With the White Sox, you can't dismiss the annual batch of spring training non-roster invitees, because there's a good chance you'll see several later in the season. The lack of young talent in the high minors -- and the ability of pitching coaches to occasionally straighten out unrly arms -- both forces and allows the Sox to call for their help at various points in the season.
Last year, Eric Stults, Hector Gimenez and (above all) Rey Olmedo came to the White Sox organization via the NRI, while Brian Bruney and Leyson Septimo returned to the Sox through that route.
In fact, Bruney was one of the non-roster invitees to appear in the White Sox bullpen the year before. Jeff Gray and Josh Kinney also served brief stints in relief, and Dallas McPherson made a cameo when the Sox needed a lefty corner infielder.
So while the bulk of the 20 players invited by the Sox to spring training this season won't get your heart pumping, it's worth our while to give them an honest shot, because the Sox certainly don't write them off.
If you're the categorizing type, you can file them into six groups:
Baby's first spring
- Andy Wilkins
- Erik Johnson
- Scott Snodgress
- Marcus Semien
- Keenyn Walker
These guys are making their debuts in the big-league camp, but the two at the top could make a difference in their organizational standing with a good spring. Wilkins has nobody blocking him at the corners, and Johnson gained a larger following after Simon Castro and Nestor Molina endured disappointing seasons.
While a fine first impression would also help the bottom three, there's less pressure -- and less of a reward -- for doing so. Snodgress' left-handedness always helps, but he hasn't pitched above Winston-Salem. Semien hasn't made his Birmingham debut either, and there are a couple middle infielders ahead of him developmentally. Walker had offseason surgery on his shoulder and knee, so he just has to make sure he's functioning properly.
- Jeff Gray
- Ramon Troncoso
- David Purcey
We know what Gray (and his journal) are all about. Troncoso, 29, had a fine year out of the Dodgers' bullpen in 2009, but it's a been a steady slide out of that club's plans ever since. Purcey, 30, is your typical hard-throwing lefty with little idea of the strike zone, except he's from St. Charles, Ill.
Catchers for those pitchers
- Michael Blanke
- Kevan Smith
- Bryan Anderson
The Sox have had trouble advancing a legit catching prospect to Double-A, and both Blanke and Smith are on the fringe. Anderson is the interesting interloper here, since he provides a left-handed complement to Tyler Flowers, and has been able to handle himself at Triple-A (.260/.334/.387 lifetime). He's 26 and was once a well-regarded prospect for St. Louis, so there's a lightning-in-a-bottle possibility. The Sox are set to enter the season with Gimenez as Flowers' backup at this point, and Gimenez was an NRI the year before.
- Daniel Moskos
- Josh Bell
Back in July, the Sox claimed Moskos off waivers from Pittsburgh, where he disappointed everybody the moment he was drafted ahead of Matt Wieters with the fourth-overall pick in 2007. The Sox outrighted him to Charlotte in August to free up a 40-man roster spot before September expansion, and he found no takers, so he's back. He's left-handed.
Bell is a new face, and his story is similar to Brandon Wood's. He advanced on schedule through the minors, playing well enough to reach the No. 37 spot on Baseball America's Top 100 list before the start of the 2010 season. In three separate stints with the Orioles, his plate discipline abandoned him completely. He's a lifetime .195/.223/.265 hitter, with 10 walks to 92 strikeouts over 282 plate appearances. He is 26 and not related to Buddy.
- Seth Loman
- Steve Tolleson
- Stefan Gartrell
Loman, 27, is a typical behind-the-aging-curve minor-league slugger, Tolleson, 29, is a utility infielder who does a little of everything, but not enough of something. He'll be playing for his fourth organization in the last three years. Gartrell needs no introduction, and his return should warm Phil Rogers' heart.
- Jake Petricka
- Carlos Sanchez
- Tyler Saladino
- Trayce Thompson
Even though these guys should open the season waiting in the wings, they might be able to use the spring to jockey for position. Although in Petricka's case, he'll be looking to make up ground after a lost half-season at Birmingham.
It's Sanchez's first spring in the big-boy camp, but he'll get a good, critical look since some were floating his name as a possibility to open the season in Chicago at third base. He blew by Saladino, whose true skills are hard to peg after a weird year at Birmingham. He earned a late call to the big-league camp last year because Robin Ventura liked the cut of his jib, but he'll face much more scrutiny this time. Thompson has the furthest to go in his development, but his upside offers the most to consider. A good spring may not get him past Jared Mitchell and Blake Tekotte on the depth chart, but he's going to command a ton of attention, and the effects of a power display should linger for a while.