Not always does a major league dream actually go full circle. With one of the Astros pitching prospects, Spencer Arrighetti, he has the chance to actually complete that circle from growing up a fan of a team to pitching for that same team at the big league level. The Astros have been able to develop pitching at a high level and Arrighetti could be the next one in line. Arrighetti’s journey hasn’t come without adversity though.
Spencer was born and raised in the Houston area attending Cinco Ranch HS in Katy, TX. Spencer grew up an Astros fan and was in high school when the Astros started their recent era of success. “I went to game 5 (of the 2017 World Series). The most electric atmosphere that I have ever seen in my entire life”, Arrighetti said. “The parade after the World Series was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been apart of. Seemed like the entire city of Houston came together, and it was after a really really rough patch of time in Houston after the hurricane,” he added.
While in high school, Spencer was a pretty big prospect who committed to Texas Christian University. I asked Spencer about his college journey and he said “I committed (to TCU) when I was 16 based on the flashiness and the power five patch on the sleeve. It’s hard to say no to that when you don’t really know the industry yet. What I didn’t recognize was the people I had there, they are great coaches, I respect them, I just didn’t click with them. It just wasn’t a good environment for me to fulfill the vision I had for myself in college baseball and to continue into the pro ranks.”
“I’m gonna bet on myself every time. I’ve been telling myself since I was 8 years old this was for me,” Arrighetti said.
Spencer made the tough decision to transfer from TCU to Navarro College in Corsicana, TX. Not really an easy decision to make. “I took a step back, reevaluated my love for the game. I thought it was worth putting aside the material stuff putting aside the luxury of being in a nice town, to be honest. That step in my journey taught me that I really do love the game. I didn’t have any reason to love the game outside of playing the game when I was there and that was a really big step for me. I got a big role, I got a starting role in college for the first time,” Spencer said.
Despite making the decision to transfer, Spencer’s season was cut short due to the COVID pandemic, but he still found a way to play baseball. Spencer played in the Northwoods League up in Wisconsin and put up some gaudy numbers. In 24 innings, he allowed just five hits, no earned runs and struck out 27 batters. “They were 1 out of like 5 leagues that played during the COVID shutdown. I was fortunate enough to have an area scout say hey we want see you go play here. So I packed my stuff and went 12 hours north to Wisconsin and that was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Spencer said. “I got put with really good coaches, Craig Noto and Austin Heenan, and they believed in me a lot and gave me the opportunity that I needed to go pitch more and refine my arsenal.” he added.
The time in the summer leagues (or winter leagues) is huge for prospects to show off for scouts. I asked Spencer about that and he said “I got free agent offers after that. That’s where it really started for me, like the up and up with my stock was proving I could compete against power five hitters.”
Spencer was able to use this as a springboard and commit to the University of Louisiana Lafayette. “I was fortunate enough to commit that fall to Louisiana Lafayette. Once I got on campus at UL, I could tell those were the people that believe that I was who I thought I was. That’s what mattered to me, that we were going to be on the same page and that I was going to get the opportunity to show what I needed to show to go do this at the next level,” Spencer said.
He showed out that year in college posting a 3.12 ERA with 91 K in 83.2 innings. Even better though, Spencer had his best games against TCU. I asked him if this was a revenge game and he said “I wouldn’t say a revenge start, it was more like wiping the slate clean. I earned those coaches respect, we had good conversations after the fact, so there was a lot of emotions running,” he said with a smile.
After the year at Louisiana Lafayette, Spencer was drafted by the Astros in the 6th round of the 2021 draft. An already special moment in a player’s career was even more special when he got drafted by his hometown team. “It was the best day of my life. I can look back and say that with ease. I had my whole family there with me, I had some closest friends there with me and every single one of them is a Houston Astros fan. We were all equally excited for the opportunity, they were excited no matter what but this was a cherry on top.”
— Astros Future (@AstrosFuture) September 18, 2021
Now a year into professional baseball I asked Spencer about the difference between college baseball and professional baseball and he gave one of the most insightful and truthful answers I have heard. “The approach to development, which I think that’s a scary thing to say because you would hope that the breeding ground for professional baseball (college ball) would take a similar approach, but the reality is there is still a lot of old school coaches in the game of college baseball because it works. Because the game in college is win as many games as you can so you look good for the program, it’s not about did I get this many guys drafted,” Spencer said.
The Astros have long been praised for their ability to develop players, both pitchers and hitters, and use analytics and data. Spencer echoed that sentiment. “We are completely goal oriented here with the Astros. Like everything I do as a pitcher, I know I have like five things on a list that I’m trying to check off before I can move onto the next set of things to check off. So we are really big on analytics and data and using that stuff as your friend, rather than an excuse for a bad outing. Which it seems like a lot of that is the approach in college baseball. Like these numbers are there to bail you out when you don’t do well, not there to teach you how to get better.”
Spencer is currently assigned to High-A Asheville. This can be a tough place to pitch since it has a short porch in both left field and right field, but he has pitched very well at home this year. “I’m a big competitor so I try to feel the flow of the game and get our guys back in the dugout quick. I feel like there is more pressure here to execute good pitches, especially like two strike pitches down in the zone. You don’t want to make mistakes in Asheville so when there is that little bit of extra pressure, I think it adds a little bit to the edge I’m going to bring into the game with me. Like I know there is a short pirch in right field, I know we are sitting ontop of a mountain and the ball is going to fly here, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m gonna try to keep the ball in the yard,” Spencer said.
The Astros, for quite a while now, have employed a piggy back system with pitching. This means the normal starter will pitch as a starter and in relief (usually 4-5 innings either way). Spencer’s numbers as a starter have been a lot better than as a reliever. I asked if he was more comfortable as a starter and he said “100%. There is more of a routine approach to the entire day. Like that whole 24 hours on the day that I start I know what I’m doing from the time I wake up to when I come to the field. There is a method to the madness that leads up to the start. If I can get everything moving in the right direction up until then then, I’m going to be good in the game. So I think there is a lot less variables when I start, that’s the jump in consistency you see.”
He went on to add this about starting versus relieving “I’ve always been more comfortable as a starter. I like having control of the pace of the game and the course of the game and if there is going to be something that goes wrong, then I want to fix it rather than coming in with runners on.”
Spencer and I talked about his pitcher repertoire. Recently he hit a new career high with the fastball at 98.2 MPH. I asked him about his pitches and he said “I think my average is 94.5 (MPH on fastball), that’s taking into account all reps. Low end 92, first 5-6 innings hold 94-96. Curveball has came along way. Curveball last year was like 75 MPH and not very good shape but throwing it about 80-82 MPH right now with a lot sharper break and that’s been a game changer for lefties honestly.” Spencer also added that he has a changeup that he is working on and still getting reps, but his best secondary offering is his slider.
— Astros Future (@AstrosFuture) May 31, 2022
Lastly, I spoke with Spencer about what he is working on right now. “I would say the biggest thing for me is just not losing focus between at bats. So you’ll see, like I’ll cruise 4.2 innings and then maybe miss a call or have an error or a hit that I don’t think should be a hit and the next guy is a four pitch walk. So I think for me right now it’s a mentality approach because the stuff is there, I think a lot of it is just having conviction every single time I throw the baseball,” Spencer said.
Spencer has already put together a strong season posting a 4.25 ERA with 63 K in 42.1 innings. As mentioned above, he has been even better as a starter posting a 2.60 ERA with 12 BB/40 K in 27.2 innings. If he continues this kind of pitching, he will find himself back in Texas at Double-A Corpus Christi. From there he would only another stop away from going full circle and pitching in Houston for his hometown team.