Boston Red Sox: Evaluating the Spring Training non-roster invitees

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 11: Xander Bogaerts (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 11: Xander Bogaerts (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox non-roster invitees for Spring Training have been announced. With 16 players in total, there are quite a few observations to make.

The Boston Red Sox have announced the 16 non-roster invitees who will join the team for Spring Training this year.

With that list came some surprises, as well as the obvious choices. There were also some snubs, but there’s already enough to talk about without getting into that.

This is all about evaluating the players that were invited.

Five Pitchers:

The headliner in this group is clearly Bobby Poyner. His play was so dominant last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the hope for him is as a closer in the future.

Between Advanced-A and Double-A last season, the left-handed pitcher posted a 0.92 ERA. He rarely allowed anyone on base and racked up 84 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. Even more impressive, his numbers improved in Double-A.

Look for Poyner to get some innings simply to see what he has.

Kyle Martin was once highly touted in the Red Sox system. I’m not sure what their thoughts on him are now though after last season. The right-hander saw his first MLB action but was also designated for assignment. His MiLB numbers are solid overall, and he could be a nice depth piece for the bullpen. This Spring could be used as a chance to prove himself once more.

Behind him, are three names that might not be given the same chances. Fernando Rodriguez and Marcus Walden are clearly more for depth purposes. Fantastic Springs might give them some life, but they seem to be there more to keep others from running up their innings too much.

Then there’s Justin Haley, who has a strong MiLB resume with the Red Sox. His MLB stint with the Minnesota Twins didn’t go too well last season though. Maybe he can get back on track in March.

Four Catchers:

Bringing seven catchers to the party in Fort Myers seems hefty, but I like it. Blake Swihart still might not be 100% and you already know what you’re getting from Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon. No need to play the latter too much. That leaves Swihart and the NRIs (band name maybe? Someone reach out to Blake for me).

Dan Butler is a staple in the Red Sox organization at this point. The now-31-year-old had his best season in years in 2016. He followed it up with a solid outing in 2017. Despite decent offensive production, he’s spent the majority of his career in Triple-A.

Butler had a brief stint in the Majors in 2014, when he went 4-for-19 (three doubles) for the Red Sox. He’s a solid emergency plan and it’s smart to keep him ready.

Jake Romanski has shown some offense in the past. His slugging percentage is never eye-popping, but he’s more advanced than most of the Red Sox minor league catchers at the plate.

Oscar Hernandez was just brought in by the Red Sox and the 24-year-old is already being given a chance to prove himself. He made the Majors (briefly) with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016 but struggled mightily in Double-A last season.

Finally, there’s Austin Rei.

The Red Sox don’t have much when it comes to offense at the catcher position. Therefore, Rei’s defensive prowess mixed with potential for offense puts him in the top tier for Boston catching prospects.

Although his numbers still weren’t great, Rei had his best year at the plate in 2017 – including 30 doubles. This could be a sign that he’s getting past his injury problems as well.

Four Infielders:

Esteban Quiroz is going to be the least known of this group. He had a great year in the Mexican League in 2017 and could provide the Red Sox with some depth. It will be interesting to see how he’s used this Spring.

Ivan De Jesus has already spent some time in Boston. His numbers in the Majors aren’t bad, but they don’t stand out. His MiLB stats over the years are solid though, and his 2017 season in Triple-A was nothing short of fantastic (.345/.407/.488).

Chad De La Guerra is coming off a breakout year. He can play multiple positions in the infield and is a solid left-handed bat. Although he slowed down late last year, De La Guerra still managed career-bests in nearly every category.

With Dustin Pedroia more-than-likely not seeing any action this Spring, De La Guerra could actually get some reps.

Then there’s the powerhouse, Michael Chavis. The 22-year-old spent most of his first three years in the Red Sox farm system dealing with injuries. This led to low offensive production and that extremely early “bust” tag moving in on him.

Last season, Chavis spent time between Advanced-A and Double-A for a massive breakout season. He slashed .282/.347/.563 and mashed 35 doubles and 31 home runs. Not only were all of those career-bests, but his 94 runs batted in and 89 runs scored smoked his previous bests.

With the Red Sox void of power, Chavis brings some hope in this department. He should get an extremely extended look this Spring. If J.D. Martinez isn’t in a Boston uniform by then, that look might turn into a serious opportunity for a spot on the roster this year.

Three Outfielders:

Jeremy Barfield is 29 and has never appeared in a Major League game. He also had easily the best year of his career in 2017 and is hoping to change that in 2018.

Barfield slashed .288/.359/.584 in Double-A last season, hitting 27 home runs in the process. In an extremely short look in Triple-A, he went 5-for-11 with four walks and a home run as well.

Barring an incredible Spring, he’ll still be seen as an emergency plan. Nevertheless, Barfield can plant the seeds this March with a solid showing.

More from Red Sox Prospects

The Red Sox lucked out with Aneury Tavarez last season. He was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule-5 draft, but they cut him during Spring Training due to a lack of roster spots. Boston scooped him back up, and he picked up right where he left off.

Injuries stalled the season, but Tavarez dominated in Double-A. His overall numbers were poor as he struggled out of the gate in Triple-A. The 25-year-old picked up traction as the year went on though. He could be an interesting name to watch as he brings a little bit of everything to the table.

Last but certainly not least is everyone’s favorite pinch-runner. Rusney Castillo was once the savior of Boston.

Anyone that follows me knows my love for Castillo though. I think he’s fantastic defensively, strong on the base paths, and plus offensively. If you look at it, he was never really given that much of an opportunity in the Majors.

He still only has 317 at-bats (not even close to a full season) in the MLB. His numbers don’t warrant that small of a sample size either as a .262/.301/.379 slash line isn’t great, but it’s nothing to scoff at. Sure, you could say it’s not up-to-par with his pay, but that’s about it.

The Red Sox have a good reason for keeping him away for the time being, as they don’t have to put his money against the cap if he’s not on the 40-man roster. They still want to see what he can bring to the table though. This is even more clear after he had an offensive awakening in Triple-A in 2017.

Castillo slashed .314/.350/.507 while battling injuries last year. He played 87 games for the Pawtucket Red Sox and mashed 22 doubles and 15 home runs in that time. He also stole 14 bases in 16 attempts and had solid altogether run production.

Next: Red Sox have a rotation problem if David Price opts out

If the Red Sox don’t make a big move this offseason, they might turn to Castillo at some point in the never-ending search for more offense. The first step to his return to Boston starts with a Spring that proves his 2017 was no fluke.