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
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
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
Minor League Starters Who Could Masquerade as Relievers
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!
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?