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Meet the NRIs: Pitchers

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Meet the dozen (mostly) new arms in Mariners camp

Seattle Mariners Photo Day Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Every spring, each team invites a large handful of players who didn’t crack their 40-man roster to round out big league camp. Heralded prospects, grizzled veterans looking for one last shot, and organizational depth can all fall under the broad brush of “non-roster invitee,” and while many end up not breaking camp, there’s always at least a couple names to keep an eye on. This year is no different, with the Mariners inviting 27 non-roster players to Peoria, including an even dozen pitchers. Today we’ll take a dive into each one, with tomorrow’s focus turning to the fifteen non-roster position players in camp.

Starters:

Nabil Crismatt - RHP

Prior to signing with Seattle in late January, Crismatt spent his entire career in the Mets organization, signing out of Colombia in 2012. After spending the first few years of his career as a reliever, Crismatt was converted to a full-time starter in 2017, and performed fairly well at High-A, posting a FIP of just under 4 over 145.2 innings. He managed to reach Triple-A last year after a solid showing in Double-A Binghamton - where he was briefly teammates with Justin Dunn - but was smoked to the tune of an 8.84/6.41/5.04 pitcher slash line over nine starts - although a sky-high HR/FB of over 20% suggests he may have been burned a little too harshly by the Pacific Coast League. Crismatt’s fastball sits low-90s, and he features a plus changeup and a slow, loopy curve that hangs around in the high 60s - fairly fringy stuff for a right-hander. Having just turned 24 on Christmas, though, it’s not out of the question that he could take another step forward, and he has a shot to open 2019 in Tacoma. -CD

Tyler Danish - RHP

Danish is another reclamation project from the White Sox organization, although he comes with more prospect pedigree than fellow righty Brandon Brennan, this year’s Rule 5 selection. One of the top prep pitchers in 2013, Danish was nabbed out of Florida by the White Sox in the second round and began climbing the organizational ladder. When he was drafted, Danish had one of the most unconventional deliveries in baseball, with a wild ¾ slot and virtually no slide step, and that might have been a factor in his fastball losing effectiveness as he progressed up through the White Sox system, as his K/9 steadily dropped level to level. Danish also stands just six feet tall, adding him to another market inefficiency the Mariners are trying to exploit: short king pitchers. Perhaps the Mariners see something they can tweak to make Danish more effective; he has good pitchability and a starter’s complement of pitches, making him an option for long relief even if he can’t reclaim a starting job. -KP

Justin Dunn - RHP

Much has been written and discussed about Dunn already, and you can read Matthew’s excellent write-up on him here. Coming over in the Robinson Canó/Edwin Díaz blockbuster, Dunn reached Double-A with the Mets last season, averaging a double-digit K/9 between there and High-A St. Lucie. His command can waver a bit, but his stuff is legit, featuring a fastball that sits 94-95 to go with a cutter, slider, and a curve and change that are both still works in progress. While his ERA bumped up almost two full runs upon being bumped to Double-A last year, his FIP still stayed in the mid-threes, and his ground-ball rate climbed by about six points. It’s likely that Dunn will start 2019 in Arkansas, but it’s easy to envision him earning a ticket to Tacoma by midseason if he can keep the strikeouts up and his command in check, especially if his curve or changeup take a step forward. -CD

Tommy Milone - LHP

Out of the four guys here with big league experience (Danish, Ryan Garton, and Max Povse being the others), Milone is by far the most seasoned. The soft-tossing lefty was a mainstay in Oakland’s rotation from 2012 to mid-2014 after being included in the Nationals’ trade package for Gio Gonzalez, and has since spent time with the Twins, Brewers, Mets, and a second stint in the nation’s capital. Milone threw 26.1 innings in the Majors last year with Washington, and put up an otherworldly 23:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Unfortunately, he also served up seven dingers in that span, resulting in a FIP of over five despite the stellar command. Milone seems unlikely to break camp with Seattle, but if he opts to stay with the org he should be a nice warm body to have in Tacoma, and his veteran presence could help young arms such as Justus Sheffield down there. -CD

Max Povse - RHP

Maxwell Povse was very tall

Maxwell Povse had a great fall

His broad shoulders did ache then

The IL awaits him

By May perhaps we’ll see the Tall Wall. -JT

Relievers:

Jack Anderson

The sidearming Anderson is a grounder maestro, never posting a ground-ball rate below 66% in the minors outside of a two-inning cameo in Everett. Amazingly, he hasn’t given up a single home run in his professional career, a feat even more impressive considering he’s thrown 74 innings in the Cal League after a midseason promotion in 2017. Having turned 25 in January, Anderson has always been a little old for the level he’s pitched at, but his results and ground balls are eye-popping nonetheless. He took a step forward in 2018, as well, cutting his walks significantly and working to a 2.64 FIP over 53.2 innings. It’s likely he’ll open the season in Double-A Arkansas, and he could be a fast riser if he keeps up the good work. -CD

Jorgan Cavanerio

Cavanerio, a lifer in the Marlins’ minor-league system signed out of Venezuela way back in 2011, saw his K/9 increase dramatically when he worked exclusively from the bullpen in 2018, but the 24-year-old is yet to pitch above Double-A. Cavanerio throws a low-90s fastball with some sink and features a changeup with good depth and fade; his lack of a convincing third pitch is what precipitated his move to the bullpen. Also, even if the Mariners don’t get much winning done on the field this year, they’re definitely angling to take the prize in any and all baseball brawls. -KP

Ryan Garton

After breaking in with the Rays in 2016, Garton arrived in Seattle in an August 2017 trade along with the since-retired Mike Marjama. Making thirteen appearances down the stretch of that year, he pitched quite well, walking just one hitter and letting two runs score over 11.2 innings. Garton was outrighted following the year’s end, and needed hip labrum surgery that offseason, but stayed with the org and recovered to make 35 decent appearances with the Rainiers. It’s unlikely that he’ll make the team out of spring barring injuries, but a fully healthy Garton should be good insurance in Tacoma, and may find his way up to Seattle at some point in 2019. -CD

Robin Leyer

Leyer was most recently with the Reds but still counts as a White Sox reclamation project, as he previously spent his entire pro career with Chicago since signing out of the Dominican Republic as a teenager. Leyer has above-average velocity with below-average control and while he got a healthy bump in his K/9 after being transitioned to the bullpen in 2016, his walk rate also shot up. Just looking at this film of him pitching at Double-A this year, it looks like Leyer’s mechanics could use some smoothing out, particularly the weird crow hop movement of his plant foot on his follow-through. Maybe the Mariners’ pitching wizards will be able to unlock some extra control hidden in the 6’2” righty’s frame; there are worse things than taking a flier on a 25-year-old who throws in the high 90s. -KP

David McKay

There’s something that’s always been peculiar about how professional sports define players’ financial worth as part of their core existence. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have paced the glacial 2018-19 free agency period attempting to earn a figure they feel matches their skills. Robinson Canó departed because of his financial command. Kyle Seager remains untraded because of his. David McKay is here because the Royals accepted $1 for him, and he has become a decent middle relief prospect all the same. McKay should begin the season in AAA-Tacoma, and should feature frequently in later innings of Spring Training as an above-average talent giving hitters a challenge. -JT

Tayler Scott

Tayler Scott was the first player ever drafted out of South Africa, and although he’s been beaten to The Show by fellow South African Gift Ngoepe, he still has an opportunity to be the first pitcher to make MLB. Tayler, which feels like more of a last name than Scott, is a typical sinker-slider reliever, even as not much else about him is typical. -KP

Matt Tenuta

South Africa is great and all, but LHP Matt Tenuta stands before you as the lone graduate of Apex High School in North Carolina to ascend to professional baseball directly from high school. Tenuta’s company who moved to college first includes former Mariners Seth Frankoff and the memorable Matt Mangini. Tenuta arrived along with McKay from the Royals, and offers a similar middle relief profile. What Tenuta brings that stands out is his left-handedness. He dominated AA much like McKay, and got good results in shaky process in his first crack at AAA. The 25-year-old is another pitcher who could easily earn themselves some looks in the bigs with injuries to others or a new tweak, but will also see plenty of work in mop-up this Spring. -JT