Valverde, top prospects among Padres' spring invites

Former All-Star closer, Elbert, Wallace part of experienced contingent to get chance with Friars

Valverde, top prospects among Padres' spring invites

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have extended Major League Spring Training invitations to 18 players, several with big league experience and a handful of their top prospects.

The team has signed eight Minor League free agents, including right-handed pitcher Jose Valverde and left-handed pitcher Scott Elbert in addition to infielder Brett Wallace.

Valverde earns the save

The Padres invited their top three prospects, according to MLB.com, to camp: Catcher Austin Hedges (ranked No. 1), pitcher Matt Wisler (No. 2) and outfielder Hunter Renfroe (No. 3). Hedges and Wisler were invited to big league camp a year ago as well.

The most notable Minor League free agents are Valverde, Elbert and Wallace and pitcher Jason Lane, the former big league outfielder who made the conversion to pitching (left-handed) and got a start a year ago with the Padres.

Elbert's first postseason K

Elbert, 29, has spent his entire 11-year career with the Dodgers' organization. Over parts of six Major League seasons, he has a 3.54 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 127 games. Since the start of 2011, Elbert has a 2.30 ERA in 70 1/3 innings in 97 games, the second-best mark among left-handed Major League relievers with at least 75 appearances in that time.

Valverde, 36, is entering his 17th season in professional baseball. He has 288 career saves and a 3.27 ERA in 626 games. He's a three-time All-Star (2007, 2010 and 2011) who has won two Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Awards ('07 and '11) and was Major League Baseball's Delivery Man of the Year ('11).

Wallace, 28, enters his eighth season in professional baseball, parts of four of which have been spent at the Major League level. He split the 2014 season between the Orioles' and Blue Jays' Triple-A teams, hitting a combined .282 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs in 128 games. Wallace has a career .242 batting average in 311 big league games.

Wallace's two-run double

The team also signed right-handed pitchers Marcos Mateo, Jay Jackson, Lane, catcher Griff Erickson and infielder Ramiro Pena. Mateo appeared in 44 games with the Cubs in 2010-11. Pena has appeared in 311 games with the Yankees and Braves (2009-14).

Other players invited to camp include right-handed pitcher Justin Hancock, left-handed pitcher Chris Rearick, catchers Cody Decker and Rocky Gale, infielders Jake Goebbert, Diego Goris and outfielder Rico Noel.

Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona and the Padres' Spring Training facility on Feb. 19, with the first workout set for the following day. Position players report on Feb. 24, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for the following day.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.