Max Stassi (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
NiTro is expected to make three starts for Houston this season as they go with a six-man rotation for the final two and a half weeks of the year. The right-hander was called up on September 2nd and expected to get an appearance out of the bullpen before this start, but the Astros never gave him that chance.
Nick Tropeano (Photo by Garrett Craig- TriCity ValleyCats)
Tropeano, 24, is Houston’s 13th best prospect, according to MLB.com, and has been exceptional since coming back from forearm soreness earlier this year. The Pacific Coast League All-Star was 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 20 starts (124.2 innings) at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He had 120 strikeouts and 33 walks while surrendering just 90 hits and 11 homers. He finished as the PCL’s leader in ERA, WHIP, and opponent batting average and was the first RedHawk to ever win the PCL ERA title.
Tropeano was drafted by the Astros in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He’s got a terrific fastball and has shown an ability to mix in a nice change-up and slider as well (opponents batted .202 against him and he had a 3.64 K/BB ratio). I think the Astros are making the right move by giving NiTro a chance a start during the last month of the season. Right now, the team needs to focus on preparing for next year, so they can decided how they want to approach the offseason.
Meanwhile, Stassi will start at catcher for the Astros and is returning to the Major Leagues this season after he was hit in the face by a 96-mph fastball last year. If you’ll remember, Stassi took a painful pitch from Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers in just his second career major league game last season and missed significant time with a concussion.
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Stassi was acquired by the Astros from the Oakland Athletics, along with slugger Chris Carter and right-hander Brad Peacock, for infielder Jed Lowrie and right-hander Fernando Rodriguez in Feburary 2013. The 23-year-old is one of the organization’s best catching prospects, but was optioned to minor-league camp in March because the team felt comfortable with Jason Castro as the starter and Carlos Corporan as the backup.
In his seven major league at-bats last year, Stassi collected two hits, an RBI, and two strikeouts before his injury. This year, he spent the entire season at Triple-A with the RedHawks and batted .247 with 41 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs. Stassi is ranked as the Astros’ 19th-best prospect, according to MLB.com, and should be comfortable catching Tropeano since the two have been playing together already.
I’m really excited to watch Tropeano and Stassi play tonight for the Astros. The team could use another reliable arm in their rotation and Tropeano has a very good chance to be a solid No. 3 or 4 starter for this team. Meanwhile, Stassi could bring some much-needed help at catcher in case the Astros decide to part ways with Castro or Corporan this offseason. No matter what happens, tonight’s game should be very interesting to watch.