WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Xavier Nady #21 of the Washington Nationals prepares to hit against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park on April 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Every year, big league teams have their nucleus of players come to Spring Training. It's the group that's expected to be on the Opening Day roster.
But clubs also invite a large group of non-roster players to see if anyone surprises them and earns a spot on the club. This group usually consists of young stars that the organization wants to get a closer look at and see if anyone is ready for The Show (like Jedd Gyorko in 2013).
The Padres have invited 18 non-roster players to Peoria, AZ for their 2014 Spring Training festivities. A few names might surprise you.
For example, Xavier Nady is back with the Padres. You may recall Nady as the team's 2nd round pick in the 2000 Draft out of UC Berkeley. Nady made it to the Majors for good in 2003, but never became the consistent power threat the team envisioned he would.
Nady was traded to the Mets after the 2005 season for Mike Cameron, and has since played with 7 different big league teams, most recently the Nationals and Giants in 2012. Nady spent last year at the Triple-A level in both the Royals and Rockies organizations.
If you're looking for youngsters who might play their way on the roster earlier than expected, catcher Austin Hedges has a shot. The 2011 draftee was also in big league camp last year. He's only played 20 games above the Single-A level, all of them last year at Double-A San Antonio, but is already one of the best defensive backstops in the minors and is probably ready to handle pitchers at the Big League level already.
The 21-year-old is not as advanced with his bat, but has already shown a better approach at the plate than most folks expected. The Padres already have Nick Hundley on the roster, but with Yasmani Grandal expected to miss the 2014 season (he's recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last July) Hedges might have a chance to play his way to The Show earlier than anticipated. If he doesn't make the team this year, he'll almost certainly be there for 2015.
Another guy from that 2011 Draft has caught the attention of Padres fans. Right-handed pitcher Matt Wisler, also 21 years old, had a superb 2013 season between High-A Lake Elsinore and San Antonio, striking out 131 batters in 135 innings. Wisler got better as the year went on, allowing just one run in 16 playoff innings and helping the Missions win the Texas League Championship.
The Padres have an awful lot of depth in their starting rotation, but if they have injury problems like they did last year, Wisler may be a guy the team looks to in a pinch.
13 of the 18 players were either drafted by the Padres or signed as non-drafted free agents. The full list is below:
Right-Handed Pitchers (8)
Pitchers and catchers report to Peoria on February 13, position players join them on February 18.