Sorting out the Astros’ chaff not as easy as prior seasons

Brett Wallace is gone. Long live another former first rounder who didn’t live up to the billing.

For the past few seasons and spring trainings, the Astros have carried a lot of chaff, excess weight and “scrubs”, as some of you have called it.  Almost by necessity due to the reconstruction blue print, Houston has been a haven for low-risk, high-reward players and those trying to resurrect a career.

Perhaps the Astros have now reached a tipping point of sorts. This season, as more seasoned talent arrives from the minor league system and the organization invests in some more seasoned help at the major league level, there won’t be as many spots on the 40-man roster for those so-called projects.

Time has simply run out on players like Wallace and J.D. Martinez. Just as it played out for Jordan Lyles, Jimmy Paredes and others.

With every Jerome Williams, Dexter Fowler or Jesus Guzman acquisition comes decision time for the 40-man roster. Whether it results in a release, DFA or trade, the low-man-on-the-totem-pole discussion is now always in play.

So, who is the low man? Obviously, this week it was Wallace. There will be more adjustments to come as the Astros cruise toward opening day April 1. The odd man out could change from time to time, but here’s my list today of the men on the bubble.

Marc Krauss. 26. OF/DH.

  • Unless he breaks out in spring training, he’s around likely until the George Springer arrival or another spring training acquisition.

Carlos Corporan. 26 in May. C.

  • Tough call and it’s likely he’ll be around most of spring training or until the right trade comes up. Seems clear that the future — at least 2014-15 — is in the hands of Jason Castro and Max Stassi. Unless the Astros decide to experiment with Castro at 1B or he becomes the odds-on DH, the team will carry only two catchers out of spring training.

Lucas Harrell. 25. RHP.

  • Is Harrell really only 25? A little of a challenge to include him on this list because he has proved to be valuable in some ways, especially considering his ability to shift between spot starter, full-time starter and the bullpen. But with the rotation beginning to fill with really young pitchers (e.g. Brett Oberholtzer, Jarred Cosart et al) and pitchers waiting in the wings (e.g. Mark Appel, Asher WojciechowskiJake Buchanan, Mike Foltynewicz, and friends), it’s only a matter of time before the Astros will need Harrell’s spot on the 40-man.

Pitcher. Pick ’em.

  • The Astros 40-man roster is presently top-heavy with pitchers. With 25 throwers and only 15 position players, the roster is due a shuffle soon.  At this point, with so many new arms and young arms, it’s a challenge to determine who may be the next to go. Obviously, the Astros agree and want to hedge their bets, thus 25 pitchers remain on the roster. That number will change between now and April 1, likely dropping to 21 or 22. But part of the challenge comes in that most of the arms are young (fewer Mike Hamptons or Erik Bedards or Philip Humbers in ’14) . Take your pick now on the odd men out, but it will change via trade, release or injury.

The chaff was easier to see last year and in years before. As the young talent rises to the top and Jeff Luhnow signs his own players, seeing the obvious left-overs won’t be as easy.

One more thought: Most prospects will not spend time on the 40-man roster at AAA. If they do, they’re simply slow developing, are blocked by someone ahead of them or have other issues. It’s why the Astros have thrown Jonathan Villar into the starting SS role. And, it’s why the should do the same with Singleton. It’s time to find out what you’ve got.

Who’s the next to go?


32 comments on “Sorting out the Astros’ chaff not as easy as prior seasons

  1. I’m just looking forward to some De Chaffing.. Lets see, Krauss, JD, Harrell, Kuechel, I would say times up, BYE, Catching I see Corc and Castro starting the season, Stassi or someone coming up during the year..Can see the July Astro’s Looking a lot different than the April Astro’s.


  2. I think Harrell is still an Astro because of Brett Strom.
    I think J Villar is the starting SS because of the void caused by Luhnow’s worst move: trading Lowrie.
    I think the Astros have to see Stassi at AAA and make sure he is ready to climb back into the fray after his beaning. If he has no aftereffects, then look at making moves at catcher.
    The Astros have so many arms at AA and AAA, I think they will have a revolving door at pitcher in the next two years until the best comes to the surface and the chaff falls by the wayside.


  3. I think it’s a bit premature calling
    Krauss a scrub or chaff. He’s still relatively young and did very well at AAA last year. His poor MLB numbers come from just 130-ish at-bats. That’s not enough to know who he is as a player.

    Corporan has probably just the first half — maybe to the trade deadline — guaranteed in Houston. After that, his days are numbered. I expect he’ll get traded and Stassi will spend some significant time behind the dish while Castro splits time at catcher, first base and/or DH.

    I would have a short fuse on Harrell. If he doesn’t shine in spring training, he’ll be DFA’ed or traded pretty quickly.


    • Brian, may be “premature” on Krauss. But he’s nearing the fish-or-cut-bait window. His big “upside” is his OBP (.401 last year at OKC, .375 in minor league career). If that can translate into the majors, he’ll find a place somewhere even with just a decent BA. Still, though, with Fowler, Springer, Domingo Santana, Preston Tucker and even Delino Deshields in outfield pipeline, Krauss doesn’t necessarily stand out.


    • I agree with you on Krauss and that is why I called out BoPeeper for calling him a scrub in the previous article.
      But, in defending Krauss, I still think he needs to be playing every day in OKC while George Springer plays every day for the Houston Astros to start the season. Springer is a better fielder, has a better arm, is faster, is a RH bat and has more power


      • Let’s face it, Krauss is a liability in the outfield. And at his age, he’s not going to run faster, develop a stronger arm or learn to play left or right any better. If he’s got a real future in MLB, it’s as a DH against righty pitching. But in the meantime, he might end up a temporary Wallace platoon replacement with Guzman. Unless of course Dan and I convince the club to put Castro over there.


  4. I think there is a lot more chaff on the pitching side. Between Raul Valdes (35), Darin Downs (29) and Colin McHugh (26) – there are likely 2 of the 3 who will be gone by the end of ST or sooner. Who survives out of Anthony Bass, David Martinez and Dallas Keuchel – let’s say?
    On the hitting side – I think Krauss has a better chance of sticking with Wallace gone – but he has to do more of what he did at AAA and less of what he did not do at the major league level.
    And do I dare think that Bo Porter may end up chaff this season?


  5. I said previously that the ALastros roster is “chock full of scrubs”.

    Out of the those on the 40-man roster, here are the no-doubt scrubs (those who, in my opinion, have almost NO potential to add value, other than:stop-gap, fill in for an injured player, etc.. If they WERE to play a full season, they’d put up numbers well below the MLB norm, especially in relation to their position/role.):

    1). Krauss — not only does he not have the skill set, but he doesn’t have the “requisite swagger”. His body language tells me all I need to know. Plus, he’s a lefty. It’s Singleton’s job at 1B to win, WHEN he’s ready. He’s the lefty slugger at a key power position, not krauss. Until Singleton is ready to wear his big boy pants, Krauss will most certainly stink it up as a fill in. I am 100% positive on this one, folks.

    2) Corporan — below average in all aspects and could be the worst overall hitter on the entire offensive squad. His only saving grace is his familiarity with the pitching staff. He’ll still be gone by season’s end.

    3) Marwin G — barely serviceable as a glove man, but another terrible hitter. Truly awful. He’ll be lucky to have a job once the club breaks spring training. As previously mentioned, it’s my take that Luhnow will be forced to nab a waiver wire reject to fill in the needed depth at SS/3B.

    4) VIllar — another terrible player in almost all respects. If you can’t hit and you can’t make the routine play as a SS,then guess what? You don’t play in The Bigs. And that’s what will come to pass, in my humble opinion. Villar’s speed and range will not be enough to prevent him from washing out…soon.

    5) Rudy Owens — who?? He’s protected on the 40-man roster? Why? His only shot is to win the 2nd LHP slot in the BP, and I think that will not come to pass. The good news: I think he eventually clears waivers and the club retains him, WITHOUT having to protect him.

    6) Dallas Keuchel — I think with Luhnow’s acquisitions of Anthony Bass and Jerome Willams, that Keuchel will be hard-pressed to make the team. One of these three will earn the swing-man job. To his credit, Keuchel’s mentally tough, and a battler, but just doesn’t have the stuff to rise above scrub status. Keuchel’s real problem is that he’s a known quantity. Obviously Luhnow sees upside in Bass, or he wouldn’t have parlayed the top rule-5 pick to give him a look-see. Plus, I am hunchy that the second lefty in the pen will ultimately be Darin Downs’, not Keuchel. And even if keuchel hangs on and keeps SOME job, he’s STILL a known scrub.

    7) Collin McHugh — Collin McWho? See Rudy Owens, above, and ponder why on earth he’s even protected in the first place.

    8) Luis Cruz — 5 seasons at upper A ball, and 4 games at AA. Ummm, no. Even as a lefty. Not a legit pro. A scrub’s scrub, at best.

    9) Lucas Harrell — he’s a head case and he’s done. Mark it down with your permanent marker — DONE! His descent will be Brandon Backeesque, and Backe actually had a plus pitch that he threw for strikes (the curveball). Harrell does not. Smell you later.

    10) Raul Valdes — nope. He’s also a scrub. Yes the club needs LHP depth in the BP, and I applaud Luhnow’s attempt to create needed competition and urgency this spring. But 37-year old Raul is all gristle and no meat. He’s not up for the task, and will falter quickly


    11) Cisnero, 12) Clemens, 13) Lo, 14) Martinez, 15) Alex White, 16) Zeid — ALL these righties MAY indeed be scrubs, but there is only one way to find out. Kudos again to Luhnow for giving the BP/SP staff much needed depth. Somebody in this bunch will probably emerge from the fray, and add real value to the club. MAYBE. But no, it’s not fair to proclaim all these guys scrubs…yet. They’ll get their shot, which is all they can ask. I think Zeid has the best chance to emerge..

    17) Qualls — I’ve already chimed in that Qualls could be toast. At age 35, with questionable control and shaky delivery, he very well could be a bust. That’s my prediction, at least. Not a scrub…yet,. Just a LATENT scrub.

    18) Brad Peacock & 19) Jesus Guzman — yes, much is expected from both these players, and both seemingly have clearly defined roles going into spring training. Peacock looked good last year. But my inner hunch meter prognosticates that both will be disappointments in 2014.

    So, as previously mentioned (in my brash opinion), the 40-man roster,is chock-full of scrubs. Scrubs galore. At least 10 have no business being on a big league all.

    And probably 17 of ’em will probably wash out like scrubbing bubbles down the drain.

    My take. I think 2014 will be a dismal campaign, despite a couple upstarts busting out, and a few unknowns stepping up.

    And if the TV problem doesn’t get resolved, then hold on to your orange hats. Things could REALLY get ugly.


      • Easy to say the team is loaded with scrubs. Hard to back it up.

        The Harrell comment was a poor attempt at comic relief before the REAL issue was broached. (What Crane’s attorney finally admitted today in court.)

        Ladies and gentleman. Face it. It’ll be sort of fun to watch Singleton and GSpring emerge this season. But this franchise is TRULY screwed.


  6. What Crane wants us to believe: “we’re in the running for top tier FAs and are willing to spend upwards to $100mil to acquire them…”

    What Crane’s laywer said today: “…we’re facing an order that attempts to strip us of our contractual rights and pressure us into accepting value-destroying business deals that will make it extremely difficult for us to field championship-caliber teams throughout the next 20 years…”

    Hmmm. I wonder which is true?


  7. I think this audience is out of touch with reality. The categorization of players on our 40 man as scrubs is not warranted, in my opinion. Go look at our projected starting lineup and then look at the projected starters for all other AL teams. At how many positions can you find 5 players who you would rather have starting for Houston. Remember, this isn’t fantasy baseball, so contractual status and player age/projections over that lifetime matter.

    I’m serious – look at 1B as an example. Chris Davis was a beast in 2013, but prior to that he was only slightly better than Carter. Joe Mauer is a fantastic contact hitter, but his .476 SLG does not justify the contract ($23M in 2013) if you stick him at 1B. I don’t want Prince Fielder for the years remaining on his contract. I’d take Brandon Moss or Eric Hosmer, but after that I’d rather bridge the gap to Singleton, who I still believe will be a quality slugger.

    Look at 2B – there is a reason Pedroia and Cano got paid so much money. All we need is for Altuve to improve his OBP and we’re certainly in the top third.

    SS – it’s a barren wasteland in the AL. Jed Lowrie is clearly the best all-around player there. JJ Hardy is still a quality glove and has a lot of pop…I imagine we’d all take him in a heartbeat over Villar. After that it depends on how you feel about guys like Asdrubal Cabrera and Peralta. I don’t think there are too many guys we’d jump at the chance to swap in.

    3B – let’s move on…this is a deep position. I certainly don’t think Dominguez is a scrub, but he has flaws. This may be the easiest spot to find five guys I’d rather have.

    LF – Another barren wasteland. There is a reason we were so excited about Choo…a player that Houston had no chance to land. I’d probably say Alex Gordon and Michael Brantley are no doubters in our top 5, but after that it gets debatable. Does JB Shuck crack it?

    CF – Mike Trout, Adam Jones, obviously. I would have been interested in Ellsbury for fewer years. He’s had one fantastic season and then turned into only a speed guy. I want to see what Fowler does in Houston. The thing is, if he doesn’t pan out, we can move Springer back to CF.

    RF – I’m excited to see what Springer can do. The K’s are a big concern, but everyone in the AL in RF has their warts right now…either due to poison pill contracts or limitations in their game.

    C – There is no way you can find five starters in the AL you’d rather have than Castro, at this point. He’s cheap and hit RHP really well last year. He improved against LHP. Durability is the real question for me.

    I don’t expect any All Stars to come from our pitching staff. I think there is a good argument to be made that all 12 who break for MMP out of spring training are legit major leaguers and not just space fillers though.


    • C’mon Devin, you know by now that MLB is the epitome of a team game. ALL 25 players on the active roster certainly matter.

      Even moreso is bonafide depth on the 40-man roster.

      It’s a long season, and it’s a grind.

      It’s a cop out to focus on only the “starting lineup”; and it’s a bigger oversight to not include the pitching staff. What about impact players — you know, the ones that cost a premium? Do you discount them too?

      When there are gaping holes, and scrubs galore, and a paltry payroll, who’s out of touch of reality?


      • I don’t think it’s a cop out. If you look at the guys we expect to be on our bench, they look like…bench players. Depth is incredibly important. If any of our starters go down we’re looking at a steep drop off. There is a big reason I expect us to lose close to 100 games again.

        Corporan probably gets onto multiple other teams as a backup catcher. Marwin may depending on who needs depth in the infield, but I don’t think anyone will disillusion themselves into thinking he’s more than a 24th or 25th man on a roster. Guzman…let’s just say I’m skeptical he does better outside of Petco. After that I think we have better options than last year when Pena and Ankiel took up roster spots.

        As for the pitching, I fear Cosart will have trouble duplicating his effort unless his K/9 increases and BB/9 improves. Scouting reports will help hitters catch up. I’m concerned Oberholtzer pitched above his ability. I’m willing to see what he’s got though. Feldman is overpaid, but if he can stay healthy is at least legit. Peacock strikes me as inconsistent, but capable of being a back of the rotation guy this year. Harrell/Williams are just keeping a seat warm. As for the bullpen, I agree that we don’t yet have a closer. I don’t think they blow as many in the 7th and 8th inning this year though.


    • I agree with what you said about the pitching staff, though. No all-stars, and no real closer (yet). However, I do think there’s enough depth there to round out a legit MLB staff for the first time in four yours.


    • Devin, you make a great point. Many teams trotted out players — everyday players — at positions that put up worse numbers than the Astros. Houston’s first basemen were ranked 20th in OPS. That means 10 teams got less production at first base than did Houston. At second base — and that’s mainly Altuve — Houston ranked 21. That means 9 teams — including some big money teams and playoff teams — would have killed for our second sacker. Good Lord what did the Royals trot out at shortstop? Because errors and base running gaffes included, Villar was looking like Jeter compared to the guys playing for KC.

      Bopert, look at position after position, player after player. It seems ONCE AGAIN the facts have gotten in the way of a good rant.

      That said, this team had serious problems last year. Worst bullpen by far. Your whining about Qualls aside, this looks to have been fixed. The rotation is still a MAJOR question mark. And, unlike many teams, the Astros didn’t have those 5-6 stars to carry the dead weight. But slowly that’s changing. Once Springer comes up, I think we have three maybe three and a half stars.


      • I stand by my assessments/predictions.

        I’ll concede, once again, that Luhnow did a VERY commendable job shoring up the BP on the cheap.

        It WILL be fun to watch GSpring and Singlepuff emerge — I think they both are the real deal, and they’ll prove that they belong in 2014..

        Will the rotation hold together? It could be interesting to watch what unfolds.

        The battles in ST, especially with the pitching staff, could be fun to behold.

        It will be fun to watch the rest of the young studs in the pipeline start to emerge.

        But what about the sickly blue and orange elephant in the room? What if the TV deal doesn’t get done? What happens if the poor demand for Crane’s product actually catches up with him?

        What’s to watch? What’s to hope for? Have the Houston fans seen the worst that could happen??

        Look, I am not trying to bring everybody down. I am not a negative guy. Just a REALIST. This franchise is in deep, DEEP, trouble. And the scrawny payroll and wimpy roster are merely symptoms of the overarching problem.

        Why delude yourselves for another 4-5 years before the reality finally kicks in?


    • This audience is out of touch with reality? Devin, however which way you spin it, this 40 man roster is going to lose 90 or 100 games. After already reading several very lengthy posts, I’m not going to go through position by position. But certainly there are many fringe guys on the roster, guys that would not be on most other ML rosters. One example: Look at the ace of our rotation. Would he be the opening day starter on any other team in the game. If any, not many. Obviously, I really do hope for this team to finally mesh in 2014, simply because when I go out to the park 40 or 50 times a season, I’d rather see a winning team. But to call guys like me and others here out of touch with reality is pretty foolish.


      • Forget the 40 man roster at this point. 15 of those guys are either on it because they are prospects or insurance policies. Predict a 25 man roster that you believe to be likely. Then ask yourself how many of those players, if released, would not immediately be signed / claimed / etc. by another team. I would posit only scubs would receive no interest.

        I’m not wearing rose colored glasses here. It’s a big stretch to see this team competing in a meaningful way in 2014. I’d be shocked if they lost fewer than 90 games. If Feldman is the opening day starter, I agree with you. He’s probably no better than a #3 on most teams. We’re not going to spring training with an expectation of fielding AAA players, or even AAAA players at most positions. Let’s drop the scrub talk is all I’m saying.


  8. Bo you are harsh in your assessment, but if the entire 40 man roster placed on waivers, less than 1/2 would be claimed. But last year, probably only 5-7 would have been claimed. So there is some improvement with a long way to go. One thing that bothers me is all these “prospects” that are becoming 24-25-26 year old minor leaguers. These prospects need to step up and displace the “chaff”


  9. A couple comments:
    – Bo if you are asking me to say whether I believe a lawyer vs. any other human being (including Jim Crane) I will never pick the lawyer.
    – There are a lot of players who make 40 man rosters that never make it to the bigs.
    – I think your scrub list is really hit and miss. There are guys like Corporan, Valdes, McHugh who are who they are at their ages and scrubs is probably appropriate.
    – I think I’ve seen enough of Harrell and Marwin G to agree they are scrubs – but they do have age on their side.
    – Krauss has only had 145 ABs in the majors – barely 25% of one season.
    – Not sure how you can judge, Cisnero, Lo, Zeid, White and Martinez on their very small samples.
    – I’m wondering how Chad Qualls sparkling 2013 is seen as so shaky. 2.61 ERA, 1.226 WHIP – give me that shakiness every day and twice on Sunday.
    Yes, they have guys who won’t make the 25 man roster and guys who won’t continue to be on the 40 man after ST. But it is tough to judge so many guys who have so little mlb experience. Go look at what young guys like Craig Biggio and Jimmy Wynn did early in their careers.
    Some of these guys are scrubs and some of these guys need opportunities to show what they will and will not become.


  10. Here’s another angle. Las Vegas posts early odds at winning the World Series. Florida is second worst at 100 to 1. Our guys are a distant last at 200 to 1. Now obviously we all know that the Stros are not going to the Series in 2014. But Vegas does pump a lot of statistics and advanced metrics into coming up with these odds. And at 200 to 1, it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve got more guys on our 40 man roster that don’t belong in MLB than anyone else, whether we call them scrubs or something nicer. Athletically challenged maybe?


  11. Bo,

    I have no delusions about how bad this team is. 90 losses is a given. 100 losses is still possible. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. We didn’t get this bad — and not just the big club but the whole organization — in one or even two seasons. And we’re not going to be respectable in that amount if time either.

    Still, this club is better. And even our “scrubs” are more promising than last year’s scrubs. Krauss is a better option than Wallace. Villar is better than Ronny Cedeño. Whoever starts in RF will be better than Ankiel. The list goes on.

    So be as negative as you like in your assessment. I prefer to see how this team is better, and even better days are still ahead.

    … Way to open that can of worms, Chip. ;^))


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