Meet the NRIs: C J.R. Towles

Justin Robert Towles, or better known as J.R. Towles, is probably best known to Cardinals’ fans as the backup catcher for the Houston Astros. Despite being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2002 and 2003, Towles returned to school until drafted by the Astros in the 20th round of the 2004 draft.

Towles’ highlight game came against the Cardinals on September 20, 2007, where he posted the Astros franchise record 8 RBI after being in the majors for all of about two weeks. That game included him hitting his first career home run off of Aaron Miles in an 18-1 blowout. From there, however, his career has struggled to take off.

He was expected to be the Astros’ primary backstop in 2008, but found himself headed to Triple-A by June after hitting .145 through the first two months of the season. He bounced back and forth for the rest of the season and then did so the next few years. After being cut loose by Houston after the 2011 season, he played last year for the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester. He hit .214/.280/.315 in 52 games.

Towles isn’t expected to do much beyond minor league depth. He and Rob Johnson are likely to battle each other for the starting job in Memphis to fill a hole in the system. Both should be an advantage for the young pitching the Cardinals’ have.