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.
In need of some left-handed help to add to a bullpen that was starting to lean dramatically to the right, the D-backs made a pair of moves over the last two days that should ignite some good competition in Spring Training.
On the heels of re-signing veteran lefty Mike Hampton to a minor league deal, the D-backs selected Joe Paterson in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. If you made it out to watch the D-backs prospects play for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall league, you might already be familiar with Paterson, who was there representing the San Francisco Giants. (If the above photos look strange to you then, well your instincts are correct. Paterson was loaned to the Phoenix Desert Dogs for a day to get some work and help give a day off to some Desert Dogs hurlers.)
Paterson’s effectiveness is tied as much to his funky delivery as his actual stuff as the photos here should demonstrate. And lefthanders do seem to have a great deal of trouble picking up his pitches; they hit just .216 off him this year. He’s a nice, low-risk Rule 5 pick because lefty specialists are the kind of position that can be overpaid in the free agent market relative to the finite amount of innings they pitch. And because Hampton is on a minor league deal, if he and Paterson are going neck-and-neck next March, they actually could keep both by moving Hampton to Reno out of the gate.
The focus was pretty obvious for the D-backs during these winter meetings — the pitching needed major upgrades. The team, already happy with the first four spots in the rotation (Kennedy/Hudson/Saunders/Enright) was able to take a flier on a fifth starter in Zach Duke while also adding four new pieces to the bullpen (Putz/Hernandez/Mickolio/Paterson).
“The starting pitching is better, the bullpen is better, character I think will be better, experience is better, versatility will be better,” D-backs General Manager Kevin Towers said.
“There may be less power but we scored runs last year. We scored enough runs but we just didn’t hold them, if you look at our run differential. We were about league average in offense, they just scored too many runs on us.”
Random note: Joe Paterson played college baseball at Oregon State University. He pitched on the Beavers’ 2006 National Championship winning team where he was a teammate of D-backs outfielder Cole Gillespie.