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Get to know the 29 non-roster invitees to Royals spring training

Did you get your invite?

Kansas City Royals spring training 2012 John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Royals will hold their first spring training workout in less than two weeks, and we have a good idea who will be in big league camps. The club announced 29 non-roster invitees to camp, a group that includes young top prospects like Bobby Witt, Jr. and Asa Lacy and veterans trying to make the club like Wade Davis and Ervin Santana. Here’s a quick rundown of the players not on the 40-man roster who will be in camp.

Hanser Alberto is a versatile infielder who has been one of the most difficult hitters to strike out. In 2019 with the Orioles he hit .305/.329/.422 and was worth 2.9 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference, but was non-tendered to save money and signed a minor league deal with the Royals.

Jonathan Bowlan is a former second-round pick in 2018 who posted a 3.14 ERA in 146 innings split between two levels of A-ball in 2019. His highlight was tossing a no-hitter for Wilmington that summer. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #9 prospect in the system, writing the 6’6’ right-hander has a “chance to be a workhorse-type starter.”

Jake Brentz is a St. Louis native the Royals signed as a free agent in 2019 following his stints in the Blue Jays, Mariners, and Pirates orgainzations. The 26-year old boasts a fastball that can hit triple digits, but has had trouble throwing strikes in his career. He posted a 4.27 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 52 23 innings across Double-A and Triple-A in 2019.

Gabriel Cancel is a 24-year old infielder who hit .246/.308/.427 with 18 home runs in 123 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2019. Cancel has shown good power for a middle infielder, but his defense has drawn mixed reviews.

Austin Cox was a fifth-round pick in 2018 who posted a 2.76 ERA with a strikeout per inning split between two levels of A-ball in 2019. The 23-year old left-hander features a plus curveball and “can reach back for 95-96 mph but usually sits in the low 90s”, according to MLB Pipeline, who ranks him as the #11 prospect in the system.

Wade Davis is a 12-year veteran who pitched for the Royals from 2013-2016. At his peak, he was the most dominant reliever in the game, with an ERA of 1.18 with 11.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings from 2014-2016. The 35-year old right-hander gave up 10 runs in 4 13 innings for Colorado last year before being released, and he signed a minor league deal with the Royals this off-season.

Nick Dini is a 27-year old catcher originally drafted in the 14th round of the 2015 draft out of Wanger College in New York. He appeared in 20 games with the Royals in 2019, hitting .196/.270/.357.

Clay Dungan was a 9th-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Indiana State. The 23-year old middle infielder hit .357/.427/.494 with two home runs in 65 games for Advanced Rookie ball Idaho Falls in 2019.

Freddy Fermin is a 25-year old catcher from Venezuela who hit .259/.298/.418 with 12 home runs in 86 games across High-A and Double-A in 2019. He is primarily in camp to give the pitchers another catcher to throw to.

Jeison Guzman is a glove-first shortstop who hit .253/.296/.373 in 121 games for High-A Lexington in 2019. Just 22 years old, the switch-hitter was non-tendered last winter to make room on the 40-man roster for other players, but re-signed on a minor league deal.

Jon Heasley was taken in the 13th round of the 2018 draft out of Oklahoma State. The right-hander had a 3.12 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings for Low-A Lexington in 2019. MLB Pipeline ranks him #26, and while they note he does not have any plus pitches, he has a four-pitch mix and “knows how to be successful with sequencing”.

Kyle Isbel was a third-round pick in 2018 out of UNLV, and showed great promise that year, hitting .326/.389/.504 in 64 games in Advanced Rookie ball and Low-A. Injuries limited him to just 59 games in 2019, and he hit .233/.296/.397. The outfielder has drawn comparisons to Jason Kipnis as an advanced left-handed bat that can draw walks and have good gap power and decent speed.

Jake Kalish is a minor league veteran, having pitched at Triple-A Omaha for three seasons. The 29-year old left-hander was a 32nd round pick in 2015, and has been a solid starter with a 4.24 ERA at the Triple-A level. He doesn’t have big strikeout numbers, but he has been a strike-thrower with just 1.7 walks-per-nine-innings at Triple-A.

Jackson Kowar was the 33rd player taken overall in the 2018 draft and the right-handed pitcher was named the #95 prospect in the game by Baseball America. Kowar was teammates with Brady Singer at the University of Florida and impressed with a 3.52 ERA with 144 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings across High-A and Double-A in 2019. Kowar has a plus changeup to pair with a mid-90s fastball, with a developing changeup, and he has a good chance to be in the Royals’ rotation at some point this year.

Asa Lacy was the fourth overall selection in the 2020 draft out of Texas A&M. The 6’4’’ lefty has a mid-90s fastball with one of the nastiest sliders a college pitching prospect has shown in years. Baseball America ranks him as the #37 prospect in the system, and despite lacking any pro experience so far, Lacy could be on the big league roster this year.

Daniel Lynch is a lefty with a high-90s fastball that may have the highest upside out of any pitching prospect in the system. Selected 34th overall in the 2018 draft out of the University of Virginia, Lynch had a 3.10 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings in High-A Wilmington in 2019, followed by an impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League.

Alec Marsh was a second-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Arizona State. He posted a 4.05 ERA with 38 strikeouts and just 4 walks in 33 1/3 innings in the Advanced Rookie league in 2019. Marsh is ranked #25 by MLB Pipeline, who notes his clean delivery, good command, and four pitches that can be Major League-average.

Seuly Matias features 80-grade power, but has inability to make contact has limited his success. After he burst on the scene with 31 home runs for Low-A Lexington in 2018, he slumped badly in 2019, hitting just .148 with a 44 percent strikeout rate. A hand injury limited him to just 57 games that year and the 22-year old outfielder is ranked #14 in the system by MLB Pipeline.

Erick Mejia is a versatile utility player who has appeared in 17 games in the last two seasons with the Royals. The 26-year old switch-hitter is capable of playing infield or outfield, and has good speed and could challenge for a bench role.

M.J. Melendez was a second-round pick in 2017 and has some terrific athletic abilities as a catcher, putting up a line of .251/.322/.492 with 19 home runs at age 19 in 2018. But he slumped badly in 2019, hitting .163 with a 39 percent strikeout rate in 2019 at Wilmington. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #13 prospect in the system, writing he “could be a monster if he can figure it out at the plate because the defensive tools and skills are already there.”

Anderson Miller was a third-round pick in the 2015 draft out of Western Kentucky. The 26-year outfielder hit .248/.295/.342 in 86 games with Double-A Northwest Arkansas with solid speed, but his hitting numbers will have to improve for him to reach the big leagues.

Nick Pratto was a first-round pick in 2017, but has yet to meet those expectations. He slumped badly in 2019 in Wilmington, hitting .191/.278/.310 with nine home runs in 124 games. He is considered an excellent defensive first baseman with a smooth swing, so if he can figure out his contact issues, he could be the future first baseman for this club.

Emmanuel Rivera is a 24-year old third baseman taken in the 19th round of the 2015 draft out of Puerto Rico. He showed a good bat at lower levels, but hit just .258/.297/.345 in Double-A in 2019. He had a strong showing in Puerto Rico this winter, and should have a chance to prove himself in the upper minors.

Carlos Sanabria was claimed off waivers from the Astros organization before he was non-tendered and re-signed by the Royals on a minor league deal. The 24-year old Venezuelan right-hander appeared in two games with the Astros last year, and posted a a 2.84 ERA in 66 23 innings with 86 strikeouts in High-A and Double-A in 2019. He has a mid-90s fastball that can reach 99 mph, but has had trouble with walks in the past.

Ervin Santana is a 15-year MLB veteran who pitched for the Royals in 2013. Santana last pitched in 2019, giving up 14 runs in 13 13 innings for the White Sox. He was an All-Star in 2017 with the Twins, and pitched well in winter ball this year.

Eric Skoglund has pitched in parts of three seasons with the Royals, but has never been able to recapture the magic of his first start, in which he tossed 6 13 shutout innings against the Tigers. The 28-year old lefty has a 6.61 ERA in 109 innings and was suspended in 2019 for using a banned substance.

Gabe Speier is a left-handed reliever who pitched 13 innings in the last two seasons for the Royals. The 25-year old was acquired from the Diamondbacks for outfielder Jon Jay, and is on his fifth organization.

Bubba Starling was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft as a five-tool outfielder. A high strikeout rate has hindered his career, but he finally reached the big leagues in 2019 and has played parts of the last two years with the Royals, hitting .204/.246/.298. The 28-year old Kansas City native was non-tendered and re-signed on a minor league deal this off-season.

Bobby Witt, Jr. was the second-overall pick of the 2019 draft out of his high school in Texas. Considered a five-tool shortstop, Witt hit an underwhelming .262/.317/.354 in the Arizona Summer League in 2019, but impressed coaches and teammates in the summer camp last year. Baseball America ranks Witt as the #16 prospect in baseball and MLB Pipeline writes that “scouts rave about his makeup and passion for the game as much as his tools.”