2019 Houston Astros Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees

Forrest Whitley - Photo credit Jayne Hansen on Flickr, Whattheheckbobby.blogspot.com

Every year, each major league team invites upwards of 15-20 players to spring training that currently do not occupy a spot on their 40-man roster; thus, the term “non-roster invite” (NRI). The majority of these players consist of either young studs looking at their first big-league Spring Training or older vets looking to catch on, and they can usually be found sporting the highest uniform numbers on the field at any given time. Very few of these players will actually break camp with the major league team due to all of the intricacies that come with adding/removing a player from the 40-man. This year’s Astros Spring Training has NRIs of all types. There are the prospects that are expected to be on the 40-man in short order, those that could be solid bench pieces, those that are just getting their feet wet, and those that are only in West Palm Beach for depth. This year the Astros invited 22 non-roster players to camp.

There is a quartet of players that, while not currently occupying a roster spot, are expected to contribute in Houston in 2019. That list is headlined by Forrest Whitley, RHP (preseason #1) who is arguably the best pitching prospect in all of baseball. With a 5-pitch arsenal headlined by a fastball that sits at 95, Whitley should soak up as much as he can this spring before he likely becomes rotation mates with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole later this summer. Corbin Martin, RHP (preseason #5) is likely to return to front the rotation in AA Corpus Christi, but might be one of those pitchers that bypasses AAA altogether.  Yordan Alvarez, 1B/OF (preseason #3) will start the season in AAA Round Rock. Alvarez is the definition of a masher (.534 SLG in 2018) but lacks true defensive value. Probably best suited for a DH role, so it is a good thing that the Astros play in the American League. Finally, J.B. Bukauskas, RHP (preseason #6) will be pushed as a starter, but might see a stronger future in relief. Bukauskas will most likely return to AA to start 2019, but seeing time in the Houston bullpen is a very realistic end goal.

Outside of the big names in the Houston minor league system, there are three NRI that are exciting players that could make a surprising impact. Ryan Hartman, LHP (preseason #34) could fit the stereotypical swing role in a major league bullpen. Hartman struck out 143 in 120.2 innings in AA in 2018 and should start in AAA. He is the type of player that could get time in the major leagues in an effort to stall the service time clock of the higher-rated prospects. That shouldn’t be taken as a slight; Hartman is a valuable prospect in his own right. Brandon Bielak, RHP (preseason #25) fits a lot of the same profile as Hartman. While Hartman leans starter, Bielak has the stuff that could make him an exciting 9th inning weapon (power fastball and a change he can rely on). Bielak should join Hartman in the 2019 Round Rock rotation to start 2019. Utility player Josh Rojas (preseason #37) is one of those players that could REALLY surprise. He isn’t a master of anything, but is good at several things. Having spent time at 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, LF, and RF in 2018, Rojas complied a .263/.351/.408 line across 480 at-bats in A+ and AA. A.J. Hinch is known to love players that offer defensive versatility. Rojas can do just that while providing some pop and decent wheels (38 SB in 52 attempts). While he has maybe the longest of shots, Rojas could be one to keep an eye on.

Other players worth noting in major league camp (preseason rankings in parentheses)
C Chuckie Robinson
C Lorenzo Quintana
C Jamie Ritchie
1B Taylor Jones (49)
2B Jack Mayfield
SS Alex De Goti (38)
3B Abraham Toro (15)
3B Nick Tanielu (32)
OF Ronnie Dawson (30)
RHP Brendan McCurry
RHP Cy Sneed (46)
RHP Akeem Bostick (47)
RHP Jose Hernandez
RHP Erasmo Pinales
LHP Kent Emanuel

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.