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Looking for diamonds in Red Sox non-roster invitees: the pitchers

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For those forever seeking the next Cesar Crespo...

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, I yearn for the next Cesar Crespo, the next Pedro Ciriaco, the next Lyle Overbay, the next Charlie Zink. Non-roster invitees are inherently fascinating (or, you know, not at all interesting depending on the person you ask). Non-roster invitees are almost always a lottery ticke, with correspondingly long odds; very rarely is there a chance that one of these players (non-prospect group) will make a major league roster, let alone make an impact once there.

In recent years, among the most prominent breakouts was Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, who signed a minor-league deal with the team after his release from the Mets following the 2013 season, and leads the team's position players these past two years with a .314/.384/.492 batting line. They often sport high jersey numbers--though Turner somehow landed 10 in Los Angeles--only get chances in the late innings of games when most folks have already tuned out, and are often former top prospects or fallen stars looking for a second chance.

So, chances are, there isn't a huge chance you'll see any of these guys make a substantial impact at the major league level, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't get to know them. Hey, they are people too. Pitchers, in this case!

William Cuevas

Cuevas signed as international free agent in July of 2008 out of Turmero, Venezuela. He spent two full seasons and another part of a third in the Dominican Summer League, which typically isn't a sign of a player who's got much of a shot at the major league level. After starting last season in Portland, Cuevas finished the year playing for the Triple-A PawSox and posted strong numbers, with a 2.63 ERA, 8.12 K/9, 1.05 WHIP and 2.64 BB/9 in 41 innings over seven starts. He's got a fastball that ticks up to the low-90s, but his changeup is his best pitch. He's a guy the Red Sox could look towards if they're in need of a spot starter.

Carlos Marmol

Marmol falls squarely in the Lyle Overbay category of non-roster invitees. The former All-Star with the Chicago Cubs has not thrown a pitch at the major league level since 2014, when he posted an 8.10 ERA in 15 appearances out of the bullpen with the Miami Marlins. Director of pitching analysis Brian Bannister, who was fundamental in the fix for Rich Hill last season, suggested the team take a chance on this former closer, believing one adjustment could potentially make him a decent pitcher again.

From Brian MacPherson at the Providence Journal:

Marmol will never be a control artist. He walked 27 hitters in 31 innings pitched at Triple-A last year, and even perhaps his best season in the major leagues saw him walk 52 hitters in 77 2/3 innings. But the belief of Bannister and the Red Sox front office is that a mechanical change can get him back to what he once was.

It's probably still a long shot, but if the Sox manage to fix Carlos Marmol and add a late-inning reliever on a minor league deal, Brian Bannister is going to start looking like a genius.

Can Carlos Marmol be great again? Is Brian Bannister a wizard? Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey

Kyle Martin

Martin is another fringy prospect guy making his first appearance in big league camp. The Red Sox drafted the righty in 2013 in the ninth round out of Texas A&M. He's a tall dude, standing at 6-foot-7 with a relatively low ceiling for a now 25-year-old prospect drafted out of college. He can hit 95 mph on his fastball and has shown the ability to pitch, rather than throw. He ended the season with Portland, striking out 10.29 K/9 and it seems as if the team might want to get a look at him as a potential depth relieving option should injuries strike the bullpen.

Roman Mendez

Close your eyes and go back in time. Everyone remembers where they were when Roman Mendez first took the mound as a member of the Red Sox. Wait, you don't? Yeah, me neither. The team picked up this 25-year-old reliever off of waivers from the Rangers in September after trading him to Texas in the first place as part of the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal. He pitched in three games for the team, none of which I remember, likely because he came well short of the triple-digit fastballs he was once advertised as having. Mendez has a 3.57 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 460.1 innings in the minor leagues.

Sean O'Sullivan

O'Sullivan has gotten some experience at the major league level, but has never really stood out in any way. His longest stint in the big leagues came with the Angels and Royals in 2010, when he threw 83.2 innings in 19 appearances and 14 starts. Last season, Sullivan spent the year with the Phillies, starting 13 games and posting a 6.08 ERA, 1.61 WHIP and -0.5 bWAR. He's a former third-round pick of the LA Angels, but it's hard to imagine O'Sullivan as anything more than a disaster scenario depth option for the Red Sox at this point.

Danny Rosenbaum

The Red Sox acquired Rosenbaum for catcher Dan Butler (who is also in camp with the team this spring because man, moves like that just don't stick). Rosenbaum is a 28-year-old southpaw who has never seen time in the major leagues and has a total of 32 games in Triple-A over the course of a seven-year career in professional baseball. Last year, Rosenbaum spent time in Lowell and Portland, so it doesn't seem like there's much here to work with at this point. He once had a bobblehead night, however, which gives me hope that one day, I, too, will be immortalized in bobbling-head form.

Anthony Varvaro

There was quite a bit hope with Varvaro when the Red Sox acquired him last offseason. He posted solid numbers with the Braves and peripheral statistics suggested he could be a decent reliever, having posted a 2.74 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and a ground-ball rate close to 48 percent with the Braves from 2012-13. But Varvaro struggled early in 2015, his velocity was down, and he was designated for assignment at the end of April and claimed by the Cubs. It turns out, there was a reason for the dip in velocity: he had a torn flexor tendon. The Cubs returned him to Boston and the team placed him on the disabled list. Now, Varvaro has signed back with Boston on a minor league deal. Among all the non-roster invitees on the pitching end, Varvaro fares to have the best shot at getting an extended opportunity in the majors. He just needs to prove he's still got it when he's healthy.