Martinez, Lyles lead group of 10 invited to camp

Martinez, Lyles lead group of 10 invited to camp

Martinez, Lyles lead group of 10 invited to camp
HOUSTON -- Right-hander Jordan Lyles, the top prospect in the system who's expected to compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, was among 10 non-roster players the Astros invited to Spring Training on Wednesday.

Lyles, the Astros' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, and outfielder J.D. Martinez, the Minor League Player of the Year, will be among 22 non-roster players in camp when Spring Training begins next month. Pitchers and catchers work out for the first time on Feb. 16 and position players on Feb. 20.

In addition to Lyles and Martinez, general manager Ed Wade announced left-handed pitcher Patrick Urckfitz, catcher Rene Garcia, infielders Koby Clemens and Jiovanni Mier and outfielders Jon Gaston, Drew Locke, J.B. Shuck and T.J. Steele had also been invited to Major League camp.

Lyles, 20, was 7-12 with a 3.57 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock last year. He was a midseason and postseason Texas League All-Star and was selected to the MLB Futures Game. Martinez, 23, hit a combined .341 at Class A Lexington and Corpus Christi with 40 doubles, 18 homers and 89 RBIs, a .407 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage.

"We thought it gave them an opportunity to sort of get acclimated to the big league side and we talked about these guys an awful lot with our staff," Wade said of the group as a whole. "This gives the staff a chance to put faces and body types with names. The other thing is it signals we're beginning to build the type of depth necessary to get to where we want to get and stay there."

Mier, the Astros' first-round pick in the 2009 Draft, is coming to Major League camp because of a pre-condition in his contract that stipulated he be invited to the second big league Spring Training after his signing.

Clemens, drafted by the Astros in 2005, is the son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens. The 24-year-old led Corpus Christi in home runs (26) and RBIs (85) last year in his first season at Double-A, earning co-Player of the Year honors with Shuck.

"Koby's done a nice job for us, and we felt when we started to talk about sort of broadening the group of players we're going to bring to camp, we discussed Koby quite a bit from the standpoint of having him get a chance to see what it's all about and experience the atmosphere," Wade said. "Most of the guys, we talked to them and we told them they're not going to make the club, but to go ahead and prepare like they always prepare and come in ready to put their best foot forward and enjoy the experience."

One player who could impact the club this year is Urckfitz, a 22-year-old who spent the majority of last season at Class A Lancaster. He was 5-9 with a 4.13 ERA in 35 appearances with 32 walks and 103 strikeouts, averaging 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

"[Assistant general manager] Bobby Heck made a strong case to bring Pat Urckfitz to camp because he thinks Urckfitz at some point -- not at the beginning of the season -- but at some point in time has a chance to help us," Wade said. "He's a guy we're going to pay closer attention to at the beginning and see where we go from there."

Garcia, 20, spent the majority of the 2010 season at Lexington, hitting .262 in 84 games with 10 doubles, two home runs and 35 RBIs. He threw out 41 percent of baserunners attempting to steal. Steele, 24, hit .228 in his first season at Corpus Christi with two home runs and 18 RBIs. He was limited to 67 games due to injury.

Gaston, 24, spent first season at Corpus Christi in 2010, hitting .245 in 132 games with 16 doubles, eight triples, 13 home runs, 51 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. He had a stellar season in 2009 at Lancaster, tallying 119 runs, 31 doubles, 15 triples, 35 home runs and 100 RBIs en route to earning California League All-Star honors.

Shuck, 23, hit a combined .292 in 137 games at Corpus Christi and Round Rock last year with 16 doubles, four triples, two home runs, 35 RBIs and 16 stolen bases with a .366 on-base percentage. Locke, 27, earned team MVP honors at Round Rock in 2010, hitting .279 in 135 games with 36 doubles, 17 home runs and 74 RBIs.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.