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March 15, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Notable NRI: AL Central

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Total NRIs: 19
Almost famous: If you know nothing else about Brian Bruney, know these two things: 1) he was in the movie Kindergarten Cop and 2) he is Ben Lindbergh’s favorite player. The world needs more names likes Brian Omogrosso. Dallas McPherson last homered in the majors in October 2006. Dan Johnson last homered in the majors in September 2011, helping propel the season’s final night into a thing of legend.
The next big thing: Trayce Thompson is the top prospect in camp on a non-roster deal. The 21-year-old outfielder has plus-plus raw power, but his contact issues are worrisome. Jacob Petricka is a big power arm from Indiana State who ranked fourth on Kevin Goldstein’s Top 20 list. Early reports on former first-round pick Jared Mitchell have him looking better this spring. Outfielder Brandon Short and catcher Michael Blanke are also in camp.
Too old for this: Eric Stults returned to the majors last season with Colorado after spending some time in Japan. Stults is 32 now—or 26 in left-hander years.
Sticker potential: Bruney’s live arm always finds a way into the majors, much to Lindbergh’s delight, though it seems unlikely that he will break camp in the big-league bullpen.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Total NRIs: 22
Almost famous: Most of the roster merits mention. You have blasé veterans like Jeremy Accardo, Dan Wheeler, Jose Lopez, and Fred Lewis and former notable prospects like Andy LaRoche, Chris Seddon, and Felix Pie, all in one camp.
The next big thing: Do you like little righties with big velocity? If so, Austin Adams is your man. He checks in at 5-foot-11 and can crank his fastball up into the upper-90s. As a result, Adams ranked fourth on Kevin Goldstein’s Indians Top 20 list. Another smaller righty with a big fastball, Chen Lee, is in camp, and so is catcher Chun-Hsui Chen.
Too old for this: While Wheeler is the oldest player in non-roster camp, catcher Michel Hernandez deserves a mention. Hernandez signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1998 and has accumulated 127 major-league plate appearances since then—his most recent coming in 2009.  A thoroughbred organizational solider, here’s hoping Hernandez can enjoy some more time in the majors before hanging his cleats up.
Sticker potential: Wheeler should make the big-league club so long as his body allows him. The aforementioned Lopez could crack the 25-man as a utility infielder.

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Total NRIs: 18
Almost famous: Patrick Leyland is Jim Leyland’s son and shares something in common with Omir Santos (both are catchers) and Eric Patterson (both have more baseball-famous kin). The diehards in the crow will remember Argenis Diaz as part of the Pirates’ return for Adam LaRoche.
The next big thing: If you go by Kevin Goldstein’s Top 20 list, the Tigers have two of their top four and three of their top 10 prospects in camp on non-roster deals. That includes third baseman Nick Castellanos, lefty Drew Smyly, and catcher Rob Brantly. Castellanos is the best of the bunch, but Smyly and Brantly could become useful role players.
Too old for this: A first-round pick in 2000, Chris Bootcheck spent parts of five major-league seasons with the Angels and threw a few innings for the Pirates in 2009. He then went to Japan before turning 35 this offseason.
Sticker potential: Barring an injury, the Tigers don’t have room on their 25-man roster for a non-roster invitee—a good thing, because their veteran pieces are uninspiring.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Total NRIs: 17
Almost famous: Zach Miner has a career major league adjusted earned average of 107, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2010 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since. Will Smith was the other prospect in the Albert Callaspo-Sean O’Sullivan trade. Remember when Max Ramirez was a trade rumor staple? Now Ramirez, along with Tony Abreu and Greg Golson, can share big fish stories with their minor-league coworkers.
The next big thing: Meet the prospect kings of the division. The Royals have Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Chris Dwyer hanging around major-league camp. All, unsurprisingly, are on Kevin Goldstein’s Top 20 list. Most people know about Myers, but Goldstein describes Odorizzi as a pitcher with “plus stuff” who “knows how to use it” while giving him a “second-starter ceiling.”
Too old for this: More than five years have passed since Kevin Kouzmanoff was dealt to the Padres for Josh Barfield. Kouzmanoff’s offense slips with every season he spends in the majors; just look at his adjusted-OPS since 2007: 110, 100, 97, 84, and 74. He turns 31 before the trade deadline, so the clock on his rejuvenation attempt is already ticking.
Sticker potential: Unless the Royals do something crazy—like demote Mike Moustakas—there doesn’t appear to be room on the major-league squad for any of the non-roster invitees in camp.

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Total NRIs: 26
Almost famous: Plenty of names who used to grace prospect lists. Everyone knows Sean Burroughs and J.R. Towles, but add in Daryl Thompson, Steve Pearce, and Phil Dumatrait for added flavor.
The next big thing: Infielder Brian Dozier is the lone non-roster player who cracked the Top 20 list. Dozier is short and without the arm to play shortstop, but he grinds through at-bats and could develop into a starting second baseman.
Too old for this: Former Diamondbacks and Angels reliever Jason Bulger is the oldest non-roster player in camp at age 33.
Sticker potential: Luke Hughes and Trevor Plouffe being out of options complicates Burroughs’s chances. As a result, the Twins will likely open the year without a non-roster invitee on the major-league roster unless Towles can persuade the Twins to dump Drew Butera.


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Non-roster Invitee,  Kevin Goldstein,  Roster

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