In the third and final installment of the spring training non-roster invitees review, we move to the outfield. I’d give this group the least likely to crack through. Then again, I have picked the Mariners to make the playoffs each of the last 16 seasons, so what do I know.
Along with Dan Vogelbach, Andreoli was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2011 draft – Vogelbach was taken in the 2nd round, while Andreoli was selected in the 17th round.
The 27-year-old has yet to get a call to the big leagues, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when you look at his declining statistics over his last three years in Triple-A Iowa.
Andreoli’s power numbers have gone up (5 HR in 2015 to 12HR in 2016 to 14 HR in 2017). His batting average and on base percentages are a different story having dropped considerably. Not to mention his strike out numbers have ballooned – exactly 300 strike outs over the last two years.
Aplin was acquired via trade from the Houston Astros in late May of last season and at 26 years old, he has yet a to get a call to the show. Slashing .284/.397/.375/.772 over 461 Double-A at bats he was trending well. But a career slash of .267/.368/.389/.757 show there was a bit of a digression over his four Triple-A seasons.
A combination of decent speed on the base paths (73% successful steal rate) and a plus defensive rating does give Aplin some upside.
At 24 years old, he’s put up a .296/.368/.376/.745 slash line since being drafted out of the University of Washington in the 2015 draft. Solid at the plate. 43 career stolen bases in 52 attempts. Plus arm. There’s a lot to like about this kid.
Most impressive are his Double-A statistics. After being promoted to Double-A Arkansas last season, Bishop slashed .336/.417/.448/.865 in 125 at bats.
Junior Lake is the newest addition to the Mariners, having just signed a minor league deal on February 16th. Although he is new to the M’s, he isn’t new to the major leagues. Having spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues with the Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays, he has had his fair share of opportunities.
In 659 at bats over four years in the bigs, Lake has managed a slash line of .235/.278/.376/.655 with a -3.8 WAR. Not great.
Miller looks to be coming off a breakout 2017. Between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma, he slashed .307/.355/.393/.748. He also stole 35 bases in 43 attempts. That said, his numbers in Tacoma weren’t spectacular (.268/.297/.315/.613). Even more concerning was the miserable K/BB ratio – 33 strike outs to just five walks.
To be fair 41 games is a small sample size and although a 40-man spot may not be in the cards this year, Miller is projecting to see the big leagues sooner than later.
Nieuwenhuis was drafted by the New York Mets in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft and made his MLB debut in 2012. Bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and the major leagues over most of his career, 2016 was the only year he didn’t see the minors. Unfortunately things did not go well – 335 AB, .209/.324/.385/.709 with 13 HR, 44 RBI, 133 K and a 0.6 WAR.
A true utility outfielder, Nieuwenhuis can play all three spots and has shown he’s got some pop in his bat… when he’s making contact.
With Guillermo Heredia out due to injury and Mitch Haniger now dealing with a minor hand injury (per Greg Johns of MLB.com it is believed to be a minor issue), the odds for one of these guys to get onto the 40-man roster have increased slightly.
Dee Gordon, Ben Gamel, and Cameron Perkins are the only other three outfielders on the current 40-man, so there seems to be room to add one more guy. Taylor Motter and Andrew Romine – currently competing for the utility role – both have experience in the outfield though and are the more likely candidates to fill in if any of the current injuries carry into the season.
Andreoli and Aplin seem to be the longest shots at this point. Nieuwenhuis and Lake bring the most major league experience which could wind up benefiting them if it is decided a 40-man move is necessary.
Long term, Bishop and Miller are the guys to bet on. They’ll be patrolling a major league outfield in a relatively short period of time. As for getting a promotion right out of spring training though, not likely.
Will we see one of these guys play their way in? Odds would say it is unlikely. But as the US Men’s Curling Team showed us – anything can happen.