NRIs and other fascinating things

Every year, a random player sneaks onto the Opening Day roster. It’s usually a non-roster invitee who had a good spring when the right player got injured, though sometimes it’s an organizational soldier. Let’s call this the Al Levine Memorial Award for the reliever who inexplicably made the 2005 Giants. Past winners:

2010: Guillermo Mota
2009: Andres Torres
2008: Brian Bocock!
2007: Barry Zito
2006: Jeff Fassero
2005: Al Levine
2004: Leo Estrella
2003: Joe Nathan
2002: Damon Minor
2001: Benito Santiago
2000: Felipe Crespo

Alright, so 2007 ruined my thesis. Change it to almost every year, a random player sneaks onto the Opening Day roster. Two months prior to Opening Day, even the player in question thought he’d be riding a bus from game to game, or sitting by the phone, waiting for someone to remember his All-Star apperance two years ago.

Santiago was a NRI who was signed in March, and he was competing against a catcher who had a 113 OPS+ the year before (Bobby Estalella), and a sound defensive catcher who wasn’t completely embarrassing with the bat (Doug Mirabelli). Somehow Santiago won a spot. Even more surprising is that he Clearly did just fine.

Nathan was a AAA disaster for two years following shoulder surgery. Obviously he made the roster on his way to being a fringe Hall-of-Fame candidate.

We all saw Torres leading off for a World Series champion one day. It was so obvious from the moment the news wasn’t announced anywhere, so maybe it’s disingenuous to list that one.

This year’s crop of NRIs and minor league free agents isn’t that interesting, but one of them will sneak on the roster when something totally unexpected and crazy happens, like Mark DeRosa’s wrist starts to hurt. Usually a reliever is the best bet for the Al Levine Memorial award, and with this year’s almost-set-in-stone roster, it will probably be a reliever again. Still, there’s glory to be found for the brave soul who guesses someone not even in the organization, like Orlando Cabrera.

A partial list of NRIs:

Casey Daigle, Waldis Joaquin, Shane Loux, Guillermo Mota, Felix Romero, Jason Stoffel, Marc Kroon, and Yes That Ryan Vogelsong; left-handed pitchers Wilmin Rodriguez, Ryan Verdugo and Matt Yourkin; catchers Tommy Joseph, Hector Sanchez, Chris Stewart and Jackson Williams; infielders Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Charles Culberson, Brad Eldred and Nick Noonan; and outfielders Gary Brown, Terry Evans and Juan Perez.

My guess is Marc Kroon, which is kind of the obvious pick, though I could also see...no, I can’t really see any of those guys making the roster. But that’s the point. Someone odd will make the roster, whether he’s on that list or not. Heck, I’ll give back my Kroon pick and go with Bengie Molina. He’s still a free agent, right?

So go on. Give a guess. I don’t even know who Terry Evans is, but he has a shot. I think he plays bass.

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