Looking at the 31 non-roster players the Dodgers invited to Spring Training

Brandon Morrow. Photo by: Stacie Wheeler

The Dodgers announced on Tuesday that they have invited 31 players as non-roster invites to 2021 Spring Training. The list is chock-full of interesting guys and prospects.

Let’s look back at the 2020 NRIs who contributed to the Dodgers during the COVID-shortened season.

  • No one

That’s right. The Dodgers didn’t get any contributions from any 2020 NRI. It’s the first time in recent memory that has happened, and I’m sure it has almost all to do with COVID-19.

To be fair, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong were traded after being announced as NRIs. I’m not sure either would have made it, but it should ben mentioned.

On the pitching side, guys like Brett de Geus, Marshall Kasowski and Edwin Uceta could have been on the short list, but that didn’t happen. Now, de Geus is with the Rangers, Kasowski is recovering from surgery and Uceta was added to the 40-man roster.

Here are the 2021 non-roster invitees.

Pitchers

*Denotes left-handed pitcher

That’s … a lot of pitchers, and some with high ceilings. There are also some who will be in my Top 50 prospects list, once the countdown is complete.

Gray is the system’s top prospect and is in big league camp for the second straight season. His chances of debuting in 2021 decreased after the Dodgers signed Trevor Bauer, but there’s still a chance he makes it.

Grove was the Dodgers’ 2nd-rounder in 2018. He got an above-slot deal after the Dodgers failed to sign JT Ginn. He was on a pitch/inning limit with Rancho Cucamonga in 2019 with some mixed results.

Miller and Knack were the Dodgers’ first two draft picks last year, and both have been impressive since being brought into the organization. There’s a non-zero chance both could reach the majors this year, but 2022 is more likely. There’s also a non-zero chance Miller is the Dodgers’ top prospect heading into next season.

Pepiot opened some eyes at the alternate site last year and is a candidate to make a big leap up the prospect list with a strong 2021. Robertson, his draft classmate, has added velocity and has a wipeout breaking ball that could put him on the fast track.

The lefties are a bit interesting. Kickham, formerly of the Giants and Red Sox, has 44 1/3 innings of MLB experience with some ugly results (9.95 ERA, 6.59 FIP — not typos). Ortiz will be in my Top 30 and, at just 21, has shown some good signs in the minors. Pazos, 30, has bounced around a bit (Yankees, Mariners, Rockies) and has a career 3.95 ERA and 4.36 FIP in 127 2/3 innings. Future Dodgers likes him, so he’s a guy to watch this spring. Andrew Friedman is familiar with Romero from his Tampa Bay days. He has struggled in his 146 MLB innings (5.12 ERA, 4.30 FIP).

Martinez checked in at No. 45 on my Top 50 list, while Long has been on the Top 100 in years past. Oh, he’s also very tall.

Varland (Adam Kolarek deal) and Williams (Ross Stripling deal) are trade acquisitions who are a little ways off, but both offer decent upside.

Morrow and Nelson might be the two more interesting. We remember Morrow from his fantastic 2017 that he parlayed into a 2-year deal with the Cubs. He struggled with injuries there and has found his way back to LA, where he was, originally, an NRI. Nelson was a low-risk, medium-reward signing last winter, but he never got his chance in LA. He suffered a back injury and surgery put him out for the season. The Dodgers declined his option at the beginning of the offseason and they brought him back on a minor-league deal.

Josh Sborz was on the Dodgers’ original list, but he was traded to Texas yesterday for Jhan Zambrano. He’s 19 and Venezuelan, which should tell you what the Dodgers think of him (they like Venezuelan prospects).

Catchers

Berman has been a career minor-leaguer and, honestly, doesn’t have much of a big league future. FedEx is back, and we know Ned Colletti is happy. There’s a decent chance he finds his way onto the 40-man roster at some point if the Dodgers need some catching depth at the MLB level. Feduccia is No. 43 in my Top 50.

Infielders

Amaya and Estevez were NRIs last year. The org really likes Amaya, while Estevez was left unprotected in December’s Rule 5 Draft.

Burns, Ravelo and Soto all have MLB experience, but they’ve combined for 98 plate appearances (84 of them coming from Ravelo).

I put Davidson as an infielder (he’s a corner guy), but he is also a legitimate 2-way player. The sample size is small (6 1/3 IP), but we know the Dodgers are always looking for the next big thing. Oh, and Davidson hit 46 home runs for the White Sox in 2017-18, so he has pop. He didn’t play in 2019 before appearing in a third of the Reds’ games in ’20.

Busch and Hoese were the Dodgers’ 1st-rounders in 2019. Both impressed at the alternate site, with Busch making a bit more noise (and I’m incredibly high on him).

Mann and Vargas are getting a camp invite for the first time. Mann is going to be in my Top 30, while Vargas, will be in my Top 5 (and if you know anything about me, you know Vargas might be my favorite prospect in the system).

Outfielders

It’s a little odd to see just two outfielders as NRIs, but when you look at the 40-man roster, you’ll see why.

Pages has really high upside and some outlets like him better than others. He hasn’t played above Rookie-level ball (RIP Ogden), but he opened some eyes there in 2019. Outman was the Dodgers’ 7th-rounder in 2018 out of baseball powerhouse Sacramento State University. He’s very athletic, plays a legitimate center field and has some untapped potential at the plate.

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As it stands right now, the Dodgers’ 26-man roster is going to be overflowing with talent. It’s going to be difficult for an NRI to crack the Opening Day roster, but it isn’t unheard of. Here’s my Top 3 most likely to do so.

  1. Morrow
  2. Nelson
  3. Pazos

Morrow is the most talented, if he’s anything like the ’17 version of himself. Everything is dependent on his health, though. Nelson is liked enough by the front office to have been brought back, so he’s there. And Pazos probably has the best chance of the lefties, especially since Kolarek was traded last week and the Dodgers have a bit of a left-handed reliever deficiency in the bullpen thanks to that trade and Caleb Ferguson‘s injury.

Pitchers and catchers report on today. It’s almost time for baseball season. Let’s hope it can go more smoothly than 2020 (but hopefully with the same result).

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. 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.