Four unlisted guests who could make the Yankees’ big league squad – The Mercury News


There are a staggering 29 players in Yankee spring training who were invited without any guarantee of making the roster.

Off-roster invitees, players who aren’t currently on the 40-man roster but can compete for a spot on it, rarely make much of an impact. But it is quite common that at least one, at the very least, makes the team leave the camp. Last year it was Marwin Gonzalez for the Yankees, who had a very forgettable tenure at stripes, but showed that the Yankees are open to rewarding a strong spring performance with a spot in the clubhouse and all the cushy perks that the accompany.

Of those 29 players, around 25 or so will disappear into the dustbin of history. But a few weeks in Tampa might be enough to guarantee them a spot somewhere in an organization, whether it’s the Yankees or another team that wants to take a chance on them.

Looking at this year’s Yankee NRI crop, four seem to have the best chance of making the team, though that’s still unlikely for all of them unless a more skilled teammate is injured or traded.


Projecting the Yankee bullpen, we know for sure that Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, Michael King, Lou Trivino, Tommy Kahnle and Ron Marinaccio will all break camp with the big league team, barring injury. Whichever half of the German-Clarke Schmidt duo doesn’t get the final spot in the starting rotation is likely to get the eighth spot in the bullpen. But if the Yankees opt to give the German the fifth starting spot and send Schmidt down to the minors, Weber has the most likely chance to crash the party among the unlisted invitees.

Weber is 32 years old and made his MLB debut in 2015. This is not a wide-eyed kid at his first rodeo. While he never set the world on fire in his 68 appearances on The Show, Weber has put up solid numbers in 2022 in both the minor and major leagues. In a five-game limited run with the Yankees, he allowed just one earned run, a solo home run to Rays catcher Francisco Mejia.

In a larger Triple-A sample, the right-handed veteran posted a respectable 3.86 ERA in 39.2 innings. He won’t hit many batters, but he’s been on the block enough for the Yankees to trust him. Weber is also out of minor league options, which could help his case. The same goes for Albert Abreu, 26 years old. Abreu has had a turbulent period with the big club over the last three years, but he offers a much greater advantage and is already in the 40-man squad.


It’s not every day that a team gives up on a guy under 30 with as much latent potential as Willie Calhoun.

However, that’s exactly what the Texas Rangers did with the mighty boy they got in the Yu Darvish trade. Calhoun was Texas’ No. 2 prospect in 2018, and in 2019 he hit 21 home runs for the Rangers in just 83 games. In many ways, Calhoun was to the Rangers what Clint Frazier was to the Yankees, a highly touted field prospect with a number of tempting skills that never united him for a consistent period of time.

Calhoun’s 2019 campaign is far better than anything Frazier produced in the bigs, however. Unlocking the power that allowed Calhoun to hit . 524 that year is definitely something Yankees hitting coaches are interested in. Carpenter) had a much longer record of MLB success.

The criticism of Calhoun is that he lacks true position on defense — Statcast’s Outs Above Average ranked him one of the top 20 worst outfielders in the entire league in 2019 — and he doesn’t walk. He tremendously improved his walk rate last season, which was admittedly only 22 games split between Rangers and Giants. A strong camp from Calhoun could still be enough to earn him this year’s Carpenter bench role. For what it’s worth, the team gave him the same No. 24 jersey that Carpenter wore.


If the Yankees decide that one or both of the Oswald Peraza-Oswaldo Cabrera duo needs to start the season in the minor leagues, Difo will join the team. They need a useful fielder on the bench — Cabrera is still the heavy favorite — and Difo has more than 350 MLB starters at second base, third base and shortstop. The 30-year-old forward isn’t an offensive threat, but he’s a more than capable insurance option should Peraza, Cabrera or both be coached in Grapefruit League games.

Of the 29 NRI’s, Difo has the longest seniority in the major league and has already shone a bit in the team’s training complex, taking Domingo German to bottom twice in live hitting practice on Sunday.


The oldest of the players in the undrafted guest position, Ortega is also the least removed from consistent MLB playing time. The 31-year-old played in 103 games for the Cubs in 2021 and 118 more last year, recording a line of .265/.344/.408 both seasons.

A very patient hitter with enough speed and basic running instincts to steal 12 bases in 21 and 22, Ortega can be a perfectly good fourth outfielder. While every forward-looking Yankee fan would prefer to see these representatives go to Cabrera, the precocious youngster had literally never played off the field at any point in his professional career until this past summer. Ortega isn’t a strong defensive outfielder, per se, but he could absolutely handle right field at Yankee Stadium as needed. He’s an incredibly unsexy option, but that’s the main point of the unlisted guests.

If Ortega ends up making more than 100 appearances for the major league team, the Yankees will be in trouble. But if they need someone to keep a seat warm in April until someone else is ready, a guy like Ortega (who appeared in six different MLB seasons) can do that.


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