What if there were an expansion draft this spring?

By Dan Peschong

Back in November of 1997, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona D’Backs paid a gazillion bucks to be split among the existing owner gazillionaires and this bought them the “honor” of  drafting from the residue of the existing NL teams.

From a Houston Astros perspective this will always be remembered as the time when they lost Bobby Abreu – a guy who last played in 2012 and finished with excellent career numbers  .292 BA/.396 OBP/ .873 OPS – more than 1400 runs scored, more than 1300 runs knocked in, more that 2400 hits and one short of 400 SBs.  Ouch – though truth to tell Tampa thought so highly of Abreu that they

traded him the same day to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker. So they have an Ouchie too.

But the exercise I have laid out here is – following basically the same rules as in 1997 – who would The 2014 Astros protect?  Waddling through rule by rule – I kept flopping back and forth on how impossible or possible this would be.

Rule 1 – For the first round you can only protect 15 players from the whole organization – minors/majors – they are all exposed. Oh no – how are we going to protect all those great young players we have traded for and drafted?

Rule 2 – OK – not the whole organization.  Any player drafted in the last two mlb drafts is exempt – which would include Mark Appel, Andrew Thurman, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Rio Ruiz, Nolan Fontana, Brady Rodgers, Andrew Aplin, Tyler Heineman, Preston Tucker, Josh Hader and Joe Sclafani. So that is good news.

Rule 3 – Players who were 18 or younger signed in 2011. I think this would protect longer term prospects Michael Feliz and Danry Vasquez.

Rule 4 – The last expansion draft was held in November not during spring training and exempted all players who were free agents after the previous season. If we follow the spirit of that rule –we would exempt folks like Scott Feldman, Jerome Williams, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers.

The expansion draft that season was three rounds long. No team could lose more than 1 player per round and all teams could protect three more players before the next round began.

So the following is my best shot at who I would protect if another expansion draft occurred today and would love to see your set of protections and any comments on my list. And if anyone wants to take a shot at who the Astros would lose in each round and which three additional they would protect… knock yourselves out.

Dan’ s Protection List

 40 Man Roster Protections

1)      Jason Castro – Clearly the Astros best offensive player last season at a normally weak offensive position.

2)      Chris Carter – Yes, he was a K-meister with 221 strikeouts and struggled with a .221 BA and a .320 OBP – but he also launched 29 dingers and had 82 RBIs in a lineup where folks in front of him did not get on base and folks behind him provided no protection – so I’m protecting him here.

3) Jose Altuve – Even after a 2013 season where he regressed quite a bit – the young (not yet 24) middle infielder with a reasonable contract going forward would get snapped up in a heartbeat, if exposed.

4) Jarred Cosart – Even though Cosart’s mlb ERA was way below what it should have been based on his other peripherals (e.g. his walks/hits etc should have resulted in a 4.00 ERA but ended up below 2.00) – he would be extremely attractive if left unprotected.

5) Brett Oberholtzer – Not sure if Brett O would be on this list except for his strong showing in 10 games late last season.  He did not have quite the pedigree that Cosart had when called up – but the lefty probably made himself a target with his performance.

6) Jonathan Singleton – Singleton would be a fascinating test for the expansion draft – has he scared anyone away with his problems – how do they react to his honesty about his addictive behavior? After seeing him try to hit 600 foot home runs over the weekend and coming up empty – you can see lots of upside with this guy when he learns to relax and hit within himself.

7) Domingo Santana – Even with some fall-off in stats last season – he is 6′-5″ 230 lb and as one of the youngest players at AA ball (20 yrs old) he launched 25 HRs and had an OPS over .840. He would be scooped up quickly.

8) Dexter Fowler – He might be worth exposing because his salary might scare a team away, but after trading two assests (Lyles and Barnes) for him I doubt the Astros want to lose him for no compensation.

9) Max Stassi – Young catcher with good power and solid numbers throwing out the opposition – they will protect him.

10) Matt Dominguez – If he had hit in the second half of 2013 like he hit in the first half – they would not protect him. But he has a good glove and showed an improving bat so they will hold onto Matty D.

11) Asher Wojciechowski – This is based on an uninjured Wojalphabet – his good numbers as he has moved steadily up the minors would make him a high candidate for protection.

Prospects (not yet on the 40 man)

12) Michael Foltynewicz – This former 1st rounder may be a bigger jewel than fellow first rounder Springer. After starting off strong at “death to pitchers” Lancaster – he was brilliant at Corpus in 2013. Exposed he would be gone in this draft.

13) Delino Deshields Jr – Yes, he dropped out of the top 10 prospects list….But he put up great numbers as a 20 yr old last season  -100 Runs, 51 SBs, .317 BA, .873 OPS are going to attract attention.

14) George Springer – No brainer right?

15) Vince Velasquez – Picked in the 2nd round after Folty in 2010, missing the 2011 season slowed him slightly – but has put up very good numbers including 10+ K/ 9 IP since.

OK – those are my protections, which do not cover Josh Fields, L.J. Hoes, Preston Tucker, Nick Tropeano, Dallas Keuchel, Jake Buchanan, Kevin Chapman, Rudy Owens, Brad Peacock, Kyle Smith, Teoscar Hernandez and others.

So – correct me on my picks and/or pick your own.


24 comments on “What if there were an expansion draft this spring?

  1. I’m trying to nitpick your list, but it looks pretty solid. Keuchel, Peacock and Tucker are ones I’d hate to lose. I also think Grossman needs to be protected as does Villar. I might risk Santana for Grossman. Not sure who I’d swap to get Villar on the list. Guess I’d just hope he didn’t get picked then add him as soon as the rules let me expand my list.

    Hoes would be one of my next add ins as well. I know he’s got no power, but his OBP could be good down the road.


    • Santana, at the tender age of 20, hit 25 homers in 112 games at Corpus last year. He also had 11 outfield assists. He’s also gotten on base at a .366 clip at the minor league level. And he goes from first to third about as quickly as any 6′ 5″ guy I’ve seen. He’s one of those multi tool guys this team needs more of.

      I want my team to have power at the outfield corners. Neither Hoes nor Grossman will ever provide that. Santana is a much better athlete than either. I’d protect Santana well before either of the two. Grossman I like. He might be a forth outfielder on a good team. Hoe’s might be a fifth.


    • Yeah, daveb –
      For some perspective – Santana spent a whole season at AA at the age of 20 (turning 21 in August) – Springer was promoted to AA at the end of his age 22 season (turning 23 in September and only played 22 games then.
      Santana is one of the things that Ed Wade did right in his trading days.


  2. If we are talking true expansion draft I think you have to consider the team (s) picking need mlb ready players. Keuchel is probably taken whereas Velasquez is too big a gamble. Grossman makes me think of jb shuck…a player with obvious value even if not a star. I’d think on him, but probably leave unprotected in round one


  3. All good points – I should have included Villar in the not protected list at the bottom of my post.
    Rudy Owens looked good in his last outing in ST – it would be tough to lose any of the young pitchers – but in the end we will have to lose some of our pitching along the way – Rule 5 or as trading chips for something better or younger.


  4. Dan, very interesting blog especially when compared to NRI OFers blog. The majority appear to think we will have Grossman, Krauss, Hoes and Fowler. Yet today we expose 3 of them to the draft while protecting 2 OF prospects. In previous drafts, most teams protect their starters, and leave the prospects unprotected. This is almost the reverse. Speaks volumes on the opinions we have on the current MLB roster. And I agree with Brian there are at least 3-5 others prospects to protect, but do not want to remove any off your list.


    • Astro45 – In an expansion draft situation you just have to prioritize based on expected value over time. There is a bit of a risk involved, but in general you want to protect all the people with the most upside. You have to think that a Santana and a Springer have a bigger upside than Grossman, Krauss and Hoes. You can always screw up – the Astros would probably go back and expose someone other than Bobby Abreu – but it is always a bit of a gamble whichever way you end up going.


  5. What if there was an expansion draft this spring?

    If that were the case I’d be delirious with joy. It means Crane went snake-belly up, and was forced to relocate the team. If this fateful day comes to pass, then Houston will surely be given their NL franchise back.

    Fingers crossed!

    No TV deal means the on-going problem of no money for Crane. Fingers and toes double crossed!!


    • Why do you so desperately want this team to fail? It’s comments like this one that make me wish you were a Yankees (spit) fan.


      • Good question, Brian.

        I want Crane to fail so that the team can be returned to the NL before the inevitable expansion takes place. 32 teams is absolutely perfect for MLB for a myriad of reasons, and it’s going to happen sooner or later.

        I want the best for this franchise, actually, and this means two things: 1) no greedmeister Crane at the helm, and 2) no more AL.

        There is already a very prominent AL franchise in Texas. And they own the market.

        I’d like Nolan Ryan to step forward and publicly proclaim that the Astros are doomed under the current circumstances.

        Hello! There is a reason why Crane can’t get a lucrative TV deal done. It’s called market demand. And everybody with half a brain can see this.

        If Crane manages to get a crappy deal done, then hello ongoing mediocrity. That’s what happens when no one cares anymore.


      • Crane is not settling for the crappy deals being offered. I think he will end up with a decent deal maybe not great but decent.


    • It would be interesting to really see what is happening financially with the team. With the closed books of mlb we really do not know. My gut feeling is that even with the Comcast debacle and debt payments Crane could not have lost money with the payroll that low.


      • 100% totally agree. But this year it’s do or die. Crane needs real revenue and fast! It’s not looking good, yet nobody seems to notice the problem….

        The good news is the financial failure of Crane could be the very best that could happen for the future of this franchise. Otherwise, we are mired in permanent mediocrity.


      • If Crane goes another full year with no real TV revenue, then it will really, really cripple the competitive future of this franchise.

        But it won’t happen. He’ll take a crappy deal before he gets starved out.. He’;s too greedy to go under.

        Then if he won’t go under, then you tell me what’s the outcome. Could it be on-going mediocrity?

        Look, I am not trying to dash your hopes, rather just open your eyes. No legit TV revenue spells competitive trouble.


      • I know you think that getting Crane out is the only way to competitive – I just think that building and using the top farm system in the majors is going to get them there sooner


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