Spring Training Report- Non Roster Invitees, Pitchers
The Atlanta Braves are ready to open up Spring Training camp on Thursday, February 13. While, the majority of the 40-man roster returns from a season ago, the roster did take some hits this off season, losing Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Brian McCann to free agency. However, the Braves are locked and loaded to compete for their second straight East Division crown and their third straight postseason berth.
The Braves will enter camp with 62 players, inviting 22 non-roster players to join the fold in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Many of the players will get their first taste of big league camp, while others will compete for a chance at the 25-man roster. Arms are always at a premium, so we will go over all the hurlers that will report to the Disney complex on Thursday. The Braves invited 11 non-roster pitchers, left-handers Ian Thomas, Daniel Rodriguez, Atahualpa Severino and right-handers Lay Batista, J.R. Graham, Jason Hursh, Mark Lamm, Cody Martin, Yunesky Maya, Gus Schlosser and Shae Simmons.
Among the 11 invited, two have big league experience as Severino and Maya spent some time with the Washington Nationals. In 2009, Maya fled Cuba and signed with the Nationals. However, the 32-year old right-hander didn’t live up to the four-year, six-million dollar deal that he signed with Washington, going 1-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 16 games (10 starts) for the Nationals over the last four years. He will compete for a bullpen spot along with former teammate Severino, but they could end up with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Former Los Angeles Angels’ farmhand Lay Batista is the only other non-roster invitee that did not start his career in the Braves system. Batista reached Double-A last year, going 5-8 with a 3.37 ERA in 122.2 IP. He has relief experience, but primarily started the last two seasons. He will likely start in Double-A Mississippi, but he will get a long look at big league camp.
The rest of the invitees have been with the Braves since they began their professional careers. Left-handers Ian Thomas and Daniel Rodriguez are interesting prospects, as the Braves’ bullpen enters camp with one lefty reliever. While, Jonny Venters recovers from “Tommy John” surgery, the Braves will look for another southpaw to emerge during Spring Training. Thomas had a strong showing in 2013, going 7-8 with a 2.76 ERA in 104.1 IP. He struck out 123 batters while walking 37. Rodriguez’ numbers did not resemble Thomas’, but he has been in big league camp two straight seasons and starred in Triple-A Gwinnett last year before an injury shutdown his 2013 campaign.
Rodriguez was not the only one that was shut down with an injury in 2013, as Graham had to miss the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. Graham made a name for himself during last Spring Training, tossing in 9.0 IP, allowing six hits, striking out five and recording two saves. He was sent down to Double-A Mississippi, landing on the DL in May.
With Graham’s absences on the M-Braves roster, Schlosser, Lamm and Martin, had a chance to shine for the Braves Double-A affiliate. Schlosser had the most impressive resume, going 7-6 with a 2.39 ERA in 25 starts, but he was the only one of the three that was not promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett. Lamm and Martin got their first taste of the International League circuit. Lamm went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA, while Martin went 3-4 with a 3.49 ERA for the G-Braves.
Finally, the last two players that will get a look during big league camp will be Simmons and Hursh. Simmons dominated Class-A Rome, recording a club-record 24 saves, surpassing former record holder Sung Ki Jung of the inaugural 2003 club. While, last season first round pick Hursh will get his first taste of the big leagues during Spring Training. Hursh lived up to the billing last year, going 1-1 with a 0.67 ERA in 27.0 IP for Class-A Rome. The former Cowboy has an impressive upside, but he is likely heading to Double-A Mississippi to continue his development.
The 11 pitchers that are heading to big league camp will get a long look during Spring Training, but it is likely that all players will start the season in one of the Braves Minor League systems.
Tomorrow we will go over the 11 position players that have been invited to big league camp.