop. Without further ado, here’s the list. Players with asterisks by their name denote they’re on my Top 100 prospects list.

Pitchers
LHP Manny Banuelos
RHP Joe Broussard*
RHP Daniel Corcino
RHP C.C. Lee
RHP Mark Lowe
LHP Brian Moran
RHP Zach Neal
RHP Yaisel Sierra*
LHP/RHP Pat Venditte

A few of these guys have either been in the Dodgers’ organization in recent years — Broussard, Corcino, Lowe, Sierra — while the rest of are first-time Dodgers.

Broussard, 27, was my No. 31 prospect heading into last season. He has a fastball/slider combination that should get him into the majors at some point — with or without the Dodgers.

Corcino, 27, went to the Cubs on a minor-league deal. When he was released in April, the Dodgers snatched him up in May. He threw just 40 2/3 innings overall between the Cubs and Dodgers and pitched to a 4.20 ERA. Most of the innings came with Rancho Cucamonga. He had a 27.7 K%, but he’s probably just roster fodder at this point.

Lowe, 34, was in camp with the Dodgers back in 2013. He was released in late March and struggled the next two years. He had a breakout season of sorts in 2015 with the Mariners. He was traded to the Blue Jays after posting a 1.00 ERA and 1.88 FIP with Seattle. That netted him a 2-year, $13 million deal from Detroit. With the Tigers in 2016, he had an ugly 7.11 ERA and 5.66 FIP in 49 innings, mostly due to a massive drop in velocity (4 MPH). He went to Driveline Baseball to try to regain the lost velo and had a “Free Agent Pro Day” just eight days ago. He must have done enough to impress the Dodgers. We’ll see if the lost velocity is found come March.

Moran, 29, spent 2017 with Tulsa after the Dodgers signed him out of the Independent League. He has a funky delivery and uses deception to get by because his high-80s fastball isn’t going to blow anyone away. He had a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings and posted a sparkling 27/3 K/BB ratio. If he succeeds in Triple-A, he could challenge for a bullpen spot, but not out of Spring Training.

Sierra, 26, was a big international signing (six years, $30 million) in February 2016. So far, it hasn’t worked out as planned. He’s finally made the full-time switch to a bullpen, which should help his career prospects. One stumbling block could be his $5 million luxury tax number if he were to be added to the 40-man roster. So, unless he’s absolutely lights out in March, I’d expect him to be more of a September call-up guy rather than a full-season reliever. He has the best stuff of any non-roster pitcher the Dodgers are inviting to Spring Training.

Banuelos, 27 in March, is a former highly-rated prospect with the Yankees. He was traded to the Braves in 2015 and signed a minor-league deal with the Angels last year before latching on with the Dodgers in the same capacity. He’s not the same pitcher he was coming up through the Yankees’ org, but the Dodgers are hoping to strike gold with him as a left-handed reliever. He has a 5.13 career ERA in 26 1/3 MLB innings.

Lee, 31, is an interesting fella. He was signed by Cleveland in 2008 out of Taiwan and spent the last season in the Rockies’ org. He has a career 29.7 strikeout percentage in the minors. It hasn’t translated to his 34 big league innings (20.8 percent). He has a low-90s fastball and a slider, like many relievers these days.

Neal, 29, was signed after the A’s let him go. He was originally a 17th-round pick by the Marlins in 2010 before being released in 2013. He threw 70 MLB innings with the A’s  in 2016 before logging just 14 2/3 last season. He threw 99 innings for Nashville in the Pacific Coast League and started 16 games. He’s been a starter for most of his MiLB career, but he has just six starts int he majors. He could be a swingman-type guy, if he’s good enough. He has a 90 MPH fastball, a mid-80s slider, a low-80s changeup and a mid-70s curveball that he throws sparingly.

Venditte, 32, is most famous for being a switch-pitcher who made his MLB with the A’s in 2015. He also has big-league time with the Blue Jays and Mariners. In 50 2/3 innings, he has a 4.97 ERA and 5.01 FIP which, oof. Still, he’s a unique guy to have around and should log plenty of innings with the OKC Dodgers, should he not make the team out of Spring Training. He doesn’t throw hard — mid-80s fastball— and pairs it with a slider.

Catchers
Keibert Ruiz*
Will Smith*
Shawn Zarraga

Ruiz and Smith are legitimate prospects, with Ruiz having a sky-high ceiling. He’s only 19, so don’t expect him to take the starting or backup job from Austin Barnes or Yasmani Grandal, but he should spend the majority of his time with Tulsa in 2018. Smith is closer to the majors, but he missed time in the second half with a broken wrist. He had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League and should make it to Triple-A this season. Zarraga is org depth and should be the backup to one or both of these guys at some point. Unless Grandal is traded and/or Kyle Farmer suffers a major injury, it’s unlikely any of these three break camp with the team.

Infielders
1B Matt Beaty*
SS Drew Jackson*
UTIL Max Muncy
2B/UTIL Jake Peter*
1B/3B Edwin Rios*
IF Donovan Solano

Some interesting talent here. Beaty was the Texas League MVP last season. He’s going into his age-25 season, so he’s not exactly young for a prospect. He’s limited defensively and doesn’t hit for a ton of power, but he showed he has good bat-to-ball skills last season. If he could play a competent third base and/or left field, that would help his case.

Jackson, 24, was acquired last Spring Training for Chase De Jong. He spent most his 2017 with Rancho and had about a month with Tulsa, but he hit significantly better in High-A. Those hoping for the next Chris Taylor might want to pump the brakes a bit. He is a premium athlete, so he has that going for him.

Muncy, 27, was an A’s farmhand who hit well with the OKC Dodgers last season. He plays all over the infield and some corner outfield, which increases his utility. He’d have to really impress to beat out some other guys ahead of him on the depth chart.

Peter, 24, was acquired with Scott Alexander in a 3-way trade a few weeks ago. He could be due for a breakout season and could be the eventual replacement for Chase Utley on the Dodgers’ bench.

Rios, 24 in April, is one of the best hitting prospects the Dodgers have. Problem is, like Beaty, he’s limited defensively. He’s strictly a first baseman at the next level, but the Dodgers have some Bellinger guy manning that position. There’d have to be an injury and he’d have to tear the cover off the ball for him to get out of Spring Training with the Dodgers.

Solano, 30, is an infielder who actually got hit in the face with a pitch during a Dominican Winter League game just last week. He’s OK and gives the Dodgers some depth up the middle, should they need it. He has 1,168 plate appearances in the majors and has a .257/.306/.331 line in that time.

Outfielders
Yusniel Diaz*
DJ Peters*
Henry Ramos*
Travis Taijeron

I’m expecting big things from Diaz, 21, in 2018, I’m just not sure he’s going to get out of Spring Training with the team. There are a lot of outfielders ahead of him and Diaz could still use time to develop. If he breaks out as I’m hoping, he could challenge for an outfield spot next year. At the latest, though, the 2020 season.

Peters, 22, was the California League MVP and showed off his massive power potential. He played a capable center field, but he still has contact issues. He’ll get tested at Tulsa, but he won’t make the 25-man roster this year.

Ramos, 26, had his 2017 cut short by injury, but in his 212 plate appearances, he amassed a .351/.396/.546 triple slash. He could be on the short list for some PAs in Los Angeles if there are a few injuries/under-performances ahead of him. He should be a fixture in the OKC lineup. For good measure, he went 5-for-14 with a triple and a home run in Spring Training last year.

Taijeron, 29, spent his 2017 in the Mets organization. He made his MLB debut in August and posted a .173/.271/.269 line in 59 plate appearances. He did post a .907 OPS in the PCL last year, but he played in the incredibly hitter-friendly confines of Las Vegas. He’s pretty far down the depth chart.

——

The position players are more intriguing to me than the pitchers, but in cases like this, it’s more likely a pitcher pitches his way onto the active roster come March 29. Here are my Top 3 predictions of who has the best chance of cracking the roster:

  1. Peter
  2. Lowe
  3. Lee

If the Dodgers need a left-handed infielder and don’t bring back Utley (even if it sounds like they will), Peter would be the favorite of the 22 players listed above. If Lowe regained his velocity after losing it, he could be this year’s Morrow (in a way). Lee is third for me because he has an interesting profile.

The Dodgers aren’t done making moves this offseason. This list could grow (it could even shrink if there’s a trade). Either way, these chaps are going to have a hard time cracking the roster before the end of March.

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., and has yet to be shot.