MLB Non-Roster Invitees – American League East

Spring training is finally here! Pitchers and catchers are already with their teams in Arizona and Florida, along with a good number of position players looking to get a head-start on things.

There are always a ton of players in MLB camps every spring, the majority of them being players on the 40-man rosters. Every team also has a number of players who are “non roster invitees”. The term is pretty self-explanatory. These guys are players who are not on the 40 man, but are invited to major league camp so the front office, manager and coaches can take a look at them. It’s generally a mix of young talent (think early round draft picks) and older players who are looking to looking to latch on with teams, hoping to continue their careers.

Today we’re going to look at a few players on each team in the American League East Division, and we will cover the remaining AL and National League divisions in future articles. Here we go!

Baltimore Orioles

Sean Gilmartin (LHP) – Gilmartin is a 28 year old soft-tossing lefty pitcher who first broke in with the New York Mets in 2015. He pitched very well in the ’15 season, but has scuffled in succeeding years, kicking around the minor leagues. He surfaced in Baltimore in 2018, pitching to a 3.00 ERA in 27 innings. He may come in handy for the O’s in 2019, and lefties have a way of sticking around.

Jace Peterson (Utility) – Peterson began 2018 with the New York Yankees, but was gone by the end of April when the Orioles plucked him off waivers after playing only three games in the Bronx. He didn’t hit well, ending the season on the Mendoza-line (.200 average), but he proved to be handy because he can play anywhere on the field. The Orioles have little talent, so the 28 year old handyman may end up sticking. Being a left-handed bat helps.

Mike Yastrzemski (OF) – Does the name Yastrzemski sound familiar? If you know your baseball history, it should. Yes, Mike is the grandson of former Red Sox legend and Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. The 28 year old bats left-handed like his grandfather and plays good defense in the outfield like him. In 2018, he spent the bulk of the season in Triple-A Norfolk, where he had a slash-line of .265/.359/.441. If young Yaz has a productive spring, he could fill a gap with the big club until some of their OF prospects are ready down the line.

Boston Red Sox

Erasmo Ramirez (RHP) – It seems like the former Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners hurler has been around forever, having made his debut back in 2012, but he’s only 28 years old. After Seattle acquired him in the middle of the 2017 season, he pitched reasonably well, compiling a 3.92 ERA down the stretch. Things went sideways last season. Ramirez made ten starts, pitching to the tune of a 6.50 ERA over 45.2 innings. He spent a few months on the DL with a shoulder injury, which might have been why he was so ineffective last season. The Red Sox’s rotation is pretty well set, but a good spring could land him a bullpen spot or a MLB deal elsewhere.

Zach Putnam (RHP) – The 31 year old Putnam hasn’t pitched since April 2017, when he injured his elbow in the middle of a game, resulting in Tommy John Surgery. He signed a minor league deal in December. He doesn’t throw hard (91-92) but was effective in 2016 (2.30 ERA), striking out more than a batter per inning. If Putnam stays healthy, he could provide good bullpen depth.

Rusney Castillo (OF) – The Red Sox signed the Cuba-born outfielder prior to the 2014 season to a seven year deal worth more than 72 million dollars. For all this money, the Sox have received a grand total of seven home-runs and 35 RBI since Castillo signed his name to the contract. He played a half season in 2015 in Boston and a handful of games in ’16, after which the Sox correctly figured Castillo was a bust. They have to pay him anyway, so he may as well be in big-league camp. He will probably be paid another 11 million to play in Pawtucket in 2019. His contract has an opt-out after this year, but I’m pretty sure he’ll want the 14 million he will be owed in 2020.

New York Yankees

Danny Farquhar (RHP) – Danny’s 2018 season came to an abrupt halt in late April after he suffered a brain hemorrhage in the White Sox dugout in the middle of an appearance. He made an incredible recovery after having life-saving brain surgery, and the Yankees signed him to a minor league deal on February 1. Farquhar has good stuff, but with mixed results over his career. If the soon to be 32 year old stays healthy, he will be excellent bullpen depth. This is such a great feel-good story, it won’t matter if he throws another pitch because he’s already won. I’m rooting for him.

Ryan Lavarnway (C) – The Yankees signed Lavarnway to a minor league deal in early November with an invitation to big league camp. The 31 year old will likely spend 2019 in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre as depth and to add a veteran presence to work with the organization’s young hurlers such as Michael King, Domingo Acevedo and others. This is a nice addition.

Mike Ford (1B/DH) – 26 year old Mike Ford is a power-hitting first baseman who has worked his way through the Yankees minor league system. In 2017, he hit 20 home runs between AA Trenton and AAA Scranton, but was left unprotected on the 40 man. The Seattle Mariners took him in that winter’s Rule 5 Draft, meaning the M’s had to keep him on their big league roster for all of 2018, or have to return him to the Yankees organization. The latter happened, and he was returned. He hit 16 homers last year in Triple-A, and provided a slash-line of .253/.327/.433. His strong left-handed bat is good insurance if Luke Voit and/or Greg Bird go down.

Tampa Bay Rays

Ryan Merritt (LHP) – Remember him? The former Cleveland Indians pitcher who made a strong postseason start in Toronto back in 2016 has battled shoulder injury problems ever since. He was released last fall and quickly signed a minor league deal with the Rays. Merritt, soon to be 27 years old, never threw hard but does throw strikes —  and the Rays have a way of getting a lot out of their pitchers, so who knows?

Emilio Bonafacio (Utility) – Bonafacio is yet another guy who seemingly has been around forever, but is “only” 33 years of age. He’s played on eight different MLB teams, and if he makes the Rays squad, it’ll be nine. The switch-hitting utilityman spent most of 2018 with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, where he hit .348 and stole 20 bags. With a young team, his veteran presence could go a long way, and his hard work would set an example for the kids.

Oliver Drake (RHP) – This poor guy must always keep his bags packed. He spent time on the rosters of five (FIVE!) different major league teams in 2018, having been plucked continuously off waivers. Despite all this time migrating from once place to another, he managed to make 44 appearances (1-1, 5.29 ERA), recording 51 strikeouts over 47.2 innings. Hopefully the 32 year old Drake will find a home with the Rays.

Toronto Blue Jays

Eric Sogard (INF) – Sogard spent the last two seasons in Milwaukee after spending parts of six seasons with the Oakland A’s. He was released by the Brewers on Sept. 1 with an anemic .134 average. Tampa signed him to a minor league deal in December and will add depth. There’s not much chance of him making the big league squad, as there are too many guys ahead of him. The 32 year old Sogard will likely be slated for Triple-A Buffalo. He’s a pro and young kids such as Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will benefit from his tutelage.

Mark Leiter, Jr. (RHP) – 27 year old Mark Leiter, Jr. was selected off waivers on Sept. 1 by the Blue Jays after the Phillies DFA’ed him. He came up as a starter in the Philadelphia organization and made a handful of starts for the Phillies in 2016 with mixed results. Leiter, the son of former MLB pitcher Mark Leiter and nephew of Al Leiter, pitched exclusively out of the pen last season. He’s not overpowering, topping out in the low 90’s and will probably be minor league filler in 2019.

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (3B) – I saved the best for last. This is Vladdy Jr’s first big league camp. To be sure, it will be his last as a non-roster invitee. The 19 year old son of MLB Hall of Fame right-fielder Vladimir Guerrero tore the cover off the ball between AA and AAA in 2018, to the tune of a .381/.437/.636 slash-line. He hit 20 home runs in 95 games and had 227 total bases. What stands out to me is the fact he only struck out 38 times in 357 at bats, walking 37 times. I had the privilege of watching him at a game in Buffalo last August. Here he is facing Scranton Wilkes Barre’s lefty Nestor Cortes, Jr.

 

 

Vladdy will likely begin the 2019 season with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, to give the Blue Jays an extra year of team control. I can’t wait to see what he can do when he’s called up, which will likely be early May.

In our next entry, we’ll take a look at some non-roster invitees in the AL Central. I hope you’ll join us!

Gary Sanchez for Chris Archer? Do it.

**This story was written this morning, and updated late this afternoon. See below for update.**

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The non-waiver trade deadline is a week away, and teams across Major League Baseball are trying to make deals, whether they are buyers or sellers. The New York Yankees are still seeking a starting pitcher to help shore up the rotation, as it’s their biggest need.

Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays could be a very viable candidate to fill this need. The perpetually selling Rays are always looking for ways to shed payroll and pinch pennies, and dealing him would remove over six million dollars from their books.

The Yankees would do well to trade catcher Gary Sanchez to the Rays for Archer. There’s no question Sanchez has the tools and ability to be a star in this league year after year, but his laziness and lack of hustle is wearing thin with the media in New York and across the country, as well as Yankees fans everywhere.

Last night, there were two plays that stood out regarding Sanchez. The first one came in the bottom of the second inning when a Severino pitch bounced in the dirt and kicked into foul territory near third base. At first Gary didn’t see it, and when he did, he half-heartedly ran to the ball, allowing Jake Bauers to score from second base on the play.

 

That play got Yankees Twitter riled up because it was obvious Sanchez wasn’t hustling, but the final play of the game took the cake. With the Rays ahead 7-6, the Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs and Gary at the plate. He grounded out sharply to second baseman Daniel Robertson, who quickly got the ball to shortstop Willy Adames covering 2nd base — Aaron Hicks beat the throw and was safe, BECAUSE HE RAN ALL OUT — Adames, realizing he had time, pegged it to first baseman Jake Bauers for the final out. The problem here for the Yankees is Sanchez half-assed it out of the batter’s box and halfway down the line before he decided he better run full speed.

 

It took about 0.3 seconds for folks on Twitter to recognize that was the second time Gary Sanchez loafed it, and people were SCREAMING, your writer included. I won’t include any tweets here because (1.) I want to keep intense profanity out of my stories, and (2.) there were too many to include that were highly accurate. Moments after the game ended, John Flaherty of the YES Network noted that the lack of hustle was inexcusable and can’t happen. Flaherty made a career of sticking in the big leagues purely from hustling and a strong work ethic, therefore he knows of what he speaks. Also, the Yankees Twitter account sent this tweet as I was compiling info for this piece.

Timing is everything, isn’t it?

But let’s go back to the basis of this article, why I would trade Sanchez for Archer. Both players are currently struggling and could possibly do well with a change of scenery. Sanchez is under team control for several years, still making a low salary ($620,400), and Tampa is always looking to shed payroll. The Yankees need a starter and could afford Archer’s salary (6.4 million in ’18), and he could potentially be under team control until 2022 (his contract has two team options for 2020 and 2021). If necessary, Brian Cashman could toss in a couple mid-level prospects, as the Yankees have an abundance of talent in the farm system.

Wait! But now the Yankees would need a catcher to replace Gary, right? Not an issue. Tampa has an All Star catcher of their own — soon to be free agent Wilson Ramos could be easily thrown in. His salary is 8.5 million dollars, and getting that off their payroll might help entice Rays GM Erik Neander. Seeing that he would be a rental, adding him into the trade might not cost Cashman and the Yankees much more, if anything.

I would be surprised if this trade came to fruition, but it also isn’t something off the wall, either. It remains to be be seen what transpires with the Sanchez situation, but it’s something that might keep Yankees fans and all baseball fans buzzing.

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**UPDATE**

Gary Sanchez was placed on the disabled list, after he re-injured his groin on the wild pitch that got away in the the 2nd inning of last night’s game. An MRI revealed the injury was in the same spot as before. I’m sure more will be revealed before tonight’s game in St. Petersburg. It definitely sheds light as to why he was moving at less than full speed.

 

However, Yankees manager Aaron Boone sheds some light on his own thoughts on the situation and the conversation he had with Sanchez after the game last night.

 

 

All-Star Snubs – American League

The 2018 baseball season is more than half over. Major League Baseball’s All Star Game is next Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (on FOX) and the rosters for the All Star Game were announced Sunday evening. Yesterday, we took a look at some National League players who were snubbed for the mid-summer contest. Today we’ll get a glimpse at a handful of guys who should have initially made the squad in the American League, but were overlooked.

Blake Snell – (Rays) Since Snell is our featured image above, we’ll start with him. He’s sporting a 12-4 record with a miserly 2.09 ERA and somehow he didn’t make the cut. I am sure Snell will end up an alternate since Justin Verlander is scheduled to start for Houston on Sunday, thereby eliminating him from pitching the the all star game. But how he didn’t make it on his own is just ridiculous.

**UPDATE** 7/13 – Added to AL All Star team, replacing Corey Kluber.

Andrelton Simmons – (LA Angels) The Angels shortstop is having an excellent season (.213/.372/.442), hitting 40 points higher in batting average and OBP than his numbers in 2017, but Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor got the All Star nods. Simba is also providing his typically excellent defense with only five errors this season as of this writing.

Nick Castellanos – (Tigers) With young 3rd baseman Jeimer Candelario joining the team out of spring training, the Tigers switched Castellanos to right-field this season. So far it’s worked out well for Nick. His slash-line (.306/.359/.523) are at all time highs for him, and he is roughly on pace to match his career highs of 26 home runs and 101 RBI, set last season.

Whit Merrifield – (Royals) Not much has gone right in Kansas City this season, but young Merrifield has been a diamond in the rough. He can play most positions in the field except catcher. he’s hitting .306 and boasts an OPS of .810. He has only five home-runs, which says he’s adept at driving balls into the gap. I’ve heard his name mentioned in trade-talks, so it remains to be seen if he will be dealt. Any team who deals for him will be getting a spark-plug kind of guy who hustles and is fun to watch. Also, Whit just has a cool baseball name — don’t ask me why, but he does.

 

Eddie Rosario – (Twins) – He doesn’t get all the press that guys like Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper and many others get, but Rosario is quietly putting together a good season up in Minnesota. Currently he has 18 HR’s to go along with a slash-line of .300/.341/.530. His defense has slipped a bit from 2017, as he currently has six errors in left field, compared to four all of last year. Nonetheless, the 26 year old Rosario is an exciting young player who’s been flying under the radar up north.

Charlie Morton – (Astros) How Morton was left off the All Star Team is beyond my comprehension. After his career high 14 wins last season for the World Champion Astros, “Ground Chuck” is on pace to obliterate his numbers from last season. Morton is boasting a record of 11-2, with an ERA of 2.83. He is striking out just a shade under 12 per nine innings. Morton has indicated that he may retire after this season to spend more time with his wife and kids. Hopefully he will make the squad as an alternate in what could be his last chance to play in an All Star Game.

UPDATE: 7/13 – Charlie Morton added to All Star team, replacing Aroldis Chapman.

**Late Addition**

Andrew Benintendi – (Red Sox) Somehow I overlooked one of the more obvious guys who should have been on the AL team to begin with. The young Benintendi has been somewhat streaky in 2018, hitting .242 in April. However, he ramped things up in May batting 100 points higher (.349), and has hovered around .300 since. Benintendi has 14 HR’s on the season and 17 steals to go along with 57 RBI. In the field, he runs down everything hit at him and also has six assists on the season. The 24 year old outfielder lost out on the “Final Vote” to Seattle’s Jean Segura, and has since been put on the Bereavement List due to a death in his family.

All-Star Snubs – National League

As I sat in my recliner gathering information for this article, the song “All Star” by Smashmouth has been going through my head. Particularly the line in the first verse, “she was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an “L” on her forehead.

It’s kind of apropos because today we’re going to take a look at some MLB players who are having good seasons, but didn’t make the cut for the All Star Game on July 17 in Washington, D.C. The 2018 All Star Rosters were announced Sunday evening, and we’ll name a handful of players in each league who lost-out and were snubbed.

National League

Max Muncy (Dodgers) – Where in God’s name did this come from? Muncy had been toiling in obscurity (Okay, Oakland…..) and Triple-A for most of the past three seasons. Muncy has been invaluable for the Dodgers, playing multiple positions and hitting dingers galore. He has 20 HR’s and an OPS of 1.008 in only 68 games. Muncy may turn back into a pumpkin soon, but it’s been a Cinderella story to this point.

Brandon Nimmo (Mets) – Nimmo finds himself left off the NL All-Star Roster, but I think he deserves a spot. He has a dozen home-runs and is 9th in OPS at .886. He also has a knack for getting on base and making good things happen at the right time, but the Mets have collectively been awful most of the year, so it’s easy to overlook this exciting young outfielder.

Corey Dickerson (Pirates) – Dickerson hit 51 home-runs during the two seasons he spent in Tampa, but for some reason the Rays decided to trade him in February to Pittsburgh for a minor leaguer and pitcher Daniel Hudson (who was released a month later). Dickerson is 8th in batting average in the NL, carries an OPS of .805 and plays flawless defense in the outfield. In his 81 games, he’s had two or more hits in 24 of them.

Ben Zobrist (Cubs) – The veteran Zobrist, a three-time All Star, has enjoyed a nice rebound season from 2017, when he struggled to a .232 average. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has spelled the 37 year old Zobrist a little more this year and he seems fresher. His average is .295 on the season and his OBP and OPS are at .389 and .821 respectively.

Junior Guerra (Brewers) – The 33 year old Guerra is enjoying a good season as a member of the Brewers’ rotation, pitching to a 2.79 ERA, striking out almost a hitter per inning and cutting his home-run rate per nine innings by more than half. His record is only 6-5, which indicates lack of run support. Also, Guerra is averaging just over five innings per start, inability to pitch deeper into games can impede a pitcher’s chances of earning wins.

There’s an excellent chance some of these players may end up making the trip to Washington D.C. as an alternate or injury replacement, but as of this writing, these players are on the outside looking in.

In my next entry, we will look at some American League players who were snubbed.