With pitchers and catchers reporting to Milwaukee Brewers facilities in Maryvale, Arizona, in 19 (!!) days, there figure to be multiple competitions for open roster spots at various positions.
And, because every team needs more than the Ryan Braun’s and Yovani Gallardo’s, the often-overlooked Spring Training participants deserve attention coming into Maryvale, as well. We present, without further ado, the complete guide to the nineteen Brewers non roster invitees.
These players have been signed by Milwaukee, often to just minor league deals, and are not placed on the active roster, but have as fair a shot as anyone at making the Opening Day 25-man roster that will be taking the field at Miller Park on April 1. Some will be relegated to the minors, some might make the big league roster, and some may even never take the field as a Brewer.
Exciting stuff, right? Cool. Let’s present the bachelors.
#2 Bobby Crosby, Infield
Remember this guy? Yep, that’s right, the Brewers signed the 33-year-old and former AL Rookie of the Year Crosby to a minor league deal Tuesday. He hasn’t appeared in the MLB since 2010 and has a .236 career batting average over eight seasons split between Oakland, Arizona, and Pittsburgh. Crosby’s most valuable asset to the Brewers would be his versatility; though he broke into the league as a shortstop, he has at least 127 innings under his belt at all four infield slots. He’s not any competition to the starting shortstop spot (which seems to be locked up by Jean Segura) and will compete for a 25-man roster spot with the likes of Jeff Bianchi, Taylor Green, and Donnie Murphy. The knee injury that knocked starting first baseman Corey Hart out for three-to-four months may have caused the Brewers to sign the journeyman infielder. He hit 22 homers in his breakout rookie season but his power numbers have declined significantly and has never hit for average nor gotten on base at a high rate.
#21 Donnie Murphy, middle infield
Of the nineteen non-roster invitees to camp, Murphy, 29, is one of only six with any big league experience. He came up a product of the Royals organization and collected five hits in limited action in 2004. In eleven years of professional baseball, there hasn’t been one in which Murphy didn’t see the buses of the minors. His most active major league season came last year with Miami. He accumulated 25 hits in 129 plate appearances, including three homers and 12 RBI. Murphy’s made a career–albeit limited–of finding his way onto a roster. He’s a career .205 hitter, not flashy on defense, and shows flashes of power for a middle infielder (he hit 17 in 89 games across three levels in 2012).
Fun fact: Baseball Cube lists his numbers similar to former Brewer great Chris Magruder, of all players.
#45 Kelvim Escobar, RHP
The NRI with the most big league experience, Escobar pitched for Toronto from 1997-2003 and Anaheim/Los Angeles from 2004-2009. Coming off an 18-7 year in 2007 with the Angels, Escobar tore his right shoulder in spring training of 2008, requiring season-ending surgery. He opened 2009 in the minors before making one start with the Angels in June…which resulted in another shoulder injury, this one career-ending.
But not so fast!
Escobar, owner of a career 101-91 record and 4.15 era, signed with the Brewers on January 10 after an impressive showing in the Venezuelan Winter League. He has started in slightly less than half of his career starts, but is solely in competition for a slot in the 2013 bullpen. At age 36, this may very well be the final go-round for Escobar. Despite two shoulder injuries, he can still reach the low-to-mid 90′s on his fastball. He has good command of a deceptive arm-action changeup and a mid 70′s curve. The change would be his go-to pitch out of the bullpen, presumably.
Fun fact: Kelvim is the first cousin of former Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar.
#48 Donovan Hand, RHP
Longtime Brewers farmhand (pun unintended, but your applause is much appreciated) Donovan Hand is making his second appearance on a Brewers roster, albeit as a NRI. After making the full-time switch to the bullpen in 2010, Hand’s strikeout numbers have gone up and his earned run average has gone down. Hand went 1-0, giving up two runs in three appearances for the Brewers in the Cactus League in 2011. After saving his two best pro seasons for 2011-12 with AAA Nashville, Hand, a control pitcher, has an outside shot at the 40-man roster at the very least.
Fun fact: Hand is the only player to be drafted out of Hatton High School in tiny Town Creek, Alabama.
#50 Blake Lalli, Catcher
Is Blake Lalli the next Casey McGehee? Their paths are similar, and hopefully the end results will be, too. Lalli, much like McGehee, floated around the Cubs organization as an infielder, making a short May call-up appearance, then signing with Milwaukee in the off-season. He drove in two runs in 15 at-bats before spending the remainder of 2012 in the minors. He was sent to Oakland in the ultra mega blockbuster that sent Anthony Recker to Chicago before being signed by Milwaukee. He can play catcher and first base and may be a valuable asset to have at hand in Nashville or Huntsville, considering the injury to Corey Hart and Milwaukee only carrying two catchers on the 40-man roster. One of five catchers in the group of NRI; you’d figure one or two of those to make the roster may make an appearance with the Brewers down the road.
Fun fact: Played one inning of catcher and grounded out against Addison Reed of the White Sox in his first appearance with the Cubs. He played six positions, including pitcher, for AAA Iowa last year.
#52 Jairo Asencio, RHP
Asencio notched his first MLB victory in 2012 during an 18-game stint as a member of Cleveland’s Bullpen Mafia. Speaking of Mafia, Asencio was kicked off his Dominican Winter League team for “some type of attitude issue”, as deftly put by Tom Haudicourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. On the field, he’s totaled 54 innings between Atlanta, Cleveland, and Chicago (NL). He began 2012 on the Indians’ roster; he was placed on waivers until the Cubs claimed him off waivers on June 1. Over one-third of all his pitches are changeups. He also features a 91-95 mph four-seam and two-seam and a mid 80′s slider.
Fun fact: Bonus points to anyone who remembers his scoreless ninth inning to finish off a 10-0 Cubs route of Milwaukee on June 5.
#61 Darren Byrd, RHP
Byrd, 26, was one of the most reliable relievers last year for AA Huntsville, where he has spent each of the past two full seasons. He posted a 2.59 era, 8.75 K/9, 0.25 HR/9, and 1.29 WHIP – all career bests. Calling his 2012 spring training appearance ‘rough’ would be an understatement; he gave up six runs on five hits, including two homers, while only retiring one batter. Byrd was drafted by the Phillies in the 18th round in 2005.
Fun fact: Keep the bat away from Byrd. He’s struck out in five of six at-bats in the minors.
#62 Hector Gomez, Shortstop
While with Colorado, former Brewers coach Rich Dauer spoke highly of then-Rockies prospect Hector Gomez. His combination of speed, bat, and defense projected him into the Rockies lineup within the next few years; injuries, however, derailed that projection. He collected his first big league hit in 2011. Four of his past five seasons have been shortened by injury, which is much of the reason he’s no longer a part of the Rockies organization. Gomez struggled after joining Milwaukee’s High-A affiliate Brevard County in 23 games, posting a .105/.179/.211 with more strikeouts (19) than total bases (16). Expect to see glimpses of raw talent from Gomez. Haven’t we heard this from about another Gomez before…?
Fun fact: Gomez’s first hit in the majors came off former Brewers not-so-great Guillermo Mota.
#66 Arcenio Leon, RHP
Leon, 26, spent eight seasons in the Astros organization pitching primarily in relief before being claimed off waivers by the Brewers. Historical perspective: he was a prospect when the Astros were in the World Series. He posted a 4.38 era over 63.2 innings with AA Corpus Christi in 2012. Leon was signed on the same day as relief prospect Michael Olmsted this past November. The Venezuelan right hander could be another waiver-wire find for the Brewers, something we’ve grown accustomed to in the Doug Melvin era. When Milwaukee finalized the Mike Gonzalez signing, Leon was outrighted to AAA Nashville.
Fun fact: Leon isn’t the only player named Arcenio to ever play in the Brewers organization. Arcenio Arcangel - the only other player ever with the name Arcenio – pitched for the Helena Brewers of the Pioneer League in 1998.
#72 Dayton Buller, Catcher
Buller, 31, is a 10-year minor leaguer now in his fourth season with the Brewers. At 6 feet, 190 lbs, he’s nor physically imposing nor particularly crafty on the bases. In time with the Giants, Rockies, and Brewers farm systems, Buller is a .241/329./.372 with a higher RC (runs created) than his numbers would suggest. There’s much ambiguity surrounding what the team will do with Buller. After spending all of 2012 with the Sounds in Nashville, he could continue his long minor league career á la Jim Henderson, or they could give that opportunity to one of the other four NRI catchers. After all, it’s fair to assert that one or two of the five won’t be around once April rolls around and the veteran Buller will have to fight for his spot.
Fun fact: Dayton’s brother, Daniel, was drafted by the Red Sox in 2007 and held a 5.52 era over three minor league seasons.
#75 Travis Webb, LHP
Webb, a longtime minor leaguer, is a converted reliever with big strikeout numbers. Through six seasons in the Reds system, he struck out 8.51 per nine innings, including 11.4 and 10.6 splits over the last two years since going to the bullpen full time. His biggest concern is finding the strike zone and getting his walk rates down. His already-longshot chances at making the 25-man roster as a LOOGy took a big hit after Milwaukee’s signings of Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez.
If the Brewers have a realistic use for him this season, it will be tested in big league camp in left-handed batter situations.
Fun fact: Webb missed all of 2008 because of Tommy John surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament.
#77 Jed Bradley, LHP
Bradley,22, along with the next man on the list, Taylor Jungmann, were the two starting pitchers selected by the Brewers in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft. Neither signed until the deadline to sign with Milwaukee, and Bradley, unlike Jungmann, pitched in the Arizona Fall League later that year. The southpaw struck out eight and posted a 6.48 era over two starts and five games. His first full season as a pro was r-u-f-f. After starting out hot (no earned runs in 19 innings), Bradley gave up four or more runs ten times out of twenty starts for High-A Brevard County.
One rough season won’t keep Bradley down; his advanced command of his changeup and ability to locate a 93-94 mph fastball will get him to the Bigs sooner or later. Since getting roughed up for a 5.53 era and 1.67 WHIP for the Manatees, Bradley has since admitted it was a struggle and understands that he’ll get better. He’ll be one of the main prospects to watch in Maryvale.
Fun fact: Jed was the first left handed pitcher drafted in the first round by the Brewers since Kelly Wunsch in 1993. Wunsch never pitched for Milwaukee, but threw in 83 games as a rookie in 2000 and went on to have a modest career in middle relief.
#78 Taylor Jungmann, RHP
Jungmann, three inches taller yet lighter than Bradley, was the 12th overall selection in the aforementioned 2011 draft. His (lack of) command in big league camp was evident, but upon his reassignment to minor league camp, things turned out much better for the righty out of Georgetown, Texas. His ground ball rate was impressive (nearly double the fly ball rate), which helped for his lack of strikeouts. Jungmann went 11-6 with a 3.53 era in what was clearly a developmental year for him.
Expect the Brewers to give Jungmann a few more appearances in big league exhibition games before starting him in AA Huntsville. If all goes well, he could progress to AAA Nashville by season’s end. He’s a smart pitcher whose been tinkering with a curve to expand his repertoire and, hopefully, miss more bats.
Fun fact: Taylor was drafted by the Angels in the 24th round coming out of high school in 2008. He instead pitched for the University of Texas, which worked out well for the Brewers.
#79 Anderson de la Rosa, Catcher
Holy catchers, Batman.
De La Rosa, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2004 as a 19-year-old, has floated around the different levels of the Brewers farm system for nine years. 2013 is his third appearance in big league camp as the Brewers try to figure out what future he holds. He struggles at the plate – a career .231 hitter – but has found his calling card on defense. He was drafted as an outfielder, but his strong arm was one of the reasons he was placed behind the plate. De La Rosa has thrown out 36 percent of 368 would-be base stealers over his pro career. By comparison, cannon assassin Martin Maldonado threw out 42 percent of runners in the minors, placing De La Rosa in the same general range.
Fun fact: Per Baseball Cube, De La Rosa is from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, the same hometown of Arcenio Leon.
#91 Adam Weisenburger, Catcher
Weisenburger, 24, worked his way up from rookie ball to splitting time behind the plate in AA Huntsville in under a calendar year as a pro. He hit .270 in 56 games between Helena and Brevard County before receiving the promotion to Huntsville on May 31. Adapting to the more advanced pitching was an issue for Weisenburger; his average dipped to .187 but the silver lining was his patience at the plate and displaying an impressive arm. The Minneapolis product kept a .294 OBP and flashed a skill set worthy of the best defensive catcher title in the farm system from Baseball America. This will be his first time in big league camp.
Fun fact: Adam played for the St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwoods League in 2010, the same league as the Lakeshore Chinooks that play their home games in Mequon.
#92 Hunter Morris, First base
Hunter Morris needs to introduction to Brewers fans, a group he claimed are “so in tune with all levels of their organization” in a radio with 1250 WSSP on Tuesday afternoon. But here’s some words on the impressive youngster, anyway.
Morris was named Minor League Player of the Year in 2012 after tearing up Southern League pitching while with the AA Huntsville Stars. He led the league with 28 long balls, 113 RBI, 294 total bases, and 158 hits, was second with 40 doubles and a .563 slugging percentage, and so on and so forth. Baseball America has him ranked as the number four top prospect after coming into his own as a power hitter. Even with Corey Hart’s knee injury, a crowded infield and desire to get Morris consistent playing time will most likely place him with Nashville to start the season, much like with Jungmann.
There’s not much question as to Morris’ future status as a big leaguer; the speculation comes with where Morris will play. Will the Brewers keep Hart? Move him back to the outfield to clear room for Morris? Or trade him altogether? We may get a glimpse of what the Brewers will want to do with Morris, whose hype is at an all-time high.
Fun fact: One of Hunter’s favorite hobbies is, fittingly enough, duck hunting. Figures.
#93 Kentrail Davis, Outfield
The lone outfielder of the NRI’s, Davis is one of the fastest players in the farm system. He has 52 stolen bases over the last two years, spent between Brevard County and Huntsville. Davis, 24, has average power and patience, but struggles with contact. He struck 121 times in 122 games against Southern League pitching and also needs to work on pitch selection. He was a catalyst in the Stars lineup and his base running helped Morris lead the league in RBI. Davis is a part of a crowded minor league outfield, as evident with seven outfielders on the 40-man roster in addition to first-year players Victor Roache and Mitch Haniger waiting for their turn.
Fun fact: Davis reached as high as fifth on the list of the Brewers top prospects in 2011.
#94 Rafael Neda, Catcher
This is the fifth and final catcher, I swear.
Neda, 24, is making his second appearance in big league camp after a brief stint last season. He went 2-4 and scored two runs in a spring game last season. His power numbers were down, but Neda displayed an ability to hit for contact and get on base at a respectable rate as the catcher for the Midwest League champion Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last season. He was always a good hitting catcher while at the University of New Mexico (.367/.442/.587), so there’s still time for Neda to fulfill his potential at the plate. We’ll be sure to be seeing more of the Arizona native in years to come.
Fun fact: Rafael is on Twitter, and is one of the more fun prospects to follow. Go. Follow the man!
#95 Rob Wooten, RHP
Wooten, 27, has served his time well in the minors for the Brewers and may have a fighter’s chance at a promotion to the big league club at some point this season at the very least. He worked his way up to Nashville in his fourth year in the minors, where he appeared in 40 games, of which he saved seven. He doesn’t project to be a big league closer after Tommy John surgery in 2010, but a plus-slider has given him nothing but success in his time in the minors. Wooten, drafted in the tenth round out of the University of North Carolina in 2008, has a career 2.85 era in 227 innings. He’s very much so in the competition for one of the final spots in a largely revamped bullpen in 2013. At the least, he’ll open the season in AAA with a chance at making his MLB debut at some point in the season.
Fun fact: Speedy Cubs outfielder Tony Campana was taken three spots after Wooten in the 13th round in 2008.
What are your thoughts on the Brewers Non Roster Invitees? Leave comments and questions below! Follow @ReviewngTheBrew on Twitter or the author (and most active Twitterist of the staff), Curt Hogg. Be sure to like us on Facebook, too.