A look at the Tribe's non-roster invitees
CLEVELAND – Pitchers and catchers have already started to arrive in Goodyear, Ariz., as workouts are set to get underway on Thursday. Teams have up to 75 spots to fill, including some extra players to fill in as extra depth pieces, and the Indians’ Spring Training roster currently sits at 72.
Outside of the 40 players on the 40-man roster, the Tribe will carry 18 extra Minor Leaguers at its depth camp and 14 non-roster invitees. There’s already been plenty of talk surrounding the players on the 40-man roster, so what should we know about the non-roster invitees who will see playing time this spring?
Let’s take a look:
• Kyle Dowdy: Dowdy was shipped to Cleveland in the Leonys Martin trade with the Tigers in 2018. He was selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft but was later claimed off waivers by the Rangers. He was returned to the Indians after he posted a 7.25 ERA in 13 games (one start) for Texas in 2019. In seven appearances (three starts) for Double-A Akron that season, he pitched to a 2.48 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 11 walks in 29 frames.
• Anthony Gose: Gose will be one of the more intriguing arms to follow throughout camp. He appeared in 372 Major League games as an outfielder with Toronto and Detroit from 2012-16 and decided to convert to a pitcher in 2017. He split 2019 between Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Double-A Akron in his first year in the Indians’ organization with a combined 2.48 ERA in 32 appearances. In Spring Training last year, his heater touched 100 mph and he casually sat between 96-98 mph in his Cactus League appearances.
• Heath Hembree: Indians pitching coach Carl Willis is very familiar with Hembree after his time in Boston. Hembree has posted a 3.90 ERA over his eight-year big league career. He spent seven seasons in Boston before he was traded to the Phillies last August. Between the two clubs in 2020, the 32-year-old posted a combined 9.00 ERA with 20 strikeouts and eight walks in 19 frames.
• DJ Johnson: Johnson spent the 2020 season in Japan, where he posted a combined 3.81 ERA in 30 relief outings between Rakuten and Hiroshima. Johnson pitched in 35 big league games for the Rockies -- where he was teammates with Shaw -- over the ’18 and ’19 seasons. The 31-year-old owns a career 4.88 ERA with 21 walks, 33 strikeouts and a 1.596 WHIP in 31 1/3 frames.
• Blake Parker: The Tribe signed Parker to a Minor League deal the day before pitchers and catchers were set to report to camp. The 35-year-old owns a 3.52 ERA in his eight-year career with the Cubs, Mariners, Yankees, Angels, Twins and Phillies. He owns a career 10.3 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio and pitched to a 2.81 ERA with 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 16 innings with Philadelphia last year.
• Nick Sandlin: Sandlin split the 2019 season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He owned a 1.56 ERA in 15 relief appearances for Akron with two saves and 27 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. He then pitched to a 4.00 ERA in nine appearances for Columbus before a stress fracture in his forearm ended his season in late June (and later required surgery in August). Now that he’s expected to be healthy for 2021, he could play a role in the Tribe’s bullpen at some point this season, assuming his five-pitch mix (that he utilizes from three different arm slots, according to MLB Pipeline) remains as sharp as it was two years ago.
• Bryan Shaw: For some fans, the memory of Shaw on the mound when the Cubs took a 10th-inning lead in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series is still too hard to stomach. However, in his five years with the Tribe, Shaw accumulated a club record of 110 holds with the second-most relief appearances in franchise history (378), trailing just Cody Allen (456). Shaw posted a 3.11 ERA with 333 strikeouts in 358 2/3 frames for Cleveland from 2013-17. After pitching to a 3.52 ERA in ’17, Shaw went to Colorado and struggled through the ’18 and ’19 seasons, posting a 5.93 ERA and 5.38 ERA, respectively. He was released by the Rockies in July and pitched in six games for the Mariners in 2020.
• Gavin Collins: Collins was selected in the 13th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Tribe, but has yet to reach Double-A. In 2019, He slashed .262/.325/.395 with seven homers and 61 RBIs for Class A Advanced Lynchburg.
• Bo Naylor: Naylor – the younger brother of Josh Naylor – was the Tribe’s first round Draft pick in 2018. The soon-to-be 21-year-old has an above-average arm, as he threw out 37 percent of basestealers in 2019 for Lake County, and he has some solid raw power that carried him to the finals of the High School Home Run Derby at the 2017 All-Star Game. In 2020, MLB Pipeline had Naylor tabbed as the Tribe’s No. 4 overall prospect.
• Mike Freeman: The Indians couldn’t have asked for much more from Freeman the last two seasons, as he slashed .270/.352/.377 as the Tribe’s utility man. He made at least one appearance at every infield position, left field and as the team’s designated hitter. Though the club brought him back as a non-roster invitee again this season, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s back on the Opening Day roster.
• Tyler Freeman: Maybe if the pandemic wouldn’t have eliminated all Minor League seasons last year, Freeman would be in a better position to take over for Francisco Lindor at shortstop this year. Instead, he’ll need to see some more time in the Minors to hone his skills. Freeman has yet to reach Double-A, but put his hitting ability on full display in 2019, batting .306/.368/.410 between to Class A levels.
• Owen Miller: The Indians will get their first good look at Miller, who was acquired in the Mike Clevinger trade with the Padres at last year’s Trade Deadline. According to MLB Pipeline, which ranked him 20th in the Tribe’s 2020 Top 30 prospects, Miller has a knack for making solid contact at the plate and has a strong feel for the strike zone with enough pop to produce 12-15 homers on an annual basis. We’ll primarily see him at either middle infield spot, however he did see time at third base with San Diego, which could make him an option as a utility man down the road.
• Billy Hamilton: Hamilton got off to a slow start in 2020, hitting a mere .045 with a .129 OPS in 17 games with the Mets. He was designated for assignment on Sept. 4 and was claimed by the Cubs on Sept. 7. Hamilton ended the year on a strong note, batting .300 with a .964 OPS in 14 games with Chicago. Though he may not be the offensive answer the club is looking for, he certainly will bring above-average speed on the bases, as Statcast has his sprint speed from 2019 ranked in the 97th percentile.
• Ben Gamel: Gamel has played in parts of five big league seasons with the Yankees, Mariners and Brewers. In the past two seasons with Milwaukee, he owned a .245 average with a .712 OPS after boasting a .727 OPS in three years with Seattle. He could be an option for a spot in either corner for the Tribe, as he’s played 396 games in the field over his five-year career, with 206 appearances in left field and 169 appearances in right. He has also played 38 games in center field and two at first base.