The Astros released their 2015 opening day roster on Wednesday. There were some surprises, but most of the players that made the final cut were known to fans because they were on the roster last year, or because they were big news when the team signed them. Since this winter was so busy, it was easy to overlook a player who was the first offseason acquisition the Astros made. Will Harris was claimed off of waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks in early November. When he was acquired, the general consensus around the TCB readership was that Arizona made a mistake, or that we had our next "diamond in the rough". Now we get a chance to see if either of those are true.
Harris was originally a 9th round pick by the Rockies in 2006 out of LSU. He pitched part of 2012 in Colorado, and was claimed off of waivers by the Diamondbacks following the year. He spent parts of 2 seasons in the D-Backs bullpen. The 6-4 right-hander had a solid year in 2013, finishing with a 2.91 ERA, and averaging just over a strikeout per inning. 2014 started out a bit rough, but he finished in good fashion with 16 consecutive scoreless appearances. Harris throws a fastball in the low 90s, and has a good curveball, which manager A.J. Hinch said was one of the best curves of all the relievers in camp this year.
Harris pitched well in Grapefruit League games this spring. In 9 appearances (11 innings), he gave up 3 earned runs, struck out 5 and walked 2. As camp was winding down, it looked like he would start out in Fresno. The high profile signings of Neshek and Gregerson made roster spots in the bullpen harder to come by this season, leading to many of the relievers on the 2014 roster heading to AAA also. When it came time to finalize the roster, Josh Fields was not fully healed from his groin injury. This opened up a spot for Harris to join the opening day pitching staff.
"Bullpen depth" is not a term that has been used in the same breath as "Houston Astros" in quite a while (unless it was proceeded by "lack of"). If Harris can continue his momentum from last season, it will be tough to move him off the roster once Fields is ready to come back. And that will be a good problem to have.