Fringe talents and bench fillers aren't as easy to find as they used to be.
Casting around for the Quadruple-A players who might be able to help a team isn't quite so easy as it might have been in years past. The number of teams carefully scouring the minor league free agents pool for "hidden" talent is greater than ever before, and finding people who can pitch or who have the defensive chops to handle up-the-middle positions makes it an even more difficult exercise. Most of the players listed here have had that one thing they were missing-good power but not great for a premium slugging position, or a blown past opportunity, or a clean bill of health-that has helped to keep them in the minors, but there's always the chance that they might get a shot at helping a club.
Ryan Hanigan, C, Reds Age:: 28 2008: Louisville Bats, .250 EqA What's He Do? A seven-year vet of the Reds' minors, and considering his age, Hanigan's not really a prospect. You might argue that I'm cheating here by running with a backstop who seems like a lock to make the Reds' Opening Day roster to caddy for Ramon Hernandez after looking good during last year's cup of coffee (.271/.367/.365 in 98 PA), but after spending the last four years above A-ball, he seems like a better pick than un-catcherly offense-first options like J.R. House. Hanigan is a decent catch-and-throw type who threw out almost 38 percent of opposing stolen-base attempts for Louisville last season, and he draws a few walks and covers the plate well with a no-power stroke.
The Braves strike NRI gold with Russell Branyan. The Astros do what they need to do to compete in the NL Central. Everything you ever wanted to read about Eric Karros. The Padres address their chasm in center. These and other news, notes, and Kahrlisms in today's Transaction Analysis.
Tom Goodwin and company could allow the rest of the NL Central to catch the Cubs with Sammy Sosa out. Steve Sparks could be tossing knucklers in the 9th in Detroit. The Marlins cross their fingers on Dontrelle Willis with Jack McKeon now running the ship. Plus news and notes from 14 other teams.
Grapefruit and Cactus League games are just starting, a time when it's
tough to identify many of the players without a program, especially those
with numbers higher than Tiger Woods's scoring average. In hockey those
numbers are often worn by the likes of Jaromir Jagr or Eric Lindros, but in
baseball, they're given to players who are merely hoping to catch
somebody's eye. Many are doled out to the species known as the non-roster
Every club has at least a dozen NRIs. Some teams, like the Reds, have more
NRIs than the Diamondbacks have uniform combinations, although less than a
handful have even a slim chance of wearing the team colors come April
Fools' Day. The primary benefit of giving a player a non-roster invitation
is that it allows the team to defer making judgments on who to move off the
40-man roster, after they've seen players in game conditions. Teams are
just like the rest of us: they prefer to avoid making tough decisions,
especially when they could lose a useful player by trying to slip him
through waivers, or when an athlete's career hangs in the balance.