It’s been a few years since the Astros have faced the conundrum of which players to protect in preparation for the Rule 5 draft. Actually, you have to go back to 2004 to find the last player taken from the Astros in that December draft. Can you say D.J. Houlton?
But as the team inches closer to its third straight 100-loss season, the roster question is obviously being bandied about the offices at Minute Maid Park.
First things first, here are a few of the basics. The important, relevant dates:
Minor league players that were signed at 18 or younger must be added to the 40-man roster after 5 years. Minor league players that were 19 and older when signed must be protected after 4 years. Of course, any players currently on the 40-man roster would be exposed if they are removed.
One other note: It’s possible the Astros will not protect 40 players, leaving them room to add a player or two themselves during the draft. Especially since the organization will once again have the first pick.
So here’s the quandary that faces the Astros: Protect the obvious players (e.g. Altuve, Lyles, Castro, etc.) and then those players who may — repeat may — become contributing parts to a reconstructed team in the next few seasons.
Clearly, the Astros can begin to clean their 40-man roster with some easy decisions. Players like Erik Bedard, Philip Humber, Cody Clark, Matt Pagnozzi and Trevor Crowe are likley no-brainers. You can possibly add Carlos Corporan or Jake Elmore or even Brandon Laird to the list.
Here’s my list of current players on the 40-man the Astros could keep:
Now, here’s a list of players — not exhaustive — who the Astros will need to consider protecting, or risk losing in the draft.
Indeed, there are a few others who could end up on the roster later this year, but it’s most likely the 40 players will come from the names listed above.
Before you totally scoff at keeping Harrell, Wallace or Martinez, remember they are cheap and under team control, projected to earn just above the league minimum again in 2014. As long as they are not “blocking” anyone on the 40-man, no harm done.
So get your pencil out and start shuffling, scratching through names and erasing.