Astros’ non roster invitees: The pitchers

By Brian Todd

Like every team, the Astros have extended spring training invitations to a multitude of players not on the 40-man roster. Sure, if you’re not on the 40-man roster, you’ve got a bigger uphill battle for making the team on April 1 against the Yankees (spit). But it seems that every season there’s a guy or two who sneaks onto that opening day squad—thanks to great play or perhaps an injury—from the list of “scrubs” invited to camp.

Last year,  Rick Ankiel made it to opening day against the Rangers. And several other non-roster invitees made the club at some point throughout the year.

Now, on any list, there are essentially two kinds of NRIs: the kids who are just getting a feel for major league camp, and the older retreads who are trying not to get sent to Oklahoma City.

Last year, for example, George Springer was a NRI (he’s one again this year) as was Delino DeShields Jr. Neither had a chance to make the team on opening day. This year, Carlos Correa, Nick Tropeano and Preston Tucker fit the mold of youngsters just up for a look.

But there are some NRIs who might fight their way onto the team eventually, if not right away.

The Astros’ website breaks down NRIs by positions: pitcher, catcher, infielder, outfielder. Today we’re looking at the NRI pitchers.

Nine pitchers received non-roster invitations to spring training by the Astros. Of those nine, three have previous MLB experience. Jorge De Leon and Rhiner Cruz both spent time in the Astros bullpen last year, and Peter Moylan got into 14 games with the Dodgers.

Of the NRI pitchers from the minors, here are the six guys and their highest levels: Mark Appel (Quad Cities), Jake Buchanan (OKC), Bobby Doran (OKC), Mike Foltynewicz (Corpus Christi), Jason Stoffel (OKC) and Tropeano (OKC).

Most of the latter are starters with Stoffel being the exception. Meanwhile, all three with MLB experience are relievers.

I won’t confuse you with a ton of stats across different levels, but I do have a few questions about the nine NRI pitchers:

  • Which of the relievers, Cruz, Moylan, De Leon or Stoffel, is most likely to push his way onto the opening day roster?
  • Considering how many pitchers get used during the course of the year, are all four—barring injuries—going to see time in Houston eventually in 2014? Based on last year, which one deserves or is most likely to come up first?
  • Of the five starters out there, do any have a reasonable chance to break camp with the big club?
  • The big name on that list is Appel. Since he ended his season at Quad Cities, does he have to far to go to make it to Houston in 2014? Are there too many starters ahead of him?
  • If none of the NRI starters makes the opening day roster, which one is probably on Jeff Luhnow’s speed dial?

Later this week and early next week I’ll look at the catchers, infielders and outfielders.


11 comments on “Astros’ non roster invitees: The pitchers

  1. Before I get to the questions, I would like to say what a wonderful place this blog is for Astros fans to comment.
    I think Moylan has the best chance to make the roster of the NRI’s because he has been a good MLB reliever and the others have not. I think Stoffel has the best chance of being up later because the club might want to see what he can do at this level and the other two have had a chance.


  2. Of the five starters listed, I don’t see any of them breaking camp in Houston. I doubt that Appel will see Houston this year and I’m basing that on the fact that they shut him down last year and wouldn’t even let him pitch in the playoffs for QC. Of the five starters, At this point the speed dial guy might be Buchanan because of the control and ground ball rates and age.


  3. Good job Brian. Lots of times people wonder how NRIs ever get on the roster since the 40 man is full – but there are a number of folks on the 40 man who could get dropped if they do not show much in spring training.
    – I do think Moylan has the best shot of those 4 of making the roster out of ST.
    – I don’t expect all 4 to see time this season – but who the heck knows – we used 25 pitchers last season.
    – Barring an injury or two in camp – I don’t see any of those starters making the team out of ST. I would like to see one or two – but I don’t at all expect it.
    – I think Appel is more likely a 2015 mlb’er, but being a #1 overall and a lot older than say a Carlos Correa – he could cruise up high enough to get a September invite (though that does not match anything Luhnow has done up to this point).
    – If it is a starter being brought up to fill in while someone is on DL – I think Buchanan, because they apparetnly don’t think he is someone they are worried about starting the clock (since he was exposed to the Rule % draft)….


  4. I agree love this blog. I’m not sure on any of the NRI’s make it. . I think the Management Team, have already put a plan together where a lot of our minor league prospects will start the season AAA AA etc.. Maybe a reliever shines and makes it that’s about it.


  5. I agree that Moylan is the odds-on favorite to make it as a pitching NRI. Cruz and De Leon would really have to be lights out–or there would need to be some injuries–this spring. And Stoffel is a call-up for late in the season, like maybe August, at best.

    I actually like Foltynewicz to get a call up later this season. Buchanan is a good candidate too, but I think the fact he was exposed shows that if a rotation spot opens for an extended period, Buchanan isn’t the guy. If they get past the guys on the 40-man this summer, Foltynewicz moves to the top of the list for me.

    Next up: Catchers on Wednesday.


    • Brian – I think they see Folty is the better long term candidate – so they are more likely not to set his clock rolling. Of course they could always bring Asher W up first since he is on the 40 man….


  6. Funny, 1oldpro.

    I would argue that–provided they keep pitching as well as in the past–Folty or Wojo (the Alphabet Twins?) are a more likely mid-season call ups than Buchanan. By mid-season, Super Two isn’t an issue any longer. Might as well get their feet wet and see what they can do.

    This is essentially what they did with Cosart. They could have brought up another pitcher middle of last year, someone with some experience. But they went with the guy who needed some experience, and who they hope will become a rotation mainstay.


  7. Yes, Brian, but the question was which one of the pitchers listed would be on Luhnow’s speed dial. That implies a quick callup as was needed early last year for Humber or Peacock or Harrell.


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