A Quick Look at Non-Roster Invitees

Infielder Erick Almonte was added to the list of this year’s non-roster invitees to spring training yesterday, bringing the total number of NRIs to 13.

The Brewers usually do a good job of having a mix of prospects getting their feet wet, organizational bodies just filling spots in camp, and reclamation projects when it comes to their NRIs. Almonte likely falls into that second group, although he did put up some nice numbers for Nashville last season. So far, this year’s list doesn’t have much by the way of reclamation or bounceback projects, with Jeremy Reed being the only player I’d put in that category. Mark Kotsay would be another if he does end up signing, as Ken Rosenthal mentioned earlier this week.

Many of those projects end up going nowhere — remember Scott Schoeneweis in last year’s camp? How about John Halama? Or Trot Nixon in 2009? — but there are a number of success stories.

Jim Edmonds wasn’t on the 40-man roster when he entered camp last year, and wound up playing a significant role on the team. Kameron Loe and Chris Capuano were also NRIs last spring that made positive contributions to the big league club, too, although they didn’t make the team out of camp. In 2009, Chris Narveson was invited to camp, and by the end of the year he was making starts for the big league club.

Is Reed the next NRI find, or is he another Chris Duffy? I tend to think the latter, but who knows. I wasn’t optimistic that Jim Edmonds would be able to hit major league pitching after a year out of baseball, but I ended up being wrong. Maybe Reed will finally figure it out.

One player I think many people will be rooting for, though, is Mark DiFelice. The cutter specialist is working his way back from a torn labrum, and will be in camp this year. The big league bullpen seems to be full, but if DiFelice can get back to being his old self — especially with the dominant cutter — he could prove to be valuable depth once the injury bug inevitably hits the bullpen. In a perfect world, he could end up being this year’s version of Capuano, getting his footing back under him during the spring and slowly working his way up to a mid-to-late season spot in the bullpen.

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