Daily Distractions: Which non-roster invitees have a chance at making the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster?

Clint Robinson

Who is non-roster invitee Clint Robinson, and does he have a chance of making the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster? (Answer: Not really) (Getty Images)

With the addition of Justin Turner on Wednesday, the Dodgers have extended spring training invitations to 17 non-roster players:

Infielders: Turner, Chone Figgins, Miguel Rojas, Brendan Harris, Clint Robinson
Outfielder: Joc Pederson
Catchers: JC Boscan, Griff Erickson, Chris O’Brien, Miguel Olivo
Pitchers: Sam Demel, Carlos Frias, Zach Lee, Daniel Moskos, Red Patterson, Chris Reed, Ross Stripling

Two years ago, Jamey Wright made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster out of camp as an NRI. Last year, no non-roster invitees made the roster — though you figure Kevin Gregg was close. The Dodgers’ surplus of starting pitchers squeezed Gregg out of a job in Los Angeles, and he eventually became the Chicago Cubs’ closer.

So recent history says that the 17 NRIs are competing for one job at most. Not all have a realistic chance of making the team. In most cases, injuries will dictate the winner of the logjam. That’s particularly true for Pederson, the catchers and the pitchers.

The Dodgers are carrying four outfielders (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig) with large guaranteed contracts. The fifth is Scott Van Slyke, who has value as a corner outfielder/first baseman with power off the bench. Pederson, who turns 22 on April 21, can turn heads in camp if his .912 OPS in the Venezuelan Winter League was no fluke, but that might be all he can do. There’s no job for him without another significant injury hitting the outfield — and remember that Kemp still isn’t running on his surgically repaired ankle.

Among the catchers, all A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz need to do to reprise their 2013 Opening Day jobs is stay healthy. Olivo, who’s played in more than 1,100 major-league games since 2002, knew that when he signed with the Dodgers on Jan. 17. He’ll try to push Drew Butera for the primary catcher’s job at Triple-A Albuquerque.

The pitching staff is also surprisingly stacked with veterans who are difficult to displace. Lee, Stripling, Reed, Patterson and Frias are competing to make an impression and learn the ropes in their first camp, not land an Opening Day job. Demel and Moskos have major-league experience but are slotted for roles in the Albuquerque bullpen and rotation, respectively.

So that leaves us with the infielders. Second base is an open competition until Alex Guerrero learns the position defensively. Until we see him in camp, it’ll be hard to pin down Guerrero’s learning curve. Other than starting third baseman Juan Uribe, and light-hitting utilityman Justin Sellers, Dee Gordon is the only player on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster with experience at second base. He only learned the position last year. There’s a reasonably wide opening here.

Rojas will go as far as his bat will take him – historically, he’s struggled to hit at the Triple-A level.

The same goes for Figgins, whose 68 OPS+ the last three seasons isn’t enough to justify a 40-man roster spot. Figgins will have to prove in camp that his bat speed at age 36 is as major-league ready as his foot speed and defensive versatility — he’s played 647 career games at third base, 274 at second and 27 at shortstop. No other player in camp is quite as versatile, and the longtime leadoff hitter will help his cause if he can steal a base.

In some ways, the 33-year-old Harris is a slower version of Figgins. He’s able to play third base, shortstop and second base, and carries a light bat (.695 career OPS).

Robinson is a 28-year-old first baseman whose career consists of 3,337 at-bats in the minors and four in the majors. With at least two first basemen ahead of him on the depth chart in camp, Robinson’s chances of getting a major league at-bat this season range from slim to none.

Turner is an above-average fielding second baseman and has been for parts of five major-league seasons. What really makes him stand out in this group is his track record at the plate. Turner is the definition of an average hitter, as a 100 OPS+ and 0.9 oWAR last season attest. Baseball-reference.com’s version of oWAR rated Turner a 1.6 in 2011, his only full major-league season.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti have agreed that second base can be a defensive position in 2014. But if they want to give the second-base job on Opening Day to an above-average fielder and an average hitter, Turner might be the only man in camp who fits that description.

Some bullet points for a Ronald Reagan Day:
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Dodgers send Brian Barden, Omar Luna, Jeremy Moore to minor-league camp.

The Dodgers reassigned infielder Brian Barden, infielder Hector Luna and outfielder Jeremy Moore to minor league camp, reducing the number of players in major-league camp to 48.

Barden’s .478 batting average was the highest of any Dodger with more than three Cactus League at-bats. The 31-year-old from San Diego had nine singles and two doubles among his 11 hits, and was doing it against pitching that was somewhere above Triple-A, but below major-league quality, according to baseball-reference.com’s Opponent Quality Index:

Luna was hitting .313/.313/.389 and Moore .333/.407/.542. Neither player has extensive major-league experience. Barden does — 119 games’ worth — but he wasn’t going to make the team without injuries to several of the infielders on the 40-man roster (Gonzalez, Ellis, Ramirez, Cruz, Gordon, Punto, Uribe, Sellers).

Moore was scratched from the Dodgers’ lineup for tonight’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. Yasiel Puig started in his place.

Dodgers spring training preview: Outfielders.

Matt Kemp

There’s immense potential among this group, but questionable depth beyond the three starters – and an immediate need for depth. Remember when Shane Victorino and Torii Hunter were being mentioned as potential fourth outfielders? It’s because the need existed: Carl Crawford had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow and arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist in 2012, Matt Kemp had surgery to repair his left shoulder last October, and Andre Ethier can’t hit left-handed pitching. More on that in a bit.

In lieu of any big-name acquisitions, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Skip Schumaker — utility infielders who make occasional cameos in the outfield – might begin the season as the fourth and fifth outfielders. Crawford might well begin the season on the disabled list. With so many question marks, there will be plenty of focus on this group in the spring, beginning with the heart and soul of the Dodger lineup.

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Dodgers inviting 17 NRIs to spring training.

Here is the updated list of non-roster invitees to spring training, which is up to 17 as of now:

RHP Juan Abreu
LHP Kelvin De La Cruz
RHP Greg Infante
RHP Peter Moylan
RHP Matt Palmer

C Eliezer Alfonzo
C Wilkin Castillo
C Ramon Castro
C Jesus Flores

INF Alfredo Amezaga
INF Brian Barden
INF Nick Evans
INF Omar Luna
INF Ozzie Martinez
INF Dallas McPherson

OF Tony Gwynn Jr.
OF Jerome (Jeremy) Moore