As Spring Training approaches each year, teams across Major League Baseball shuffle their rosters. A big part of this roster shuffling involves making non-roster invitations to players. Such invitations allow teams to have players not currently on the 40-man roster participate in spring training. The majority of the invitations go to veteran players who are looking to make a big league club in order to resurrect failing careers: think names like Heath Bell and Dan Uggla. However, teams also use the opportunity to expose some of their most treasured prospects to big league baseball. A whopping eight of the top 10 prospects in baseball are non-roster invites to Spring Training; and of the two who are not, one is already on the 40-man roster for his club.
The Marlins have invited four of their top twenty prospects to spring training as non-roster players. Each has an opportunity to show Mike Redmond and the rest of the Marlin's coaching staff why they are so highly regarded within the organization. Prospects are ranked according to their spot on Miami's top 20 prospects list.
Avery Romero / 2B / 5-foot-8, 190 pounds / No. 3
Drafted in the third round out of high school, Romero projects as an offensive minded second basemen. After posting a more than respectable .320/.366/.429 slash line in 92 games for Low-A Greensboro, Romero finished the season at High-A Jupiter. There he hit .320/.370/.400. His drawback offensively is his aggressiveness at the plate, as evidenced by his more than two strikeouts for every walk during his 2014 season. Defensively, his arm rates plus for a second basemen; something that could see him profile at third base as me moves through the organization. Although it has improved considerably since becoming a professional, his footwork at second base still needs work. As far and away the best infield prospect in the organization, I suspect the Marlins' big league staff wanted to have a chance to work more closely with Romero this spring. He will most likely open the season at Double-A Jacksonville. If all goes well he may see the big leagues as soon as 2016.
Trevor Williams / RHP / 6-foot-3, 228 pounds / No. 4
Chosen with their second-round pick in the 2013 draft, the Marlins love Williams' combination of size and command. Williams throws three major league average pitches: his fastball, slider, and changeup. During his first two professional seasons, Miami focused on Williams's delivery to increase his ability to throw more downhill. Williams started the season at High-A Jupiter and posted impressive numbers across his 23 starts. His ERA was 2.79 to go along with his above average WHIP of 1.29. It was a different story after his promotion to Double-A Jacksonville; Williams saw his ERA balloon to 6.00 and his WHIP spike to 1.87. Granted he only saw action in three games at the Double-A level. Williams is the most major league ready right-hander in the organization, and the big-league coaching staff want a closer look. His polish and makeup have drawn praise; now he must show he can get quality hitters out. He should open the season in Jacksonville and will likely see a good amount of innings in Triple-A New Orleans.
Nick Wittgren / RHP / 6-foot-2, 215 pounds / No. 13
Wittgren was taken in the ninth round by the Fish 2012. He throws a 91-94 mph heater that becomes plus when you account for his deceptive delivery. Taking into account his above average curve and his clear competitiveness, Wittgren has the stuff and makeup of a back-end bullpen arm. Indeed the Fish see him as their future closer or set-up man. He saved 29 total games across three leagues in 2013, and saved another 20 games for Double-A Jacksonville in 2014. Out of the four prospects invited to spring training, Wittgren has the best opportunity to make the club, even accounting for the strength of the current Miami bullpen. The most likely scenario sees him opening the year in Triple-A New Orleans, but just a phone call away from Miami.
Justin Bohn / SS / 6-foot, 180 pounds / No. 20
Drafted by Miami in the seventh round of the 2013 draft, Bohn projects as someone capable of playing both middle infield spots. He struggled in his professional debut, but hit well in 2014 across Low-A Greensboro and High-A Jupiter; posting 295/376/416 line combined across both levels. Bohn will never be a power hitter, but he does show good plate discipline that allows him to get on base often; though his K/BB ratio did take a hit when he stepped up to High-A midway through the year. His good footwork defensively combined with his below average arm give him an average defensive ranking. Bohn should start 2015 at Jupiter before likely progressing to Double-A Jacksonville. The Marlins' attention was peaked after Bohn hit well during 2014, and time spent learning from the big league coaching staff as well as players such as Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria will only help his career.