Spring training has arrived. Spring camps across Arizona and Florida open this week, and, late next week, Cactus League and Grapefruit League play will begin. I can't wait. I am so ready for the offseason to be over.

Spring training games are fun in their own way, mostly because they allow us to see players we usually don't get to see during the season. Top prospects, reclamation project veterans, and many other minor leaguers will rub elbows with the big-league team during exhibition games before returning to the bush leagues in April.

Over the last few weeks all 30 MLB clubs have announced their non-roster invitees to spring training. Those are players who will be in big-league camp despite not being on the 40-man roster. Some non-roster players are top prospects, some are journeymen veterans, and most are somewhere in between. The big-league coaching staff will get a look at all of them.

As always, some non-roster invitees are more interesting than others. Every so often one of these players will have a huge spring training, win an Opening Day roster spot, and go on to establish himself as a big leaguer. And sometimes one of these players will have a big spring, win a roster spot, and show it was all a fluke. That's baseball.

With spring training now underway and exhibition games coming up next week, this is as good a time as any to look at each team's most interesting non-roster player. Come with me, won't you?

Most interesting non-roster invitees for spring training 2019

SS Jazz Chisholm. The Diamondbacks have a great collection of non-roster invitees. Any other year, pitching prospects like Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener would get top billing. We're going with Chisholm because he's one of the most exciting prospects in the game. The 21-year-old smashed 25 home runs in 112 Single-A games last season and he's a no-doubt long-term shortstop. MLB.com ranks Chisholm as the game's 60th best prospect and says he has an "exceptional ceiling as a big league shortstop."

OF Cristian Pache. Given their farm system, it is no surprise the Braves will have a strong group of non-roster players in camp this spring. Pitching prospects Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright and Joey Wentz are worth the price of admission, ditto slugging third baseman Austin Riley. For me, Pache is the guy to see. He is peak Andruw Jones-like in center field, with unreal range and instincts that allow him to camp under balls most other center fielders catch on the run (or don't catch at all). Pache can hit a bit too. A .279/.307/.410 batting line between High Class-A and Double-A last year at age 20 is nothing to scoff at. MLB.com currently ranks Pache as the 37th best prospect in baseball .

OF Yusniel Diaz. The prize of the Manny Machado trade. MLB.com ranks Diaz as the 64th best prospect in baseball, and after hitting .285/.392/.449 with 11 homers and nearly as many walks (59) as strikeouts (67) in 97 Double-A games last season, the 22-year-old will move up to Triple-A this year. Diaz has true five-tool potential and should make his MLB debut sometime this season. Given the state of the Orioles' big-league roster, Diaz could be their best player 12 months from now. 

3B Bobby Dalbec. Not the most exciting group of non-roster players for the defending World Series champion Red Sox, whose farm system has taken a hit due to graduations and trades in recent years. Dalbec is the organization's best prospect and he has jaw-dropping power, slugging 32 homers in 129 games between High Class-A and Double-A last year. He's also a strong defender at the hot corner. The downside? Dalbec struck out in 32 percent of his plate appearances last season, which is an awful lot for a soon-to-be 24-year-old who played most of the year in Single-A.

Spring training will be all about bullpen auditions for the BoSox, though Jenrry Mejia, who was reinstated from his lifetime performance-enhancing drug ban last year, will be in minor-league camp. He's not a non-roster invitee.


LHP Ian Clarkin. I reckon the last thing a Cubs fan wants to hear after this offseason is that the team's non-roster list is probably the least impressive in baseball. It's populated with journeymen and fringe prospects. Clarkin, a former first-round pick, gets the nod here almost by default. He went from the Yankees to the White Sox in the big David Robertson/Todd Frazier/Tommy Kahnle trade two years ago, then from the White Sox to the Cubs to the White Sox and back to the Cubs on waivers this winter. The soon-to-be 24-year-old had 50 strikeouts in 85 minor-league innings last year but he has pitching smarts and can still spin a breaking ball.

OF Luis Robert. No, I didn't forget Eloy Jimenez. Jimenez is on the 40-man roster and will be in big-league camp automatically. He's not a non-roster player. The White Sox gave Robert, 21, a $26 million signing bonus in May 2017, second largest ever given to an amateur behind the $31.5 million fellow Cuban stud Yoan Moncada received years ago. Robert's raw tools are similar to Moncada's, and while Moncada has underwhelmed in his big-league career to date, you certainly don't stop acquiring players with that kind of physical ability. MLB.com ranks Robert as the 40th best prospect in baseball and he is on the very short list of the top non-roster players I want to see this spring.

RHP Tony Santillan. The easy pick here would've been infielder Nick Senzel or outfielder Taylor Trammell, both of whom are among the 10-15 best prospects in the sport. Believe me, I'm looking forward to watching them. I am going off the board with Santillan, who is not a consensus top 100 prospect despite mid-90s gas and two potential out-pitches in his changeup and slider. Santillan, 22, cut down on the walks last year and is poised to split this season between Double-A and Triple-A. I think he's one of the most underrated pitching prospects in the game. The Reds will be a lot of fun this spring.

OF Daniel Johnson. Because just about all their best prospects are on the 40-man roster, the Indians have a bit of an underwhelming non-roster list. Johnson is a tools freak with power and speed and good defense, though he's been slow to turn those tools into baseball skills. He's 23 and, after hitting .267/.321/.412 with seven homers and 22 steals in 89 Double-A games last year, Johnson figures to be ticketed for Triple-A. Cleveland got him from the Nationals in the Yan Gomes trade.

SS Brendan Rodgers. The Rockies made Rodgers the third overall pick in the 2015 draft and he's given them no reason to regret that pick. He hit .275/.342/.493 with 17 homers in 95 Double-A games as a 21-year-old last year, and he'd be the team's shortstop of the future if not for Trevor Story. After some Triple-A time, Colorado could put Rodgers at second base to replace the departed DJ LeMahieu. If the doomsday scenario plays out and Nolan Arenado leaves as a free agent next winter, the Rockies will at least have an All-Star caliber prospect waiting in the wings to take over third base. MLB.com ranks Rodgers as the 10th best prospect in the game .

RHP Casey Mize. The Tigers have a sneaky nice list of non-roster players. Outfielder Daz Cameron (Mike's son) and righty Kyle Funkhouser would be easy picks for most teams. In this case though, Cameron and Funkhouser are behind Mize, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. MLB.com ranks him as the 17th best prospect in baseball and says he has "the ingredients needed to headline a starting rotation." Squint your eyes and there's a Max Scherzer starter kit here thanks to a mid-to-upper-90s fastball, a wipeout slider, and a devastating splitter. Mize will likely be big-league ready at some point in the second half, but Detroit might keep him down for service time reasons, so enjoy him in spring training while you can.

RHP Forrest Whitley. It's really not fair. The Astros are loaded with young talent at the MLB level and their non-roster list is stuffed with prospects. Righties J.B. Bukauskas, Corbin Martin and Brendan McCurry are worth following, ditto first baseman/outfielder Yordan Alvarez. Whitley stands out from the pack though. MLB.com ranks him as the game's best pitching prospect and their scouting report might as well come from a video game:

"He can make hitters look bad with his entire repertoire, starting with a 93-98 mph fastball with natural life (heavy sink down or cutting action up in the zone) and a devastating changeup with fade and depth. He has a pair of high-spin, power breaking balls with a 12-to-6 curveball and a late-biting slider, and he can turn the latter into a true cutter in the low 90s."

Yeesh. The rich get richer, eh?


SS Nicky Lopez. The Royals opted against bringing any of their big-name pitching prospects (Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, Brady Singer) to big-league camp this year, so Lopez gets the nod as their most interesting non-roster player almost by default. He's a classic scrappy middle infield type who hit .308/.382/.417 with more walks (60) than strikeouts (52) in 130 games split between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Barring a trade, Kansas City's future infield likely has Whit Merrifield at third, Adalberto Mondesi at short, and Lopez at second.

Also, keep an eye on righty Kyle Zimmer in camp. The fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft is supposedly healthy after years of injuries. He will go out to the mound with three well-above-average pitches on his best days. Zimmer is on the 40-man roster and therefore not a non-roster player.


OF Jo Adell. Pretty easy call here even though the Angels have a nice little list of non-roster players. Adell could be the poor man's Mike Trout. Probably more like the very poor man's Mike Trout, though that's because Trout is so good, not because Adell is lacking ability. The 19-year-old hit .290/.355/.543 with 20 homers and 15 steals in 99 games last year and reached Double-A. MLB.com ranks Adell as the 14th best prospect in baseball and it is entirely possible he could find himself flanking Trout in the outfield before his 21st birthday in April 2020.

RHP Stetson Allie. The Dodgers will have many top prospects in camp as non-roster invitees (Gavin Lux, Dustin May, Will Smith, Mitchell White) but the soon-to-be 27-year-old Allie gets the nod here because this is a "most interesting" list, not a "best prospect" list. Allie is a former outfielder and big-money prospect with the Pirates who couldn't hit and later moved to the mound. The minor-league numbers weren't good last year (5.57 ERA and 6.6 BB/9), though that's not too surprising for a recent convert, and besides, Allie has shown a triple-digit fastball and the makings of a good breaking ball. Los Angeles excels at extracting value from unexpected sources. Allie could be next in line.

OF Victor Victor Mesa. Victor-squared is a divisive player. He defected from Cuba last year and the Marlins paid him a $5.25 million signing bonus. His fans see an impact two-way player who saves runs in center field and creates havoc atop the lineup with his leadoff hitter skill set. His detractors see a good center field defender who lacks the power or on-base ability to bat higher than eighth or ninth in a big-league lineup. I have no opinion here because I've never seen Mesa play. That's why I'm looking forward to seeing him in camp.

2B Keston Hiura. Pretty easy call here. Hiura is one of the top prospects in baseball (MLB.com ranks 20th on their top 100 list) and man can the kid hit. He put up a .293/.357/.464 batting line with 13 homers and 15 steals in 123 games last year and reached Double-A one year after being the ninth overall pick in the draft. Expect Hiura to begin 2019 in Triple-A and take over as the Brewers starting second baseman in the second half.

OF Alex Kirilloff. Tough call for the Twins. Shortstop Royce Lewis and Kirilloff are two of the very best prospects in baseball -- MLB.com ranks them as the fifth and ninth best prospects in baseball, respectively -- and fortunately this is not an either/or situation. We can watch both in spring training with equal fervor. Kirilloff missed the entire 2017 season with Tommy John surgery, then returned to hit .348/.392/.578 with 20 home runs in 130 Single-A games last year. Even after losing a year to elbow reconstruction, it is possible if not likely Kirilloff will reach Triple-A before his 22nd birthday in November.

1B Peter Alonso. Sorry folks, I just can not muster the energy to get excited ("excited") about watching Tim Tebow in spring training. I fully acknowledge he is a wonderful human being and that hitting .273/.336/.399 at Double-A last season is very impressive given how much time he spent away from the game. That doesn't mean I have to want to watch him to play baseball though. I have Tebow fatigue. I saw enough of his at-bats the last two springs to know I don't want to see any more.

Anyway, that makes Alonso an the easy call for top Mets non-roster player. My hunch is he will vaporize the ball during Grapefruit League play and the calls for him to be on the Opening Day roster will be LOUD. Service time manipulation reigns supreme though, so Alonso will probably head to Triple-A for a few weeks. This kid can absolutely punish the ball. He might be hitting cleanup behind Robinson Cano by August.


RHP Danny Farquhar. What a great story. Last April, while with the White Sox, Farquhar collapsed in the dugout and had to be rushed to the hospital to receive emergency treatment for a life-threatening brain hemorrhage. He spent roughly three weeks in the hospital and it ended his season. Farquhar has fully recovered and now he's in camp with the Yankees as a non-roster player, looking to resume his career. The odds are stacked against him making the team given New York's loaded bullpen, but the fact Farquhar will be back on the mound this spring is awesome.

LHP Jesus Luzardo. The best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball is already being discussed as an Opening Day rotation possibility for the Athletics. I'm guessing he'll need a few weeks in Triple-A to work on things (wink wink, nudge nudge), but the bottom line is Luzardo is a tremendous prospect who reached Triple-A last year and threw 109 1/3 innings with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts. A southpaw with a mid-to-upper-90s sinking fastball, a quality changeup, and the ability the pitch to both sides of the plate is no joke. Luzardo looks the part of  future MLB ace. MLB.com ranks him as baseball's 12th best prospect.

OF Mickey Moniak. I get the feeling the focus in Phillies' camp will be who's not there (Bryce Harper or Manny Machado) than who is there. Among their kind of underwhelming non-roster list is Moniak, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, though he's yet to live up to the hype associated with that draft slot. The 20-year-old authored .270/.304/.383 batting line with five homers in 114 High Class-A games last year, and he consistently gets dinged for his poor approach and the increasing unlikelihood he stays in center field. That said, Moniak is still a 20-year-old kid, and I'd never write off a talented young player at that age. I'm curious to get some eyes on him for myself this spring.

3B Ke'Bryan Hayes. Charlie's kid is one of my favorite prospects in the minors. He can hit (.293/.375/.444 in Double-A last year) and he already plays near Gold Glove caliber defense at third base. The Pirates could put Hayes at the hot corner right now and he'd be able to handle it. He still needs some refinement on the offensive side of the ball though, so Triple-A awaits. Hayes can really play though. Just a rock solid all-around player who will help his team win in so many ways. MLB.com ranks Hayes as the 46th best prospect in baseball.

SS Fernando Tatis Jr. The Padres have a loaded farm system and it shows with their non-roster list. Lefty Logan Allen, righty Cal Quantrill, and first baseman/outfielder Josh Naylor are all notable. Tatis is no worse than the second-best prospect in baseball though, and there's a pretty good chance he'll reach the big leagues later this summer. Last year the just turned 20-year-old managed a stout .286/.355/.507 batting line with 16 homers in 88 Double-A games, and he absolutely dominated grown men in the Dominican Winter League after the season. I don't know if Tatis will ever do something as cool as hit two grand slams in one inning like his father, but the kid is a stud. Hard to believe they got him from the White Sox in a trade for late-career James Shields.

C Joey Bart. No 2018 draftee had a better pro debut than Bart last season. The No. 2 pick in the country played 51 games after signing and authored a .294/.364/.588 batting line with 13 home runs. The power is real and Bart projects out to be a very good defensive catcher as well. He will be a worthy heir to Buster Posey behind the plate for the Giants.

OF Dom Thompson-Williams. With all due respect to the great Ichiro Suzuki, his non-roster invite is a mere formality. GM Jerry Dipoto has already said Ichiro will be on the team's roster for their two-game regular season series against the A's in Japan from March 20-21. He's already made the team. The non-roster invite is a way of getting him to spring training without putting him on the 40-man roster until the last possible moment.

So, with Ichiro's non-roster invite a formality, Thompson-Williams gets the nod here. He came over from the Yankees in the James Paxton trade and is a wonderful sleeper. Thompson-Williams hit six home runs in 120 games from 2016-17, then bought into the launch angle craze last winter, and hit 22 homers in 100 games last season. The Mariners will have some nice prospects in camp this year (Justin Dunn, Evan White, Kyle Lewis) but I am most interested to see whether Thompson-Williams is for real. If he is, what a pickup.


C Andrew Knizner. The Cardinals are at the point where they need to begin planning for the post-Yadier Molina era. Carson Kelly appeared to be the heir apparent for a few years there, but he went to the D-Backs in the Paul Goldschmidt trade. St. Louis was able to deal him because Knizner now looks like the catcher of the future. He hit .313/.368/.430 at mostly Double-A last season and will spend this summer at Triple-A. Knizner is a good defender and he looks primed to spend 2020 as Molina's backup/understudy, with the starting job not too far away.

LHP Colin Poche. I was hoping the Rays would bring uber-prospect Wander Franco to camp as a non-roster invitee this year, but they'd didn't. Bummer. I get it though. He's only 17 and big-league camp is not the appropriate place for a 17-year-old kid, developmentally. Instead, Poche is who I'll be watching in camp. Poche, 25, fanned 110 batters in 66 innings last season and reached Triple-A. It's a matchup profile (low-90s fastball and a little slider) but, because he hides the ball so well, Poche is seemingly impossible to square up. The Rays got him from the D-Backs in the Steven Souza trade last spring and I reckon we'll see him get a few starts as an opener against a team with a lefty heavy lineup in the near future.

1B/RHP Matt Davidson. Long list of non-roster invitees for the Rangers this year. Very long. Twenty-five names total. Most of them are depth players and journeyman, which adequately describes Davidson. He's notable because he's going to work as a two-way player. He slugged 26 and 20 home runs for the White Sox the last two seasons, and also threw three scoreless innings last year. Davidson has expressed an interest in being a two-way player -- he did pitch in high school and, with teams eschewing pure first base types, it could help keep him in the league a little longer -- and Texas is perfectly positioned to let him try it. A platoon first base/DH bat who can also pitch in relief would be a nifty use of a roster spot.

3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. VLAD VLAD VLAD. He really should've been up late last season. Service time manipulation was the only possible reason to not give him a September call up. Vlad Jr. is the game's top prospect and it is not hyperbole to call him the next Miguel Cabrera. His innate hitting ability and easy power are special. As a 19-year-old he hit .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs and nearly as many walks (37) as strikeouts (38) in 95 games while reaching Triple-A last year. That is insane. The "[Hall of Famer] Jr." name can create a lot of unfair expectations. In this case, Vlad Jr. can more than live up to the hype.

IF Luis Garcia. Ready to feel old? Mr. Garcia here was born in May 2000. He is an 18-year-old kid and the Nationals are bringing him to big league camp as a non-roster player anyway. Pretty incredible. Of course, Garcia is a standout gloveman, and he hit .298/.336/.406 in 127 Single-A games last year, so he kind of forced the team's hand. Garcia will be the youngest player in a big league camp this spring (duh) and MLB.com currently ranks him as the 75th best prospect in baseball.