2010 Player Preview: Non-Roster Invitees
Here at GROTA, we're kicking off a run of preview-type articles, profiling some of the folks you can expect to hear about over the next 30 days as Spring Training gets going. To start, let's talk NRIs.
The Cubs have invited 21 non-rostered athletes (a loosely used term in some cases) to compete for major league spots while the team trains in Mesa. The full list, grouped by position, is available at cubs.com. And with the words that follow, that list will now be available here at GROTA -- except I'm going to group it a bit differently. See if you can't keep up...!
A) HTPs (highly touted prospects):
RHP Andrew Cashner, SS Starlin Castro, 3B Josh Vitters, CF Brett Jackson
Vitters and Jackson are too young to make this team. I think management thinks it's good for their development to be exposed to some major leaguers early on, so that maybe they can pick up some habits, or something.
The latter statement holds true for Cashner and Castro, but unlike JV and B-Jax, I think these guys have a shot -- albeit, an extremely small one. If you've followed any Cubs news so far since everyone got to Mesa, you've already heard all about Castro. Heck, if you believe everything Lou says, if anything happened to Theriot in March, Castro'd be the Opening Day shortstop. Cashner has the stuff to make the team as a reliever, but the men upstairs for the Cubs will, and most certainly should, keep him on track as a starter.
B) The Crash Davis Club
RHP Thomas Diamond, RHP Jeff Kennard, LHP J.R. Mathes, RHP Vince Perkins, INF Blake Lalli, OF Bryan LaHair, OF Bobby Scales, OF Brad Snyder
These guys will all have turned 27 by the end of the 2010 season, and as far as I know have spent the majority of their careers in the minor leagues.
Most folks will remember Bobby Scales' contributions to the 2009 club; great guy, replacement-level baseball player. The only other name on the list I really know anything about belongs to J.R. Mathes. From what I recall, he had a pretty solid year in Iowa last year. His problem: not enough strikeouts to make it to Chicago (remember, our pitching staff led the league in Ks for something like five years).
C) Neither A nor B
RHP Casey Coleman, LHP James Russell, C Robinson Chirinos, C Steve Clevenger, C Chris Robinson, INF Darwin Barney, OF Matt Camp
These guys are still considered young by statistical standards (27 is considered by many to be the peak age for baseball players), and there's some talent in the group, especially at catcher. I've heard good things about Matt Camp; same for Darwin Barney, actually, except he's got a few more guys blocking his path to the big show.
And now, the group you've all been waiting for...
X) "Legitimate" candidates for the 24th and 25th spots on the Cubs' major league roster
1B/cheerleader Kevin Millar, 1B/3B/OF Chad Tracy
To me, it's simple. Since he's left-handed, can play passable defense at at least one position on the field, and has shown the ability to hit within the past two seasons, I can see why Chad Tracy might end up getting a spot on the Cubs' bench.
Since he's right-handed, can't play defense, and hasn't hit squat in the past two years, I don't understand how Millar could possibly make the team.