Proving Ground: Three Non-Roster Invitees Who Could Make the Mets
A deep group of NRI's in Port St. Lucie in 2023
Every MLB club always has one or two guys who get a non-roster invite to spring training and turn enough heads to find themselves in the thick of things.
Taking a look at past Mets non-roster invitees that fit that bill, the names of Travis Jankowski, Albert Almora Jr, and Chasen Shreve all come to mind.
A lot of the attention for this year’s NRI class is mainly focused on the fact that two of the Mets’ top prospects, Kevin Parada and Alex Ramirez, are getting a chance to showcase their skills early on. However, there are some names out of the group of 15 that could make enough noise to make the 26-man roster come March 31.
Tommy Hunter, RHP:
A familiar face to Mets fans over the last few years, Tommy Hunter rejoined the organization on a minor league deal just before the start of 2023. The 36-year-old reliever is now on his seventh team spanning his 15-year professional career.
Since 2021, Hunter has pitched in a total of 30.1 innings in Queens, with the majority of his workload with the Metsies taking place in 2022 where he fired 22.1 innings while dealing with a couple of bouts on the injured list.
Hunter is of course back with Mets manager Buck Showalter once again, who played an integral role in converting the former starter into a solid bullpen arm many years ago.
During his last two full seasons in Baltimore prior to being traded during the 2015 season, the Indiana product was a workhorse, logging 147 innings over a two-year span with an incredible 4.35 strikeouts-to-walks and a 2.88 ERA. So there is a good deal of familiarity and trust there.
When you hear the term “locker room guy”, Tommy Hunter is a name everyone will throw out there. With a bullpen spot open, and Hunter being a Buck guy, he can fill that bullpen spot with a strong spring.
José Peraza, INF:
José Peraza is back with the Mets for his second go after the utility man signed a minor league deal to return to Queens on November 10.
The former Dodgers, Reds, and Red Sox cog was a part of the 2021 group that got extensive playing time due to the plethora of injuries that the group encountered. Peraza had 154 plate appearances, hitting .204 with six home runs.
One of those long balls was a solo shot off Brewers closer Josh Hader to tie a game the Metsies ultimately came back to win. The now-San Diego Padres stalwart gave up just three homers that season, and one came off the bat of Peraza.
With a roster as deep as it is right now, there simply might not be room for Peraza. However, with Luis Guillorme as the only infield depth as a lock on the roster, if Peraza can prove he can still produce at the big-league level, there could be a spot for him.
Tim Locastro, OF/Legs:
This feels like as much of a lock as any of the 15 invitees. The love for a speedster off the bench is classic Showalter roster construction, with eyes on Terrance Gore and the Jankowski as clear evidence.
Locastro spent a season and a half with the Yankees, being traded to the Bronx in July 2021 for a minor leaguer. He was used in a Gore-esque role, never receiving consistent playing time (64 at-bats between ‘21-’22), being used mainly as defensive depth and to run.
Throughout his career, the speedster has snagged 39 bags on 44 attempts. He was a perfect 26/26 spanning four seasons before finally being caught stealing for the first time in his career in 2021.
It’s a "you know what you are getting” situation with Locastro. Speed, speed, and more speed with a sprinkle of defense in there.
With the addition of Tommy Pham to the outfield mix, there simply might not be room for Locastro. But telling by the usage of Gore and Jankowski last year, it could be a sure thing he is in Milwaukee the last weekend in March.
Non-roster invitees are utilized in many ways during spring training. Parada or Ramirez are there to get their first taste of big-league pitching. And specifically for Parada, to get used to receiving that big-league pitching.
This class provides some familiar faces looking to get back to the big time once again.
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