Wednesday Rockpile: Which non-roster invitees will make an impact with the Rockies in 2014?

Dilip Vishwanat

The Rockies invited 24 non-40 man roster players to their major league camp. Let's handicap their chances of making the Major League roster out of spring training and see who might have an impact with the team this year.

The Rockies-related news of yesterday was the release of the team's 24 man Non-Roster Invitee list. These are players that are not on the Rockies' 40 man roster but who will try to finagle their way onto the 25 man Opening Day roster after spring training. There's a lot of names on the NRI list, and many of them are unfamiliar to almost every Rockies fan. With that in mind, I'll go through the list and give you an idea of what to expect in terms of 2014 impact from this group - particularly with an eye on the Opening Day roster.

In 2013, the list of NRIs produced eight players who appeared with the Rockies, including probable 2014 starters Nolan Arenado and Corey Dickerson.

Position Players Who Most Likely Won't Make the Major League Roster in 2014

Jackson Williams
Rafael Ynoa
Dustin Garneau
Ben Paulsen
Angelys Nina
Ryan Casteel

This represents more than half of the 11 NRIs that were position players. The first five names might not ever make the Rockies. Williams, Garneau, and Casteel (the one guy I think who has a shot to be a regular MLB player down the road) are catching depth to handle the late innings of spring training games and for bullpen sessions with all the pitchers the Rockies will have in camp.

Both Nina and Ynoa are AA utility infielders who would need several injuries to have a spot open up for them this year. Paulsen is a first baseman without a discernible major league hit tool who is likewise behind several options that are already on the roster.

Position Players Who Could be a September Call-Up or Injury Replacement in a Utility Role

Tom Murphy
Matt McBride
Jason Pridie
Tim Wheeler

Murphy is being prepped to be the "catcher of the future" for Colorado and will likely start in Tulsa this year. He's a prime candidate for the Rockies to give a September call-up this year if he rakes in the minors. Either way, in terms of 2014 impact he's not going to be Colorado's first option in case of injury early in the year.

Both Pridie (262 plate appearances) and McBride (81 PAs) have had cups of coffee in the big leagues already and neither have been impressive there at all (SSS) despite hitting very well in the minors - the very definition of AAAA players. Wheeler, who Colorado took in the first round in 2009, appears to be cut of similar cloth (but lacks the MLB experience). He was removed off of the 40 man roster this off-season, passed through waivers, and was not selected in the Rule 5 draft. That's not a great sign for his MLB future.

But who knows, any one of the three could be in line to receive time with the big club if injuries ravage Colorado's outfield depth (and McBride could be an emergency catcher as well).

Minor League Relievers Who Could Masquerade as Relievers

Scott Oberg

Sullivan is a 2005 draft pick that only made it to AAA last year - it's not often that you see that profile in a big league camp. He served as Tulsa's closer in 2012 and was limited to just 3.1 IP last year - very unlikely to make an impact. Oberg had himself a sensational year in relief as Modesto's closer last year, but he's going to be spending his year in Tulsa and maybe Colorado Springs this year.

Martin's a different story. Like Sullivan, he was drafted by the Rockies in 2005, but he didn't sign...and he didn't start his professional career until five years later in an independent league. He caught on with the Red Sox organization in 2011 and had moved quickly in their system up to AAA before being included in the trade package with Franklin Morales this off-season. By most accounts the 27 year-old has a promising relief arm and has a real shot to be good injury insurance this year.

Minor League Starters Who Could Masquerade as Relievers


None of the three above pitchers have thrown an inning in MLB yet, but if they do make it to the Show it's more likely to be in a long relief or spot starter role should the team be ravaged by injuries. Bergman is the Rockies product so I'm positively disposed towards him, but his positive minor league results are marred by scouting reports that indicate the stats are the product of a polished pitcher with AAAA stuff rather than a true back-end starting prospect.

Flande is interesting because he's left-handed but he did not distinguish himself in a crowded Braves system the last few years - spending the last three with Atlanta's AAA squad. Brown is in a similar boat, except it's the less regarded Tigers system that he couldn't push out of - and he's right-handed. Of the three, Flande has the best chance of impact because he's a southpaw.

Journeymen Who Could Masquerade as Relievers


Hernandez is the most interesting name on this list simply because of his youth (24), he's left-handed, and the fact that he started 12 games for the Twins last year (but was below replacement level). Those three items make me think he will be a mainstay in the Colorado Springs rotation this year.

Corpas was a replacement level reliever for the Rockies last year and at this point you know what you're getting from him as a decent injury replacement in the relief corps. Burke had a MLB stint in 2009, then didn't get another until last year with the Mets, where he was replacement level - he'll serve the same purpose as Corpas if he sticks past Spring Training.

Minor League Starters Who Will Be Starters

Eddie Butler
Jon Gray

Obviously we're all excited about the futures of Messrs. Butler and Gray (Colorado's top two prospects), but it's very unlikely that the Rockies will deem either of these two ready to open the year with the big league club. Both should start in Tulsa - but when they're ready the Rockies will bring them up to the Show. When that might occur is largely up to each pitcher, but I'd guess that Butler is more likely to get called up this year.

Players With a Shot of Making the Opening Day Roster


All three of the players above have significant experience in MLB and all three have a puncher's chance of making the Opening Day roster.

McKenry is a former Rockies farmhand (he had a cup of coffee in 2010) that made good with former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle in Pittsburgh as a backup catcher. He'll be competing against Jordan Pacheco (who doesn't have any minor league options remaining) for that spot this year. Pacheco's no great shakes in the infield, but his bat isn't terrible for a backup catcher - so McKenry will have to distinguish himself to supplant Pacheco this spring.

Janish has carved out a six year MLB career because he is an ace fielder at shortstop, the most difficult position in the game. He is relegated to accepting a minor league deal from the Rockies because he is simply not a major league hitter (career .214/.284/.288 line in 1,206 PAs). He's a more specialized version of Jonathan Herrera...and he'll be competing with Josh Rutledge, Charlie Culberson, Brandon Barnes, and Ryan Wheeler for Herrera's old spot on the roster. More likely Janish will lurk in AAA waiting for the inevitable injury to occur to an infielder, at which point he could see a call-up.

Masset is a 31 year-old left-handed reliever with the pedigree of multiple excellent years as a reliever for the Reds. So why is he slumming it on a minor league deal with Colorado? Because of injuries Masset hasn't pitched in MLB since 2011. If he's truly healthy and effective, Masset has a great chance to make the roster if the Rockies decide to carry an extra reliever and if he can beat out Rule 5 draftee Tommy Kahnle for that role. If not, Masset will either opt out and become a free agent again or he will stick in Colorado Springs' bullpen.

So there you have it, Colorado's NRI list. We're now only 10 days from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training!

Los Links!

Jim Callis of MLB.com thinks that Butler and Gray just might be the best prospect pitching duo in the minor leagues.

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs wrote a very thoughtful piece on what he's learned the most from WAR. The takeaway is really a good one - that in baseball any one player (even Troy Tulowitzki) has a relatively small role in a team's success or failure.

Baseball Prospectus has a good summary of general Spring Training storyline archetypes.

Also, holy cow I've been doing this for five years (as of yesterday), guys. Where does the time go?

OFF-TOPIC.

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