Usually, a list of non-roster invitees is pretty boring. There are usually one or two prospects that you'd like to see in action, and maybe there are one or two guys who might be able to turn a dark horse candidacy into a roster spot, but in terms of difference makers this list is notoriously light. Or at least, that's almost always the case.
In February, the Minnesota Twins will invite a number of their top prospects to spring training. Recent 40-man roster additions like Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer will of course be in attendance, and they'll join the following players as Minnesota's vaunted farm system makes its most visible impression yet.
Right-handed pitchers (4): Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey, Mark Hamburger, Adrian Salcedo
Berrios, 20, climbed the ranks in 2014. Starting in Advanced-A Fort Myers and ending the season in Triple-A Rochester, he took on increasingly mature competition while impressing everyone on and off the field. He doesn't have a chance to break camp with the club, and should start the season in Double-A, but a late-season cup of coffee is definitely in the cards. He would need to be added to the 40-man roster first, though, so it would have to be an impressive campaign.
Duffey, 23, impressed at Double-A with his command and his composure. His velocity and stuff play up when he's in relief, but we've seen the Twins take this route with plenty of other pitchers in recent years - they want to see how long he can stick in the rotation. Right now he looks like a good minor league player, with potential for organizational depth at the Major League level.
Hamburger, 27, made five appearances in relief for the Rangers in 2011. He went to Texas from Minnesota in 2008 for the return of Eddie Guardado, and bounced from there to Houston and San Diego before playing for St. Paul in 2013 and ending up back in Minnesota. This seems more like an opportunity for a great guy and solid organizational reliever than a legitimate audition for the future, which separates him from many of the players on this list, but I'm also on the outside looking in.
Salcedo, 23, is back in Minnesota after another opportunity to depart. He also missed being selected in the Rule 5 draft. If he can find some consistency, I still think Salcedo has potential to be a bullpen arm for the Twins down the line - but he should make Triple-A this year, which means that with a good season he's A) unlikely to make it through another Rule 5, and B) unlikely to stay in Minnesota if he doesn't see an opportunity with the big league club on the horizon. Should he have a good season and should the Twins like him, they'll need to add him to the roster.
Left-handed pitchers (2): Ryan O'Rourke, Taylor Rogers
O'Rourke, 26, understands that his path to the Major Leagues lies in being a LOOGY. He throws a couple of fastballs and a couple of sliders with a show-me curve, so he has options to develop a repertoire. It's a path fraught with other internal options, with guys like Logan Darnell, Aaron Thompson, and Jason Wheeler already on the 40-man. Perhaps by shooting for that specific role he can surpass those three pitchers where it comes to a pure relief role, since they're all starters in the minors.
Rogers, 24, is a dark horse favorite amongst fans of the Minnesota farm system. He doesn't throw very hard, with an upper-80s fastball which can get him labeled as a soft-tosser, but he also induces ground balls. As long as the Twins keep him in a starter's role he'll probably be buried on the depth chart for the time being. Still, it's worth keeping an eye on him.
Catchers (4): Mitch Garver, Tyler Grimes, Dan Rohlfing, Stuart Turner
Garver, 23, pushed himself to the top of the organizational catcher rankings by hitting .298/.399/.481 this year. He's not the defensive star fellow '12 draftee Turner gets credit for being, but he was able to throw out a 32% of base runners. While his developmental progress means he isn't on the radar for 2015, another good season means he could be knocking on the door in the next year or two.
Grimes, 24, is listed as a catcher but is more a jack of all trades. Just in 2014, he played 19 games at catcher, 34 games at second base, 12 games in center field, five games at third base, five games in right field, and four games in left. In 2012 he even played shortstop. Grimes will be in spring training to help handle all of the extra pitchers in camp.
Rohlfing, 25, is similar to Grimes in that he plays multiple positions. But he is primarily a catcher. With a career minor league line of .243/.319/.327, his job in spring training will be to help with all of the catching duties.
Turner, 22, has a higher profile than Garver because he was drafted in the 3rd round instead of the 9th, but his hit tool has yet to develop. The defensive acumen is allegedly impressive, but he'll profile as a backup until he proves he can hit just a little bit more. He spent all of 2014 in Fort Myers, so the Twins will take their time with his development.
Infielders (4) James Beresford, Doug Bernier, Argenis Diaz, Heiker Meneses
Beresford, 25, has chosen to return to the Twins as organizational depth. He can play any of the three positions to the left of first base, primarily second. If he were on the 40-man roster he'd be a decent choice to be called up as a backup when an injury strikes, but he doesn't seem likely to earn an add from his position as a non-roster invitee.
Bernier, 34, is in a similar spot. He's appeared in 40 games for Minnesota these last two years, and he's a capable defensive infielder. But, like Beresford, he seems unlikely to be added to the 40-man roster unless the infield situation deteriorates unexpectedly.
Diaz, 27, appeared in 22 games for Oakland in 2010. Primarily a shortstop, he may be Rochester's starter next summer. He won'd make an impact on the Major League roster.
Meneses, 23, signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2008. His defensive skills didn't develop like Boston hoped and his hit tool never developed, and he's become a minor league infield utility player.
Outfielders (4): Byron Buxton, Eric Farris, Danny Ortiz, Shane Robinson
Buxton, 21, is looking for a fresh start. The Twins will give him a look so that all of the decision makers can see him first-hand and get a read on his health and his development and whatever rust that exists which will need to be shaken off. He won't break camp with the big league club, so don't even hope for it, but they may leave him in camp for an extended period.
Farris, 28, had 14 brief appearances for Milwaukee between 2011 and 2012. He's been in the Minnesota system these last two years, but in spite of owning an average hit tool and plus speed he hasn't been able to turn that into anything more than organizational depth. He was Rochester's starting center fielder in 2014, and I anticipate that continuing in 2015 - although perhaps not in center field, especially if Minnesota finds a reason to send Aaron Hicks there fora couple of months.
Ortiz, 24, gave the Red Wings 62 games in left field last year. He has some power but not enough to really intrigue. Even in a worst-case scenario, I can't see him working his way into gaining an add to the 40-man roster.
Robinson, 30, has appeared in 268 games for the Cardinals, owning a Major League triple slash of .231/.303/.308. He's capable of playing all three outfield positions pretty well and he has a good eye at the plate, but it's his hit tools (or lack thereof) that keep him from holding down a big league roster spot. Robinson is a good dark horse candidate for working his way onto the 40-man roster, particularly if A) the Twins don't find another outfielder they like this winter, and B) the Twins decide - or have already decided - that it would be in the best interest of Aaron Hicks to start the season in Triple-A.