ARIZONA — Between Chicago’s two Major League Baseball franchises, there are 44 non-roster invitees combined to take the fields at Sloan Park in Mesa and Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Here’s a breakdown of who’s fighting for a roster spot on the Cubs and White Sox:
The Cubs have 19 non-roster invitees set to arrive at Sloan Park for 2024 spring training — 11 pitchers and eight position players.
Pitchers include right-handers Colten Brewer, Chris Clarke, Carl Edwards Jr., Sam McWilliams, Ethan Roberts, Cam Sanders and Riley Thompson, as well as left-handers Edwin Escobar, Richard Lovelady, Thomas Pannone and Brad Wieck.
Ten of the 19 non-roster invitees for the Cubs have Major League experience, including Brewer, Roberts, Escobar, Lovelady, Pannone, Wieck, Bote, Alfaro and Hudson.
The remaining nine non-roster invitees are prospects in their minor league system, including Caissie (MLB’s No. 47 prospect) and Shaw (MLB’s No. 54 prospect), two of the top 100 prospects in baseball.
Caissie brings with him one of the Cubs’ more interesting storylines of spring training. Already the highest drafted outfielder to ever come out of Canada, Caissie put himself on the minor league prospect scene when he put together a good showing for Team Canada in last year’s World Baseball Classic, then followed it up with a .289/.399/.519 slash line with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies where he had an average exit velocity in the 99th percentile among professional hitters in 2023.
As interesting as it may be to find a spot on the roster for the hard-hitting Canadian if he performs well in Mesa, it’s also interesting to see how Michael Busch (MLB’s No. 51 prospect, listed on the 40-man roster) will impact the roster when the Cubs only have one listed first baseman on their depth chart (Patrick Wisdom).
If the club continues to balk in negotiations to retain Cody Bellinger, most North Side prognosticators would point toward Busch, the 2023 Pacific Coast League MVP and one of the best minor league hitting prospects in baseball, as a legitimate option to get a healthy chunk of playing time at first base.
The White Sox have 25 non-roster invitees in total heading into 2024 spring training — 11 free agents coming in with minor league contracts, and another 14 who are prospects within the organization where some have seen big league action already.
Among free agents who signed minor league contracts with non-roster spring training invites, there are five pitchers, all right-handers — Justin Anderson, Joe Barlow, Jake Cousins, Chad Kuhl and Jake Woodford — one catcher — Chuckie Robinson — one utility infielder — Danny Mendick — and four outfielders — Rafael Ortega, Mark Payton, Brett Phillips and Kevin Pillar.
All 11 players who received non-roster invites to the club’s spring training camp in Glendale have varying levels of experience at the MLB level, including two who have previous experience playing with the White Sox — Mendick from 2019-22 and Payton in 2022.
In four seasons and 151 total games with the White Sox, Mendick made appearances at every position except first base and catcher, essentially fulfilling the super-utility role. He even made an appearance on the mound on April 19, 2021, throwing a full inning where he struck out one batter, hit another, and gave up one hit without surrendering a run in a 11-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Payton played in eight games with the White Sox in 2022, going 3-25 (.143 batting average) with one RBI and four walks.
Phillips is one of baseball’s best feel good stories of the past several years. Known for his motto “baseball is fun” and his kind-hearted, genuine nature, Phillips developed a bond with an 8-year-old cancer patient named Chloe Grimes when the youngster threw out the first pitch at a Rays game in April 2022.
Unbeknownst to Phillips until after the game, Chloe told an on-field reporter that Phillips was her favorite player during a live interview, and moments later, Phillips hit a home run over the right field wall.
In a postgame interview with the same reporter, Phillips choked back tears describing how inspirational Chloe was for him, showing a softball she had written his name on and a softball photo of her, along with the wristband she gave to him after delivering the first pitch.
Here’s the video for those interested.
The remaining 14 non-roster invitees are right-handed pitchers Jonathan Cannon, Jordan Leasure, Nick Nastrini, Edgar Navarro, Nick Padilla and Lane Ramsey, left-handed pitchers Ky Bush and Fraser Ellard, catchers Adam Hackenberg, Carlos Pérez and Edgar Quero, and infielders Tim Elko, Colson Montgomery and Zach Remillard.
Montgomery ranks No. 9 among MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects and is baseball’s No. 2 shortstop prospect, while Quero is rated No. 9 among catchers.
Montgomery (No. 1), Nastrini (No. 3), Quero (No. 5), Cannon (No. 9), Busch (No. 11) and Leasure (No. 14) rank among the White Sox top prospects according to Baseball America. Montgomery (No. 15 overall) also ranks among the publication’s Top 100 prospects in baseball, and is rated the Best Athlete in the Sox system.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Wednesday, Feb. 14 for both teams, while full-squad workouts also begin the same day for both organizations on Feb. 19.