Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Five non-roster invitees with best odds to make opening day roster

Second baseman Ramon Santiago, noted more for his glove than his bat, snares a high hopper during Game 4 against the Yankees. He had only three errors this season.

Entering spring training as a non-roster invitee is not a desirable position for any player to be in. But that's precisely how 20 players entered camp with the Reds last week.

The fact is that most of them will not likely survive past the first or second round of cuts. A select few may actually be enough to hang around until final cuts are made. And probably one will end up earning a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Last year, the lone non-roster invitee to make the Opening Day roster was shortstop Cesar Izturis. In 2012, Willie Harris beat the odds and made the roster as a non-roster invite. Will the trend continue in 2014?

Here are five players who could compete for a coveted spot on the team when the Reds begin the season on March 31 against the Cardinals:

1) Ramon Santiago

By virtue of team need, the versatile Santiago boasts the best chance of breaking with the big club out of spring camp. A 12-year veteran, Santiago's primary position is shortstop, but he has played some second base and third base as well. Like Izturis did in 2013, Santiago will benefit from being able to play multiple positions and for being a veteran. A career .243/.311/.330 hitter, if the 34-year-old makes the roster, it won't be due to his offensive prowess. The Reds need a backup to Zack Cozart at shortstop and Santiago seems to fit the bill. I'd put the odds of Santiago making the Opening Day roster over the field of non-roster invitees at 4/1.

2) Roger Bernadina

The native of Curacao was signed in late-January to provide some insurance for Billy Hamilton in center field. Although the starting job is Hamilton's to lose, Bernadina will have a shot in spring training to earn a bench role. It won't be an easy task, but it won't be an impossible one, either. With outfielders Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey, and Hamilton all basically ensured of Opening Day slots, Bernadina will have to outperform prospects and fellow non-roster invitee Jason Bourgeois to stand any chance at all. Bernadina's career numbers aren't good (.239/.307/.359), but he did post a respectable .291/.372/.405 line in 2012 with Washington, so perhaps he can rekindle that form again in 2014.

3) Chien-Ming Wang

Barring a catastrophic injury, Wang isn't expected to begin the year in Cincinnati. He will likely take his talents to Triple-A Louisville, instead. However, the possibility of injury always exists, so that means there's at least an outside shot that Wang could pitch for the Reds at some point this season. It's been seven years since Wang last produced a really good MLB season (19-7, 3.70 ERA), and at 34-years-old, it seems like his better playing days are behind him. Nevertheless, it's not crazy to think he could be this year's version of Greg Reynolds, who went 12-3 with a 2.42 ERA for Louisville in 2013.

4) Jeff Francis

This isn't the southpaw's first rodeo with the Reds. He was in a very similar situation in 2012. He went 3-6 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Louisville before opting out of his minor league contract and signing with the Colorado Rockies. He spent last season with the Rockies too before inking another minor league deal with the Reds. Like Wang, Francis will serve as an emergency stopgap should the Reds need too replace an injured starter. His 70-78 career MLB record in nothing to sneeze at. But his career 4.94 ERA in nearly 1,250 innings certainly is.

5) Robert Stephenson

By far the most intriguing non-roster invitee on this season's list, Stephenson has emerged as the organization's top prospect and has quickly become a key piece for the future of the franchise's success. Many expect the right-hander to make his major league debut by summer's end, but it's highly unlikely we see him in a Reds uniform before the All-Star Break, at the earliest. If the Reds need a spot start, they will likely turn to Wang, Francis, or David Holmberg, instead.

Honorable Mentions: Michael Lorenzen, Chris Nelson, Jason Bourgeois, David Holmberg

Photo Credit: Julian Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press


Downtown C Brown said...

Is "jumpin" Jim Adair ever going to try out for a team? I would love to see an article where a lifetime fan trys out for a Major League team... and blogs about it, whether it be good or bad.

Jimmi Adair said...


If someone sets it up, I'll give it a whirl. A word of warning, though, the Rookie of the Year hardware would be mine for the taking.