For the first time in recent memory, the White Sox went chalk with their 2015 spring training non-roster invitees.
The only NRIs to make it to the majors were the ones everybody most expected: Geovany Soto (just had to prove healthy), Carlos Rodon (duh), Scott Carroll (Dylan Axelroddy), Micah Johnson (position battle) and Chris Beck (one spot start).
The other 15 never amounted to even a weekend seat-filling. Not your Arcenio Leons, not your Jairo Asencios, not even your George Kottari. So continues a trend of normalization, in which the White Sox heavily rely on players who are already on the 40-man roster.
- 2014: Zach Putnam, Chris Bassitt, Scott Snodgress, Andy Wilkins
- 2013: Erik Johnson, Marcus Semien, Jake Petricka, Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey, Bryan Anderson.
- 2012: Brian Bruney, Leyson Septimo, Eric Stults, Hector Gimenez, Ray Olmedo, Jordan Danks, Brian Omogrosso
- 2011: Bruney, Donny Lucy, Jeff Gray (and his journal), Josh Kinney, Shane Lindsay, Dallas McPherson
- 2010: Donny, Erick Threets
At first glance, 2016 appears to be more of the same. The White Sox have a deep bullpen of acceptable arms, so much so that Daniel Webb has at least two guys to compete with to be the first Charlotte arm called up, so I wouldn't expect the Sox to rifle through non-roster options all that often. Nevertheless, there's always the potential for catastrophes and/or pleasant surprises, so vigilant we must remain.
The White Sox announced a list of 20 non-roster invitees on Tuesday. Let's take a look at who's coming to Camelback Ranch this time around.
Baby's first spring
- Carson Fulmer
- Jordan Guerrero
- Peter Tago
- Jason Coats
- Jacob May
- Adam Engel
It's the first-round pick Fulmer and five others who are finally making the leap from the kids' table. Fulmer won't be watched as closely as Rodon was last season -- there is zero heat around the idea that he could break camp with the club -- but he'll be monitored and written about. He's figured to be fast-tracked, and this will be everybody's first good look at him.
The two other pitchers, Guerrero and Tago, won't be under the microscope. Guerrero put his name on the map after an excellent age 22-year-old season across both A-ball levels, but he's still years away, and Tago is a hard-throwing reliever who didn't make a whole lot of his Arizona Fall League experience (more walks than strikeouts).
Then you have the three outfielders, listed in order of seasoning. Trading Trayce Thompson opened up an opportunity for Coats, a soon-to-be 26-year-old corner outfielder with a feel for hitting but no standout skills to this point. Behind him are May and Engel, who will likely be the starting center fielders in Charlotte and Bimingham, respectively. May's steady rise was interrupted by a nasty collision last year, and he'll be looking to put that behind him, while Engel will try to build on his AFL breakout.
- Phillippe Aumont
- Colin Kleven
- Matt Lollis
- Josh Wall
Aumont was once a big deal; an 11th-overall pick who headlined a package of prospects Seattle to sent to Philadelphia for Cliff Lee. Now 27, he's just a big (6'7") Quebecois with big control problems who couldn't stick with the Phillies, but when he snaps off one of his good curveballs, you can see why teams will still want to look at him.
Kleven is also a Canadian who spent frustrating years in the Phillies system, but he's younger (24), less-heralded (33rd round), and a strike-thrower who hasn't yet shown swing-and-miss stuff at Double-A, so his appeal is less immediately apparent.
Lollis, 25, is a big'un, listed at 6'9" and 250 pounds. He's spent significant time at Double-A in each of the last four seasons, including the last two at Montgomery in the Rays system. That means the White Sox' Southern League folks know him well, for what it's worth. He has a sinker with a lot of run, but not so much sink.
Wall, 29, is the
lone other pitcher of the group with big-league experience, but it's been going the wrong way over three cups of coffee. Most recently, the Angels tried him in two games in 2014, and it did not go well (1 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 54.00 ERA, 8.00 WHIP).
- Matt Purke
- Nik Turley
- Will Lamb
Back in 2009, Purke was selected by the Rangers with the 14th overall pick. But he went back in the draft, and ended up slipping to the third round when the Nationals selected him at No. 96. That's been a harbinger for his pro career, during which he has undergone shoulder debridement surgery in 2012 and Tommy John surgery in 2014. He's coming off 64 unimpressive innings across High-A and Double-A in Washington's system. He does hail from Nacogdoches, Texas, though, and sometimes those guys end up doing something of note for the Sox.
Turley, 26, was taken by the Yankees in the 50th round of the 2008 draft -- the 1,202nd player taken out of 1,204 -- but a fifth-round-equivalent bonus broke his commitment to BYU. He's started 124 of 133 career minor-league games, so while his three-pitch mix hasn't proven effective enough to break through as a starter, he's pretty much untried as a reliever. He comes from an athletic family, with 1950s Yankee Bob Turley a distant relative.
Lamb, 25, is the most typical NRI lefty of the bunch -- a first-day pick (second round, 2011) who was converted to relief after a couple years. He has a good arm, but his fastball's too straight and he walks too many guys, causing him to stall between Double-A and Triple-A. That story is straight out of central casting. The White Sox acquired him from the Rangers in a trade for Myles Jaye during the Winter Meetings, extending the Jason Frasor trade tree.
Catchers for those pitchers
- Hector Sanchez
- Omar Narvaez
With four catchers on the 40-man roster, the Sox are bringing in only one from outside the organization this year. That's Sanchez, whom you may better know as Buster Posey's backup from 2012 through 2014, with some spot work on both sides of that time frame. His ultra-aggressive approach at the plate yielded diminishing returns, and he doesn't stand out in any particular aspect behind the plate. He may not be long for the organization if Kevan Smith and Rob Brantly are in line to play at Charlotte.
Narvaez is the internal off-the-board invitee, as the Sox picked him from the Rays in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2013. He has some intriguing ingredients -- a lefty hitter with more walks than strikeouts and a 36-percent caught-stealing rate in the minors. He doesn't have much pop and is old for High-A, but with the Sox needing young catchers, Narvaez qualifies as worth following as he enters his age-24 season.
New organizational players
- Steve Lombardozzi
- Andy Parrino
Lombardozzi, 27, has played five positions for three teams over five years, including two full seasons on Washington's bench in 2012 and 2013. Since then, he's been limited to brief stints with the Orioles and Pirates, neither of which went well.
Parrino, 30, is a glove-first infielder who has played in 131 games between the Padres and Athletics over five seasons, during which he hit .175/.280/.244. Both players practically embody the idea of the replacement-level player.
- Tim Anderson
- Tyler Danish
- Courtney Hawkins
As long as Tyler Saladino is the first in line at shortstop for the 2016 White Sox, Anderson's immediate development is going to be more crucial than it'd otherwise be. He looked a little jumpy during his brief look in Cactus League play last year, so it'd be nice if he let the game come to him a little more this time, as polishing is high atop his to-do list in Charlotte.
Danish and Hawkins aren't in line for any MLB work in 2016, but both could use palate-cleansers. Danish encountered his first legitimate struggles at Birmingham, but since he's only 21, he's got plenty of time on his side.
Likewise, Hawkins is just 22, and he made some notable improvements in a difficult environment at Birmingham. Moreover, he didn't look all that fazed by his first taste of spring training last season:
That said, he's trying to overcome his swing-and-miss problems while bouncing back from plantar fasciitis, so he's got his work cut out for him. His development is in something of a fragile state, so he needs to be around for reps, and make good use of them once he gets his feet back under him.