Who Are These Guys? (Twins Non-Roster Invites)
Image courtesy of Bill Streicher, USA TodayNormally I like to post a "get to know ‘em" type of article on the Twins non-roster invites as soon as it is announced. However, since at that time there were so many free agents still available and the Twins list was not real large, I figured there would be several more players added on minor league deals. To this point, I believe the Twins have added just one non-roster player, Chris Heisey, since the original announcement.
The Names You Know
Let’s start with the (few) players from inside the Twins organization who received an official invitation to Major League spring training.
RH RP Jake Reed is a non-roster invite for the third straight year. A year ago, he was sent down on the final day of camp. Unfortunately, in the final game of spring, he pulled a muscle in his side and missed a couple of months. It took him a while to get back to his old self, but when on, he’s got a good fastball with a lot of movement and a slider that can miss bats. The 25-year-old was a guest on Seth’s Twins On Deck podcast on Monday and discussed many topics. He is expected to pitch on Thursday.
Nick Gordon returns for his second big league spring training. One of the Twins top prospects, Gordon continues to work at shortstop. He’ll bat third for the Twins on Thursday. Long and lanky and very talented, Gordon had a great first half to his 2017 season, his age-21 season in AA Chattanooga. He struggled in the second half, and against southpaws, but has great talent and will likely have a long big league career.
LaMonte Wade is a Top 20 Twins prospect by nearly all evaluators. The outfielder received his first invitation to big league spring training in January and was one of the Twins representatives at the Rookie Development symposium. Known for his tremendous approach at the plate, he has walked more than he has struck out at every level he’s played at in his young career. He’s a solid defender at all three outfield spots. The one part of his game that will likely still improve is his power production.
Brian Navarreto is also in his first big league camp this year. The backstop has not hit much in his career, but he has the ability to be an elite defender behind the plate. He has thrown out more than 50% of would-be base stealers in his career. Obviously there are a lot of pitchers in camp, and they need plenty of catchers to catch those bullpens.
Michael Kohn is in big league camp with the Twins for the first time, though he was in the organization a year ago. Kohn is a 31-year-old right-handed pitcher who has spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues, between 2010 and 2015 (four with the Angels, one with Atlanta). He was injured that season. Last year after the season began, the Twins were able to sign him to a two-year minor league contract. He spent 2017 rehabbing and working in games at several of the Twins minor league levels. That’s why they signed him for two years (with the encouragement of Torii Hunter). I think there’s a decent chance he’ll pitch for the Twins in 2018.
In addition to these four players, the Twins have had several players who arrived early for minor league come over and work out with the club. I know that Nelson Molina, Sean Miller and Chris Paul have spent the last couple of days working out in big league camp. There are likely others as well.
The Names You May Not Know
These are the guys that the Twins have signed from other organizations to minor league deals.
Myles Jaye - RHP - The 26-year-old was drafted by the Blue Jays and spent a few years in the White Sox organization. He was in the Tigers organization in 2016 and 2017. Between AA and AAA, he went 5-12 with a 3.95 ERA in 161.2 innings. In 2017, he went 4-13 with a 3.96 ERA in 131 innings. However, he also pitched in five games for the big league club and made two starts. It didn’t go well. He went 1-2 with a 12.08 ERA. In 12.2 innings, he gave up 18 runs on 18 hits and ten walks, and he struck out just four. That’s why he became available following the season.
Bobby Wilson would seem to be the #3 catcher on the depth chart at this point. Jason Castro and Mitch Garver should be the Opening Day catchers. The 34-year-old Wilson has spent a lot of time in the big leagues. In parts of eight seasons between 2008 and 2016, Wilson played in 324 games between the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Rangers and Tigers. In my offseason blueprint, I mentioned that with all of the Twins pitching prospects, the Twins should go get a veteran to work with them and help prepare them for the big leagues. Wilson fits that mold.
Willians Astudillo fits a different kind of mold. The 25-year-old stands 5-9 and weighs in at at least 225 pounds. He is more of an offensive catcher. In 36 games last year at AAA Reno, he hit .342/.370/.558 (.928) with 14 doubles and four home runs.
The Twins brought in a few infielders with some big league experience as well. Again, with the pitchers in Rochester, defense is a key. In addition, manager Joel Skinner will have the ability to play a lot of these guys at several positions and help them increase their versatility.
Gregorio Petit has spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues going back to 2008. He played in 25 games for the A’s in 2008 and 2009. He then got back to the big leagues in 2014 with the Astros. Then he spent some time in 2015 with the Yankees. In 2016, he played in 89 games for the Angels, doubling his previous number of games played in the big leagues. He spent 2017 in the minor league system of the Blue Jays. He’s played a lot of both middle infield positions.
Taylor Featherston played in 101 games for the Angels in 2015. In 169 plate appearances, he hit just .162. He hit .115 in 28 plate appearances for the Phillies in 2016. In 2017, he played in 17 games for the Rays and hit .179. Even in the minor leagues, he hasn’t been a big hitter, but he’s shown the ability to play all three infield positions.
Brock Stassi was one of the best stories of 2017 spring training. After the 33rd round pick spent six years in the minor leagues, Stassi made the Phillies Opening Day roster. He played in 51 games for the Phils, mostly as a bench player. The Twins didn’t have a first base prospect in the upper levels, so Stassi can fill that role.
The Twins also signed a few outfielders, guys with some success in the upper minor leagues and some big league time.
Chris Heisey is the guy with a lot of big league time. From 2010 through 2014, he was a regular in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. In those five seasons, he played in 543 games and hit .247 with 50 home runs. He played in 33 games for the Dodgers in 2015. He’s played in 121 games for the Nationals over the last two years. He played some center field early in his career, but the last few years, he’s played primarily in the corners.
Nick Buss won the Pacific Coast League batting title a year ago when he hit .348 for the Padres’ AAA affiliate. He hit .348/.395/.541 (.936) with 19 doubles, eight triples and 11 home runs. He did play in eight games for the Dodgers in 2013. He also got into 36 games for the Angels in 2016. Again, he’s mostly a corner outfielder who has continued to play some center field and a little first base.
Ryan LaMarre is a 29-year-old outfielder who has played in 29 big league games over the past three years. He played in 21 games for the Reds in 2015. He then played in five games for the Red Sox in 2016 and three games for the A’s in 2017. He has a total of 37 MLB at bats and has just two hits. He was a big speed guy earlier in his career and still has played primarily in center field.
So there you have it. Most of the non-internal invitees will be depth at AAA to start the season and be available for short-term call ups if needed. Gordon and Wade and Reed are the prospects to follow throughout the year.
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