A non-roster invitee is a player who is not currently on a Major League team’s 40-man roster and is invited to Spring Training. This means that the player is signed only to a minor league contract and is not officially a part of the big league ball club. They can, however, be signed come Opening Day, and that is the goal of every non-roster invitee.
There are different non-roster invitee player types. They are not all alike and can be in different stages of their careers. The majority of players who are a non-roster invitee are veterans who are looking to catch on with a new club. They have probably had some experience at the Major League level via a call-up role, but never developed into a player who stuck around.
Some of the veterans that are a non-roster invitee are proven veterans who may be past their prime and are trying to prove themselves to a new team. This could include both pitchers and position players, and it could be a little easier for these players because they have Major League experience and know what it takes to succeed at that level. The experienced veterans bring a successful track record and will be known by more fans from their previous Big League seasons.
Veteran/prospect non-roster invitees
While there are plenty of older guys trying to latch on to a team, other players who qualify as a non-roster invitee are young prospects. These players have more than likely been in the minors for a few seasons and are poised to be on the Major League roster at some point over the next few seasons. They may be a long shot to make the Opening Day roster if a starting job is not available right away, but it is an opportunity to give the young guns playing time against their future counterparts. It is a chance to see how they do against other top-level competition.
If you look at the Houston Astros for 2015, you see the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, Mark Appel. You also see nine-year veteran Roberto Hernandez who is on his fourth team in three seasons. Appel has his entire career in front of him and has yet to make his MLB debut, but he is a non-roster invitee to get experience with other Major Leaguers and prepare him for later on. Hernandez is an aging pitcher and is a non-roster invitee with a decent shot of making the starting rotation if he performs well in Spring Training. Both are different points of their careers, but also both not on the Astros’ 40-man roster.
It may be a long shot for a non-roster invitee to make the Major League roster, but there are always a few players who make the cut. It depends on a team’s needs and what direction it is headed.
Spring Training is a time when all different types of players are on the same field at the same time. There are those on the 25-man roster and locked into the starting lineup come Opening Day. There are others who compose the rest of the 40-man roster and are trying to make the Big League club during the regular season or waiting until the September call-ups at the end. Then there are the non-roster invitees who are signed only to minor league contracts and are looking to make a splash with their month of MLB time. Some players get released while others earn the right to keep playing past March.