Oakland Athletics Non-Roster Invitees To Watch In Spring Training
By Matt McHugh
In addition to all of the players on the Oakland Athletics 40-man roster, there are a number of non-roster players who have been invited to big league camp–the “non-roster invitees.”
These players are a mix of young-stud prospects (like Matt Olson) and veterans vying for a big-league job (like Barry Zito). Regardless, all of them will be working hard to earn one of the highly coveted 40-man roster spots, or else they will either be assigned to a minor league team or released.
I’m only going to highlight the players who may make a legitimate impact early in 2015. Long-term prospects (like Olson) or extreme long-shot veterans (like Zito) won’t be talked about here.
For the full list of non-roster invitees (updated roughly last week or so), click here.
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Brad Mills, LHP
Mills was acquired in June of last year for one dollar, yes ONE DOLLAR, from the Milwaukee Brewers. He made three starts with the A’s, two of which were quality starts, before being designated for assignment and claimed by the Blue Jays in July.
He struggled immensely in Toronto and was signed to a minor league deal by the A’s this offseason. Mills is 29 years old, and has seemed to settle in to the league as a typical quadruple-A player–too good for AAA but not good enough to stick in the big leagues.
However, he showed flashes of being a solid back-of-the-rotation major league starter last year, so he could be a sleeper candidate to be the fifth starter.
Fernando Rodriguez, RHP
Rodriguez was picked up with Jed Lowrie from Houston before the 2013 season, but underwent Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch at all that year. In 2014, he thrived in AAA with a 1.97 ERA and 10.4 K/9 rate. With Sean Doolittle probably out to start the year, he could compete with a 40-man roster player for that final bullpen spot on the opening day roster.
Pat Venditte, RHP/LHP
Venditte is the ambidextrous “switch pitcher” who signed a minor league contract with the A’s this offseason after spending seven years in the Yankees farm system. He is more than just a circus show however, as he put together a solid season in AAA last year.
Granted, he’s 29 years old and has never pitched in the majors, but his career minor league numbers are impressive across the board with a 2.54 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 4.28 K/BB rate. He could earn a roster spot with a strong spring.
Andy Parrino, INF
Parrino is one of the most experienced guys on this list, but his chances of making the 25-man opening day roster are slim at best. He’s played parts of the last four years in the big leagues with the Padres and A’s, and has struggled with the bat while excelling with the glove.
In Sacramento last year he hit a respectable .286, but his career minor league batting average of .264 and career major league average of .179 will make it difficult for him to crack the opening day roster. He’ll probably either stick around as a depth player in Nashville or be placed on waivers, but his only real chance of making the big-league roster is if somebody gets hurt or traded. In either case he would be the next man up in the infield.
Jason Pridie, OF
Pridie also has a fair amount of big-league experience, mostly with the Mets in 2011. He’s speedy (28 steals in AAA last year) and good defensively, but he’s 31 years old and hasn’t figured out how to hit in the majors yet, so his ceiling is pretty low.
Pridie is the only outfielder non-roster invitee, but, like Parrino, his only chance of making the big league roster is if one of the five outfielders on the 40-man roster gets injured or traded. But if Sam Fuld or Josh Reddick gets hurt in spring training, Pridie is the only other lefty-hitting outfielder at camp, so he could be a temporary replacement.
Ryan Verdugo, LHP
Verdugo is a 27-year-old lefty who has spent most of the last two years pitching in AAA. The Oakland Athletics gave him a minor-league contract this offseason after splitting time with the Royals and Red Sox farm systems last year.
Pitching as both a starter and reliever, Verdugo had a 3.94 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 rate last year. Lefties hit just .203 against him last year, so the A’s might want to consider using him in a LOOGY role. However there’s a lot of pitching depth on the 40-man roster, so Verdugo will need a nearly perfect spring to earn the final bullpen spot. He’ll most likely be a middle reliever in AAA-Nashville unless the A’s need another lefty in the bullpen.
Brock Huntzinger, RHP
Originally a 3rd round pick by the Red Sox in 2007, Huntzinger has had mixed results in his minor league career and has yet to make it to the big leagues. However in 2012 he went from being a starter to a reliever and he has excelled much more in that role.
"From Melissa Lockard’s scouting report on OaklandClubhouse.com:“Huntzinger is a three-pitch pitcher who doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but he pitches aggressively and throws a lot of strikes. The right-hander’s fastball sits generally 90-93 and gets a little late movement, although it is mostly straight. He also has a slider that can be a strike-out pitch for him when he is throwing it well and a change-up that mixes in well with his other two pitches.”"
Huntzinger, like Verdugo will have lots of competition for the final bullpen spot, but should be a nice righty reliever to have in AAA, and may get a call-up midseason.
Alden Carrithers, INF
Carrithers spent all of last year in Sacramento and played well with 14 steals and a .381 OBP. He can play all over the infield, and should be a nice depth player in Nashville this year. His best chance of making the roster is as a backup infielder if Eric Sogard gets hurt or struggles. Carrithers is left-handed and hits righties much better than lefties, so if the A’s lineup versus righty starters is struggling, Carrithers would be a solid replacement.