While the full list of non-roster invitees to the Toronto Blue Jays‘ major league spring training camp hasn’t been put up on their website, they were announced in a program handed out at a season-ticket-holders event on Wednesday night.
While no formal announcement was made during the “State of the Franchise” event (that I attended, representing my own blog Blue Jays from Away), in the printed program, several pitchers and only a few position players were named in addition to those players who had been extended invites along with their minor league contracts.
Players signing minor league free agent contract with the Blue Jays who were invited to spring training include pitchers Tomo Ohka, Marcus Walden and lefty Juan Perez (who was very effective with the Blue Jays and Buffalo Bisons last season). Catcher Mike Nickeas re-upped with the club and was invited to spring training as were infielders Andy LaRoche and Munenori Kawasaki.Also signing on as minor league free agents in the offseason were Jonathan Diaz, Chris Getz, Jared Goedert, Dan Johnson, Steve Tolleson and outfielder Ricardo Nanita.
Blue Jays minor leaguers who received invitations include top prospects Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, right-handed reliever John Stilson and left-handed veteran Ricky Romero who has undergone some difficult times since his All-Star 2011 season.
Of the group, the only player with a real chance to actually earn a major league spot is Marcus Stroman. The club has spoken very highly of him and have said that, in an ideal world, he opens the season in Triple-A Buffalo to get more experience but general manager Alex Anthopoulos believes that Stroman is major league ready now.
Sanchez is tagged to start the season in Double-A New Hampshire, but with an explosive first half, could either end up in Buffalo or Toronto by season’s end. Most pitchers invited to spring training are in tough to make the club, mainly because Toronto has about 10 (or more) starters on the 40-man roster already as well as more than enough relievers, several of whom are out of options, meaning that John Stilson and Juan Perez will have big challenges ahead of them to make the major league squad.
Many of the infielders have been signed to provide depth in Triple-A. This means that players like Andy Burns and Kevin Nolan, who both had productive seasons in Double-A New Hampshire, will likely be back there to start 2014. Derrick Chung, who hit .287 for the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays and was a full-time catcher for the first time in his professional career, earns himself a nice reward to a break out season that included a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.