Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees: Who to Watch

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Updated: February 3, 2017

On Thursday afternoon, the Angels announced what players would be attending Spring Training as non-roster invitees. In total, there are 26 players who have been invited by the team and could potentially compete for a roster spot. There several players to watch this spring, no matter if they make the team or not. Here are six players that have a chance to impress in Tempe this year.

LHP John Lamb

Lamb was a free agent signing after the Tampa Bay Rays released him just 16 days after he was bought from the Cincinnati Reds. In 2011, Lamb, a Laguna Hills native, was the #18 prospect in all of baseball. Since then, he has fallen off the map. Lamb threw 119.2 major league innings over the last two years, but had a 6.17 ERA over that span. He had success in AAA in 2015 and has shown flashes of greatness in the minors. He has yet to have success at the major league level, but if he can get something to click in Spring Training, he could be a dark horse candidate for the fifth rotation spot.

OF/2B Eric Young Jr.

EYJ is a guy who will most likely serve in the same role that Rafael Ortega did last season: an emergency backup outfielder. What sets him apart from the field though is his ability to play second base. If he somehow sticks with the team out of Spring Training, he could be a fun backup to watch. Over his career, he has stolen 149 and has had 25+ steals in a season three times, including a 46 steal season in 2013. He was a solid contributor for the Rockies and Mets from 2009-2014, but he hasn’t seen much major league action since. If he makes his way onto the major league roster, he could be a better version of Kansas City’s Terrance Gore.

RHP Justin Miller

Miller was part of the Rockies’ bullpen from 2015 to 2016 and didn’t have much success at Coors Field. He has career ERA of 4.99 in the majors, but most pitchers who pitch for Colorado tend to have ERAs north of four. Where Miller impresses is in his minor league stats. From 2011 to 2015, Miller had three seasons with an ERA south of 1.90 in AA and AAA. That’s elite reliever territory. Miller is definitely in the mix for a bullpen spot, so if he figures out how to get major league players out, he could be a great reliever. He’s almost guaranteed to have a lower ERA in Anaheim this season, but how he performs in Spring Training will determine if he even makes it to the Big A.

1B Matt Thaiss

Thaiss is the Halo HQ #2 overall Angels prospect and one of the top prospects in all of baseball at first base. He won’t be competing for a roster spot, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get a chance to showcase his talents. He will most likely be a late inning replacement in games, so he should have the opportunity to show off his power stroke against low level relief pitchers. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Thaiss begin the 2017 season in AA if he has a good showing in Tempe.

SS/2B David Fletcher

Another one of our top ten prospects, David Fletcher has drawn comparison to David Eckstein and for good reason. He can hit, he can run, he can field and he can get on base. Sounds a lot like Eck, right? He will most likely come into games alongside Matt Thaiss, so this spring should allow us to get a good look at the future of the Angels infield. If you thought Johnny Giavotella was fun to watch in 2015, you’re going to love watching Fletch in the near future.

LHP Kevin Grendell

If you’re asking “Who the heck is Kevin Grendell?” you’re not alone. Grendell was signed to a minor league deal last offseason and started the season in rookie ball. He ended the season in AA. His ERA was great in rookie and AA and not so hot in A+ ball, but playing for Inland Empire in the Cal League is like playing for Colorado at Coors. He strikes out a ton of guys, as his career K/9 is 11.5. That’s more than a strikeout per inning. With the strikeouts though also come walks. His BB/9 is 4.5. The main problem is that his ERA is inflated, so he doesn’t get much attention as a prospect. He has never had a FIP over four, yet he has had two seasons with ERAs above four in five professional seasons. He’s a dark horse candidate for the bullpen, as the Angels will most likely need another lefty in there. He could make a name for himself in Tempe by striking guys out and keeping his ERA low. If he doesn’t make the team this year, expect to see him in AAA sometime this season and in majors sometime next year.

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