Internal candidates highlight Bucs' spring NRIs

Internal candidates highlight Bucs' spring NRIs

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates have invited an additional 19 non-roster players to Spring Training, a group headlined by a pair of top prospects -- outfielder Austin Meadows and shortstop Kevin Newman -- set to appear in Major League camp for the first time.

Eighteen of the 19 non-roster invitees announced Monday played in the Pirates' organization last year, and virtually all of them were developed within the system. The high volume of homegrown talent set for Spring Training signified two things to general manager Neal Huntington.

"One, a fairly stable Major League roster. Two, a productive scouting system and development system," Huntington said Monday, the first day of voluntary workouts at Pirate City. "We have a lot of guys that we feel are on the horizon to help our Major League team that have come from within."

Top Prospects: Meadows, PIT

Catcher Jackson Williams, who spent last season in the Rockies' system, was the lone outside hire in the group announced Monday. A handful of top prospects made the cut, including Meadows (No. 2 in the Pirates system and No. 9 overall, according to MLBPipeline.com), Newman (Pittsburgh's No. 4, overall No. 42), right-hander Tyler Eppler (No. 20), outfielder Barrett Barnes (No. 25) and reliever Edgar Santana (No. 28).

The Pirates also invited three pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery -- Brandon Cumpton, Casey Sadler and Angel Sanchez -- as well as recently outrighted infielder Jason Rogers. Cumpton is still rehabbing, while Sadler and Sanchez are expected to begin the season in the bullpen due to potential workload constraints and a logjam of high-level rotation options.

Right-hander Frank Duncan and lefties Cody Dickson and Jared Lakind round out the group of non-roster pitchers invited to big league camp. The Pirates will bring catchers Jin-De Jhang, Jacob Stallings and Christian Kelley to camp along with Williams. Pittsburgh also invited infielders Erich Weiss and Eric Wood as well as outfielder Danny Ortiz.

Top Prospects: Barnes, PIT

The group announced Monday is loaded with Minor Leaguers from within Pittsburgh's ranks and light on veterans who may compete for spots on the Opening Day roster. The Pirates previously announced a handful of more experienced non-roster invitees: pitchers Josh Lindblom, Dan Runzler and Jason Stoffel and outfielder Eury Perez.

Huntington said the Pirates are looking for ways to upgrade their roster. But they don't appear to have many jobs up for grabs at this point, and there are plenty of candidates for those few vacancies -- the last spot in the bullpen, maybe the last spot on the bench. With that in mind, the Bucs can mostly rely on their homegrown talent to round out their Spring Training roster.

"We haven't had to be as aggressive [in adding Minor League free agents]," Huntington said. "We've signed guys, targeted guys and gone after guys, but it's been more quality than quantity in terms of external additions to come in and compete to make our club or to provide depth for us. Both are good signs for the organization."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.