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Detroit Tigers: 3 Non-Roster Invitees Who Could Make the Team

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Mar 23, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Nate Schierholtz (8) scores a run against the Cincinnati Reds at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Nate Schierholtz (8) scores a run against the Cincinnati Reds at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Detroit Tigers have invited a number of non-roster players to Spring Training, some could wind up making an impact with the team in 2016.

Despite coming off a losing season that saw the team finish in last place in the American League Central, most of the Detroit Tigers roster is set. There are only a few position battles of note to follow during Spring Training.

Cameron Maybin and Anthony Gose will likely open the season in a platoon situation in center field, however one could distance themselves with a torrid spring. Additionally, Bryan Holaday and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will compete for the right to back up James McCann. What’s more, there are a few bullpen spots potentially up for grabs.

Here is the full list of the non-roster invitees.

While there are a number of intriguing names on the list, here are three who could make the team.

Joe Jimenez

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One of the Detroit Tigers’ best prospects, Jimenez hasn’t pitched above Single-A. Regardless of that, he has the potential to be a dominant reliever—and could catch on with a strong spring.

As it stands, the Detroit bullpen will consist of some combination of Francisco Rodriguez, Blaine Hardy, Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson and Mark Lowe. After those five, Drew VerHagen, Bruce Rondon and Kyle Ryan standout as candidates to make the team.

If VerHagen, Rondon or Ryan make the team, they won’t be doing any of the heavy lifting in the bullpen. That distinction will belong to the more established names. Knowing that the last few relievers won’t pitch much, the Tigers could opt to carry Jimenez and let him get his feet wet in the Major Leagues.

The reliever seems to be on the fast track to the bigs, and could benefit from some additional experience. There’s also the very real possibility that Jimenez’ blazing fastball and nasty power slider can make the jump from A-ball to the show.

Drake Britton

A 26-year-old, former top-100 prospect with solid Major League numbers, Britton could claim a bullpen spot.

Sep 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Drake Britton (66) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Drake Britton (66) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The left-handed pitcher has pitched as both a starter and a reliever, with most of his big league experience coming out of the bullpen.

Britton has struggled some at Triple-A with a 5.51 career ERA at the level. He pitched to a 5.08 earned run average last year for the Cubs’ affiliate.

The 2015 season saw the former prospect throw 83.1 innings with a 5.08 ERA. The 83.1 innings also included 11 starts and five games finished. Needless to say, he didn’t have a defined role for the entirety of the season. Perhaps a full-time switch back to the bullpen will help.

From 2013 to 2014 with the Boston Red Sox, Britton posted a 2.93 ERA and a 3.00 FIP in 25 appearances. He struck out 21 batters over the same span. If the pitcher can post similar numbers in Spring Training, he’ll stand a good chance of making the Opening Day roster.

Nate Schierholtz

Perhaps the most experienced of the non-roster invitees, Schierholtz has played in nearly 800 (799) games at the Major-League level.

Despite being a career .253 hitter, and having only a single season in which he posted a WAR above 0.9 to his name, the former San Francisco Giant has a decent shot at making the club.

The outfielder will obviously have to beat out Tyler Collins among others, but he has upside as an important bench cog. In 196 plate appearances as a pinch hitter, Schierholtz is a .272 career hitter with a .716 OPS, four home runs and 24 RBI.

In addition to being a dependable hitter off the bench the 31-year-old can function as an excellent defender in the outfield corners. While Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez won’t need to be taken out of many games, it’s good to know that there is a capable defender waiting in the wings.

Next: Tigers' #18 Prospect: Austin Kubitza

In Conclusion

Of the three players listed, Jimenez and Britton are more likely to make the team, but it would surprise no one to see all three players contribute for the Detroit Tigers during the 2016 season.

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