Few, if any, non-roster invitees make it on to the Opening Day roster of a Major League ball club. The Tampa Bay Rays have only had 17 such players make the jump from non-roster invitee to Big Leaguer on Opening Day, and 15 of those 17 were before the Rays ever made the playoffs. Here is a quick list of the 17 players that have made the jump:
1998: Rolando Arrojo
2000: Dave Eiland, Herbert Perry
2001: Ken Hill
2008: Eric Hinske
2011: Juan Cruz
As the Rays have grown into annual contenders they have had less openings on the Opening day roster for non-roster invitees. At one point in time it may have been a good idea for a professional ball player to take a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite from the Rays in hopes of cracking the parent club's roster but those days have fleeted into the back of our memories.
Taking a look at the 2012 non-roster invitees, there really are not any names that jump out at you besides the top prospects who we all know are not going to make a jump a la Rocco Baldelli in 2003. Tommy Rancel did a good job highlighting some of the better invitees and I want to touch up on one of them as well as a few more intriguing names to keep an eye on that I believe could help the Rays down the road.
One of those names that Rancel mentioned, and I also want to highlight, is corner infielder Matt Mangini. Mangini is a big 26 year old listed at 6'4'' and 230 pounds and, like Rancel pointed out, has hit well in the minors including a Triple-A line of .321/.369/.483 in 736 plate appearances in his age 24 and 25 seasons. His lack of power means he has to clean up his defense at 3B but the hit tool is above-average and he seemed to improve on his patience before getting injured last season. Keep a close eye on him as the first potential bat to come up in case of an injury at a corner infield spot.
I have been a fan of outfielder Jeff Salazar since he was drafted in the 8th round by the Colorado Rockies way back in 2002. He is entering his age 31 season with only 348 career PAs at the top level but he posted a 12.6% walk rate and .335 OBP including a .344 OBP against right-handed pitcher in 322 PAs at that level. He still has an above-average arm and speed but center field is likely ou of the question for him but he has a positive UZR in the corners and posted a +2.3 Bsr in his limited time in the Majors. He is nothing more than a fourth or fifth outfield option but one that can play defense, work a count, and runs the bases well.
Bryan Augenstein is still quite young at 25 years old and was a starter for most of his pro career but has missed time due to injuries in each of the past three seasons. He battled elbow and upper arm problems in 2009, staph infection in 2010, and was placed on the 60-day DL last year with a groin strain. He is a big right-hander and can get good downhill plane on his fastball but needs to locate it due to lack of velocity. He also mixes in a decent slider and below-average change-up. His potential value lies upon his potential to get right-handed batters out and to potential to get groundballs. In a small sample size in Triple-A he held RHB to a .205 average, had a GB/FB ratio of 1.44, and struck out 25 in 22.1 innings.
Ricky Orta is the last name I want to mention. He missed nearly two years due to Tommy John surgery but has been clocked in the mid-90s in the past and has struck out more than a batter per inning in his professional career. He does have some control issues and needs to tighten up his breaking ball but with a little coaching he might be a serviceable middle reliever down the road.