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.