Los Angeles Dodgers: Non-Roster Invitees with Best Shot to Make 25-Man Roster
We can be blunt about what it means to be a non-roster invitee in Los Angeles Dodgers camp this spring: It's a long climb to the 25-man roster.
If there's one thing this year's Dodgers have, it's depth. The 40-man roster they've taken into spring training is overstuffed with talented and/or experienced players. The team could carve their Opening Day roster out of that and still have good players left over.
"These things have a way of playing themselves out," president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, "and when we get down to the end of Spring Training, hopefully we have some pretty tough decisions to make."
On that note, let's look at five Dodgers NRIs who might break camp with the club.
Ike Davis, 1B
Right now, you may be thinking to yourself: "Oh, there he is!"
Ike Davis sightings have become rare in recent years. His star had fallen by the time the New York Mets traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014. He then played in 74 games with the Oakland A's in 2015, and popped up only briefly in eight games with the New York Yankees last year.
The power that Davis had when he launched 32 homers for the Mets back in 2012 seems to be long gone. However, he may not be completely finished as a hitter.
The 29-year-old was solid against Triple-A pitching in 2016, putting up a .786 OPS in the Texas Rangers system and a .709 OPS in the Yankees system. He showed a good eye and some power at both stops.
Davis is only going to break camp with the Dodgers if they suddenly find themselves in need of a lefty-swinging first baseman. Otherwise, Adrian Gonzalez will continue to fill that role.
Unless, of course, Gonzalez breaks down. At 34 years of age and with back problems in his recent past, it wouldn't be the biggest surprise in the world if he did.
Charlie Culberson, INF/OF
His name is Charlie Culberson, but everyone knows him better as the dude who hit the walk-off homer last September that clinched the NL West title and gave Vin Scully a proper send-off.
Contrary to what that highlight may indicate, Culberson isn't going to hit his way on to the Dodgers' roster. He owns just a .599 OPS in the majors.
In fact, probably the best thing the 27-year-old has going for him is that he's not an outfielder—good luck cracking that nut.
Between Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke, the Dodgers have more than enough outfielders to find playing time for. And that's not even all the outfielders on their 40-man roster.
Thus, it's a good thing Culberson has some versatility. He's an infielder by trade, having played at shortstop, second base and third base in the majors. He's also wandered into the outfield.
With Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Rob Segedin already on their 40-man roster, the Dodgers don't have need of a player like that as things stand. But if one of them were to go down with an injury, the door would be open for Culberson.
Bobby Wilson, C
The Dodgers appear set at catcher. Yasmani Grandal is due to start, Austin Barnes will back him up and Kyle Farmer is first man up on the 40-man.
Farmer does have one disadvantage, though: no major league experience. As it happens, that's something Bobby Wilson has plenty of.
The 33-year-old has played in 324 major league games across parts of eight seasons. His bat has been largely useless, producing just a .587 OPS. But he's generally been a good guy to have behind the plate.
First, he's been solid at controlling the running game with a career caught-stealing rate of 28 percent. Second, he generally rates as a solid pitch framer.
And there's a chance Wilson will make it on to the Dodgers' 25-man roster even if a spot doesn't open up. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors noted the following:
Barnes does have experience as an infielder as well, though, and did play both second base and third base in the Majors last year, so perhaps there’s an opportunity for the Dodgers to creatively work [Grandal, Barnes and Wilson] onto the roster.
Since the Dodgers and the word "creatively" go together well, this could indeed happen.
Steve Geltz, RHP
The crowd at the door to the Dodgers' starting rotation is even longer than the one for their outfield. They have Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and at least six other quality pitchers set to jockey for position.
Less impenetrable is the club's bullpen, where there appears to be one spot up for grabs. Among the non-roster invitees, Steve Geltz is one of the top candidates to nab that place.
Like Wilson, major league experience is the biggest feather in Geltz's hat. The 29-year-old has appeared in 110 games over parts of four seasons. His best showing was when he put up a 3.74 ERA in 70 appearances for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015.
A habit like that would play better in the National League, and best at Dodger Stadium. Its dimensions are big and there's a marine layer that knocks down fly balls.
One assumes the Dodgers are aware of this. So if Geltz shows well and that open spot is still there at the end of the spring, it could be his.
Brandon Morrow, RHP
If Geltz doesn't earn a spot in the Dodgers bullpen, Brandon Morrow might.
It's hard not to look back and cringe at Morrow being taken ahead of Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Tim Lincecum and Andrew Miller in the 2006 draft. It's also hard not to cringe when looking at his injury history—it's a doozy, and his career as a starter is over because of it.
Morrow, now 32, has always had qualities that generally look good on relievers, however. The San Diego Padres decided to put them to the test last season when they committed to Morrow as a bullpen arm.
The end result: a 1.69 ERA in 18 appearances.
Be warned that Morrow only struck out eight batters in 16 innings. But he did average 94.2 mph on his fastball with his best swinging-strike rate in years at 10.3 percent. That's a performance to build on.
It's no surprise that the Dodgers stepped up to take the chance. As former small-market executives, Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi like a good reclamation project.
If Morrow shows well this spring, he could be their latest.