Saturday, December 19, 2015

Outfield options:The minor league invitees

Last spring Shane Robinson made the Opening Day roster as a non-roster invitee to spring training and stuck all season. He's going to try to do the same thing with Cleveland in 2016. 

Meanwhile, the Twins have a handful of outfield hopefuls coming to camp as non-roster guys, including former Twins Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni, plus veteran Ryan Sweeney.

Sweeney is a former second-round draft pick out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who has nine seasons in the majors on his resume. The Cubs released him on April 7 last year, eating $2 million on his contract, and he didn't play anywhere after that. He's a left-handed hitter with some size, 31 in February, who has gotten a considerable amount of his playing time in center. He has the resume and profile of an established fourth outfielder, but his absence from the game last year is a red flag. It's not so much that the Cubs dropped him; with all their young talent, that was explicable. That nobody else picked him up makes me wonder. Still, if one of these NRIs makes the team, Sweeney's my bet.

Benson I discussed in a previous post. Nothing's happened since to change that assessment. 

Mastroianni spent 2015 in the minors, starting in the Phillies system, then moving to the Nationals. His Twins tenure was marred by a foot-ankle injury that took the edge off his best tool, his speed. 

All three of these guys face the same significant obstacle: lack of opportunity. The Twins have a corps of talented young outfielders at or neat the big league level, and some of them (Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Santana) are out of options. That, I'm sure, is why Robinson is trying his luck elsewhere. This figures to be a tough nut for a non-roster guy to crack.

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