Astros: The rest of the non-roster invitees, who will stick?
By Eric Huysman
Looking at the rest of the Astros NRI for 2016 Spring Training
The Houston Astros announced on New Years day that they were inviting 17 non-roster invitees to take part in spring training to begin the 2016 season. Yesterday, we looked at the Top-30 Astros prospect who were non-roster invitees, and how likely it was that they would stick. I mentioned that the Astros 25-man roster didn’t have too many openings, but crazier things have happened in spring training. All of these guys who are invited are there for a reason; the Astros staff want to see them in action.
This next group of players are not in the current Top-30 list, but as Preston Tucker told me one time, those lists are just popularity contests depending on which scouts have seen you. These players will still have a significant impact in the big leagues someday, with or without the Astros. Some of these players play above what was expected of them. Many of them also were available in the Rule V draft and were not selected by other teams.
Let’s take a look at the players making their first or more appearances at big league camp, congrats to all those people currently on this list.
Buchanan is the only player on this list who has had any major league appearances. He was on the team for parts of the 2014-15 seasons but was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for players down the stretch. You have to root for a guy like him, he has all the talent in the world, but has struggled at the big league level. The 26-year-old righty put up a good ERA in a brief stint with the Astros over nine innings with a 2.00 ERA over a five-game stretch. He is not a power pitcher but has shown flashes of dominance at times in the minors. Most likely, he will probably serve as starter/long reliever at Triple-A Fresno.
2015 Stats: 5-5/ 4.76 ERA/ 46 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings.
Chances of sticking: 25% as the long-man in the bullpen
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Of all the players on this list besides Hoyt, Heineman probably has the best shot of making the Astros opening day roster in case Max Stassi continues to struggle at the plate. Heineman appears to be a good receiver who can hit for a decent batting average; his power potential is questionable at this point. He did hit 13 homers and drive in 71 runs in 2013, so the potential is there. The backup catcher right now is former top prospect Stassi, but Heineman could impress during camp.
2015 Stats: .285/ three hr/ 30 RBI on 78 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Chances of sticking: 15% as backup catcher
I wrote about Hoyt the other day that he could make the opening day roster, you can read it here: Breakout Astros Prospect: James Hoyt for the bullpen. What more can I say, Hoyt could be one of those strikeout arms that the Astros need out of the bullpen for a few years. He is an older prospect at the age of 29, but he could be an impact to the big league roster as soon as opening day, but he has to perform well in spring. The bullpen seems loaded, but he could take the place of a second left-hander or long-reliever. This will be his second spring with the Astros.
2015 Stats: 0-1/ 3.49 ERA/ 66 strikeouts in 49 innings/ 9 saves
Chances of sticking: 75%, most likely depth in Triple-A
Jankowski was a starter in the Astros system in 2013-14 but was moved to the bullpen in 2015 in Triple-A Fresno to great results. He was a vulture in 2015, where he went 8-3 in 55 games. He has a career minor league ERA of 3.17 and appears to be a strikeout pitcher. He could also claim to be one of the few if any, players who were drafted twice by the Astros in 2008 and 2012, both times in the 34th round. He has ridden under the radar for most of his career, but throws in the low 90’s and can strike out hitters. How much big league impact is yet to be seen.
2015 Stats: 8-3/ 3.18 ERA/ 77 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings/ 5 saves
Chances of sticking: 10%, don’t really know too much about him. Time to interview him.
The Corpus Christi Hooks 2015 MVP makes his debut at spring training with the Astros as he represents another Tyler White type of talent who can come out of nowhere to surprise. While I think 2016 is too early for Kemmer, he can use the camp this year as a way to make his best impression on manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow, who will have to replace two everyday outfielders in Carlos Gomez and Colby Rasmus following the 2016 season. He offers good on-base skills with decent pop in the bat with a little speed.
On @TalkingStros, we were able to discuss Kemmer’s future with him, take a listen below.
Kemmer will most likely start with Triple-A Fresno, and then could be a possibility to be called up at any time when needed.
Keeping up with the Astros Prospects: OF Jon Kemmer
2015 Stats: .327/ 18 hr/ 65 RBI/ 9 steals
Chances of sticking: 5%, unless there is a major injury, he will most likely start at Fresno.
Hello Roberto Pena, he who was disappointed when the Astros did not protect him from the Rule V draft in December. You are still an Astro after all of that, so how are you rewarded, you get an invite to big league camp. Known mostly as for his defensive game and ability to call games for the pitchers, Pena did hit 13 homers in 2014 at Lancaster, which is similar to the effect that Coors Field has on offense. Last season he hit one homer. Which Pena is the real Pena, we will find out in spring training as he battles Heineman and Stassi for the backup catcher? He probably needs a little seasoning at Triple-A first, but glad that you are still an Astro.
2015 Stats: .237/ 1 hr/ 22 RBI / 1 sb
Chances of sticking: 5%, the Astros do value defense.
Sclafani is seen as the next Marwin Gonzalez type of player for the Astros. Power and speed are not really a part of Sclafani’s game, but he does have a way of getting on-base and scoring. Sclafani might spend a large chunk of 2016 at Triple-A with how stacked the Astros infield picture is. This will be his second spring with the Astros.
2015 Stats: .292/ 0 hr/ 25 RBI/ 41 runs
Chances of sticking: 0%
Astros Prospects: Joe Sclafani Interview
Next: Houston Astros Podcast – New Year’s resolutions
Congrats to all the players who got the invite to Astros spring training, good luck to all of you trying to reach your dreams.