Astros prospect Jack Armstrong Jr. is in minor league camp this spring, but not as a pitcher. After three years of arm troubles the big right-hander is moving to first base.
A power pitcher at Vanderbilt University, the Astros selected Armstrong in the third round of the 2011 draft despite an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery. While rehabbing, Armstrong injured his shoulder. He had a torn labrum. After undergoing shoulder surgery it started to look like Armstrong’s professional baseball career might be over before it started. But Armstrong wasn’t ready to give up. After all, baseball was in his blood. Jack’s father, Jack Sr., pitched seven seasons in the big leagues before injuries derailed his career.
Jack Jr. reported to Kissimmee early this spring to start working on his swing. Now 24, and having never thrown a pitch in an Astros uniform, Armstrong is reinventing himself in an effort to save his career. A good hitter in college, the 6 foot 7 inch, 230 pound Armstrong packs plenty of power. But hitting breaking balls could prove to be a challenge.
Armstrong has a long battle ahead of him. But there have been others before him that have successfully made the transition from pitcher to position player. Rick Ankiel, who played for the Astros last season, is the first to come to mind. Armstrong is probably looking at a long stay at extended spring training before being sent to Rookie League or A-ball. But at least it’s a start. And now we finally have an answer to the question — whatever happened to Jack Armstrong Jr.?