The Cleveland Indians announced on Friday afternoon that the guest list for Spring Training at their Goodyear, Arizona, complex beginning in February has grown by eight.
The Tribe will welcome minor league pitchers Josh Martin and Tyler Olson, infielders Nellie Rodriguez, Ronny Rodriguez, and Eric Stamets, outfielders Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer, and utility man Yandy Diaz to their spring camp on non-roster invites.
The eight will audition for jobs with the Indians while getting a good opportunity to warm up for the 2017 season against other Major League caliber competition.
The right-handed Martin will make his second straight appearance in a Major League spring training, but the former tenth round pick by Cleveland in the 2012 draft will make his first one with the Indians. He spent last year’s with the San Diego Padres after the club selected him in the Rule V draft, but he was returned to the Indians after being designated for assignment at the end of spring training.
Upon returning to the Indians organization, he was placed at the Triple-A level with Columbus for the first time and went 2-5 with three saves and a 3.41 ERA in 47 games.
Olson, 27, is the only one of the eight new camp invitees with any previous Major League experience. A seventh round pick by the Seattle Mariners in the 2013 draft, the left-handed Olson joined his fifth organization (and fourth of 2016) when the Indians claimed him off of waivers in July from the Kansas City Royals, who had claimed him in June from the New York Yankees after appearing in one game for the club.
With the Clippers, he saw nine games of action, giving up 12 hits and six walks with ten strikeouts in ten and two-thirds innings of work with a 5.91 ERA.
Nellie Rodriguez will head to his first camp with the big league club after another solid showing in the Indians farm system. The 22-year-old first baseman and 15th round pick by Cleveland in the 2012 draft returned to Double-A Akron last year after a 25-game glimpse at the level in 2015.
The fifth-year pro appeared in 132 games, putting together a .250/.352/.474 hitting line with 28 doubles, 26 homers, and 85 RBI over the course of the year. He drew quite a few walks (75) at the plate, but he struck out at an incredibly high rate (186 times on the season). He was named a midseason All-Star for the RubberDucks and an organizational All-Star by MiLB.com after the season.
Ronny Rodriguez, a 24-year-old utility man, spent last season with the Columbus Clippers in his first exposure to the Triple-A level. Working on the right side of the Clippers infield in his sixth professional season, he hit .258 with a .293 OBP and .400 slugging percentage with 24 doubles, five triples, ten homers, and 59 RBI for the season.
He has spent the offseason playing for former Indians manager Manny Acta in the Dominican Baseball League for Aguilas, where he hit .306 through 44 games with ten doubles, three triples, and three home runs while taking the field at six different positions.
Stamets will make his return to the Indians’ big league camp at Goodyear in February. The 25-year-old shortstop spent last season between Akron and Columbus, hitting .237 with 17 doubles, three triples, seven homers, and 37 RBI after working with the big league club in the spring.
The Dublin, Ohio, native will enter his third season as a member of the Indians organization. He was a sixth round pick out of the University of Evansville by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2012, but was dealt to Cleveland in 2015 in exchange for outfielder David Murphy.
All eyes will be on Zimmer, the Indians’ top prospect and their first round pick (21st overall) in the 2014 draft. The 24-year-old outfielder reached the Triple-A level for the first time last season after being named an Eastern League All-Star during his time with the Akron RubberDucks. He played in 37 regular season games for the Clippers, but still struggled with the strikeout there, returning to the dugout via the K in 37.3% of his plate appearances. He slashed .250/.365/.425 over 130 games on the year with 25 doubles, 15 homers, 62 RBI, and 38 stolen bases.
He spent the offseason participating in the Arizona Fall League. In 22 games, he hit .257/.421/.514 with seven doubles, four homers, 16 RBI, eight stolen bases, 26 strikeouts, and 19 walks.
Allen joined Zimmer with the Mesa Solar Sox and had a strong follow up to an impressive 2016 season. The 23-year-old speedy center fielder started his campaign in High-A Lynchburg with the Hillcats, hitting .298 with a .424 OBP in 92 games with 38 stolen bases in 45 attempts. He was promoted to the Double-A level for the first time late in the season and appeared in 37 games for the RubberDucks, hitting .290 with a .399 OBP.
The switch-hitter and San Diego State product hit .269 in the Arizona Fall League with a .380 OBP and 12 stolen bases in 22 games of action.
Diaz may have the best chances of leaving spring training on the Indians roster. The 25-year-old split his third professional season between Akron and Columbus. After hitting .286 to start the season with the RubberDucks, he got the promotion to Triple-A when Giovanny Urshela went down injured. He remained with the club the rest of the season and was even thought to be a possible late season call-up candidate for the Indians after hitting .325 with a .399 OBP, 22 doubles, seven homers, and 44 RBI for the Clippers in 95 games in his first significant exposure at the level.
After spending his first two seasons in the organization playing solely third base, he got a tour of several other positions while with the Clippers. In addition to his time at the hot corner, he also spent time at second base and all three outfield spots. He finished the season second in the International League batting title race and was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. He played for Leones del Caracas in the offseason, hitting .371 in 40 games of Venezuelan Professional Baseball League action.
The eight minor leaguers join other non-roster invitees Travis Banwart, Chris Colabello, Steve Delabar, Erik Kratz, Michael Martinez, Guillermo Quiroz, and Daniel Robertson.