Four Arizona Diamondbacks non-roster invitees to watch in Spring Training

The Arizona Diamondbacks have 26 non-roster invitees heading into Spring Training, but these four will be interesting to watch.

Jul 17, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Ivan Melendez wears his jersey after he was selected by the
Jul 17, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Ivan Melendez wears his jersey after he was selected by the / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks
Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks / Norm Hall/GettyImages

Austin Pope

The Diamondbacks opted to leave Austin Pope unprotected from the Rule 5 draft, and it’s a little surprising that he didn’t get picked. Pope may not be an overpowering right-handed reliever, but he did great at Triple-A Reno last season despite being in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Pope pitched a total of 66.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, working to a 3.65 ERA, 3.60 FIP, and 1.38 WHIP. The right-hander had an outstanding 29.3% K-rate along with a solid 8% walk rate. Pope was also immune to the long ball with an HR/9 rate of 0.81. Pope’s ERA and WHIP are a tad higher than you’d like to see from a reliever, but he did have a .381 batting average on balls in play, indicating some potential positive regression in his future.

Pope pitched 22 of his innings at Reno, where he had a 2.45 ERA, 29.2% K-rate, and 8.3% walk rate. Keep in mind this is the PCL. The league average ERA is 5.70, while the average walk rate is 12.3%. Pope could have been even better, given opponents had a .424 BABIP against him. In a larger sample size, this is likely closer to .300.

Pope sits at 93-95 MPH with around 2300 RPM. The reliever throws two breaking balls. The most often used of the duo is his slider, which sits lower-80s but with around 2450-2500 RPM. Pope takes some speed off for his curveball, which is closer to around 79-80 MPH but with a slightly higher spin rate. Pope throws from a high arm slot with a quick and simple delivery.

Pope could definitely find himself on the team’s Opening Day roster. His numbers at Reno were awe-inspiring. The final bullpen spots are not set in stone. Given Pope’s solid stuff combined with his strong numbers from 2023, Pope is an intriguing case.