The Giants announced their list of non-roster invitees for 2016, a group of 21 players that includes prospects and minor-league free agents. From a team press release:
- RHP Tyler Beede
- RHP Samuel Coonrod
- RHP Chase Johnson
- LHP Braulio Lara
- RHP Vin Mazzaro
- LHP Ricky Romero
- RHP Albert Suarez
- Aramis Garcia
- George Kottaras
- Tyler Ross
- Matt Winn
- Christian Arroyo
- Kyle Blanks
- Grant Green
- Ryder Jones
- Hak-Ju Lee
- Rando Moreno
- Ramiro Pena
- Junior Arias
- Gorkys Hernandez
- Ryan Lollis
Arroyo is the Giants' best position-player prospect, and this is his second spring as an NRI. Other prospects on the list include Beede, Coonrod, and Johnson. Really, though, you're not interested in NRI lists because of the prospects. You're looking for the next Ryan Vogelsong or Gregor Blanco.
Lara was with Sacramento last year, and he's a lefty with control issues and an intriguing arm. Suarez is a minor-league free agent starter, a right-hander on the Eric Hacker path to the majors. Mazzaro has big-league experience with the A's, Pirates, and Royals, and Romero was an All-Star once before completely losing his ability to throw strikes.
Garcia is also one of the better prospects in the system, and the catcher will be joined by the newly acquired Kottaras, Ty Ross, and Winn, a 2015 draftee.
Blanks, Green, Hernandez, and Lollis were included in Doug's column from earlier, which means that Junior Arias, a 24-year-old minor-league free agent out of the Reds system, will probably win the fifth-outfielder job just to spite the stupid baseball writer. It's a rite of passage!
Lee and Pena also got a look here, as we looked for the random player who will help the Giants annoy the world in an even year. Jones was a second-round pick in 2013, and he's spent his time between short and third, with just enough raw power to make him interesting despite his poor strikeout and walk numbers.
For me, though, the random even-year surprise sure looks like Rando Moreno. The 23-year-old was off to a hot start last year in Double-A before falling back to expected levels, and he's not interesting because of anything he's done, really. It's just that he's a non-prospect middle infielder with the ability to hit for a little average. He's literally some rando who might show up and hit .290 when the Giants need him the most. That combination of non-prospect and specialized ability is pure even-year nectar.
Let's look at some of the NRI lists from the past. In 2010:
Casilla, who was a mainstay in Oakland’s bullpen from 2007-09 will make his debut with the Giants at big league camp this spring and will join his younger brother, Jose Casilla, in the same organization. The 29-year-old has appeared in the big leagues with Oakland for the past six years (2004-09) and owns a 6-4 record with a 5.11 ERA (91er, 160.1ip) with 4 saves over 152 games. The Dominican native recorded a 5.96 ERA (32er, 48.1ip) with a 1-2 record with the Athletics last season.
Vogelsong, 33, returns to San Francisco, as he was originally the Giants’ fifth round selection in the 1998 draft. He was traded by the Giants along with outfielder Armando Rios to Pittsburgh in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jason Schmidt and outfielder John Vander Wal in 2001. In six big league seasons the North Carolina native has gone 10-22 with a 5.86 ERA (205er, 315.0ip) in 120 games (33 starts). He last appeared at the big league level in 2006 with Pittsburgh. Last season he split the campaign between triple-A Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia) and triple-A Salt Lake (Los Angeles-AL), going 3-8 with a 4.81 ERA (51er, 95.1ip) in 33 games (14 starts).
Blanco, 28, has appeared in parts of three Major League seasons with Atlanta (2008-10) and Kansas City (2010), batting .259 (183-for-710) in 253 games. He spent the 2011 campaign with triple-A Omaha and Syracuse in the Royals and Nationals organizations, combining to hit .201 (40-for-199) in 74 games. Following the season he played in the Venezuelan Winter League and was named the MVP of the league after leading all players in on-base pct. (.478), stolen bases (18) and runs scored (47) while finishing fourth with a .337 batting average (66-for-196).
The press releases are a lot less wordy now, but the Giants have still found major league players with their last three batches of NRIs, like Chad Gaudin, Brandon Hicks, Justin Maxwell, and Sandy Rosario, who appeared in 43 games with the Giants (with a 3.02 ERA), without you remembering a single thing about him.
There will be at least one player up there who makes a difference this year. Let's all hope for the Gregor Blanco version of even-year nonsense. It's been more than a year, so we've kind of earned it.