We continue with our look at non-roster invitee catchers coming to Blue Jays spring training in just over a month!
To recap, a non-roster invitee is just that: a player who isn’t on the club’s 40-man roster but has been invited to big league spring training. This is a common designation for players who have signed minor league contracts but are expecting to be able to compete for a spot on the big league team. In addition to actually competing for big league spots, you’ll see some of the club’s prospects who are within reach of the majors getting an audition for a potential call up at some point in the year. You’ll also see some prospects who are a little further away from the majors getting a chance to show what they can do with a bigger spotlight on them. Few NRIs end up making the club but last year had both Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro getting added to the 40-man roster at the end of spring training. Remember that all players on the 40-man roster (including the two who were added to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, Blake McFarland and Brady Dragmire) are automatically invited to spring training.
There are only three non-roster catchers invited to spring training which betrays one of two things. Either the Blue Jays plan to bring in several other minor league catchers from the organization to shoulder the heavy catching load in the early days of spring or the Blue Jays plan to add a couple of catchers on minor league contracts to help fill out the top of the minor league system. I’ll have another post about the whole catching situation at the upper levels of the Jays’ system, probably next week.
The first of the invited catchers is Derrick Chung, who, by now, should be a familiar name to you all. Chung was a rising catcher in the system, newly converted from his regular infield positions (despite having caught in college), and jumping successfully from Vancouver in 2012 to Dunedin in 2013. He played in the Arizona Fall League in 2013 and hit .390 in 13 games, turning a number of heads with his defensive abilities and ability to make contact. Chung split 2014 between Dunedin and New Hampshire and struggled a bit at Double-A (hitting .240/.275/.275) and had an injury-riddled 2015, finally returning to Double-A New Hampshire with much better numbers over only 24 games this season (.282/.379/.366). Chung’s known for his quick release, strong arm and solid contact abilities but is likely no more than a big league backup catcher. He’ll be 28 when the season starts and will probably get his first taste of Triple-A.
Humberto Quintero is more than likely much higher on the “sub list” than Derrick Chung. The 36-year-old Venezuelan has 12 seasons of big league experience with the Padres, Astros Royals, Phillies and Mariners, getting into 471 major league games with a career .234/.267/.327 slash line. Those career numbers are even reflective of his best years, playing semi-regularly with the Astros between 2008 and 2011. Solid defenslively, Quintero is likely more insurance for the top two (Martin and Thole) and to help divvy up the workload on the catchers.
The invitation of young Danny Jansen to the big league camp is the biggest and most pleasant surprise. I’ll confess that I have a soft spot for Danny (and his extremely supportive parents who were frequently at Lansing Lugnuts games last year) who is one of the hardest working players in the system. Danny lost time last year because of a broken bone in his hand and his offensive numbers weren’t where he would like them but this invitation shows the organization’s faith in him and where he can get. Jansen won’t start the year above Dunedin but he’s still just 20 (turns 21 on April 15) and will likely be the first catcher returned to minor league camp, likely shortly after the games begin.
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