Non-roster invites are always interesting, as there is such a wide range of player that gets an invite. It could be the highly touted prospect that is still a year or more away but the team wants to get them acclimated to the big leagues, of which the Boston Red Sox have invited Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, and Deven Marrero. There is also the prospect that never developed into much but a front office is fond of, so he gets the invite, see Ryan Kalish re-joining Theo Epstein with the Chicago Cubs. There are then others who have had success in the big leagues, but have not looked good in a while, but for one reason or another a team wants to give them another shot, like Daniel Bard with the Texas Rangers. There are also those who are sitting right on the edge of the big leagues, and if they turn in a good spring, could make the move to the 40-man roster, and possibly even the big league roster.
There are three players that received invites to big league spring training that deserve some attention, as a good spring, and they could be in line for a call-up at some time this season, those being Noe Ramirez, Dalier Hinojosa, and Corey Brown.
Noe Ramirez, its “no-eh” not “no”, transitioned from starter to reliever in 2013 and looked really good. He capped it off with 14 innings over 10 appearances in the Arizona Fall League, where he saved two games, posted an ERA under two, WHIP well under one, and almost four times as many strike outs as walks. The Cal-State Fullerton product dominated right-handed batters, they hit just .161 in just under 30 innings at Double-A in 2013. He managed only 36 appearances before the AFL, but his low-90′s fastball and sinking change could make him a valuable middle reliever for the Red Sox for several years, and as early as this year.
Hinojosa was signed in October for a $4 million bonus out of Cuba. The 28-year old right-handed pitcher put up impressive strikeout numbers while in Cuba, but walked too many batters and regularly had an underwhelming ERA. He reportedly has a three pitch mix of a fastball, slurve, and sinking change. The reports are wide spread on Hinojosa, as some say he can be a starter, other say he is destined for the bullpen, but almost all believe him to be a future big leaguer. Spring will be the first chance for most to see Hinojosa, where an impressive spring could fast track him to the 25-man roster; a rough spring and he might not even fit into the Pawtucket rotation.
With Jacoby Ellsbury off to the evil empire after signing with the New York Yankees this off-season, the center field job should belong to Jackie Bradley Jr., but the Red Sox signed two other center fielders to serve as depth. Grady Sizemore signing with the Red Sox sent shock waves across baseball, but there was also the minor league signing of Corey Brown that added excellent organizational depth. Brown is not a guy you want as a starting center fielder in the big leagues, but he is a perfect everyday man at the Triple-A level who can provide solid defense with a bit of power in the bat should there be an injury on the big league roster. He has put up a minor league season of 30 home runs, and two seasons ago came 2 steals shy of 20/20. He has only appeared in 36 games in the big leagues, and his offensive numbers aren’t pretty, but as a third or fourth option in center field, he is excellent depth.