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One Non-Roster Invitee to Watch from Each Cactus League Team this Spring Training

Spring Training begins this week and that means baseball is officially back. Spring games provide fans the opportunity to see stars in new places as well as top prospects getting some time with the MLB talent. Then there are the unsung heroes: the non-roster invitees. For young prospects looking to make a good impression or aging veterans trying to land an MLB role for this season, non-roster invitees provide an extra level of competition in spring.

The non-roster invitees on this list aren’t necessarily the biggest names joining each team’s spring camp. While some are talented prospects that most fantasy players should get to know, others are more under-the-radar types that could carve out MLB roles in 2023. They’ll all be players to watch as competition for some final roster spots begins to heat up.

The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!

One Intriguing Non-Roster Invitee for Each Cactus Team

Arizona Diamondbacks – 1B/3B Deyvison De Los Santos

The reviews of Deyvison De Los Santos have been mixed but his tools are undeniable. He crushed 22 homers in 126 games last season while making it to Double-A as a 19-year-old. De Los Santos won’t turn 20 until June and a hot start could have him flirting with the Triple-A level by then. However, there’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his profile and he really doesn’t have a defensive home. He also recorded a .614 OPS in the AFL after his 2022 campaign. De Los Santos has plenty of time to hone in on his tools and a chance to see advanced pitching this spring will be important to gauge where he stands right now.

Chicago Cubs – 1B Matt Mervis

Matt Mervis may be the most obvious pick among all non-roster invitee players across the league. However, the recent signings of Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini could delay his eventual debut. Mervis flew from High-A to Triple-A in 2022, totaling 36 homers with a .309/.379/.606 slash line through 578 plate appearances. Surprisingly, he improved his strikeout and walk rates with each promotion. Mervis is as MLB-ready as a non-roster invitee can be and he’ll certainly see the bigs this season.

Chicago White Sox – OF Oscar Colas

Like Mervis, Oscar Colas has gained a lot of steam this offseason. He’s increasingly likely to make the Opening Day roster and should get immediate playing time. The 24-year-old is just about big-league-ready after reaching Triple-A last season. He slashed .314/.371/.524 with 51 extra-base hits (23 home runs) across three MiLB levels. Even more impressive is that he did that after being out of baseball for two seasons. The only real competition he has for the job in right field is Gavin Sheets, who posted a 98 OPS+ with the White Sox last season.

Cincinnati Reds – 1B/3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand

Christian Encarnacion-Strand has shown a polished bat at every level over the last two years but his power really broke through in 2022. The corner infielder launched 32 homers while compiling a .955 OPS in 122 High-A and Double-A games. After the Reds acquired him from the Twins, Encarnacion-Strand’s walk rate and power both dipped, partially due to a park downgrade from Wichita to Chattanooga. The 23-year-old righty profiles as a power-first slugger as long as the hit tool holds pace. He doesn’t have too much serious competition for playing time at the MLB level if he can perform in spring and at Triple-A.

Cleveland Guardians – LHP Logan Allen

Cleveland has a relatively light non-roster invitee list and, despite their deep pool of pitching prospects, Logan Allen could make an impact at the MLB level this season. He was terrific in 2021, posting a 2.26 ERA with an 11.6 K/9 through 111.1 frames. Allen then took a step back in his age-23 campaign with a 4.75 ERA, though he upped his strikeout rate to 12 K/9. Most of those struggles came once he joined Triple-A Columbus, where he finished with a 6.49 ERA and a 4.4 BB/9. Allen’s elite changeup makes up for his lack of velocity but it makes his ability to locate that much more important at the higher levels.

Colorado Rockies – IF Coco Montes

Coco Montes will compete with fellow non-roster invitees Harold Castro and Cole Tucker for a utility infield role this spring. Montes is the most interesting of the bunch but is the only one without any MLB experience. The 26-year-old slashed .274/.359/.500 with 20 homers and 13 steals across 479 Triple-A plate appearances. He benefited from the hitter-friendly park in Albuquerque but that could translate well to Coors Field. His strikeout rate is a bit high but he registered a 10.4% walk rate in Triple-A. Montes could actually sneak his way into some consistent MLB playing time if he breaks camp and the Rockies aren’t ready to fully hand Ezequiel Tovar the shortstop gig.

Kansas City Royals – OF Tyler Gentry

The Royals may not have a single outfielder worthy of everyday playing time and that could push Tyler Gentry closer to the MLB level. He’s coming off of his age-23 campaign in which he slashed .326/.422/.542 with 21 homers, 22 doubles, and 10 steals. Most of that production came when he was promoted to Double-A where he lowered his strikeouts rate to 19.9% with a 12.1% walk rate. Gentry will compete with several other non-roster invitee outfielders but he has the best long-term outlook of the bunch.

Los Angeles Angels – RHP Ben Joyce

The Angels have a few interesting prospects joining camp this spring, including Edgar Quero, Zach Neto, and Sam Bachman. However, the pick here is Ben Joyce, even if it’s based more on entertainment value. The 6-foot-5 righty was an internet sensation during his 2022 season at Tennessee due to his wicked fastball that can touch 105mph (yes, really). He has future closer written all over him and the Angels don’t have anyone locked into that role right now. Joyce won’t break camp as a closer but he’ll continue to refine his secondary offerings and could be a useful MLB bullpen piece as early as this season. In 13 innings with Double-A Rocket City, he posted a 20:4 K:BB with a 2.08 ERA.

Los Angeles Dodgers – OF Ryan Ward

The Dodgers don’t have many holes that could be filled by non-roster invitees but their outfield still looks questionable. Ryan Ward is one of several outfielders that could compete for a bench role at the MLB level. He relies on his heavy power, smacking 55 homers over the last two seasons. Ward crushed right-handers in 2021 (.298/.368/.559) but he actually hit lefties better in 2022, registering a .916 OPS compared to a .773 mark against righties. The 25-year-old doesn’t add much as a defender but his pop could be enough to get a look at the top level. There’s no real need in the Dodgers’ rotation right now but there’s a handful of exciting pitching prospects to watch as well, including Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller.

Milwaukee Brewers – LHP Robert Gasser

Acquired as part of the Josh Hader deal with the Padres, Robert Gasser already reached the Triple-A level in 2022. The 23-year-old southpaw totaled 137 innings across three levels last season, posting a 3.94 ERA with an 11.3 K/9 in the process. He registered a K-BB% over 21% at High-A and Double-A before struggling in his short time at the top MiLB level. Despite what his name might suggest, Gasser doesn’t overpower hitters with exciting velocity. Instead, he has solid command of a four-pitch mix with a fastball that only reaches the mid-90s. Gasser is getting close to MLB ready and it’ll be worth seeing how his stuff plays against better competition.

Oakland Athletics – 2B/3B Zack Gelof

Zack Gelof’s bat was so polished coming out of Virginia that the Athletics gave him a taste of Triple-A action in his draft year. In 2022, he played at Double-A and Triple-A, slashing .270/.352/.463 with 18 home runs and 10 steals. With the current state of Oakland’s roster, there’s room for several prospects to make an MLB impact in 2023, including Gelof and Tyler Soderstrom. It seems like Gelof will end up at second base but he may also get some time in the outfield. He’s about ready for the big leagues, especially if he can show an improved plate approach in spring.

San Diego Padres -LHP Cole Hamels

Easily the most experienced non-roster invitee on this list, Cole Hamels is looking to make an MLB comeback. The 39-year-old southpaw hasn’t pitched in a pro game since 2020 when he made one start with Atlanta. The Padres have a terrific roster but the back end of the rotation is a big question mark and currently includes converted relievers Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo. Hamels has produced a career 3.43 ERA with 8.5 K/9 over 2,698 career MLB frames. He may be a long shot to earn a roster spot but the path for a comeback is there for the taking.

San Francisco Giants – 3B/SS Casey Schmitt

After a disappointing pro debut in 2021, Casey Schmitt broke out in 2022. He reached the Triple-A level while slashing .293/.365/.489 with 21 homers in 526 plate appearances. In 33 Double-A and Triple-A games, that line improved to .338/.371/.521. The 23-year-old could see an MLB promotion at some point in 2023. As of now, the Giants have David Villar handling the hot corner with J.D. Davis as an option as well. However, Schmitt’s defense at shortstop could be enough to take some playing time if Brandon Crawford’s production continues to tumble.

Seattle Mariners – RHP Taylor Dollard

Taylor Dollard flashed some potential in 2021 by registering an 11.4 K/9 across 105 Low-A and High-A frames. In 2022, that fell to 8.2 K/9 but he lowered his ERA from 5.14 to 2.25. The 24-year-old logged 144 innings in 27 starts, all with Double-A Arkansas. Dollard has more value to the Mariners than dynasty managers as things currently stand. Still, he’ll be someone to keep on the radar as he’s just about MLB ready and Seattle could use one more back-end starter. Fellow non-roster invitee Emerson Hancock enters camp in a similar spot.

Texas Rangers – RHP Kumar Rocker

Kumar Rocker will be fascinating to watch in 2023. Just two years removed from being one of the top pitching prospects in the country, Rocker is now surrounded by question marks about his health and command. He looked strong during his brief time in the Frontier League before the Rangers shockingly took him third overall. The 23-year-old has yet to make his minor league debut but he did pitch in AFL. Unfortunately, he walked 12 batters and gave up seven runs in those 14 frames. All eyes will be on Rocker this season as he begins his professional career and it all begins in Spring Training.

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