Astros next quandary: Setting the winter roster


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:

  • November 20: Teams finalize 40-man rosters.
  • December 12: Rule 5 Draft.

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.

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23 comments on “Astros next quandary: Setting the winter roster

    • Borchering was unsuccessful in the low minors after extended spring training. He’s either washed up or they are hiding him.
      They may protect Paredes and try to AAA at shortstop next year to create some value for him and leave Mier unprotected. Seaton will probably not be protected, but they have something in mind for Sogard , sending him to AFL. I would probably protect all five of the catchers mentioned. Too much to talk about all at once.

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  1. Chip, not an expert on the talent in the minors (nor anything else). But what is telling is on our current 40 man roster, you have listed only 27 worth keeping. So if there are 13 better minor leaguers on your team than what is probably available in Rule 5 – then they get protected. 13 off the list, leaves very few unprotected. You can also leave off the ones with arm injuries. Doubt anyone would take one of them knowing they have to keep them on the roster for all of 2014.

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  2. Chip, After bring him all the way back from injury, you are ready to give up on Lo? De Leon can go in favor of Lo.

    Otherwise Ambriz, Bedard, Humber, Clark, Crowe, Cruz, Elmore, Laird, Owens, Pagnozzi out

    Doran, Wojo, Buchanan, Stoffel, Singleton, Perez, Santana, Wates, Wieland in.

    There, the roster is full. No free agents and no rule five guys. I’d trade Wallace, JDM, Harrell, and the like for low minors players to make room for signing SP and bull pen help.

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    • Flash, no, somehow skipped over him. Somehow, I figure between some surprise releases and trades, the roster come December may look considerably different anyway. This will easily be Luhnow’s biggest test as he has greater latitude than he’s had in previous seasons. By the time we get to Kissimmee, the roster and spring lineups could be very interesting.

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  3. I really don’t see a reason to bring Springer up in 2013. You risk injury in games that don’t matter. You can make an argument that he would have pressure free games, but let’s be honest about 2014…we’re not challenging for a division title next year either. Leave him off the 40 man roster until you have to add him in April. You can waive guys like JDM or Wallace to free up spots, but they will be signed to minor league deals by other clubs. Again, being honest, Brett Wallace as the 25th best player on your roster is appealing. Having him as one of the top hitters in your lineup is not.

    Again, not to beat a dead horse, but with improved PED testing I don’t think you’re going to see as many guys in their mid-20’s make the leap into fantastic players. Goes don’t naturally have careers like Jason Grimsley where they can barely sniff 92 mph and then all of a sudden are consistently blowing 98 mph smoke past the hitters. As such, I’d make sure to protect Santana, Wates, Singleton, Meyer, and the two catchers. Wojo and Buchanan are no brainers. Stoffel and Musik would also get spots. That should leave three more to play with. I’d probably let Harrell walk given his terrible 2013. If I thought he could be a bullpen guy I’d be more likely to argue in his favor. That would give you an extra spot.

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    • The decision on Harrell may well come down to his attitude. If that has improved since earlier in the summer, the Astros may do well to keep him. Half of his starts have been quality starts and he’s bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation. It ain’t easy to find out at 3 o’clock you’re going to start at 6 o’clock. Pitchers are funny about their routines and preparation.

      The Astros could do worse than Harrell and the $600,000 or so he’ll make in 2014…if his attitude is in the right place.

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  4. Well, as evidenced in recent weeks, you can’t have too many catchers. So I’d keep Corporan, Stassi, Perez and Garcia.

    But I have seen enough of J.D. Martinez, Harrell and Wallace, especially if the club determines to get Castro out from behind the dish and make him a first baseman/DH. If that does not happen, then the club really has no other choice right now but to stay with Wallace for the time being. With Springer an automatic for next year in the outfield, there really is no job for J. D. Martinez. Even if he does hit, he does nothing else well.

    This whole 40 roster thing is a pretty big process with far more tough decisions to make then some are willing to recognize. All we have to do is let a guy go who turns into a producer, and Luhnow will have to take the grief.

    As far as Springer goes, I’d get him up here and let him play, unless he’s ready for a vacation. Keep in mind that he’s already played in 135 games, the most in his life.

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    • I disagree on Martinez. He could become our fifth outfielder. Are we really that deep in the outfield that we can let go a guy who has shown he can (somewhat) hit major league pitching?

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      • Let me put it this way:
        JDM: .256 / .280 / .392
        Barnes: .243 / .295 / .350
        Hoes: .261 / .308 / .343
        Crowe: .248 / .301 / .343
        Grossman: .268 / .332 / .370
        Paredes: .181 / .230 / .248
        Carter: .217 / .314 / .440
        Krauss: .180 / .221 / .315

        For 2014 given just those guys, I’m looking at Barnes, Hoes, and Grossman to flank Springer. Ideally they’d find one more guy and let Carter lose his outfielder’s glove. If I had the choice I’d bring JDM to spring training and let him either earn a spot or his release.

        …and remember many were ready to get rid of “that scrub” Maxwell (.288 / .377 / .545 for KC, .241 / .311 / .387 for HOU) before the season started.

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      • I’d rather have Barnes as a fourth outfielder and some guy that hits lefty as a fifth….one that can also run and throw and catch. Maybe I’m asking too much, but do you really protect Martinez?

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  5. One question and then some comments:
    Alex White is on the 60 day DL – would he have to be taken off that (and take a spot on the 40 man) in order to go to spring training or would it only click in at the start of next season?
    Of the 27 guys you have on the 40 man – I might take a chance on exposing Harrell and definitely Eric Thames who they just picked up off waivers – is about to turn 27 and has not shown that much either in the majors or recent minors. That gets me to 25. I would aim to add 10 more and leave 5 spots for FAs and/or Rule 5.
    Of the 21 you listed as potential 40 man’s – I would not protect – Weiland, Musick, Seaton, Sogard, Alaniz, Mier and Borcering for sure and the other not protects would be.. Urkfitz, Berger, Robinson and one more????
    OK – leave White on the 60 day and see what happens?

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  6. I know about Roberto Clemente, and Josh Hamilton, and Johan Santana. But I can not get excited about a nugget in the Rule 5 draft. Here is why: Houston Picks – (Probably missed somebody) Shaun Babula, Willy Taveras, Wes O’Brien, Nick Bourgeois, Blake Allen, Ben Diggins, Lincoln Holdzkom, Giuseppe Norrito, Wesley Wright, Andrew Locke, Gilbert De La Vara, Jorge Jiménez, Lance Pendleton, Aneury Rodríguez, Rhiner Cruz, Nate Freiman (don’t need to plow that field again), & Josh Fields. Now either we had a terrible scouting department, or this is just a useless exercise. As to signing free agents, you will have to dump someone off the 40 man probably. But if (and I said IF) Crane is cheap again this year, then we might as well keep what we have. There would be no reason to drop any of the above off the 40 man to sign another Pena, Bedard, Veras, Ankiel, Greene, Cedeno, etc.

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  7. Protect EVERY catcher we have! Castro HAS to remain healthy, but I have my doubts about him next year. As for the out field…I haven’t missed J. D. Martinez
    one tiny bit the past few months.Barnes is your 5th. outfielder…..Springer won’t be able to play EVERY day, so give my Barnes to replace him any day. It’s a shame we haven’t been able to see Stassi, ’cause he was pretty good in Corpus.

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  8. My take:

    Pitchers (13): Kevin Chapman, Jose Cisnero, Paul Clemens, Jarred Cosart, Josh Fields, Jordan Lyles, David Martinez, Brett Oberholtzer, Bobby Doran, Asher Wojciechowski, Jason Stoffel, Alex Sogard, and Ross Seaton,

    Guys like Jake Buchanan, Wes Musick, Pat Urckfitz, Eric Berger, Andrew Robinson, Luis Cruz, Ruben Alaniz are all way too young and too raw to remain on other team’s 25-man roster in 2014 — so they are not really at risk.

    Catchers(2): Jason Castro and Max Stassi. I’ve only seen Stassi play a few games, but I like what I see.

    Carlos Corporan, Carlos Perez, Rene Garcia are on the fence. But since there is so much room to be had on the 40-man roster, might as well hold their place. I see off-season moves to shore up depth here.

    Infielders(3): Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and Jonathan Singleton.

    Jimmy Paredes is on the fence. His upside clock is running out, however. Might as well keep him around since there is room to spare. Give him one last chance to shine.

    Bobby Borchering and Jonathan Meyer not at risk for the same reason cited above.

    Outfielders (5): Chris Carter, Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, Domingo Santana, Austin Wates.

    Sorry JDM and Brandon Barnes are not Big Leaguers in my humble opinion. Barnes will certainly not be drafted and protected by other teams, so he’ll likely stick around as a 5th OF.

    That’s 23 of 40 spots accounted for, with 5-7 players on the fence.

    The Keuchels and Harrell’s and Ely’s and Peacock’s and etc. of the organization just don’t have Big League stuff/command. Enough already!

    It’s time to take out the trash, Luhnow!

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    • Barnes is a very serviceable 5th OFer. He provides good defense, has good speed to PR late in games and he has a competitive fire that I really like. I would like to protect him and give him another year. Also, I am not ready to give up on Peacock. Since his recall he has been very good and his early projections were of a #2-3 SP. Thus, we should protect him. I am fine letting Harrell and Keuchel go.

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      • I agree that Barnes is serviceable as a 5th OF. But nobody is going to draft him and protect him over the course of a long season. I disagree on Peacock, despite a strong outing every once in a awhile.

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      • Every once in awhile? Peacock has been nothing, but outstanding since his recall, sans one bad start. Peacock is a definite keeper. Furthermore, I completely disagree about no one taking Barnes. I am confident another team would grab him in the rule V and keep him all year. A young team rebuilding like us would take a flyer on Barnes.

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