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Prospects Waters, Anderson head Braves' NRIs

King Félix, Culberson also looking to win spots among 26 invitees
@mlbbowman
January 22, 2020

ATLANTA -- Drew Waters and Ian Anderson will be among the prospects who come to Spring Training looking to show how close they might be to being deemed Major League-ready. They’ll be working alongside the likes of Félix Hernández and Charlie Culberson, who will be attempting to win a spot

ATLANTA -- Drew Waters and Ian Anderson will be among the prospects who come to Spring Training looking to show how close they might be to being deemed Major League-ready. They’ll be working alongside the likes of Félix Hernández and Charlie Culberson, who will be attempting to win a spot on the Braves’ Opening Day roster.

Waters, Anderson, Hernández and Culberson are among the 26 non-roster invitees the Braves announced on Wednesday afternoon. Some of these players will be attempting to extend their careers, and others will be anxiously looking forward to the chance to show they soon could provide value in Atlanta.

Here’s a list of the 26 players the Braves will bring to Spring Training as non-roster invitees:

PITCHERS (9)

RHP Ian Anderson, LHP Thomas Burrows, RHP Félix Hernández, RHP Kurt Hoekstra, RHP Connor Johnstone, LHP Kyle Muller, LHP Chris Nunn, RHP Ben Rowen, LHP Chris Rusin

Opening Day roster candidates: Hernández signed a Minor League deal that will provide him $1 million if he is added to Atlanta’s 40-man roster. The 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner will compete with Sean Newcomb and others for the rotation’s fifth spot.

Rusin has produced a 4.62 ERA over 465 1/3 career innings. The 33-year-old lefty’s bid to open the season in Atlanta’s bullpen could be influenced by whether Newcomb begins the year in the rotation or bullpen.

Top prospects: Anderson ranks as baseball’s No. 31 overall prospect and the Braves’ No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline. The right-hander will likely begin this season at Triple-A Gwinnett and attempt to join Atlanta’s rotation at some point in 2020.

Muller (Braves’ No. 7 prospect) might be a year away from reaching the Majors. But he has a chance to be valuable as either a starter or reliever. Burrows (Braves No. 16) could make himself an intriguing bullpen candidate if he harnesses his command and reduces his walk rate.

INFIELDERS (9)

Bryce Ball, Charlie Culberson, Sean Kazmar, Pete Kozma, Jack Lopez, Peter O’Brien, Braden Shewmake, Yangervis Solarte, Riley Unroe

Opening Day roster candidate: Culberson currently sits as the favorite to win the last spot for a position player on this year’s 26-man roster. But how long he remains in the mix in Atlanta might be determined by Austin Riley's readiness to once again become an everyday player at the big league level.

Solarte will provide competition for Culberson. The 32-year-old veteran hit at least 14 homers over four straight big league seasons (2015-18) before producing a .562 OPS over just 78 plate appearances for the Giants last year.

Top prospects: Shewmake, who was drafted as the 21st overall pick out of Texas A&M last year, ranks as the Braves’ No. 9 prospect. The versatile infielder could benefit from some physical maturity as he progresses through his first full professional season.

Ball does not rank among the Braves’ Top 30 prospects. But the 21-year-old first baseman will draw attention as he attempts to show how he managed to hit 17 homers over 231 at-bats after being taken in the 24th round of last year’s Draft.

OUTFIELDERS (5)

Trey Harris, Greyson Jenista, Rafael Ortega, Shane Robinson, Drew Waters

Opening Day roster candidates: None

Top prospects: Waters ranks as MLB Pipeline’s No. 23 overall prospect, and he is the No. 2 prospect in the Braves' system. There will be a lot of attention focused on him and the club’s top prospect, Cristian Pache, (MLB Pipeline’s No. 11). Pache was added to the 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Both of these young outfielders could possibly reach the Majors at some point this year.

Jenista (Braves’ No. 11 prospect) and Harris (Braves' No. 18) could both enhance their respective futures with a strong camp. Jenista has not yet shown the power potential that was envisioned when he was taken in the second round of the 2018 Draft. Harris, a 32nd-round pick in 2018, significantly exceeded expectations when he hit 14 homers and had an .887 OPS at the Class A and Double-A levels last year.

CATCHERS (3)

Shea Langeliers, Carlos Martínez, Jonathan Morales

Opening Day roster candidates: None

Top prospects: Langeliers, taken with the ninth overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft, ranks as the game’s No. 5 catching prospect and the No. 5 prospect within the Braves’ system. William Contreras, who was added to the 40-man roster in November, ranks as the Braves’ No. 8 prospect. Neither will likely be ready to reach Atlanta this season. But by the end of this year, we may know which of these two is better suited to be considered the organization’s catcher of the future.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.