The Houston Astros have invited ten prospects to spring training to ‘compete’ for a spot on the major league opening day roster. However, most of the invitations are simply gestures lacking realistic opportunity. However, it’s important to know what’s coming up the pipework so I will review each of the ten prospects to be included this spring. In parentheses you’ll see my ranking of the prospect per my top prospect rankings from this offseason. The batch includes Houston’s top 3 overall farmhands, one recognizable last name, and a gaggle of raw but talented outfielders.
1. (1) Jordan Lyles: Inviting your top prospect to spring training is common practice and that’s all that’s being done here. The Astros will give him a taste of major league hitters before sending him down to Triple-A.
2. (2) J.D. Martinez: Still needs some seasoning. With the depth in the outfielder (as you’ll see there are 4 other outfielders on this list) on Houston’s 40 man roster, Martinez will most likely start 2011 at Triple-A.
3. (3) Jiovanni Mier: As talented as anyone on this list but as far away from major-league readiness as any of them as well.
4. (NR) Pat Urckfitz: With a lack of quality left-handers, any southpaw who can throw strikes is in the mix for the Astros bullpen. Urckfitz fits that description and while he missed my prospect list, he opened a lot of eyes with a strong AFL. Houston’s hoping he can be their Jonny Venters.
5. (19) Koby Clemens: Probably has the best chance on this list of making the major league squad save Urckfitz. Clemens has the power to potentially spell Wallace and Johnson at the infield corners although he still has to prove he can play major league quality defense at third. And the bat isn’t a sure thing. But if he impresses in spring training could certainly be a right handed bat off the bench. However, it will probably take an injury to one of the aforementioned starters or someone on the bench like Jason Michaels, for Clemens to see much time in the bigs in 2011.
The next four are all basically interchangeable. They’re all outfielders. They all had strong 2009 campaigns before regressing in 2010. Much like Martinez, the organizational depth in the outfield will keep them from seriously contending for a spot on the 25-man roster.
6. (23) Jon Gaston
7. (NR) Drew Locke: Survived the Rule V Draft
8. (26) Jack Shuck
9. (22) T.J. Steele
10. (NR) Rene Garcia: Nothing more than a spring spot-filler. With Castro and Quintero guaranteed spots on the 25-man roster and J.R. Towles still in the wings, Houston is not even looking for another major league catcher right now.
Those are the invitees thus far. I will look at the others as they are announced. Stay tuned.