We’re just days away from the start of spring training. Many Yankee players have already shown up to the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, but pitchers and catchers won’t have their first workout until Thursday the 14th with the first full squad workout scheduled for next Monday. All players on the 40-man roster already get an invitation to spring training, but the Yankees can also extend invitations to spring training to non-40-man players in their organization.
The Yankees have extended a non-roster invitation to 21 players this season, and some have a better shot of making the Opening Day roster than others. Non-roster invitees don’t usually make the Opening Day roster, but there’s occasionally a Jordan Montgomery or a Yangervis Solarte that take us by surprise. Let’s breakdown who’s most likely to crack the roster out of camp.
King and Hale stick out as recognizable names on this list, but their chances of making the team seem rather slim. Hale actually pitched well in 10 ⅔ innings with the Yankees last season, but he held a 4.20 ERA in 55 ⅔ innings in Triple-A last season. He’s likely more of a depth arm than serviceable big leaguer.
Mike King is the only real prospect on the list, but King isn’t necessarily a top prospect either. He’s much more similar to Jordan Montgomery than Luis Severino. He definitely pitched well in the minors last season, but it’ll likely take a combination of injury and a great spring training performance for King to crack the roster this April. However, he will likely make his big league debut at some point this summer.
From this list, Danny Farquhar seems to be the most likely to make the team. Farquhar was actually a member of the Yankees back in 2012 before he was traded to Seattle for Ichiro Suzuki. Since then, he’s pretty consistently been on a 25-man roster. His fastball sits about 93 mph but has an above average spin rate. He uses a changeup as his secondary pitch, which generates a good amount of swings-and-misses. Farquhar’s 2018 season was cut short because of a brain aneurysm that nearly cost him his life, but with a clean bill of health now, he’s probably got the best chance of NRI pitchers to make the team.
With all the bullpens that come with spring training, teams always bring more catchers than necessary to camp. The Yankees currently have Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, and Kyle Higashioka on the 40-man roster, so at least two of them will have to be unavailable for Opening Day for one of these guys to get a promotion. Ryan Lavarnway likely gets the call in such a scenario. He’s got the only big league experience from the bunch.
The Yankees already carry Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade on the 40-man roster, and DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres can both play multiple positions. Similar to the catchers, there’s probably going to have to be multiple injuries for either Gio Urshela or Kyle Holder to make the team.
On the other hand, there’s a more realistic path to the majors with Mike Ford. Greg Bird’s stock is as low as it has ever been, and we’re still waiting on whether Luke Voit is the real deal. After those two, LeMahieu is the starting first baseman, which is pretty terrifying. Ford put up some decent spring training numbers with the Mariners last year and had a great 2017 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. Ford likely has the best chance to make the big leagues out of the NRI infielders.
Estevan Florial is unquestionably the big name on this list but still doesn’t have an at-bat above Double-A. Given how conservative the Yankees have been with calling up their top prospects, it seems pretty unrealistic that they would prematurely start his service time clock before Florial is 100% ready.
Lipka is a light-hitting, speedy center fielder that put up a 91 wRC+ for the Giants’ Double-A squad last season. He’s not really an option. Conversely, Amburgey put up some interesting power numbers in a notoriously tough hitters’ park in Trenton last season, but he’s got some seriously low on-base numbers.
Given that, Burns is likely the best candidate to break camp with the club. He’ll still have to beat out Clint Frazier and the re-animated corpse of Jacoby Ellsbury to make the club, but Burns did spend considerable time in the big leagues in 2015 and 2016. He’ll likely get the call based on experience alone.
There aren’t a ton of exciting names on the non-roster invitee list this season. Mike King, Danny Farquhar, Mike Ford, and Estevan Florial are definitely the most recognizable names, but without one or more injuries and great performances, it’s difficult to see how they’ll be in the Bronx in late-March when the Orioles come to town.