Sunday was the deadline for teams to submit their initial 60-man player pools to Major League Baseball. A player must be included in a team’s 60-man player pool to be eligible to appear in a major-league game in the upcoming abbreviated season. Thirty of those players will ultimately comprise that team’s Opening Day roster, while the remainder (plus four more after rosters shrink to 26) will serve as a taxi squad in an extended Spring Training/Summer Camp, as there will be no minor league season this year. The Dodgers, like most teams, did not max out their pool on Sunday, leaving room for potential additions by naming just 51 players. The pools need not include every player on a team’s 40-man roster, and in many cases do not. The Dodgers, however, did include every player on their 40-man. Here, then, is a quick look at each of the 11 non-roster players included in the Dodgers player pool:
Omar Estévez, IF
A Cuban defector who signed with the Dodgers for $6 million at the age of 17 in November 2015, Estévez is a middle infielder who hit a useful .292/.353/.429 in his Double-A debut last year. Now 22, he doesn’t project as much more than a reserve infielder of questionable defensive utility, but there is some upside in his bat, which was what attracted the Dodgers to him in the first place. He and the 40-man’s Zach McKinstry, who is three years older and more accomplished on both sides of the ball, are the only infielders in the Dodgers’ pool who aren’t expected to be on the eventual 26-man.
Zach Reks, LF
A tenth-round pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2017, Reks moved quickly in his first three minor-league seasons, capped by a .284/.382/.520 line and 19 home runs in 385 plate appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City last year. He followed that up with a hot start in Spring Training in March (7-for-19, 3 2B, HR, 8 BB). In any other organization, this 26-year-old’s lefty bat and ability to spot at first base would make him a compelling bench option. However, the Dodgers’ outfield is so deep that it would take multiple injuries, or the complete collapse of a fellow lefty like Edwin Ríos or Matt Beaty, for Reks to even sniff the majors in an abbreviated season that will only see rosters contract, not expand.
Cody Thomas, OF
The Dodgers depth might be burying Reks, but you have to dig even deeper to get to Thomas. Another lefty-hitting outfielder, Thomas had a disappointing Double-A debut last year at the age of 24, due largely to shedding 50 points of average from his strong showing in the hitter-friendly California League the year before. He has some pop, including 23 home runs last year and five more in 24 spring training plate appearances in March, but the only advantage Thomas holds over Reks is the ability to spot in centerfield.
Rocky Gale, C
Minor-league journeyman Gale first joined the Dodgers’ organization on a minor-league deal prior to the 2018 season. He was sold to the Rays at last year’s trading deadline, then re-signed with L.A. on another minor-league deal in November. Gale is 32, has seen major league action in four of the last five seasons, but has totaled just 37 major-league plate appearances and is still technically a rookie. As the team’s fourth-string catcher, he’s purely a catch-and-throw depth piece, but he may have some added value this year an on-field coach for the next player on this list, who, under normal circumstances, would have been several rungs below him on the minor league ladder.
Diego Cartaya, C
Not every player in the 60-man player pool is there to be part of the major-league depth chart. Some have been included for development purposes. Cartaya, an 18-year-old catcher signed out of Venezuela in July 2018 for $2.5 million, is one such player. The Dodgers’ seventh-best prospect, per Baseball Prospectus, and a fringe top-100 prospect in all of baseball, per Baseball America, Cartaya hit .296/.353/.437 in 150 plate appearances in rookie ball in his stateside debut last year. The potential is there for Cartaya to be an above-average catcher on both sides of the ball, but he is a long way away, and the Dodgers didn’t want him to lose a full year of development.
Josiah Gray, RHP
The last remaining piece of the Yasiel Puig trade, Gray, a second-round pick by the Reds in 2018, raced all the way up to Double-A in his first full minor-league season last year, impressing with his peripherals, his results, his durability (130 innings and the ability to sustain velocity late into games), and his maturity on and off the mound. That combination earned Gray the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year award and the cache of arriving in camp a consensus top-100 prospect. Baseball Prospectus ranks him third in the Dodgers’ organization, behind only NL Rookie of the Year contenders Gavin Lux and Dustin May.
A converted shortstop, Gray has excellent command of a mid-90s fastball, which sets up his slider nicely. His curve and changeup are still works in progress, but he has only been a full-time pitcher for three years, so they could develop quickly, particularly given the Dodgers’ advanced coaching methods. Of the 11 non-roster players in the Dodgers’ initial player pool, the 22-year-old Gray probably has the best chance to see major-league action this year, though he would most likely work out of the bullpen. If he doesn’t make it in this abbreviated season, he’s a near lock to reach the majors in 2021.
Edwin Uceta, RHP
A scrawny right-hander from the Dominican Republic, Uceta held his own in his first Double-A exposure last year. Uceta has an excellent changeup/curve combo that works off his low-90s heater, and the Dodgers are hoping that the 22-year-old can add velocity and weight as he continues to move up the organizational ladder. If he can, he’s a starting prospect. If not, he may be bullpen bound, though he’d be quite compelling in the latter role as a literal change of pace from the usual cavalcade of flamethrowers. For this year, he’s likely straddling that depth/development divide and a long-shot to see big-league action.
Andre Jackson, RHP
The most obscure of the 51 players in the Dodgers’ player pool, Jackson is not a top prospect, was not a high draft pick, was never on the 40-man roster, and was not a non-roster invitee to major-league camp in the spring. He is a 6-foot-3 righty who was drafted out of the University of Utah in 2017’s 12th round and has since struck out 10.7 men per nine innings in the minors, topping out with 91 Ks in 66 1/3 innings over 15 starts in High-A last year. Now four years removed from the Tommy John surgery he had in college, the 24-year-old Jackson can get his fastball into the upper 90s and could be a compelling arm if he could just improve his control. He has walked five men per nine innings as a professional.
Michael Grove, RHP
Firmly on the development side of the divide, Grove just needs to pitch. Selected out of West Virginia University in 2018’s second round, Grove had Tommy John surgery in May 2017 and didn’t return to action until 2019, spreading 51 2/3 innings across 21 starts for High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Grove’s peripherals there were strong (73 strikeouts against just 19 walks), but his results were not (6.10 ERA, 1.55 WHIP), due to his opponents hitting .412 on balls in play, which is fluky even for a flyball pitcher in a hitter’s league. More than anything else in his baseball life, right now, the 23-year-old Grove needs reps to firm up his mechanics, possibly add velocity (he was in the low-90s last year), and improve his secondary offerings, which include a 12-to-6 overhand curveball and a fledgling changeup.
Gerardo Carrillo, RHP
An undersized Mexican righty, the 21-year-old Carrillo is listed at 5-foot-10, 154 pounds and is limited to the development end of the player pool. Carrillo has easy gas that can hit triple digits with movement, but his slider and change are still developing, he has to get the hump out of his big-breaking curve, and he has to work on his command of all of the above. He topped out at High-A last year, walking 5.3 men per nine innings and adding 17 wild pitches and 17 hit batsmen in 86 innings, all of which added up to a 5.44 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. There is much work to be done here, but that fastball is too compelling to leave him idle for a full year.
Marshall Kasowski, RHP
Though the organization may move some of them to the bullpen before they reach the majors, the Dodgers are developing all of the pitchers above as starters. Not so for Kasowski, who is a classic fireballing reliever. A 6-foot-3 Texan, he throws in the upper-90s, misses a ton of bats with his rising fastball/changeup combo (14.8 K/9 as a pro) and misses the strike zone nearly as often (5.5 BB/9). He spent all of 2019 in Double-A, up to his usual tricks, but lost most of the second half of the season to injury. If he can stay healthy and find the zone, he has an outside chance to make a cameo in the major-league bullpen.
Cliff Corcoran covers baseball for The Athletic and is a former lead baseball writer for SI.com. The co-author or editor of 13 baseball books, including seven Baseball Prospectus annuals, he has also written for USA Today, SB Nation, Baseball Prospectus, Sports on Earth, The Hardball Times, and Boston.com, among others. He has been a semi-regular guest analyst on the MLB Network and can be heard more regularly on The Infinite Inning podcast with Steven Goldman. Follow Cliff on Twitter @CliffCorcoran.