The Atlanta Braves announced Friday a list of 21 players invited to spring training as non-roster invitees.
Braves 2018 spring training non-roster invitees:
PITCHERS: Kolby Allard, Josh Graham, Luke Jackson, Phil Pfeifer, Miguel Socolovich, Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright
CATCHERS: Rob Brantly, William Contreras, Alex Jackson, Tyler Marlette, Kade Scivicque
INFIELDERS: Christian Colon, Ray-Patrick Didder, Sean Kazmar, Austin Riley
OUTFIELDERS: Ronald Acuna, Jaff Decker, Christian Pache, Dustin Peterson, Danny Santana
The notable prospect names here are Acuna, Allard, Soroka, Wright, Riley, Pache and Jackson. Some of these will enter to the hope of making the team out of spring training, especially Acuna, and the team will play up that fact, but they're all likely to see more minor league time before getting a call up. Acuna's most likely path is at least a couple weeks at Triple-A Gwinnett before an early call. Allard, Soroka, Wright, Riley and Jackson all have chances to reach Atlanta by the end of 2018 in some capacity.
Acuna will be the biggest storyline entering spring training for the Braves and one of the biggest for MLB. That tends to happen when you have the top-ranked prospect in baseball knocking on the door at 20 years old. Considering how he's already handled the spotlight of being highly ranked and has torn through advanced pitching so far, it shouldn't be a surprise if he settles in well with the big league club this spring. But, at 20, nothing should be a surprise in his first taste of a major league spring. It'll be interesting to see where they play him in the outfield and how often. Right field is his likely destination now and in the future.
Atlanta's best pitching prospects tend to get flipped and flopped all the time in lists, so it's easier to bunch Allard, Soroka and Wright when watching how they perform this spring. All are on similar timelines and all have a similar shot at being a solid major league starting pitcher.
Allard handled the Double-A test very well at 20 years old last season and is on the cusp. He has the confidence to face major league hitting and offer his best at a young age. I think he could stick sooner rather than later. The same applies to Soroka, who might not have eye-popping stuff, but his maturity is off the charts and he's capable of handling an advanced test at a young age. Wright is on a different route as a 2017 draft pick with only 17 innings of pro ball under his belt, but he came out of that draft as one of the best bets to reach the majors quickly, and he shouldn't be too far behind Allard and Soroka. He might not get as many spring innings and is more likely to spend the majority of the year at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett.
Riley could also see the majority of 2018 at Mississippi with some time at Gwinnett and maybe a late call. It'll depend on how he handles a lengthier stint at an advanced level. He's less of a sure bet in the upper levels because of his boom-or-bust profile, so his first major league spring training stint could go in a million directions. Pache is likely to go level by level and should spend most, it not all, of 2018 at Class-A Advanced Florida. His spring training stint will probably be a short one. Jackson's is likely to be much longer as the Braves get lengthy looks at how he handles himself behind the plate and against stronger pitching. This is going to be an important spring for him, perhaps more so than most players in camp.
Graham, Jackson, Pfeifer and Socolovich are trying to work toward big league time in a bullpen, and this camp serves as a sort of tryout to see what they have right now. Every team's spring training is full of these guys.
The same applies to catchers. Brantly, Marlette and Scivicque are working toward major league time as catchers in some form, likely backups or depth guys who flip between the majors and Triple-A. Contreras is an intriguing name who will get his first taste of full-season ball this year. He'll be in camp to interact with instructors, pick up some things from the major league guys and learn the day to day environment.
Colon is trying to earn a major league utility spot but may settle in as depth, while Kazmar's ceiling is Triple-A depth. Didder is an interesting invite because of his speed and versatility that offers a potential utility option soon. The bat has proven to be a bit light, though, and he needs to be able to hold his own against advanced pitching.
Peterson's path is heading toward a depth role or possible platoon spot on a second-division team, so a positive spring could get him closer to that. Santana didn't hit in his time with the Braves last season, but he's versatile and offers major league experience, so he earned another invite and could be back in Atlanta at some point or get cut. Decker is on a similar path toward depth at Triple-A and occasional call-ups.