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Non-Roster Invitees on the Pitching Side

If you’re reading this blog post from roughly 75% of the country, you’re about to get hit with a winter storm that will make many previous storms blush. Well, maybe. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard such a discrepancy throughout meteorologists than I have during this storm. I have heard that we could get hit in Kansas City with anywhere from four inches to 24 inches and everything in between. Get it together people. Boy, it’s a good thing people who predict baseball aren’t this divided on issues…

To keep our minds off the impending winter storm, let’s talk some baseball to warm us up. I had a dream last night that the Royals signed Kevin Millwood. I share that with you for two reasons. One, if I’m right I’d like for it to be documented. Two, it just shows how much I miss baseball and I assume you do, too, if you’re here at all and especially if you’re here on a regular basis. Well, there’s some good news for you. Pitchers and catchers report on Valentine’s Day for the Royals. Finally, that holiday signifies love correctly. With baseball.

Today, I wanted to look at the non-roster invitees from the pitching side to Spring Training and see who has a chance to break camp with the club or be up in relatively short order. The list is broken into basically two different sections. The first section is guys who aren’t really prospects, but they’re either flyers or organizational guys that the Royals want to reward with a trip to big league camp. Most of the pitchers on the NRI list are guys who are prospects, but there’s a couple like Luis Mendoza, Zach Miner and Steven Shell who are, by no stretch, prospects. Some would argue that Blaine Hardy isn’t a prospect either, but he’s young enough and had a good enough 2010 minor league campaign that he’s closer to legitimate prospect than organizational fodder.

So, of those three who are not prospects, I think Zach Miner has the best chance to break camp with the big league club. The thing he has going for him over others is that he has done very well against the Royals in his career with the Tigers. That seems like such a silly reason for someone to be an integral part of the roster, but it happens all the time with teams. They fail to realize that perhaps a player was so good against their team because their team isn’t very good. As for Mendoza and Shell, well we’ve seen what Mendoza can do and Shell seems to me like a guy brought in to just provide some spring innings because they do have 30+ games and need to save the important pieces for the regular season. I could be wrong and they could both be lights out after an offseason of work, but my guess is that Miner is the only of those three to break camp with the team if any of them do.

Of the prospects, I think the best bets to be on the roster on March 31 are the relievers, specifically Tim Collins, Louis Coleman and Brandon Sisk. Sisk was recently added to the list of NRIs and might be looked at as the favorite to open the season as the lefty out of the pen. Some in the organization may feel that Collins would benefit from a little more time in AAA and be a mid-season callup. He has, after all, spent just a few innings above AA. In Sisk, the Royals have a guy who will strike out a lot of batters, but also suffers from the walk bug which will be a common affliction in the Royals bullpen this year. He’s a little bit older, but still considered a prospect. He’s only pitched as high as AA, but if the Royals see more value in Collins’ future, then they’d possibly rather Sisk make the leap and not worry quite as much about his development.

In 212.1 minor league innings in his three-year career, Sisk has struck out 245 batters and walked 80. The walks, while high, shouldn’t be a detriment to him as a Major Leaguer.  He’s served in a closer’s role at times in his minor league career, and while that’s probably not his Major League role, it’s good experience for a player to have in pressure situations. Aside from his stat sheet, I don’t know a whole lot more about Brandon Sisk, but as 2011 is an evaluation season mostly, I’d be all for getting a look at him.

Louis Coleman has an opportunity to break with the big league club as well. I’ve discussed him a little here, but I like what he brings to the table as one of the bridge men to get to Joakim Soria. I think that Gil Meche’s retirement opens the door for Coleman if the Royals put Sean O’Sullivan in AAA rather than in the bullpen. Coleman has thrown 113.2 innings over two seasons with 125 strikeouts and just 29 walks. He also is a groundball pitcher and that shows up in his home runs allowed with just seven in his minor league career. I don’t think Coleman has the stuff to be a closer, but he’s a great guy to come in as a stopper if the team needs a groundball or a strikeout. He’s got a bit of a funky delivery which might actually help relievers who come in after him as hitters have to readjust to more traditional arm angles. Long term, I think Coleman can be a guy for the Royals similar to what Jesse Crain was for the Twins.

The bullpen is where the first wave of prospects will come in for the Royals, and that’s no different on the list of non-roster invitees. I think a few of these guys will make impacts throughout the season and almost certainly by Opening Day of 2013, but by then they probably will no longer be on the NRI list. I just can’t get over how much fun Spring Training should be this year to watch all the young guys battling it out in camp. As a sidenote, I love it when legitimate prospects have high numbers in Spring Training at some points in their careers because those are the shots inevitably shown when they’re big stars, and it’s fun to see later on when a guy like Albert Pujols is shown in a shot wearing number 73 or something like that. Everybody be careful in this storm, and just think baseball for warm thoughts.

El Chup informs me that Miner is out until at least June.

  1. ElChup
    January 31, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Zach Miner could probably be removed from consideration to break camp with the team as he won’t be pitching until June since he is still recovering from TJ surgery.

    Love the blog, by the way.

    • January 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      Well then. Scratch that!

      Glad you’re enjoying!

  2. TCreecy
    January 31, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    I think Blaine Hardy might have a better chance than Tim Collins to break camp as a Lefty out of the pen. I could be totally off on this but I have a feeling they will want Collins starting the year in AAA and then come up sometime in the year. He’s only 20 and he has very few innings at AAA under his belt. Sure, Hardy doesn’t have a ton either(60+) but he’s a little older(23) than Collins.

    Could be wrong though. Either way, the pen should be exciting to watch mid season and on(if not sooner.) Now if only the starters(and offense) can get them some leads.

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