The Colorado Rockies are set to report to their spring training facility at Salt River Fields on February 13, one month from today. Sometime in the next few weeks the team will announce their full spring training roster, which means until then we can speculate wildly about who might find their way on it.
First, the easy ones. We know that everyone on the 40-man roster will be there. That means we know pitching prospects Jeff Hoffman (last year’s No. 3 PuRP) and Germán Márquez (No. 7 PuRP), outfielders Raimel Tapia (No. 4 PuRP) and Jordan Patterson (No. 16 PuRP), and infielder Pat Valaika (HM PuRP), who all finished 2016 with the major league club, will all be there. Pitchers Sam Moll, Shane Carle, Rayan Gonzalez, (all three of whom most recently pitched for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League), Zach Jemiola, and Yency Almonte (No. 18 PuRP), who were added to the 40-man roster in November, will almost certainly also be in major league camp. Jairo Diaz, who is returning from Tommy John surgery, will also likely be in camp.
But what about those darlings of spring training, the non-roster invitees? Non-roster invitees (or NRIs) are typically populated with a mixture of up-and-coming prospects and major league veterans hoping to perform well enough to make the Opening Day 25-man roster. This is where things can get a little more interesting. Last year the Rockies had 22 NRIs in camp. Who might those players be this season?
Pitchers (6): Kyle Freeland, Harrison Musgrave, Matt Carasiti, Johendi Jiminian, Jerry Vasto, Evan Grills
Last year the Rockies handed out NRIs to 13 pitchers. But with so many pitchers on the 40-man roster who would traditionally be candidates for an NRI, I don’t expect the Rockies to go crazy here. There will likely be at least one or two pitchers who sign minor league deals with an invite to spring training over the course of the next month, but otherwise this list will likely be smaller than in years past.
After spending much of 2016 at Triple-A Albuquerque, Kyle Freeland (No. 9 PuRP) and Harrison Musgrave (No. 25 PuRP) both have a legitimate chance to make an appearance in Denver this season. As such, the Rockies would likely want to see them compete against big league hitters, at least in spring training. The same goes for Matt Carasiti (No. 30 PuRP), who finished 2016 with the big league club.
Johendi Jiminian and Jerry Vasto had impressive campaigns last year in minor league bullpens and, with an impressive spring, could force the Rockies’ hand to making them more a part of their plans going forward. Evan Grills had a 3.71 ERA across three levels and 135 1⁄3 innings in the Houston Astros system last year but likely won’t be any more than emergency depth for the Rockies in 2017.
Infielders (5): Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, Forrest Wall, Rafael Ynoa, Stephen Cardullo
Ryan McMahon (No. 6 PuRP on our midseason list) was in camp last year, so it’s reasonable to expect he’ll get an invite this year. Top prospect Brendan Rodgers might be a stretch, not only because of his age but because the Rockies tend to wait until their top prospects have reached at least Double-A to bring them to big league camp. Forrest Wall (No. 13 PuRP) may be another long shot after his struggles last season at High-A Modesto.
Rafael Ynoa and Stephen Cardullo were both on the MLB roster last season and are hoping to muscle their way into the 25-man again this year.
Outfielders (3): Noel Cuevas, Rosell Herrera, Chris Denorfia
It was reported late Thursday that the Rockies had signed Chris Denorfia to a minor league deal. Considering he has loads of MLB experience, he’s likely to receive in invite to big league camp. Both Noel Cuevas and Rosell Herrera were in big league camp last year, but with an MLB roster already crowded with outfielders, I don’t imagine too many more players receive NRIs.
Catchers (4): Dom Nunez, Anthony Bemboom, Jan Vazquez, Maxx Tissenbaum
With so many pitchers in camp, having a hearty depth of catchers is a must. They currently have three catchers on the 40-man, so NRIs for catchers may not be as plentiful as in years past. Dom Nunez (No. 14 PuRP) was in camp with the team in 2016 (where he made quite the impression on coaches and teammates alike) and should be there again this year. Anthony Bemboom was acquired via the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft and will spend much of the year in Triple-A, along with Jan Vazquez. Maxx Tissenbaum, who spent part of 2016 with Les Capitales de Quebec of the independent Canadian-American Association, will spend most of his year with Double-A Hartford.
Who do you think will be in major league camp this spring training? Did we miss someone? Who are you most excited to see in spring training, especially among those not on the 40-man roster?