St. Louis Cardinals Invite 25 Non-Roster Players to Spring Training

Nov 5, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; West outfielder Harrison Bader of the St Louis Cardinals during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; West outfielder Harrison Bader of the St Louis Cardinals during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cardinals have revealed their list of non-roster invitees for spring training.

One of the most promising signs for baseball fans that baseball is near comes when teams reveal the list of non-roster players that will be attending major-league spring training. The St. Louis Cardinals took a little bit longer than usual to announce their non-roster invitees this year, but they published that list of players on Thursday evening.

The 25 non-roster invitees will include pitchers Sandy Alcantara, Jack FlahertyKendry Flores, Austin GomberCorey Littrell, Josh Lucas, Trey NielsenZach Phillips, Daniel Poncedeleon, Arturo Reyes, Rob Rowland, Jordan Schafer, and Ryan Sherriff, catchers Eric Fryer, Andrew KniznerGabriel Lino, Jeremy Martinez, Dennis Ortega, and Alberto Rosario, infielders Paul DeJongWilfredo Tovar, and Patrick Wisdom, and outfielders Harrison Bader, Todd Cunningham, and Chad Huffman.

Bader (No. 3), Flaherty (No. 4), Alcantara (No. 9), DeJong (No. 15), Gomber (No. 18), Nielsen (No. 28), Flores (No. 29), and Littrell (No. 30) all rank among MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 prospects on their offseason list. Fryer and Rosario spent time in the majors with the Cardinals last season, while Flores, Phillips, Schafer, Tovar, Cunningham, and Huffman have previously spent time in the majors with other clubs.

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The organization made some interesting decisions on invitations at catcher, where lesser players tend to get invited because of the need for bodies to catch pitchers’ early bullpen sessions, but an invitation is nonetheless an honor. Jesse Jenner, a 2015 seventh-rounder who reached the upper minors in his first pro season, and Brian O’Keefe, a 23-year-old who had a .796 OPS with 13 homers between Low A and High A in 2016, were both left off the camp roster.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Martinez and Andrew Knizner–two 2016 draftees who thrived in short-season ball–were invited to attend camp, as was 19-year-old Dennis Ortega, a 2014 Venezuelan signee who clearly must have some intriguing defensive skills, seeing as he has yet to hit a homer in 397 pro at-bats between the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League.

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Notable players who missed out on the opportunity to attend the Cardinals’ major-league camp include reliever Mitch Harris, who pitched for the Cardinals in 2015 but spent the last year having and then recovering from elbow ligament repair surgery, 24-year-old righthander Chris Ellis, who was acquired in the trade for Jaime García earlier this offseason and was rated by as the Cardinals’ number 23 prospect at last update, and St. Louis native Luke Voit, who had an .849 OPS with 19 homers at Double-A Springfield in 2016.

With that said, the Cardinals tend to use an extensive cast of players who aren’t official non-roster invitees in spring training games. Many of their road trips are to destinations that are between two and three hours away, so with veterans often skipping those road trips, other players are called up to fill out the roster and often get exposure through those opportunities.

GM John Mozeliak has openly expressed a desire to add a lefthanded-hitting outfielder before the beginning of spring training, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold wrote Thursday that the organization is still attempting to fill that need. The options are growing thinner by the day, however. Veteran Sam Fuld, who the Cardinals have been linked to, is still out there, but he could miss quite a bit of spring training while playing for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

Next: Cardinals Give Carlos Martinez a Five-Year Extension

Other lefty-hitting outfielders still on the free agent market include Michael Bourn, David Lough, and switch-hitters Coco Crisp and Angel Pagan.