In a couple of days, the first game of spring training gets underway when the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners play at Hohokam Stadium.
Over the next month, several players will attempt to earn a 40-man roster spot on a big-league club. Among them are dozens of non-roster invitees - players who are still blossoming talent or veterans who don't have guaranteed big-league deals.
Among the NRIs entering spring camps are some of baseball's top prospects, a pitcher who's thrown two no-no's, and one of the greatest hitters of all time.
Here are 10 NRIs from American League clubs to keep an eye on during spring training.
Read about the National League NRIs to watch here.
With the Red Sox unlikely to add any more arms to their bullpen, the defending World Series champions are going to rely on a group that lacks star power without All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. One of the more interesting names to keep an eye on is Zach Putnam, who was a solid contributor in the White Sox bullpen for four seasons (145 ERA+, 1.18 WHIP) before missing all of 2018 because of Tommy John surgery. If Putnam can return to form, Boston may have found another Ryan Brasier.
With so much attention on top prospects Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, and Dylan Cease over the past year, Luis Robert has gotten lost in the shuffle. The Cuban can correct that with a solid spring camp. The 21-year-old did not look good in 32 games for High-A Winston-Salem in 2018, recording a .625 OPS, but looked much better in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .324 along with a .367 OBP. He needs to work on his plate discipline (75 strikeouts in 78 career minor-league games), but the talented outfielder still has a high ceiling.
Because the Indians outfield features no sure things, with Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, and Greg Allen projected as starters, Matt Joyce has a solid chance to crack the club's Opening Day roster. Joyce will complete with Jordan Luplow, Brandon Barnes, and Trayce Thompson for a big-league spot and should have a leg up because of his experience and hitting ability. Before an awful 2018 campaign, Joyce posted two consecutive seasons with an OPS over .800 and in 2017 he hit a career high 25 home runs. His career splits versus righties are also intriguing (.351 OBP, .451 SLG).
The No. 1 overall selection from the 2018 draft, Casey Mize, will be in camp with the rebuilding Tigers. While his chances of securing a spot in Detroit's rotation appear to be slim, the 21-year-old prospect has the stuff and control to leave a lasting impression. During his time at Auburn, Mize became one of the top college pitchers in the nation thanks to an incredible splitter that's already viewed as a plus-plus pitch by MLB Pipeline. The Tigers are taking it slow with Mize, who they signed for $7.5 million, but reps against big-league hitters should provide him with the seasoning he needs to potentially rise through the minor-league ranks. He would then be poised to make a big impact on the team when their competitive window opens again.
The Astros look like a World Series contender yet again and are also set up well for future success. Forrest Whitley is expected to be a big part of the team in the near future and will benefit from the experience in camp alongside Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. While the skyscraping right-hander, who stands 6-foot-7, is projected to open the season in Double-A, Astros fans who want to take a look at the strikeout specialist (who has drawn comparisons to a right-handed Clayton Kershaw), should look for tickets to watch him throw in Florida.
Homer Bailey will participate in spring training with a team other than the Reds for the first time in his career after inking a minor-league deal with the Royals. Bailey is an interesting watch. He's the owner of two major-league no hitters, but hasn't been effective since 2014. The 32-year-old earned just one win alongside 14 losses last season and was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers after they took on his $23-million salary in order to trade Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood. It's a low-cost gamble for the Royals, who hope the right-hander shows flashes of his old self.
Danny Farquhar's comeback will be one of most heart-warming stories of the season and it all begins this spring as he competes for a roster spot with the Yankees. The 32-year-old right-hander suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage because of an aneurysm last April during a White Sox game, but is back to full health and has been throwing bullpens for his new club. "Just to think 10 months ago that I would be here, you don't know," Farquhar recently told ESPN's Coley Harvey. "I am extraordinarily just ... thankful." It'll be tough for the veteran to crack the Yankees' Opening Day bullpen, but he has a decent shot against fellow right-handers Tommy Kahnle and Luis Cessa.
It may be short-lived, but Ichiro will suit up for the Mariners again this season. To prepare for the club's Japan series against the Athletics in March, the 45-year-old will get ready in spring camp with the club that originally signed him in 2001. Since making his MLB debut, Ichiro has won an MVP, two batting titles, 10 Gold Gloves, and appeared in 10 All-Star Games. The hitting wizard has also accumulated more than 3,000 big-league hits, which combined with the 1,278 he racked up in Japan, would be more than MLB's all-time hits leader Pete Rose. When he officially calls it quits, he'll have fashioned one of the all-time great careers in professional sports.
When the Giants dominated baseball by winning three World Series in five seasons, Hunter Pence was a spark plug for two of those teams on the field and in the clubhouse. The last two seasons have gone much differently for the 35-year-old. After posting a .590 OPS in 97 games in 2018, the Giants opted not to re-sign him. He did find an invite to spring training with the Rangers after playing some winter ball in the Dominican Republic. The three-time All-Star is one of a handful of veteran reclamation projects entering camp with the Rangers and could wind up as a fourth outfielder if Texas doesn't like what they see from youngster Willie Calhoun.
Top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the talk of Blue Jays camp and is receiving most of the attention, but don't sleep on Bo Bichette. MLB Pipeline's 11th ranked prospect is Toronto's shortstop of the future, the son of retired MLB power hitter Dante Bichette, and looked pretty solid for Double-A New Hampshire in 2018 (.286/.343/.453, 43 doubles, 74 RBIs). Freddy Galvis will likely enter the regular season as the team's starting shortstop, but spring training will provide Blue Jays fans with some ideal opportunities to see what Bo is all about.