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2013 Draft Prep: Non-roster invitees to consider

Senior Fantasy Writer
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If you're going to use the crop of 2013 non-roster invitees to just tell friends that there's a second Jesus Montero, or tweet out that there's a player in the Royals organization whose birth name is Sugar Ray Marimon, then there's probably no place for you in a deep Fantasy league. You don't even deserve a kind-of deep league.

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Non-roster invitees are a thing of beauty -- a collection of veterans trying to find a home with another team, injury returnees, former speedsters looking for third chances, and a host of familiar names trying to make some sort of impact -- all coupled with some of the organization's most prized prospects. Last year, an astute NRI follower might have pegged Juan Pierre as a player to watch; he was vying for a role on the Phillies against Scott Podsednik and able to take advantage of a hole in the roster and turn it into what eventually became almost full-time at-bats.

This year, there are a handful of players who could make an impact, from Chone Figgins to Erik Bedard. There's no guarantee they make the team, or will even play a major role if they do, but if there's room for a little risk-taking in your Fantasy-playing life, here are some names you may want to consider on Draft Day 2013.

Two formerly successful high-strikeout starting pitchers

Erik Bedard (Astros) and Rich Harden (Twins): Bedard had a nightmarish 2012, finishing with a 5.01 ERA before being released by the Pirates in August. But he actually got off to a nice start -- a 2.65 ERA through five starts -- before back issues in May sent him on a downward spiral. Bedard is far from a young fireballer (he's 35 years old), but it's interesting how quickly people forget that he has a career 3.85 ERA with just about a strikeout per inning. And in the five seasons prior to 2012, Bedard had a 3.44 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with a strikeout per inning. The Astros have plenty of holes in the rotation, and Bedard can slot nicely at No. 5. Where you want to take him: At the end of an AL-only draft.

Harden, 31, has a career 3.76 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, with a K/9 over 9.0. This is even more impressive considering he put up a career-ERA-damaging 5.36 ERA in 174 2/3 innings over his past two injury-plagued seasons. Harden missed all of 2012 after undergoing rotator cuff surgery and manager Ron Gardenhire has made comments that suggest Harden isn't ready for the rotation just yet. But the Twins are hurting for back-end pitching, and if Harden can prove worthy, he could be a nice boost to a deep Fantasy team by midseason. Where you want to take him: In the final reserve round of AL-only leagues.

A former speedster looking for a shot at redemption

Chone Figgins (Marlins): From 2005 to 2010, Chone Figgins hit .285 and averaged 46 steals per year, topping out with 62 stolen bases in 2005. But after three ugly years in Seattle -- the last two of which he hit .185 -- Figgins was cut loose. Now 35 years old, Figgins has joined the Marlins, a team decimated by unpopular trades and full of roster holes, in hopes of making a comeback. Figgins can play third base, second base, or any of the outfield positions. He gets a fresh start on a team from which nobody is expecting much. He's just two years removed from stealing 42 bases. There's not a lot of hope for Figgins to make a widely-felt Fantasy impact in 2013, but there is a chance that he at least makes the team and plays enough to steal 20 bases, making Figgins an asset in NL-only Roto leagues. Where you want to take him: At the end of an NL-only draft.

A pair of outfielders who could crack their teams

Rick Ankiel (Astros) and Marlon Byrd (Mets): Ankiel, 33, was no longer needed in Washington last year after the arrival of Bryce Harper. While his .244 lifetime average isn't the prettiest of numbers, he does have a 25-home run season under his belt (in 2008) and could snag a starting outfield spot as a veteran presence on a very young team. Ankiel may benefit from the smaller home stadium with the Astros, and could return the value of a reserve bid in auction leagues (although I wouldn't pick him there unless he absolutely has a starting role). Where you want to take him: Off waiver wires in AL-only leagues if he wins a starting spot and gets off to a hot start.

Byrd, meanwhile, took a 50-game PED hit last year while hitting a career-low .210 in 143 at-bats. While he put up miserable numbers with the Cubs over his first 13 games, a trade to the Red Sox seemed to give Byrd a boost -- he hit .270 over 100 at-bats before the suspension. The Mets have a handful of younger and more exciting outfielders, but Byrd could sneak his way into the mix, knocking down someone like Mike Baxter in the process. Even if he makes the team, though, Byrd will probably not do enough (think a .265 average and seven-ish home runs) to justify a spot on all but the deepest of NL-only teams. Where you want to take him: Off waiver wires in NL-only leagues if he wins a starting spot.

A player I'd really like to see start at second for the Royals

Brandon Wood: If you paid any attention to the minor leagues or prospect rankings over the last eight years, the name Brandon Wood means something to you. He tore apart pitching on his path to the majors, at one point ascending to a lofty ranking as the No. 3 prospect in baseball. Wood hit 43 home runs and 53 doubles over two levels in 2005 at the age of 20. He followed that with seasons of 25, 23, 31, and 22 home runs. He's gotten to double-digit steals three times. He has a .281 career minor league average. And then, when he saw the majors for the first time in 2007 ... nothing. He hit .152 in that first season. Over 55 games in 2008, Wood hit .200. He also has seasons of .195, .146, and .216. But he did see somewhat erratic playing time, and the constant failures had to have messed with his head a little bit.

Wood is now 28, and he has a legitimate shot at making the Royals as a utility infielder. He has played shortstop, first, and third base so far this spring, but with Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella doing a lesser-of-two-evils battle at second, it didn't seem totally out of the question to think Wood could have worked his way into that battle. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the Royals have much interest in crafting a spring training redemption story for a once-prospect. But with the way Chris Davis -- another former top prospect -- came into his own last year after being all but left for dead, there's at least a glimmer of hope that Wood can stick around as a utility player and work his way into some playing time, possibly delivering on the potential that has been long forgotten. Where you want to take him: Off waivers, but only if and when Ned Yost pulls that whole, "we're going to try Wood at second base," line when things go awry for his starter.

That random guy who could stumble into playing time

Kensuke Tanaka (Giants): San Francisco's middle infield is pretty much locked down, with Marco Scutaro at second and Brandon Crawford at shortstop, but Tanaka is a slick-fielding product of Japan's Pacific League, who gave up a contract that would have paid him around $3 million to come and essentially try out for the Giants. He doesn't have the most exciting stats, but if injury strikes -- or if Crawford stumbles and Scutaro is asked to play shortstop -- Tanaka can slide right in, hit about .275, and steal a handful of bases. Don't expect a lot of power here, but Tanaka could score a decent amount of runs and be a cheap source of steals. Where you want to take him: Off waiver wires in NL-only leagues when the above scenario plays out.

A quick assortment of less-interesting players who still could make an impact

Kelvim Escobar (Brewers): The Brewers have enough holes in their pitching staff for Escobar to find a spot somewhere..

Kevin Slowey (Marlins): He'd be NL-only reserve material if he finds his way into the rotation. Slowey is a smart pitcher who could put up a decent line.

Kevin Kouzmanoff (Marlins): Kouzmanoff has hit 16 or more home runs three times in the majors, and the only thing really blocking his path to playing time is the oft-injured Placido Polanco.

Casey Kotchman (Marlins): With Logan Morrison out early, Kotchman could grab hold of that first base job and make an early impact.

Freddy Garcia (Padres): Garcia had interesting starter (5.93 ERA/1.48 WHIP) versus reliever (2.42 ERA/0.94 WHIP) splits last year, but his value will come as a starter. Don't expect much better than a 4.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but as a starting rotation filler in a deep NL-only league, there may be something there to use.

Shelley Duncan (Rays): Given fewer than 235 at-bats in each of the last three seasons, Shelley Duncan still managed 11 home runs and at least 10 doubles per year in that span. Granted, his average has suffered, but Duncan has flexed some nice power. With the Rays employing a "moving parts" system, Duncan could actually see an at-bats increase, slotting in at first base, DH, and the corner outfield positions. With more at-bats and consistency, Duncan could see his average jump a little, as well.

Miguel Tejada (Royals): If Brandon Wood can't make the Royals, this would be a solid consolation prize.

Juan Rivera (Yankees):, 1B, New York Yankees : Fun fact! Juan Rivera has averaged 15 home runs per season over the last four years and has hit .263 in that span. He's also only 34 years old. And he has the inside track to start in left field for the Yankees, being one of the few right-handed power bats in the lineup. Rivera is AL-only fodder, and you can't wait on him to see if he'll produce -- with Curtis Granderson coming back, Rivera's going to be useful early, then probably settle into a role as sometimes-first baseman until Teixeira returns, eventually becoming a part-time DH in a platoon with Travis Hafner.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Phillies' McClure: Cliff Lee feels really good, right on schedule
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:17 pm ET) Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee, who missed the final two months of the 2014 season with an elbow strain, is slated to make his spring debut Thursday against the Astros. He is expected to throw two innings.

Lee, who will throw his second live batting practice session Saturday, is on schedule with the rest of the team's starting pitchers.

"He's thrown well," pitching coach Bob McClure said, per The Philadelphia Inquirer. "He feels really good, so he's right on schedule."


Braves' Rio Ruiz 'happy' with trade, impressing Pendleton in camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:16 pm ET) Braves third base prospect Rio Ruiz expressed happiness about being dealt to Atlanta as part of the package the Braves received for Evan Gattis, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

"Initially (the trade) was overwhelming," Ruiz said. "Then I looked at the big picture and I was happy with it. I watched the Braves growing up, and my dad just talked about the guys that came through this system and played in the big leagues."

Braves first-base coach Terry Pendleton, who was named National League MVP in 1991 as a member of the Braves, likes what he's seen from Ruiz in the early stages of spring training.

"I watched him play a little defense — he’s got a little work to do," Pendleton said. "But offensively, he’s sound. Really sound offensively. Just watching him in the cage, he’s inside the ball (with his swing). He’s what you want a young kid to be coming up so all you’ve got to do is tweak here and there. That’s what he looks like anyway."

Ruiz, 20, is expected to begin the season with Double-A Mississippi. He hit .293/.387/.436 with 11 home runs, 77 RBI and four stolen bases in 516 at-bats with high Class A Lancaster in 2014.


Phillies still hopeful Jesse Biddle will develop into MLB starter
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:02 pm ET) Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure has been impressed early on in camp with starting pitcher prospect Jesse Biddle, according to CSNphilly.com.

“Very impressive,” McClure said. “When you have that type of arm and you see a guy be able to control everything, it’s fun to watch. Of course, it’s not to Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels yet, but I mean, you can see it getting there someday possibly if he goes about everything right. It’s impressive to watch. The accuracy, the flow, how easy it was just to throw that hard. It looks really good.”

Biddle is coming off a down year in 2014, which included taking time off for what general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. termed a "mental break, and is no longer considered one of the Phillies' top prospects.

However, the team remains hopeful he will be able to bounce back.

“I think it’s an important year for him because last year was a tough one and he’s got some things to overcome,” Amaro said. “But if and when he does, he’s going to be a quality product.

“We love his stuff. We think he’s got a chance to be a very productive major-league pitcher. It’s just a matter of getting back on track."


Jose Reyes on Mets' Ruben Tejada: 'Something is wrong'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:02 pm ET) When asked about former Mets teammate Ruben Tejada, Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes shook his head and said "something is wrong," per Newsday.

Reyes revealed that during his final season with the Mets he tried to pass the torch to Tejada to become his replacement. Reyes landed in Miami in the offseason, and Tejada was destined to be his permanent replacement. Now entering spring training, Wilmer Flores is viewed as the favorite to win the starting job at shortstop for the Mets.

"Every time I talk to him I try to give him some advice," Reyes said. "What can I do? I try to push him to do stuff. I don't know if he gets it or not...He had the opportunity to be the everyday shortstop for a long time there in New York. You have to work, man. When you're younger, you think you have everything there for you. But if you do something wrong, it's going to go away. Quick.

"When I was there, I always give a lot of advice to him. We were always together. My last year there, every time I talk to him: 'This is going to be your position for a long time. Don't let it go away.' See what happened now? It's 2015 and he doesn't have a position to play. When they talk about who is going to play every day, they don't talk about Tejada. They talk about Flores."


D-Backs' Aaron Hill making strong impression early on in camp
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:46 pm ET) Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill has left a strong impression on chief baseball officer Tony La Russa through the early days of spring training, per MLB.com.

"He definitely is in the competition for playing time," La Russa said. "That's just front office talking, remember that, because [manager] Chip [Hale] makes out the lineup. I'm just echoing what Chip has seen. I'm sure he would say the same thing to you."


D-Backs might find a way to keep Jake Lamb on roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:40 pm ET) While the Diamondbacks are trying to see if Yasmany Tomas can develop into a starting third baseman at the major-league level, Jake Lamb is doing his best this spring to make sure the Diamondbacks don't forget about him, per MLB.com.

"He just looks great," Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said. "I didn't see him last spring so I don't have anything to compare it to. I saw him at the end of the season, he could have been worn down. His talent is oozing. Believe me, at the point we're a contending club there is room for both of those guys [Tomas and Lamb] on the team. It's not that tough to figure out. They can't both play third base, but you could be creative. Get the best players on the field."


White Sox's Robertson won't see 'ton of opportunities' in Cactus League
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:38 pm ET) Because his role on the team is already defined, White Sox closer David Robertson is not expected to see "a ton of opportunities" during the Cactus League season, according to ESPN.

"Even talking to him, he doesn't need a lot of appearances to really be ready," manager Robin Ventura said. "I think more goes on what he does right now (in workouts before games). I know he's not going to sit there and have 20 appearances in spring training just to be ready. I would say 10, or less. Really it's up to him. He's been around long enough to understand what he needs to be ready."

Robertson signed four-year, $46 million deal with the White Sox this offseason, and is entering camp with high expectations. He converted 39 of 44 save opportunities in 2014 for the Yankees, registering a 3.08 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 64 1/3 innings of work.

"I really ease into spring training," Robertson said. "We've got 45 days here to get ready. If I can’t be ready in 45 days, there's something wrong. I look at it as a chance to get out here and slowly get yourself acclimated and get back to playing baseball. Obviously I've done things in the offseason to get my body to where it needs to be. It's just a matter of getting back on the field and getting in tune with everything."


Mariners catcher prospect John Hicks on the radar for MLB callup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) Mariners catcher John Hicks might not be on the radar as an elite prospect, but after posting a .288/.337/.419/.756 slash line through four minor-league seasons, he at least has the attention of the Mariners' decision makers.

“He’s a catcher who has the ability to do a lot of things,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, per The News Tribune. “His bat plays. He’s got a bright future. He’ll probably see significant playing time this spring.”

Hicks is expected to open the season at Triple-A Tacoma, but he could make his MLB debut in 2015.

“Listen, you’re on the 40-man roster,” McClendon said. “You’re on that roster for a reason. That’s to (the club to) protect you in case we have injuries. Then you move up.

“So, yeah, there’s a chance he could see time in the big leagues this year if there’s an injury.”


Twins P Ryan Pressly hoping to earn bullpen spot
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:25 pm ET) Relief pitcher Ryan Pressly was able to crack the Twins' roster in 2013 only to spend most of last season in the minors, thanks to three minor-league options he had left. 

This spring training, Pressly is looking to do enough to prove he deserves a spot on the Twins roster once camp is over. 

"We'll see how everything kind of plays out," Pressly said. "It's going to be interesting. You've got guys like [Michael] Tonkin and Lester [Oliveros] who are going to come out of the gates swinging. I just have to control what I can control. So, it's about who shows up and who has a good spring, and I'm hoping I have a good spring like I did in 2013."

With Triple-A Rochester, Pressly posted a 2.98 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. When he was called up to the Twins in July, he posted a 2.86 ERA in 25 games. 


Padres shortstop Alexi Amarista grateful to have starting job
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:21 pm ET) Padres shortstop Alexi Amarista is ready for the challenge of entering the season as a starter for the first time in his career, per MLB.com.

"I'm blessed that they gave me the opportunity and that gave me more confidence, being an everyday player," he said.

Monitoring Amarista's progress will be one thing Padres general manager A.J. Preller will watch closely this spring.

"I think, in general, we're really more anxious just to see how the spring training goes for the infield, in the middle of the infield, with Alexi and Clint Barmes, we're hoping we're covered," Preller said.


 
 
 
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