Prospects, vets among Astros' 18 NRIs

Prospects, vets among Astros' 18 NRIs

HOUSTON -- The Astros on Friday announced they have invited 18 players who aren't on the 40-man roster to Major League Spring Training next month, including Minor League free agents Reid Brignac (infielder), Juan Centeno (catcher) and C.J. Riefenhauser (left-handed pitcher).

In addition, the Astros invited the following Minor Leaguers to big league camp: infielders J.D. Davis and Jon Singleton; outfielders Derek Fisher, Alejandro Garcia, Jon Kemmer and Ramon Laureano; catchers Tyler Heineman and Garrett Stubbs; left-handed pitcher Brian Holmes; and right-handed pitchers Edison Frias, Jordan Jankowski, Francis Martes, Tyson Perez, Cy Sneed and Aaron West.

Hot Stove Tracker

Brignac, 30, spent the majority of his 2016 campaign with Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta's system, hitting .264 with 21 doubles, eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 102 games. He also appeared in 13 games for the Braves last season and has appeared in Major League games in each of the last nine seasons (2008-16) since debuting with the Rays.

Centeno, 27, hit .261 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 25 RBIs in 55 games as the Twins' backup catcher last season. The left-handed-hitting Centeno collected 14 of his 16 extra-base hits and posted a .751 OPS against right-handed pitchers in 2016. He has appeared in the Major Leagues in each of the last four seasons with the Mets (2013-14), Milwaukee ('15) and Minnesota ('16).

Centeno's solo tater

Riefenhauser, 26, made 29 Minor League appearances in the Cubs' system last year, topping out at Triple-A Iowa last year. While with Iowa, the lefty reliever made 28 appearances, posting a 4.55 ERA, while allowing just a .179 opponent batting average, including against .132 lefties. He appeared in 24 games with the Rays from 2014-15, allowing 14 earned runs and 21 hits in 20 innings.

Martes is the Astros' No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline and No. 29 in all of baseball. He went 9-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 25 games (22 starts) for Double-A Corpus Christi, striking out 131 in 125 1/3 innings. He's expected to begin the season in the rotation at Triple-A Fresno, but he will get his first taste of big league camp.

Martes has big league talent

Fisher, the Astros' fifth-ranked prospect, will be back at big league camp for the second year in a row. He hit .255 with 21 doubles, 21 homers, 76 RBIs, 28 steals and an .815 OPS in 129 combined games between Corpus Christi, where he was a Texas League All-Star, and Triple-A Fresno (27 games).

Singleton, the Astros' former top prospect, will return to camp after being taken off the 40-man roster in November following a disappointing season in Fresno (.202 average). He will compete for at-bats at first base this spring with Yulieski Gurriel, A.J. Reed, Tyler White, Colin Moran and Marwin Gonzalez.

Davis, Heineman, Jankowski and Kemmer will also be making their second consecutive appearances in big league camp.

With Houston's 18 non-roster invitees scheduled to attend camp, the Spring Training roster total is at 58 players (28 pitchers, 30 position players). The 40-man roster is currently full. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to West Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 14, and the position players on Feb. 17.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.