The St. Louis Cardinals are inviting 25 of their top performers who have yet to be placed on the 40-man roster to their 2017 Major League spring training camp, opening with pitchers and catchers reporting on February 14 in Jupiter, Florida.
Among these non-roster invitees, or NRIs, are five members of The Cardinal Nation's top 13 prospects for 2017. Headliners include outfielder Harrison Bader (ranked #5), pitchers Jack Flaherty (7th), Sandy Alcantara (8th) and Austin Gomber (9th) plus shortstop-third baseman Paul DeJong (13th). Other NRIs who are ranked among TCN's top 50 Cardinals prospects will also be designated below.
Other invitees include left-handed relievers Corey Littrell (47) and Ryan Sherriff, both of whom pitched in the 2016 Arizona Fall League. The NRIs were first disclosed by Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier in the off-season, when the Cardinals signed eight players as minor league free agents, they were also given non-roster invitations: pitchers Kendry Flores (42), Zach Phillips and Jordan Schafer, catchers Eric Fryer and Gabriel Lino, first baseman-outfielder Chad Huffman, shortstop Wilfredo Tovar and outfielder Todd Cunningham. Fryer is expected to back up Yadier Molina to open the season.
The final group of 10 include pitchers Josh Lucas, Trey Nielsen (44), Daniel Poncedeleon (36), Arturo Reyes and Robby Rowland. Also invited are catchers Andrew Knizner (45), Jeremy Martinez (29), Dennis Ortega (43) and Alberto Rosario, and third baseman Patrick Wisdom. Among this latter group, only Rosario, who spent almost three months with St. Louis to close 2016, and Rowland, are not homegrown Cardinals.
As the competition heats up across the system, some prominent pitchers were passed over. They include Chris Ellis, acquired from Atlanta in the Jaime Garcia deal, 2016 first-rounder Dakota Hudson (6), hard-throwing Junior Fernandez (11), Matt Pearce (34) and former St. Louis pitcher Mitch Harris, still working his way back from ligament repair surgery.
With St. Louis having a relatively-set roster, the vast majority of these non-roster players will return to the minor leagues to open the season. However, there are almost certainly bound to be a few surprises coming from this group – as there were last spring when Fryer and Jeremy Hazelbaker both made the 2016 Opening Day roster as NRIs.
Check the Roster Matrix
To follow all transaction and roster-related information for the entire Cardinals system, by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog. Of course, these non-roster invitees are called out there, as well!
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