The Royals announced today they will invite 22 non-roster invitees to spring training, including newly signed relievers Brandon League, Al Alburquerque, and Chris Withrow, all of whom signed minor league contracts. They join infielder Garin Cecchini, and pitchers Bobby Parnell and Jonathan Sanchez, who had already signed minor league deals with the Royals.
League is a 33-year old right-hander with a 3.65 ERA and 74 career saves in 11 seasons in the big leagues with the Blue Jays, Mariners, and Dodgers. He had shoulder injuries in 2015 and did not pitch in the Major Leagues that year, and did not pitch at all last season. His best year came in 2011 with the Mariners, when he posted a 2.79 ERA and 37 saves with 1.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to Fangraphs. That led to a three-year, $22 million deal with the Dodgers in 2013 that was largely a bust. League consistently posted underwhelming strikeout rates for a reliever, even in his prime, and he throws a fastball that averaged around 94-95 before his injury. He throws a split-fingered fastball and is an extreme groundball pitcher, with a career rate over 60%.
Al Alburquerque is a 30-year old right-hander who has a 3.21 career ERA in 227 Major League innings over six seasons with the Tigers and Angels. He posted a 1.87 ERA in 43 innings and 1.2 WAR his rookie season, but has generally been a replacement level pitcher since then. The Dominican-born Alburquerque is a fastball/slider pitcher who throws in the low-90s. He has struck out nearly 11 per-nine-innings in his career, so he can miss bats, but he has struggled mightily with command. He pitched just two innings in the big leagues last year with the Angels.
Chris Withrow was a first-round pick by the Dodgers in 2007. He struggled in the minors until 2013 when he broke through and reached the big leagues. He has 93 career MLB innings across three seasons, all in relief, with a 3.07 ERA. He was traded to the Braves in 2016 and posted a 3.58 ERA in 37 2/3 innings with 6.7 strikeouts-per-nine innings. The 27-year old right-hander averaged 93 mph on his fastball last year, a significant decline from earlier in his career. Withrow suffered elbow issues at the end of last season, but an MRI showed no structural damage. He was non-tendered by the Braves in December.
The Royals also announced they are inviting several non-roster minor leaguers to spring training including catchers Zane Evans, Xavier Fernandez, Parker Morin, and Chase Vallot, first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, infielders Corey Toups and Humberto Arteaga, outfielder Alfredo Escalera, and pitchers Jonathan Dziedzic, Eric Skoglund, Eric Stout, Malcom Culver, Luke Farrell, A.J. Puckett, and Josh Staumont. Those players will join the players already on the Royals 40-man roster in big league camp.