A couple of things excite me when talking about a team’s non-roster invitees to spring training, as boring as that may sound. The obvious of course is that it means we’re closer to baseball season, the best time of the year. It’s also exciting because every team’s list of non-roster invitees is like an interesting vegetable soup of hodgepodge ingredients; an island of misfit toys. For the most part, the average baseball fan wouldn’t even know half of these guys’ names. The most exciting part is looking over the list of players and envisioning what could be. There could be a player who could emerge as the fifth outfielder. Others could fit in as set-up men or starting rotation hopefuls. The landscape of possibilities allow us to dream.
The Dodgers announced their list of 22 minor-league players who have been invited to join them at Camelback Ranch. As you pan through the list, you may think ‘I’ve heard of that guy, sometime, from somewhere’.
Three names jumped out at me most recognizably.
The Key Names
Manny Banuelos was a former top pitching prospect in the New York Yankees system and is still just 26 years old. The headliner of the group may be catcher Keibert Ruiz, the 19-year old who is currently ranked by Baseball America as the number three prospect in the Dodgers farm system.
But my favorite 2018 non-roster invitee – and I may have been foreshadowing when I mentioned misfit toys earlier in this post – is 32-year old switch PITCHER Pat Venditte. Venditte is the only man in professional baseball who can throw left or right-handed. What he does is nothing short of athletic astonishment.
A glove with switch-webbing! That doesn’t seem fair. Of course this is completely legal equipment – as long as a team can find a guy who pitches well with both arms. Venditte is that player.
Although Venditte’s talent is unique, it has never contributed to long-lasting big league success. In 50.2 innings over 41 appearances, he has s 2-2 record to go with a 4.97 ERA. But there is likely good reasoning Venditte was invited to camp aside from selling a few extra March tickets. The endorsement of a scout in the front office is likely, with the belief that Venditte still has strong upside. And any candid Dodger fan can tell you that the front office has a keen eye for low budget talent. Just ask anyone who has seen Chris Taylor, Joe Blanton, Brandon Morrow, Alex Wood, or a number of Dodger players who have far exceeded expectations.
What a Non-Roster Invite Can Do For a Team
Allow yourself to imagine the possibilities of these spare parts. Ruiz could gain an extended role and give the Dodgers a chance at a third straight Rookie of the Year Award on the chance that the Dodgers trade a catcher. Venditte could end up being a solid innings eater who gives the Dodgers versatility late in ballgames. One of these relative unknowns could hit .450 over 50 spring at-bats, becoming up a key contributor as a pinch-hitter and work their way into the roster.
As shown in the recent past, (paging Charlie Culberson) often the 25th man on a roster does somethingfar beyond what has ben expected of them. A manager’s favorite place to find that 25th man is often the list of non-roster invites, if already on the 40-man roster. There are plenty of possibilities with a new season, even a dominate switch pitcher.
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