CLAY ZAVADA — Photography: Rick Scuteri
Every year, teams have somewhere between 10-20 non-roster invitees at Spring Training, guys who aren’t on the team’s 40-man roster. It’s always a mix of prospects and veteran players who didn’t sign Major League contracts in the offseason. But every year, there are a handful of potential gems on the non-roster list.
Here’s the D-backs’ list of non-roster players that you’ll be watching in Spring Training (their names are clickable for statistics):
Some thoughts on a few of these guys:
Matt Gorgen — Gorgen was the player Arizona acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade that sent Chad Qualls there late last year. I’m interested in seeing Gorgen pitch and I’m really curious as to why the Rays made him available, especially when the team lost so many relief pitchers to free agency this year. He’s got pretty excellent minor league numbers and according to Jerry DiPoto, as Arizona Republic writer Nick Piecoro mentioned back in September, Gorgen has good stuff as well. If you’re looking to find an interesting sleeper to emerge out of the non-roster invitee group, Gorgen could definitely be your guy.
Jarrod Parker — Like pretty much everybody else, I’m anxious to see how Parker looks in Spring Training. When last we saw him pitch, he was fresh off throwing some really impressive heat in the 2009 Futures Game, but an elbow injury shut him down for the 2010 season. He gave updates on Twitter throughout the year on his conditioning. When Parker is on, he’s darn-near unhittable but the organization is going to be patient with him after major surgery.
Clay Zavada — Elbow surgery also cost Clay Zavada his 2010 season, so one of the bright spots of the 2009 D-backs is going to work toward getting back in the big leagues this year. You won’t meet many ballplayers that are nicer than Zavada, so I would imagine there are going to be a lot of fans pulling for him to succeed this spring.
Chris Owings — Of the D-backs’ highly picked high school draftees in 2009 (Bobby Borchering, Matt Davidson, Chris Owings), this shortstop out of South Carolina has been the most consistent both at the plate and in the field. A foot injury robbed Owings of about two-thirds of his season last year, but he was playing quite well before he went down. Considering the depth the team added this year with Melvin Mora, Geoff Blum and Willie Bloomquist, there are a lot of infielders in camp. There aren’t that many Spring Training at bats to go around, so Owings’ stay on the big league side might not last very long.
Marc Krauss — Along with teammate Paul Goldschmidt, Marc Krauss absolutely killed the ball in the High-A California League with Visalia last year. Krauss was then one of the few players below Double-A that get a chance to play in the Arizona Fall League. Playing for the 2010 champion Scottsdale Scorpions, Krauss was great, batting .298 with a .404 on-base percentage, with four home runs in 22 games. The guy can really hit, and I’m anxious to see what he can do against some big league pitching.
Wily Mo Pena — I’m mostly just excited to watch Wily Mo Pena take batting practice. He has massive raw power (link: check out this stunning home run he hit at Toronto’s Rogers Centre back in 2007), always has, and hit pretty well in limited duty for the Padres’ Triple-A Affiliate last year.
A.J. Pollock — With really advanced fundamental skills coming out of college, A.J. Pollock looked like he was on the fast track until he hurt his elbow going after a ball in the outfield in Spring Training last year and lost a whole season because of it. He also played in the Fall League and hit quite well for average — batted .313 with six doubles in 16 games — and hopefully his power comes along with health.
Chris Owings – First Round – No. 45 Overall
By Dan Strittmatter
The D-backs continued two of their early trends with their fourth pick of the 2009 draft. First, the team kept their focus on pursuing bats, with Owings, a shortstop, following two third basemen in Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson, and center fielder A.J. Pollock.
Second, the team aggressively went for higher-upside high school choices; the only one of those four players to come out of college was Pollock, from Notre Dame.
Owings was taken No. 41 overall out of Gilbert High School in Leesville, S.C., and the D-backs had to be aggressive in signing him to convince him to turn pro rather than play in college. Owings projects to hit for a good average with a little pop, and has some speed on the bases as well.
After being signed, Owings pretty accurately fit that scouting report at Rookie-level Missoula in his first experience in pro ball.
For the Osprey’s playoff run late in the summer of 2009, Owings hit .306 with a .426 slugging percentage and three stolen bases (he was not caught stealing) in 24 games. Just three walks in 108 at-bats limited his OBP to .324, and further, Owings was victim to strikeouts quite often, getting rung up 25 times. It also appears that the team intends to give him every chance to succeed at shortstop, much like they’re giving similar chances for Davidson and Borchering to play third base (though many have projected those two as first basemen).
So far in 2010 for Low-A South Bend, Owings has put together a very similar line, with a .288/.308/.414 BA/OBP/SLG line for .722 OPS. Owings’ season hasn’t been flawless, as he still is battling a pretty unsightly K:BB ratio of 39:5. That’s not an uncommon trend for high school draftees in their first full season, though, and if put in proper perspective looks very impressive.
His OPS is substantially higher than the league-average in 2010 for the pitcher-friendly Midwest League, which is just .688. Further, the average age of pitchers in the MWL (as weighted by Baseball-Reference.com) is 21.7 years. Owings, meanwhile, won’t turn 19 until Aug. 12.
For a player to succeed in his age-18 season in a full-season affiliate, the D-backs have to be quite happy with what they’ve seen from Owings.