Friday, December 18, 2015

The non-roster invitees

The Twins on Thursday announced 22 non-roster invitees to spring training. Some of the names are big prospects who are't on the 40-man roster: Jose Berrios and Nick Burdi,  Some are roster fillers for the upper levels of the minors. A couple -- left-handed reliever Fernando Abad and veteran outfielder Ryan Sweeney -- were fresh minor-league signings who may have legitimate chances to make the active roster.

And, as always, there are plenty of catchers on the list, five to be exact. There are also three catchers on the 40-man roster, so the Twins will have eight catchers in camp. The reason, of course, is to have plenty of backstops to be on the receiving end of dozens of bullpen sessions.

The catcher list always intrigues me, partly because most of them have to know that they're just there for the bullpen sessions. Barring injury, we know that Kurt Suzuki and John Ryan Murphy will be on the 25-man roster, and the other six will not. But they get major-league per diem while they hang around camp, and they are jockeying for position in the upper levels of the system.

The Twins made big changes in their catching depth this offseason. Five of the eight catchers in camp last spring are gone: Eric Fryer, Tyler Grimes, Chris Herrmann, Josmil Pinto and Dan Rohlfing. (Left, besides Suzuki, are Mitch Garver and Stuart Turner.)

The Twins have been big in recent years on hyphenated catchers. Herrmann was a catcher-outfielder. Grimes was a catcher-middle infielder. Rohlfing played a lot of outfield and first base. This seldom made a lot of sense to me. Most catchers are too slow for the other up-the-middle positions, and hit too lightly for the corner positions.

This spring's eight catchers includes one multi-position guy, Alex Swim. Last season, at Fort Myers, he played 30 games at catcher (Garver was the primary catcher), 24 at first base and 16 in right field. He also hit .311, which is also the batting average he put up in Cedar Rapids the year before. But the batting average is about all he has. He has three minor league seasons on his resume, more than 700 at-bats, and has yet to hit a homer. He turns 25 in March and hasn't gotten out of A ball.

So I say: Not a prospect. And then I say: If he keeps hitting .311, maybe ...

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