SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Pirates' offseason journey included a very interesting trip back to the future, to the 2012 non-waiver Trade Deadline when they'd flipped youngsters Brad Lincoln and Gorkys Hernandez for a pair of experienced hands, Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez, respectively.
The revolving door spun the other way this winter: Snider (via trade, to Baltimore) and Sanchez (non-tendered) are gone, and Lincoln and Hernandez are back on Minor League contracts that included them among the 23 non-roster players who will be in Spring Training on invitations.
It is an interesting mix of those who've been there (lefty Clayton Richard, outfielder Jose Tabata) and those who hope to one day get there (No. 1 prospectTyler Glasnow, corner infielder Stetson Allie). One of the more interesting sidebars is unlike in the recent past, when there were spots galore to be won, the Bucs are not dependent on some darkhorses coming through. This is now a luxury; NRI may as well stand for Not Really Indispensable.
Recent Pirates teams have all broken camp with at least one non-roster guy who took advantage of the opportunity. Last year, it was Travis Ishikawa. In 2013, both Brandon Inge and Jonathan Sanchez; the year before, Juan Cruz. Their contributions varied, but the point is the potential for surprise is always present.
Herewith, this spring's non-roster invites ranked on their likelihood to stick, but really just a means to get their names out there for future reference:
23: C Wilkin Castillo, 30; seemingly on hand only to share the camp workload.
22: INF Brent Morel, 27; Bucs are loaded with versatile infielders.
21: 1B/3B Deibinson Romero, 28; corner infielder with limited pop.
20: RHP Blake Wood, 29; bullpen long shot, if he can get it back from April 2012 elbow surgery.
19: Glasnow, 21; invited merely to get his first taste of big league atmosphere.
18: Hernandez, 27; lack of power still holds him back -- .303 slugging percentage this winter in Venezuela.
17: RHP Collin Balester, 28; one-time starter's conversion to relief has been rocky.
16: INF Gift Ngoepe, 25; exposed, unclaimed, in two Rule 5 Drafts.
15: C Sebastian Valle, 24; in the same boat as Castillo.
14: RHP Wilfredo Boscan, 25; has trouble keeping ball in the ballpark.
13: RHP Angel Sanchez, 25; a mystery after going 2-14 with a 5.96 ERA with five different Minor League teams in 2014, then doing solid work in the Arizona Fall League.
12: Lincoln, 29; has never come close to the first half of that 2012 season with Bucs (4-2, 2.98 ERA, 52 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings).
11: RHP Adrian Sampson, 23; just a cup of big league spring coffee after his 10-5, 2.55 ERA breakthrough in Altoona, but he does already have limited Triple-A experience.
10: LHP Jeremy Bleich, 27; southpaw swingman (can relieve and spot-start).
9: SS Gustavo Nunez, 26; solid defender who can play all over the field.
8: Allie, 23; Bucs need power and he has plenty of it.
7: Tabata, 26; maybe if he can get on Clint Hurdle's good side, which seems unlikely by now.
6: OF Keon Broxton, 24; very solid 2014 season in Altoona (.275 average with 15 homers and 25 steals).
5: LHP Charlie Leesman, 27; 6-foot-4 lefties with a power arm are always intriguing.
4: RHP Deolis Guerra, 25; solid middle relief work this winter for Venezuela's Magallanes, with 11 holds in 19 appearances.
3: RHP Josh Wall, 28; he caught Pirates' attention with solid half-season in Indianapolis.
2: OF Mel Rojas Jr., 24; does a lot of things well, nothing exceptionally.
1: Richard, 31; pitch-to-contact lefty who could be ideal for PNC Park will get every chance to show he's back from April 2013 shoulder surgery.