Rule 5 draft gives Astros a quick break from the Christmas rush


We take a momentary break from the mad Christmas acquisition rush to tune in to the 2013 Rule 5 draft. With the #1 pick again, there’s little doubt the Astros will once again be players.

No matter how you cut it, there isn’t a Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana or Roberto Clemente in this year’s Rule 5 draft. It’s fair to say this draft isn’t what it used to be. Last year, only five players remained with their drafting club while all others were offered back to their original teams.

As a reminder, anyone taken in this week’s draft must remain on the major league roster for the entire season or offered back to their original team. Often the teams will work out a trade that will allow the drafting team to send the player to the minors.

Last December, the Astros chose Josh Fields in the first round and Nate Freiman (you remember him, right?).

So, which direction will Jeff Luhnow go? Power pitcher? Reclamation project? Power hitter? With Chad Qualls already in tow and the likelihood Houston adds another veteran bullpen piece, the ability to hide a Rule 5 pitcher in the pen increases significantly.

Here are some options and may be possibly be driven in part by how other conversations go at this week’s winter meetings.

Danny Burawa. RHP. Yankees.

  • He’s a power pitcher who missed 2012 with injuries. As with many young pitchers, Burawa has control issues. Side note: He’s a grad of St. John’s where former Astros’ coach Matt Galante went to school.

Tommy Kahnle. RHP. Yankees.

  • Another hard thrower with high K numbers as you might expect. The 24-year-old allowed only 38 hits in 60 IP, but his walks help keep players on base.

Zack Thornton. RHP. Pirates.

  • He has crazy numbers over the past couple of years, despite throwing only in the low 90s. Walked only 12 hitters in 75 IP while striking out 90 and at 26 (next May) he could be the type of pitcher Luhnow is searching for.

There are some hitters, but nothing like Freiman last year. And, with the Astros needing pitching and seeming to have answered some outfield questions, Houston may well be content with taking only one player this season.

A couple of questions for you to start the week:

  • If you were Luhnow, would you add a hitter or pitcher in the Rule 5 draft?
  • Which closer would you rather have: John Axford, Grant Balfour, Jose Veras, Joel Hanrahan.
  • Chance (in %) that Brett Wallace is the opening day first baseman in ’14?
  • Finish this sentence: I like the way Luhnow is heading, but he’d really make me happy if…
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45 comments on “Rule 5 draft gives Astros a quick break from the Christmas rush

  1. If I were Luhnow I would sign no one in the Rule 5 draft. I’d send the message that we are finished using their rejects.
    If I were Luhnow I would sign Veras.
    I’d say there is a 10% chance Wallace is opening day 1B. We’ll face Sabathia.
    I like the way Luhnow is heading, but he’d really make me happy if he had Springer and Singleton and Choo on the 25 man roster on opening day.
    Choo LF
    Fowler CF
    Springer RF
    Castro C
    Carter DH
    Dominguez 3B
    Singleton 1B
    Altuve 2B
    Villar SS
    Cosart P

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  2. I like that lineup oldpro and it could happen as i think we have enough ways to cover 1B with wallace, carter, singleton and possibly castro, so if a bat is signed it will be an outfielder most likely.

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  3. 1) If I were Luhnow – I would lean towards adding a pitcher – we have places to fill in both the rotation and the pen and the worst that would happen is you would lose $25,000 and offer them back to the first team.
    2) Balfour is the best of the bunch – but also the oldest – he has been consistently good the last 4 years. Veras would be my second choice – also consistent and not that far behind Balfour – probably a more reasonable cost also.
    3) I would put Wallace’s chances at about 20% – think there is a high chance he gets packaged in a trade
    4) Luhnow would make me real happy if somehow he brought in somebody like Choo into the fold.

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  4. I like Zach Thornton as a good chance to take on him, but you wonder if Luhnow sets up a trade instead and picks another player and then trades him off.He had mentioned that in passing the other day in an interview. Wallace has a strong connection to Luhnow, but one gets the sense that despite his many teams that he was been traded to, perhaps its time for him to move on and hopefully for him a change in scenery does him good. I still would like to see Houston pick up Hart and his potential power he can provide and Jesse Crain for the back end of the bullpen.Add in a solid pick-up in the Rule 5 (another relief candidate) and let’s go. Then Houston could consider a whopper of a deal for Carter.

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  5. I have little faith in the Rule 5 picks. They are there for a reason. If we take a chance on one of them, then he eats up mound time away from another real prospect. With today’s scouting systems throughout the MLB, there are few diamonds in the rough to be found anymore. Pass on them.

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    • “With today’s scouting systems throughout the MLB, there are few diamonds in the rough to be found anymore.”

      Seems contradictory. I’m pretty sure this FO has done its homework on the Rule 5. If they take a guy it’s probably a decent bet.

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  6. I think Thornton is worth the effort. It’s a $50,000 tryout in spring training.

    I’m kinda partial to Veras. I think with him and Qualls, we have our eighth and ninth innings.

    The chances Wallace starts at first base are pretty good. Whether he stays there is another thing entirely.

    What could Luhnow do? Well, I just don’t see Choo happening. Maybe if he finds a first baseman, that’d answer the Wallace question. What I’d really like from Luhnow is a bigger commitment to the bullpen. We lost too many games last year because of a horrible bullpen. I just think the best way to support that young (Feldman aside) rotation is to have their backs on the back end of the game.

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    • Got to agree overall Brian – even though I said it would make me happy to get Choo here – that is not the same as me saying I think it is going to happen.
      The pen was beyond horrid last season – their 4.92 ERA was exactly double the ERA of the Braves (2.46) last year. Getting that down into the high 3’s is not ridiculous as a goal – a 3.75 ERA would still be only 11th in the AL when compared to last season.
      I sure would like to see another decent bat – I wonder if they could get James Loney in here for a reasonable number…

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  7. Add best available in the opinion of the scouts. Veras, unless he is double the price of another one of them. Wallace at 100%. My predictions are so poor – this should insure Brett gets to start over someplace by ST. I just want Luhnow to “HURRY.”

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  8. I think Harrell has the same problem that Frankenstein’s monster had in Young Frankenstein. He had Abby Normal’ s brain ( and temperament) transplanted into his skull.

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  9. Any defensive wizards available to play SS in the Rule V draft? The Astros infield defense is horrendous. Dominguez keeps teasing us into thinking he could be a gold glover, but makes too many silly errors. Altuve turns it well, but his range leaves something to be desired. Let’s not talk about 1B

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  10. Devin – don’t tell me you don’t recognize the defensive potential of Jonathan Villar.
    Just imagine how many unforced errors he could make in a full season

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    • Dan – give a whole season I suspect he could set some records.

      daveb – I wouldn’t replace him at this point. Depending on whether his OBP or Avg improve enough he could be one of the top third basemen in baseball thanks to his range and ability to pick it. He still made too many careless errors last year though.

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  11. Thornton is interesting……but you have to wonder if he was THAT good why would the Pirates leave him unprotected. I’d take Axford if he comes cheap enough, but I’d settle for Veras again. What do I want Luhnow to do? Make a trade, and get a BIG BAT! I can dream can’t I??!!!

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  12. DanP & Becky: Lets pray for a huge improvement for Villar. But when Lowrie left, we just did not have anything except Greene, Cedeno, Mier, and “who knows” to play short. Villar may be another Sax or Knoblauch. In the past history, many SS have worked hard and improved. Remember, last year, I was one that said lets play Wallace to see what we have. Well now, we know, and by year’s end, we will know about Villar. Some of these guys need to play themselves onto other teams or out of the league. So I will give Villar that chance. (One caveat – I am wrong about 9 times out of 9)

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    • Y’all are certainly right to be concerned about Villar. I can picture him telling himself the last two seasons “I’m good enough to play in the big leagues, I’m good enough to play in the big leagues”.
      I hope this winter he has taken a good look at himself and discovered that “I need to get a lot, lot better to stay in the big leagues” because that is the gospel truth.

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      • i agree oldpro. he about played himself out of a spot last year, but like with Carter i think we need to be patient with him and see what a full year of experience and at bats does for him. he may relax and grow. if not Fontana and Correa will be ready in a year or two.

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  13. The plus side with Villar is that he is so young and has something you can’t teach – speed. The down side is that he has shown 0 – zero – nada – nothing – zip – improvement fielding throughout his minor league career. He consistently gets an error about every 3.5 games and did it in the majors also. I know some of that can be mechanics … but isn’t that what they are supposed to work on in the minors?
    Now perhaps on the maturity side he will grow out of some errors which are a result of trying to make a play that is just not there. And with that I hope he can grow out of the many base running errors he made in his short time up.
    Hey, there is no doubt he is a placeholder and I would not be surprised if they brought in a veteran SS to help out and perhaps tutor Villar. He has talent – but it is eclipsed by the way he plays the game.

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  14. Villar was sent to Winter ball to “work” on his defensive skills………we will see
    how much that paid off in April. It never hurts to bring in a NRI to help him along
    but it comes down to how long is the rope Luhnow is willing to give him. Your SS
    is the captain of the infield……..he’s the one the pitcher depends on to get to those balls. Just ask ANY pitcher who pitched here how important Adam Everett was.
    Villar will be “on the clock” in Spring training, but Luhnow might want to hedge his bets by sighning a veteran SS to be on the bench just in case.

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  15. Villar actually gets to more balls than most shortstops do. He makes a bunch of bad throws though. But that’s all besides the point if he can’t hit. Even in the minors, he’s never been much of a hitter. But he’s a good athlete and he’ll get a few more year to develop, whether here or somewhere else.

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  16. Hitting-wise Villar’s OPS in the minors has improved every year since 2010 – .684 to .715 to .732 to .784 in 2013. We would be happy to have a SS with an OPS of say .740 – if he could cut those errors down in about 1/2.

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  17. Dan, yes, I’d take a guy at short this year who gave us a .740 OPS, but certainly would not be satisfied with a .740 a year or two down the road. You think Villar can take it from .640 to .740 in 2014? His winter stats are not encouraging.

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  18. I really don’t think he will improve that much in the field or at bat – but I get the feeling they will let him be the starter and place holder.
    Or…if they don’t like what they are seeing in winter ball they certainly may bring in someone – but SS is not a position with much offense on players who are available.

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  19. DANG……the second day of meetings has been BUSY! Guys getting traded ALL over the place. At least we won’t have to worry about facing Trumbo next year
    e’s gone to the Diamondbacks. Luhnow looks to be interested in a few guys, other than Morse……….meh.

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