The Dodgers announced a number of non-roster invitees to Spring Training this afternoon. While the bulk of the group had been previously reported, Los Angeles has brought back a trio of players who have prior experience with the organization: utilityman Luke Williams, outfielder Yusniel Díaz and left-hander Robbie Erlin.
Williams, 26, has played for the Phillies, Giants and Marlins over the past two seasons. He’s gotten into 137 MLB games, tallying 244 plate appearances of .240/.299/.316 hitting. He’s picked up just two home runs while striking out at a 27.5% clip against big league pitching. The former third-round pick swiped 11 bases in only 79 games last season, though, and he’s played every position on the diamond aside from pitcher and catcher.
Los Angeles nabbed Williams off waivers from Miami at the start of the offseason. They opted not to tender him a contract just ten days later, sending him to free agency. That’s not an uncommon path with players whom teams hope to keep in the organization without dedicating a 40-man roster spot. The non-tender meant the Dodgers didn’t have to place Williams on waivers themselves. While he was free to shop for other opportunities as a free agent, the Dodgers circled back to add him on a non-roster pact.
Díaz, also 26, entered pro ball as a high-profile signee by the Dodgers out of Cuba back in 2015. At that point, teams weren’t strictly limited by hard-capped bonus pools for international amateur free agents. Los Angeles gave Díaz a hefty $15.5MM signing bonus (and paid a matching amount in taxes) back when he was 18 years old. He spent the next couple seasons as one of the more highly-regarded players in the system before being traded to Baltimore in 2018 as the headlining piece of a package for Manny Machado.
The following offseason, Díaz appeared among Baseball America’s top 50 overall prospects. Initially praised for his offensive polish and a patient plate approach, his productivity stalled out over the next few seasons. Díaz spent three years in the upper minors with Baltimore, managing only a .210/.295/.313 line through 495 plate appearances for their top affiliate in Norfolk. Fringy athleticism also pushed him primarily to the corner outfield after some early-career work in center. Díaz wound up playing in just one big league contest for the Orioles, striking out in his only MLB plate appearance to date.
At the end of last season, the O’s outrighted him off their 40-man roster. He qualified for minor league free agency and heads back to his original organization in search of a rebound. He joins Jason Heyward, Bradley Zimmer and Steven Duggar among non-roster outfield options who’ll be in Dodgers’ camp. Díaz is likely to start the upcoming season with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Erlin is the only member of this trio who has appeared in an MLB game for the Dodgers. He came out of the bullpen twice last year, allowing two runs in as many innings. The 32-year-old southpaw was on the roster for less than a week before being designated for assignment in early May. He spent the majority of the season in OKC, where he worked 77 innings across 21 outings (including 14 starts).
The hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League gave Erlin trouble, as he allowed just over seven earned runs per nine innings. He struck out 19.1% of opposing hitters against a 9.7% walk percentage. Despite the middling results, the longtime Padre caught the L.A. front office’s attention enough for a return showing as a depth starter. Erlin has pitched in parts of eight big league campaigns, posting a 4.87 ERA over 341 2/3 innings.