Braves News: Braves invite 26 non-roster players to spring training

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Spring training is right around the corner and we have been eagerly awaiting some actual Atlanta Braves baseball to watch. The big league roster appears to be mostly set and the Braves made their 40 man roster moves earlier this offseason already. However, one of the things that is the most fun about spring training is seeing prospects who have yet to earn a roster spot competing against big league competition.

Earlier today, the Braves announced their list of non-roster invitees (NRIs) and we will be seeing 26 faces in camp including some of the team's top prospects.

It is probably going to be best to talk about these guys by grouping them the same way the Braves did in their release, so below you will find some notes on each group including who to keep an eye on.

Atlanta Braves Non-Roster Invites: Pitchers

RHP Blake Burkhalter, RHP Jesse Chavez, LHP Dylan Dodd, LHP Brian Moran, RHP Roel Ramirez, RHP Alan Rangel, RHP Yacksel Rios, LHP Jared Shuster, RHP Victor Vodnik, RHP Brooks Wilson, LHP Danny Young

This group is the clear highlight of the NRIs this season with some really interesting arms that have some real upside. Jared Shuster is the guy that is ranked the highest on most prospect rankings (although it is a lot closer than some may think) and the former Braves 1st round pick has a changeup that may be the best pitch in the system even if I find his fastball to be lacking. Jesse Chavez is also listed as an NRI, but I will believe that the Braves won't add him to the big league bullpen when I see it.

Two likely bullpen arms in Victor Vodnik and Brooks Wilson are also in this group and are coming off injuries. Vodnik hasn't been able to stay on the mound, but when healthy his has a high 90's fastball that is a plus pitch. Wilson doesn't light up the radar gun, but he commands his fastball/breaking ball combo well and looked like he was on the fast track to the big leagues before having Tommy John in early 2022.

Two guys to really keep an eye on are Blake Burkhalter and Dylan Dodd. Burkhalter was a fascinating day one pick for the Braves out of Auburn. While he mostly has a college background as a reliever, the Braves think he could convert to being a starter. As for Dodd, if you want a prime candidate as a guy that isn't getting a lot of press but is VERY likely to make his big league debut (either as a starter or out of the bullpen), its Dodd. He has a ton of pitches with his changeup being probably the best, he pitches from the left side, and the Braves love how he competes and has improved in the pros.

Atlanta Braves Non-Roster Invites: Catchers

Drake Baldwin, Ryan Casteel, Joe Hudson, Tyler Tolve

This is a pretty interesting group headlined by Baldwin and Tolve. Drake Baldwin was the Braves 3rd round pick out of Missouri State. It sounds like analytics loves him, particularly his bat, although I am skeptical that he can stick behind the plate. Tyler Tolve is one of my favorite fringe prospects in the system. Not sure if he can stick behind the plate, but he has some of the best raw power in the Braves' farm system. Casteel and Hudson are depth pieces and (probably) nothing more.

Atlanta Braves Non-Roster Invites: Infielders

Ehire Adrianza, Cal Conley, Joe Dunand, Adeiny Hechavarria, Yolmer Sanchez, Luke Waddell

Not the most exciting group of infield invites, although they aren't without some level of intrigue. To start with, Adrianza and Hechavarria are familiar faces with plenty of big league experience. If you wanted to handicap the race for an infield bench spot, you would start with those two guys as the Braves have used them both in the past.

As for the prospects, the two most interesting names are Cal Conley and Luke Waddell. Conley is a switch-hitter that can make some highlight plays at short and hits for power. He will also infuriate you with his approach at the plate at times and can make some unforced errors in the field. He had a very good Arizona Fall League, though. As for Waddell, he was one of Double-A Mississippi's best hitter before he went down with an injury (the rumor was some sort of back injury, but that isn't confirmed). He doesn't hit for a ton of power, but the guy can flat out hit.

Atlanta Braves Non-Roster Invites: Outfielders

Justin Dean, Cody Milligan, Kevin Pillar, Magneuris Sierra, Forrest Wall

This is a fun group. To start with, Kevin Pillar was signed on a minor league deal by the Braves presumably as a fourth outfielder option. Amongst these guys, he is the likely favorite to win a bench spot given his defensive pedigree.

Two prospects you need to keep an eye on are Justin Dean and Cody Milligan. Dean's bat faltered a bit last year which caused him to get demoted from Triple-A, but he is an excellent defender and can flat out fly on the basepaths. If he can get going at the plate, he could force his way into some playing time. Cody Milligan is probably the most versatile prospect in the Braves farm system and he can flat out hit. He can play all three outfield positions very ably as well as second base and in college, he was a catcher. His lack of power holds him back as a prospect, but this dude can play.