Spring training is mostly not there to decide the composition of the MLB roster. 90 percent of the roster is decided before a ball is thrown, and really the other 10 percent is mostly just hoping that the guy you plan to make the roster doesn’t completely suck. A Jose Martinez here or there is the exception, but mostly we know what the MLB roster will look like on March 26th (Opening Day).
But it’s not useless. It’s a chance for major leaguers to get into rhythm and be ready on Opening Day. It’s a chance for the fringe players to, if not make the roster, make it known that it’d be a good idea to call them up first chance they get. And it’s a chance for players who otherwise would not be seen by the MLB coaches to showcase their talents and show they belong. And you know, then there’s the players only there so they can be on the bench when two different spring training squads are playing at the same time and they need someone.
The latter two points are essentially all non-roster invitees. Some of them are legitimate prospects, some of them are journeymen. What is a non-roster invitee you might ask? A player invited to spring training who is not on the 40 man roster. Unlike during the regular season, you can invite anybody in the Cardinals organization to come to spring training. It’s not a particularly exclusive list. Along with the 40 man players, there are 32 non-roster invitees. I will do my best to introduce all of them.
I’m going to refrain, from talking about the prospects, because they’ve been talked about already. If you’re interested in the prospects in more depth, here’s a link to Future Redbirds, which contains - for now at least - all the coverage of the top prospects in the Cardinals system, as determined by A.E. Schafer. I’ll also leave a link of the page where the prospects are talked about specifically by each player. Just click on their number.
Dylan Carlson, OF, #1 VEB prospect
Nolan Gorman, 3B, #2 prospect
Matt Liberatore, LHP, #3 prospect
Ivan Herrera, C, #5 prospect
Zack Thompson, LHP, #6 prospect
Angel Rondon, RHP, #9 prospect
Elehuris Montero, 3B, #10 prospect
Johan Oviedo, RHP, #11 prospect
Griffin Roberts, RHP, #16 prospect
John Nogowski, 1B, #19 prospect
Luken Baker, 1B, #26 prospect
Kodi Whitley, RHP, #27 prospect
Jose Godoy, 25, AAA - He seems to have been a backup at both AA and AAA last year, while posting above average hitting lines at both. Makes me think the Cardinals don’t think much of his defense. Granted the AAA line was in 27 games and came with a .371 BABIP and was only a 104 wRC+.
Oscar Hernandez, 26, AAA - In 2014, the Dbacks drafted him in the Rule 5 draft at 21, having never played above A ball. He must have been drafted injured, because he played in only 18 games total for the big league club. His bat stalled in AA, and he was a free agent who signed the Red Sox before 2018. His bat never got any better, and Cards signed him in January, presumably as a backup in the minors.
Dennis Ortega, 22, A+ - Only 22, his prospect status took a massive hit with his 2019. Signed out of Venezuela at just 16, he has slowly made his way through the minors. That said, the only time his bat has been even kind of decent was in 2018 in Peoria. Last year at Palm Beach, he had a 53 wRC+ in 215 PAs
Julio Rodriguez, 22, AA - Rodriguez was Ortega’s battery mate at Peoria and actually performed worse. That’s where their paths diverged wildly, with Rodriguez hitting to the tune of a 115 wRC+ at Palm Beach. In only 14 games at Springfield, he was not as successful (57 wRC+)
Carlos Soto, 20, A - Signed out of Mexico at 17, Soto dominated in the DSL in 2016 and needed two trips to the GCL before being promoted to Johnson City. After just 11 games there to end 2018, he started 2019 at State College, where he hit 123 wRC+, prompting a promotion to Peoria, which went less well. Let’s hope his repeat of Peoria goes similar to his repeat of the GCL.
Alexis Wilson, 23, A+ - Wilson ALSO was signed out of Mexico at 17 and also played well in the DSL upon signing. Unlike Soto, he stayed in the DSL for three years. By 2017, he finally landed in Johnson City, and he had an above average line there, as well as State College the next season. In 200 PAs at Peoria, he had a 105 wRC+.
Akeem Bostick, 25, AAA - Drafted in the 2nd round by the Rangers, Bostick’s story is his slow ascent through the minors . It started well. He was assigned to Single A the year after being drafted despite being 19. After a trade to the Astros, they only needed 8 starts to promote him to High A. That was 2015. He finally landed in AA midseason in 2017. He only got his first real break in AAA last year, and well the ball exploded so his numbers of course suck and he was released. He turns 25 in May so a good longshot minor league signing here.
Nabill Crismatt, 25, AAA - Signed out of Colombia at 16, he spent three years in the DSL before going stateside. Then he got promoted one level at a time until he reached AAA in 2018. He elected free agency, signed with the Mariners last year, obliterated AA, and then had a very weird and interesting AAA. He struck out 29.7% of batters, walked 9.2% and.. had a 9.06 ERA. He allowed 15 homers in 46 IP. So swing and miss stuff here at least.
Jesus Cruz, 25, AAA - At 22, he was released by the Sultannes de Monterey, a AAA Mexican League team. The Cardinals signed him the next day. In limited time, they quickly progressed him to three levels where he dominated at all three. In 2018, he played 5 games at Peoria before being promoted. He finished the season at Palm Beach, with strong numbers. He pretty much skipped AA and while his numbers at AAA aren’t good, he did have a 30% K rate.
Bryan Dobzanski, 24, AAA - A 29th rounder, he did all he could with every promotion he got, pitching well at every level... until Memphis, because of course. He’s a borderline prospect, but he has essentially no pedigree and is a full-time reliever, so I feel more comfortable putting him here. More written about Dobzanski here.
Seth Elledge, 24, AAA - Remember Seth Elledge? He was the player in the Sam Tuivailala trade. VEB is a little more down on Elledge than other sources - Fangraphs for example has him as the 24th best prospect. Again, it’s hard to really tell how good he is thanks to the AAA ball. He was pretty dominant at Springfield and not all that good at Memphis.
Tommy Parsons, 24, AAA - Parsons was an undrafted free agent who pitched... fine at Johnson City upon being signed. He was given a chance at Peoria last year and had a 0.26 ERA in 5 starts. In 7 starts in High A, he had a 2.13 ERA. He was given 14 starts at Springfield, where he was hit hard by the homer bug (2.81 HR/9), but otherwise looked fine.
Roel Ramirez, 25, AAA - Nobody is ever going to stop complaining about the Tommy Pham trade, and Roel Ramirez is certainly not going to be one who shuts people up either. He repeated AA last year and was more or less the same pitcher he was with the Rays, but he’ll definitely start 2020 in AAA at least.
Evan Kruczynski, 25, AAA - A 9th round pick in the 2017 draft, he made his way to Springfield by the end of 2018. He played most of 2019 at Springfield too and was not particularly great. He is however left-handed and could have a second life as a reliever.
Alex Fagalde, 26, AA - He was a 30th round pick in 2017 who started his 2018 with a strong season in Peoria and finished it strong at Palm Beach. The Cardinals had him repeat at Palm Beach with similar results, but he didn’t look great with a midseason promotion to Springfield. I totally get why he’s invited to spring, but he turns 26 in April so I’m not really seeing any future here.
Ramon Santos, 25, A+ - I’m a little surprised he’s invited? He pitched most of 2018 at Springfield and was not particularly great. For 2019, he got demoted to Palm Beach and while he was good there, he was also 24 and you know, lower than the level he was at the year before.
Rob Kaminsky, 25, AAA - Former 1st round pick of the Cardinals, Kaminsky has not pitched any significant amount of innings since 2016. This is a pure “maybe this time he’ll stay healthy” signing. (And actually, his numbers at both AA and AAA last year were decent)
Evan Mendoza, 24, AA - He was at once kind of an interesting prospect, he has simply not been able to do anything at Springfield at all. That combined with all the 3B prospects around him, and his best hope is to be traded.
Max Shrock, 25, AAA - Not that we necessarily regret the trade, but that Stephen Piscotty trade has not aged well. Shrock was a no walk, no strikeout, all contact prospect who stopped running high BABIPs when he reached AAA. He’s still just 25, so you never know, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
And there you go. I’m a little surprised Lars Nootbar wasn’t invited. The Cardinals only have seven outfielders going to spring training, plus Edman getting reps. They have 13 infielders including Mendoza and Shrock, so yeah I’m genuinely confused on this one.