After an eventful offseason, actual baseball games are happening on a daily basis again. While there’s nothing like the real thing, at least it’s a sign that we are very close — 26 days, to be precise — to Opening Day.
In the meantime, each team currently has somewhere between 59 (Houston Astros) and 73 (St. Louis Cardinals) players in major league camp. How do I know? Well, I learned this, along with many other interesting tidbits, by using FanGraphs’ newest feature: the Opening Day Roster Tracker. Since it could also be quite useful to you over the next several weeks, let me tell you all about it.
First, here’s a quick primer on who is in major league camp and what happens as rosters are pared down to 26 players.
Who is in major league camp?
The full squad is comprised of each team’s full 40-man roster and a group of non-roster invitees (NRI). A non-roster invitee must be added to the 40-man roster if they break camp with the major league club.
What happens when a player is officially out of the running for an Opening Day roster spot?
If a player on the 40-man roster does not make the team, they are optioned to the minors; non-roster invitees are reassigned. They will continue to prepare for the upcoming season in minor league camp. This does not, however, completely rule them out from making the Opening Day roster. Circumstances can change, usually because of injuries, and a player can be brought back after being sent down.
Many players who signed minor league free agent contracts during the offseason have a clause in their contracts that allows them to opt out by a certain date (or multiple dates in some cases). If the player feels that they have a better opportunity elsewhere, they can request their release if not added to the 40-man roster by their official opt-out date.
What happens when a player is injured?
If a player on the 40-man roster is not healthy enough to begin the season on the Opening Day roster, they must be placed on the MLB Injured List (7-Day, 10-Day, 15-Day, or 60-Day). The team can open a 40-man roster spot by placing a player on the 60-Day IL.
A non-roster invitee can’t be placed on the MLB Injured List. They would be reassigned to the minors and placed on the MiLB Injured List once the season begins.
How to use the Opening Day Roster Tracker
Along with projected Opening Day status, the tracker includes projected plate appearances, projected innings pitched, age, position, service time, and options remaining. Those with a light brown background in the name column are on the 40-man roster; those with a white background — non-roster invitees or those on the 60-Day IL — are not.
For players not on a projected Opening Day roster, their status is listed as a candidate for either lineup, bench, lineup/bench, rotation, bullpen, or rotation/bullpen. Some prospects are only in major league camp for the experience and aren’t competing for a roster spot. I don’t differentiate between those prospects, and those likely to make the roster. Until they’re reassigned to minor league camp, I assume they are candidates to make the Opening Day roster.
There are nine options in the “Projected Opening Day Status” drop-down menu.
1. Full Spring Training Roster: Every player in major league camp.
2. Projected 26-Man Roster: My current Opening Day roster projections.
3. NRI on Projected 26-Man Roster: There are currently 19 players on this list. Last season, there were 30 non-roster invitees who had their contracts purchased prior to Opening Day.
4. Not on Projected 26-Man Roster/Still In Camp
5. Still In Camp
6. Non-Roster Invitees
7. No Longer In Camp: Optioned, Reassigned, Released, or Placed on Injured List.
8. Restricted List: Players currently on the Restricted List are not officially in camp, but could be added if reinstated if not serving a suspension.
9. Injured: Placed on Injured List, Projected Injured List, or Projected Injured List (MiLB).
Feel free to let us know what other information you’d like see on this tracker in the comments below.