Non-roster invitees are always a good signal as to the players a particular organization wants a closer look at. There’s typically a collection of veterans filling out slots within the org, but the big league camp gives an opportunity for prospects to gel with guys that have already made it to the show, and maybe surprise with better batted ball data or other advancements made over the winter.
The 29 guys invited to spring training this year include 22 in the former group and seven of the latter, with Jasson Domínguez perhaps the biggest name given an invite. The 20-year-old has had a rollercoaster development but coming off a strong 2022 is well-placed to advance further within the organization this spring and summer. The Martian turns 20 today, and I’m sure an invite to spring training ranks among the best gifts he’s received.
Joining Domínguez is the Yankees’ other top prospect, Anthony Volpe:
The Yankees have invited 29 non-roster players to 2023 Major League Spring Training. pic.twitter.com/EuLYVjtj3i— New York Yankees (@Yankees) February 7, 2023
Volpe will likely play some role on the big-league club this year, but is still expected to start the season with Triple-A Scranton. Much has been written about the optimal defensive assignment for the infielder, with some skepticism that he can hang at shortstop at the MLB level. I imagine the Yankees will try and keep their top prospect at short for as long as possible, and we’ll likely see him take the most reps at the position.
The last big prospect invited is catcher Austin Wells, who of all three I might be most interested in seeing get playing time in the spring. The big question with Wells has always been whether he can remain behind the plate, and a sterling Athletic article from January detailed how much work he had put in in 2022 to improve his defensive play. Spring training numbers are always hard to gauge, but seeing Wells work with a variety of pitchers should be a good signal as to his ability to manage a pitching staff at an advanced level.
The veterans that could end up cracking the roster include Willie Calhoun, Billy McKinney and Rafael Ortega. While left field is still at least nominally an open race, a hot spring from one of those three may not get them a 40-man spot, but at least would give them the pole position should either Aaron Hicks or Oswaldo Cabrera not be able to hold down the slot. All three NRIs saw time in the majors last year, with Ortega having the most productive season, a 96 wRC+ in 371 plate appearances for the Cubs.
Camp opens a week from today, with 69 (nice) players now invited. The big-league roster is fairly full of contracted players whose status virtually guarantees them significant playing time, but there are still some spots along the margins that could be filled by surprise talent. We’ll have to wait for workouts and games to start before seeing if any of these 29 invitees can crack one of MLB’s top rosters.