The Nationals have invited 32 players on minor league contracts to spring training, bringing their total big league camp roster to a whopping 71.
The extensive list of non-roster invitees includes several well-known veterans with prior experience either with the Nationals (Gerardo Parra, Javy Guerra, Aaron Barrett, Adrián Sanchez) or other clubs (Luis Avilán, T.J. McFarland, Welington Castillo, Jordy Mercer, Hernán Pérez, Blake Swihart, Yasmany Tomás).
It also includes several of the organization’s top prospects, many of them recent draft picks who aren’t big league ready but will get an opportunity to pitch in front of the major league coaching staff before eventually moving down to the minors (Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge, Cole Henry, Tim Cate, Jackson Cluff).
With minor league camp delayed until after the big leaguers head north at the end of March due to COVID-19 restrictions, teams are allowed a pool of up to 75 players this spring. Though the Nationals chose to leave four spots open (one on the 40-man roster) for now, this still represents the largest camp they’ve had since perhaps the open tryout in the spring of 2007 in Viera, Fla.
There should be a few spots on the opening day 26-man roster available to some of these invitees.
The Nats have at least one opening on a bench that already figures to include catcher Alex Avila, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, outfielder Andrew Stevenson and utility man Josh Harrison. Non-roster candidates would include outfielders Parra (back after a year playing in Japan) and Tomás (formerly of the Diamondbacks) and infielders Sanchez (a longtime member of the organization), Mercer (former Pirate and Tiger) and Pérez (former Tiger and Brewer).
There’s also at least one spot in the opening day bullpen available to one of a host of candidates. Some are already on the 40-man roster: Dakota Bacus, Sam Clay, Ryne Harper, Kyle McGowin, Seth Romero. Others will try to force their way in as non-roster invitees: returnees Guerra and Barrett, plus lefties Avilán (who has pitched for six clubs, most notably the Braves and Dodgers) and McFarland (formerly of the Orioles, Diamondbacks and Athletics).
Recent first-round picks like Cavalli and Rutledge won’t be competing for a spot on the opening day roster, but they will get a chance to pitch in big league camp for the first time, work with the coaching staff and get a jump start on the minor league season, which is expected to be delayed about a month.
Here’s the Nationals’ full spring training roster (non-roster invitees are noted with an asterisk):