First Pitch: Who Can Be Invited to Spring Training?

Earlier today I was asked a question on Twitter about Spring Training. The first part of the question could have been answered easily on Twitter. The second part required more explaining, and would have made a good article. I decided to go with both questions for tonight’s article as a change of pace. For one, article topics are hard to come by this time of year. Also, I’m going tonight with some friends to try a deep fried hot dog covered with four types of cheese, bacon, grilled onions, and sauerkraut. So I wanted something to write in advance, in the event that I die tonight. Here is the question:

To the question, there aren’t really any limits to who can be invited to Spring Training. Everyone on the 40-man roster is invited, plus any non-roster invitees. Usually the non-roster invites go to minor league free agents who were signed over the off-season, and upper level players in the system who aren’t on the 40-man roster. The team can invite lower level players, although that is usually reserved for players who project to make the majors in the next year or two.

To the part about Mathisen and McGuire, those types of players aren’t usually invited to MLB Spring Training. For one, they are nowhere close to the majors. As for the experience of being around Russell Martin, that would be good in theory, but it’s not how things actually work. Martin will be busy preparing for the season. The idea that he can pass knowledge on to young catchers would mean that he’s taking time away from preparing for the season, and spending that time coaching the younger players. There might be some tips he can give Tony Sanchez while they’re in camp together, but when you start adding to the list, it becomes more difficult.

A key difference between Sanchez and a lower level guy like McGuire comes down to the time each will spend in camp. Sanchez projects to spend more time in major league camp. He profiles as the everyday catcher with Indianapolis, but he’ll still get a long look in major league camp, if only because they will need additional catchers in Spring Training. That provides more time for Martin to give Sanchez any relevant tips.

When it comes to McGuire (or any other lower level catcher, but I’ll only use McGuire’s name to keep it simple), their priority would be getting ready for the minor league season. That includes conditioning in minor league camp, getting coaching from the minor league coaches, and playing in the minor league games. That’s far more valuable to McGuire’s development than anything he might pick up from Martin, which really only helps him in the long run.

There would be a few days where McGuire could be in MLB camp, before minor league camp starts. But that’s only a few days, and Martin would be working on getting ready for his season. So overall there would be almost zero impact for inviting McGuire, or any other lower level catcher, to Spring Training. They wouldn’t learn anything in the few days they were in camp due to Martin’s priority of getting ready for the season. If they stayed any longer, they would be missing out on their own priority of getting ready for their own season.

In the long-term, guys like McGuire will eventually get the advice Martin can provide. However, they’ll probably get it from a Triple-A catcher who has been in the majors, or maybe even from Tony Sanchez, who could theoretically pass down Martin’s advice that helped him, along with his own advice that he would have once McGuire is ready.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is now available. You can purchase your copy here, and read about every prospect in the Pirates’ system. The book includes our top 50 prospects, as well as future potential ratings for every player.

**We will be releasing our top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. Today the countdown started with #17 – Cody Dickson.

**Ray Searage Doesn’t Expect A.J. Burnett to Return. It’s looking more and more like Burnett will retire.

**Winter Leagues: Marte Returns to Lineup, Polanco’s Return Delayed

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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