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2015 Non-Roster Pitchers and Catchers

The Mariners report for spring training Friday morning, which is very soon! Or, if you check on the blogosphere in the morning, it is happening or has already happened! Either way, the words pitchers and catchers reporting ceremonially close out the winter and welcome in spring, at least in my head.

One of my favorite storylines in spring training every year are the non-roster invitees (NRIs). These are players not on the 40-man roster that participate in MLB spring training. They usually fall in two categories: 1) MLB veterans trying to catch back on and prolong their career 2) up-and-coming prospects. The dichotomy always makes the NRI list a study in contrasts, which is part of the fun. Most become distant footnotes in a hurry, but invariably a few surprise and even find their way to the majors.

I will look at the Mariners NRIs in two posts. Since pitchers and catchers report now, I will rate the pitchers and catcher now. Then, I will rate the batters when they show up. Together they will combine for weekly NRI power rankings based on their intrigue and, as they play, their performance. I will use a pretty simple +/- system which I will explain in more detail when games happen. For now, here's how the initial rankings are tallied:

  • 1 point per year away from 28 years old, either way (so super young and super old players are equally intriguing, though for different reasons)
  • 1 point per league level. MLB is worth 4 points, AAA 3 points, and so on
  • 1 point for being a lefty arm
  • 1 point if the player has some special circumstance that adds to their intrigue
Without further ado, the initial pitcher and catcher rankings!

UPDATE (2/22/2015, 12:22pm): The Mariners signed Joe Saunders to a minor league deal with a spring training invite yesterday. He ranks as a +10 in my ranking system and takes over the top spot on this list. You may remember him as a mediocre innings eater for the M's a few years back, and now he is in camp to compete for a bullpen spot.
  1. John Baker (+10): This tells you all you need to know about how uninteresting the pitcher and catcher NRIs are. Baker was the Cubs backup catcher last year, and he's older. He's likely ticketed for AAA but has a chance to hang on as Mike Zunino's backup. That's easily enough for him to be the class of this list.
  2. Rafael Perez (+8): Perez played in AAA last year, but gets a boost as a southpaw pitcher. He will likely get a long look as the second lefty in the M's bullpen, though the odds are he goes to Tacoma.
  3. Mark Lowe (+7): Remember when Lowe came up with the Mariners as a flame-throwing righty? Those days are long gone, but the M's are giving him a chance to continue to show whatever he has got left - which probably is not a ton. Still, given his past as an M's prospect, I gave him an extra point for nostalgia's sake.
  4. Tyler Marlette (+7): Marlette played in High Desert last year, and he is an underrated prospect. He has the potential to turn into a good hitting catcher. He won't make the majors this year but I hope he makes a little noise in the at-bats he gets before he is sent to minor league camp as the pitching staff is cut down. Marlette deserves more attention than he gets.
  5. Stephen Landazuri (+7): Consider Landazuri a less heralded version of Brandon Maurer. He is a later round high school pick the M's got to sign and they have developed him into an arm that might make the majors. He has not earned the same kind of buzz Maurer developed, partly because he doesn't have the same kind of upside, but he isn't as far off as the lack of notoriety suggests. Landazuri could hang around camp longer than expected if he catches Lloyd McClendon's eye early on.
  6. Justin Germano (+7): Germano is AAA depth and got this high of a rating largely by being a player in his early 30s willing to hang around.
  7. Jordan Pries (+6): The Rainiers pitcher of the year is a very long shot to make the M's rotation out of spring training, but this is still an important spring for him. He could see the big leagues if he is, say, the sixth or seventh starter instead of the eighth or ninth.
  8. Tyler Olson (+6): The former Gonzaga Bullog has progressed through the M's system fairly quickly. He is a "pitchability" lefty, meaning his stuff isn't amazing but he's got a good idea how to use what he's got. Olson, like Pries, will not make the Mariners out of spring training, but a good showing could help him push into the majors sooner rather than later.
  9. Sam Gaviglio (+6): Gaviglio is new to the Mariners. He had a decent year in AA in 2014, and at 24 years old, isn't a hot prospect. Still, since Gaviglio is new to the organization and he will get a chance to play in big league camp for at least a few weeks, his pitching in the next fortnight or so could go a long ways towards his future in the organization.
  10. Mike Dowd (+6): Dowd is a catcher in camp so that all the pitchers have someone to throw to. His OPS was below .600 in AA.
  11. Steve Baron (+5.5): Although Baron is a former top pick, he's not much more than Dowd at this point. In fact, based on this rating system, he's a bit less, though I'm guessing the Mariners hold out more hope for Baron's upside.
  12. Forrest Snow (+5): Forrest Snow is undoubtedly a great name, and by many accounts Snow is a tremendous person (I mean that; he frequently participates in Rainiers pre-game promos). However, he is also the definition of AAA depth, which doesn't make for a very compelling non-roster invitee.
The long, dreary wait is, for all intents and purposes, over. The next time this list gets updated it will be with results from GAMES. Exhibition games that do not count - but still, GAMES, as in scheduled competitions between two baseball teams that happen in the flesh in real life. Baseball is back.