For years, the term non-roster invitee meant come to spring training and collect a small paycheck. Recently there has been a trend of non-roster invitees making the team and having an impact during the season.
Many casual fans are not aware of their team’s non-roster invitees. Most non-roster invitees still fail to make the roster but here are a few guys that have a decent chance of making their respective teams this season:
Erik Bedard, Houston Astros
Bedard was a legitimate ace for the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 and has been plagued by injuries since. Bedard has a pretty awful season for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season but was invited to spring training by the Astros. The Astros are by far the worst team in the American League and have a starting rotation led by Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris. They have a young rotation but the fifth spot is still available and Bedard definitely has a chance to earn it. Bedard had an impressive 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings last season.
Bill Hall, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Hall is a journeyman utility player who spent most of last season in the Orioles organization. The Angels invited him to spring training and he can make the team. They traded Jean Segura and Maicer Izturis recently and they are lacking infield depth. Bill Hall is not a great player but would fit playing once a week giving a break to Alberto Callaspo or Erick Aybar.
Chris Dickerson, Baltimore Orioles
Dickerson was expected to be the Yankees fourth outfielder this season before they resigned Ichiro Suzuki. They waived him and the Orioles invited him to spring training. He has never seen significant playing time in his career except for 2009 with the Reds. He had an OBP of .370 that season, which is above average. The O’s outfield is stacked with Nate McLouth, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Nolan Reimold. It will be tough but Dickerson can crack the roster if one of them gets injured.
Steve Tolleson, Chicago White Sox
Tolleson is a second-generation player who played 29 games with the Orioles last season. He is an abysmal hitter but an outstanding defensive player. He played third base and some outfield last season. The White Sox third baseman is Jeff Keppinger who is head and shoulders better than Tolleson but they do not really have a backup option. Angel Sanchez is likely to backup Keppinger but an impressive spring training for Tolleson could change that.
Ryan Raburn, Cleveland Indians
Last season I would text my friend Josh, diehard Tiger fan, mercilessly mocking him whenever Raburn would come up to bat in a crucial situation. Now Raburn, the topic of discussion and mockery of a lot of parody Twitter accounts, is trying to make the Indians roster. The Indians infield is set with Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Caberera, and Lonnie Chisenhall but Raburn could serve as a utility backup player. The only other infielder on the roster is Mike Aviles and Raburn can beat him out with an impressive spring training.
Kyle McClellan, Texas Rangers
McClellan is coming off of a mediocre year with the St. Louis Cardinals. His asset is he has long relief capabilities. He started 17 games in 2011 and can make the Rangers as a long reliever. The only thing stopping him is the possibility that the Rangers make Colby Lewis their long relief man.
Chone Figgins, Miami Marlins
Figgins is well-known in Orange County because of his long run with the Angels. He only played 66 games with the Mariners last season and has been terrible lately. However, the Marlins have very little talent or depth. Figgins can still run and field and if he cannot make this Marlins roster it is time for him to hang up his cleats.
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Hamilton had 155 stolen bases in the minor leagues last season. That is unreal. He also had a .311 batting average. He will not be an everyday player for the Reds this season but has the talent to be a fourth outfielder. He would be perfect for pinch running late in games.
Cory Wade, Chicago Cubs
Wade pitched 39 games for the Yankees last season. He had a high ERA but often came into the game facing the heart of the lineup. He averages a strikeout per inning and has good stuff. The problem is he gets hit around sometimes. The good news for Wade is a pretty bad Cubs bullpen.
Brandon Inge, Pittsburgh Pirates
Inge spent most of his career with the Tigers and was a part of the A’s playoff run last season. Inge has low batting average numbers but has put up 27 home runs twice in his career. He will not start for the Pirates because of their young and talented infield. He is a great clubhouse guy and can play anywhere in the field. The Pirates lack outfield depth and I think they will use Inge as a utility player.
J.R. Towles, St. Louis Cardinals
Towles has a really low career batting average of .187 but is a solid defensive catcher. This is his first year on a good team after spending his whole career with the Astros. Yadier Molina is the Cards starting catcher and is one of the best in baseball. They do not really have a backup however, and Towles can step into that role nicely. Maybe a change of scenery can wake up his bat.
Wil Meyers, Tampa Bay Rays
Last but not least is the highly touted Wil Meyers. Meyers came to Tampa in a trade that included Josh Shields. Meyers has been compared to Mike Trout. Meyers had .314 with 37 home runs in the minors last season. The Rays right fielder is Ben Zobrist but I can easily see them moving Zobrist back to second base and Meyers stepping into the right field role.