On Monday, the White Sox announced their list of 22 players to whom they’ve extended non-roster invites (NRI) to Spring Training. NRIs are for minor leaguers who aren’t on the 40-man roster but have some value to the major league team. Usually a player gets invited to Spring Training for one of three reasons:
- He’s a legit prospect and the major league coaches (and fans) want to get a look at him.
- He’s organizational filler that will somehow be useful for Spring Training. This is often the case for catchers so that the pitchers have more live targets to throw to.
- He’s got major league experience and he’s getting a chance to either make the team or get in line for a call-up later in the year.
The majority of the White Sox’s NRIs fall under the first category, and you probably already know most of these guys.
Top Prospects: Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Luis Robert, Jake Burger, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Zack Collins
Other Prospects: Brian Clark, Tyler Danish, Jordan Guerrero, Jordan Stephens, Connor Walsh
Don’t panic—Eloy Jimenez isn’t here because he’s already on the 40-man. The one name you might not recognize is Connor Walsh; he’s a 25-year-old right-handed reliever who made his way up to Charlotte last year. He’s got some work to do with control, but he could get a shot in the bullpen fairly soon.
2. Organizational Filler
Chris Beck, Alfredo Gonzalez, Jacob May, Chris Volstad, Michael Ynoa, Seby Zavala
Beck and May are White Sox draftees who have pretty much fallen out of favor, and Ynoa hasn’t shown anything since come over in the Jeff Samardzija trade. I won’t say I’m rooting against him making it back to the majors, but man, that would turn the roster map into a real disaster.
Gonzalez and Zavala are the aforementioned “catchers wanted”, although Zavala has some intrigue after a good year split between the A-levels. Volstad has returned on a MiLB deal after spending most of 2017 in Charlotte and getting in 6 games with the Sox.
3. Minor League Signings
These are the relative unknowns, so I’ll cover them in a little more detail. Their minor league deals have been announced and then lost in the wind, so now we can discuss them collectively. A couple are probably more interesting than others, but this is the category Anthony Swarzak fell into last season before suddenly becoming an elite reliever. Here they are, in order of potential:
- T.J. House: It looked like House was well on his way to being the next middling AL Central lefty to consistently confound the Sox. He made 3 starts against the Sox as a member of the Indians, and while he got 3 no-decisions, he did strike out 19 to just 2 walks in 18 innings. However, since his impressive rookie campaign in 2014, he’s struggled with injuries and bounced between the rotation and bullpen, mostly in AAA. His sinker-slider repertoire could make him effective as a full-time reliever, but first he’ll have to answer to how a guy named Glenn Anthony House came to be known as “T.J.” (Update: Per larry, it’s for “Tiger Junior”.)
- Rob Scahill: Scahill is about to turn 31, and he’s pitched in both AAA and the majors in each of the last 6 seasons. He can dial it up—his fastball sits 95—but it seems like he can’t fool anyone with either the fastball or the slider. He’s struck out about 6 batters per 9 innings in the majors, so maybe he should work on that cutter.
- Patrick Leonard: Leonard is a 6’4”, 25-year-old, right-handed hitting first baseman who hit .268/.327/.408 in AAA in 2017. I’d call him a Quad-A slugger, but he hasn’t even earned the fourth A yet.
- Matt Skole: Another first baseman, and another minor league journeyman. Skole can take a walk, but he hasn’t yet shown the ability to hit a lick. He’s 28 years old and he’s never seen the majors, and given the crowd of young hitters with something to prove but nowhere to play, it’s hard to see a role Skole can fit into.
So there you have it. Pitchers and catchers are just three weeks away, and we’ll be seeing all of these players and what they can do. Close your eyes and think of Arizona.