Freezing the 40-man roster

Next week on November 20, all major league teams have to set up their 40-man rosters and freeze them before the Rule 5 draft on December 10.

On that date, players who are not on the 40-man, but who have been in the team’s system four or five years (depending on the age when first signed) are eligible to be taken by competing teams in a draft for a mere $100,000. The catch is the drafting team must keep the player on the major league 26-man (or whatever it is this year) active roster (not on the injured list) for at least 90 days.  The drafting team can offer the players back to the original organization for $50,000 if it does not wish to keep it on the 40-man. The Orioles did this after drafting Brandon Bailey from the Astros last year, offering him back before the season began.

So, the key is that by late next week, teams will have made moves to protect those players they are most concerned with losing in the Rule 5. To do that they can make more room on the 40-man through releases or trades. Then they can promote newbies to the 40-man roster, but they may not fill all 40 spots if they anticipate leaving room for free agent signees or players obtained through trades of players not on the 40-man. It is a delicate ballet and a key one for Astros GM James Click, who joined after this point last off-season.

The thing no one knows is how will the 2020 pandemic season affect the team’s decisions on prospects. There was really no minor league season in 2020, and though teams did run season-long camps to keep folks ready, it was not a normal way of developing players or kicking off their minor league careers.

Astros Current 40 man roster.

After having certain players fall off the roster due to performance (Chris Devenski, Joe Biagini, Chase DeJong) or free agency (George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, Brad Peacock), the Astros currently have 36 players on the 40 man:

Pitchers (22).

Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Jose Urquidy, Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Josh James, Enoli Paredes, Bryan Abreu, Rogelio Aremteros, Humberto Castellanos, Ryan Pressly, Brandon Bailey, Brandon Bielak, Blake Taylor, Brooks Raley, Luis Garcia, Nivaldo Rodriguez, Andre Scrubb, Austin Pruitt, Cy Sneed, Cionel Perez

Note: Joe Smith, who chose to sit out the 2020 season due to COVID and has a $4 million contract for 2021, but has not committed to 2021 does not appear on any 40 man roster yet.

Catchers (2).

Martin Maldonado, Garrett Stubbs

Infielders (8).

Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Aledmys Diaz, Jack Mayfield, Taylor Jones, Abraham Toro

Outfielders/DH (4).

Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Myles Straw, Chas McCormick

Out of all these players, who is in the most danger of being taken off the 40 man roster?

  • Justin Verlander. He is taking up a spot, and there is no chance he will pitch during the 2021 season. He will get paid, and no one will pick him up.
  • Jack Mayfield. He’s 30 years old and shown next to nothing in two cameos in the majors. No one is picking him up in the Rule 5
  • Cy Sneed. He’s 28 years old with a 5.50+ ERA in two seasons, plus he gives up more than 11 hits per 9 innings. He is just a body at this point.
  • Austin Pruitt. Yes, I know he is a local kid, and he is someone they liked a lot when they got him from the TB Rays. But he didn’t pitch for them and may not pitch any time soon, and he is 31 years old.
  • Rogelio Armenteros. This would be a bit risky. He is coming off surgery and has not pitched since that surgery last March. This comes down to how the Astros value Armenteros (26 y.o.) vs. some of the younger pitchers who might get taken.

What we don’t know is the following….did the Astros see anything in any of those youngsters such as Castellanos or Bielak or Bailey to cause them to devalue them? Is there anyone up there who they think way overperformed their normal and who might have value in a trade before they turn back into a pumpkin – perhaps an Andre Scrubb?

The assumption here is that the Astros are likely to head towards about 38 players on the 40-man, so how many they take off here ties to how many youngsters they want to protect.

Here is a complete list of all Astros who are eligible to be taken in the Rule 5

Last season the Astros added four players at the “freeze”. This season could easily be five or six. So who are the most likely?

  • P Forrest Whitley. Even though he has been a disappointment with his off-field situation and injuries, the Astros will show the same patience with him they showed with Kyle Tucker and hope they get paid back soon.
  • IF Freudis Nova. He’s only 20 y.o. and has not played above A ball, but he is the #2 prospect and since I am advocating exposing Super Jack Mayfield – I think they cover Nova.
  • P Tyler Ivey. When last we saw this 3rd round pick he was 4-0 with a 1.57 ERA and 11.9 K / 9 IP at AA Corpus.  He would seem to be a lock.
  • P Jojanse Torres – He has been nails for the Astros since his signing. Between 2017 and 2019 he was 13-2 with a 1.86 ERA and 10.3 K/9 IP. He has to be covered.
  • P Peter Solomon. He had also been excellent between 2017 and 2019 with a 9-1 record, 2.30 ERA and 10.5 K/9 IP. But he is also coming off Tommy John surgery in 2019. Do they take a chance and leave him exposed?
  • P Jairo Solis – Like Solomon, he has not been “seen” since his TJ surgery after the 2018 season. His numbers were not quite as good as Solomon’s 5-7, 3.05 ERA, K / 9 IP, but he’s a baby at not quite 21 years old. He has to be a consideration.
  • Others. There are three others on the top 30 prospects list eligible – OF Ronnie Dawson (#29) who was exposed last year and not taken (for a good reason), IF Luis Santana, who struggled at AA in 2019 (but was only 19 y.o.) and P Jose Alberto Rivera, who has been solid but unspectacular in his time with the Astros. Rivera was a particular favorite of a good friend of the blog GoStros, who thinks they just need to harness his fastball control to have a real gem.

The funny thing is that most years the players the Astros lose in the Rule 5 are surprises. It will be an interesting time to see how they open up the roster, who they protect and who they expose. It is very likely they will lose some real talent this season.


17 comments on “Freezing the 40-man roster

    • I considered it sarge, but with only 4 OFs on the 40 man, one of which (Alvarez) is not likely to get much playing time in the field and nobody else really knocking on the door – I have a hard time doing that unless they re-sign Brantley and/or Springer before next week.
      But if they did it, I could understand the move. It will be interesting.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know the rules, but if Verlander can be DFA’ed, you’ve got to do it, right? We’ve got some real good young pitching talent, evidenced by what we saw during the exhibition season. And there is more. That’s why I wonder if Click will see what he can get for Whitley this winter.

      Liked by 2 people

    • There’s plenty of info because we just just finished Fall Instructionals, and the guys who were on 60-man roster or taxi throughout the season were able to play intrasquad games. And because we track players differently now. They’re all expected to send video, and every player on the team can see what the other players are achieving. ‘Hitting motion capture’ tells coaches fundamental flaws, or areas to improve for example

      I spoke to a knowledgeable Red Sox scout today who said that Astros have a BIG problem right now with real, live scouts. He realizes too, our best ones have been pilfered! In effect, the Luhnow Plan that Manfred called it (with Stearns) was a way to downsize less profitable minor league teams, and do scouting remotely. As with any technology, it still requires the human touch and an “eye for that sort of thing.” With such an emphasis now on doing Bayesian analysis, I can see where teams lean one way, or the other in acquiring talent.

      Here’s an article that goes into the math of assessing the “risk” of players, which is to say their future value based on the data.

      I would think this new way of developing effects R5 because every team has a similar situation of truly assessing what they have in their own house first, and to hopefully the Astros advantage, we won’t lose more than a few. They’ve been drafting higher than us, and have their own teeming farms.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your post reminds me of an old funny story. This was back in the day of the $20,000 bonus baby. I forget the names. But a team signed this country boy to one of those ridiculous contracts. And when he got to the minor league team he was less than adequate with his fastball. He then told them “you should see me fire it back behind our barn.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • That may be the reason Jeremy Pena and Korey Lee were brought into the Astros camp in Corpus Christi in September. Looking ahead, The Astros might be without a SS and Catcher at the end of the 2021 season and they wanted to see how those two top prospects had advanced their game on their own during the pandemic.
      The Astros have all their special cameras and analytical equip in CC and I am sure it was used constantly all season long to chart the progress of all the players there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Reds need a SS, would love to get my hands on their pitcher Luis Castillo for Correa, then add Simmons for 2 yrs til Pena is ready; or move Bregman over and start Toro.

        On Lee, I think he’s 2 yrs out as well, so let’s sign James McCann and let Lee/ Stubbs take over in 2023.

        Re-sign Brantley 2/23
        Target Hand Yates or a hi lev reliever. Be willing to trade Raley and Smith.
        Take flyer on Garrett Richards, and splurge on Mike Minor (two guys who know the AL West)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I might try to find a more personally agreeable list, two guys I have in mind..

    Always fun to go back and see who made the right calls.

    Where I’ve differed big with Callis in the past; Adolph, Schroeder and Nova. We both fell for McKenna a little hard.

    He was terrible on Josh James, Framber Valdez and very late to the party on Urquidy. He never gave Alvarez his due, and followed Fangraphs — Callis is a follower, not a scout.

    Other discrepancies this year:
    Nova way too high
    Kessinger is ranked a little high still (I do like the kid a lot though).
    Obviously wrong on Santana & Dawson all along. Neither deserve top 30
    De la Cruz just signed, not Dawson. A clear “miss”.
    Garcia and Abreu should be reversed.
    I’ll give credit on bold Ty Brown, but Hunter Brown is upper echelon.
    Conine #8, Torres #9 heard it here first.
    He woke up and included Austion Hansen — I was a yr ahead there.
    Solomon is going to prove that ranking was a slight.
    #7 Santos is bold.

    I’ll go even one more bold — my friend coaches up former UofH, Corey Julks. Kid squats 600 and was right there with Beer/Toro 2018 Fay’ville. No pedigree to speak of, not expecting the world but constant improvement. I’m all alone on this one.

    After the last report, fair to push Zach Daniels closer to Brewer imo. Very good news on Colin Barber of late.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is obvious that Callis is having to go off of the reports that were given to him by the Astros. Covid-19 doesn’t allow him to just flit around 30 different camps and scout everyone.
    If he has made out reports for a couple of thousand players in the last few years, he’s going to miss some based on the info he gets, just like all the GMs miss on a bunch themselves.
    What does he, as the MLB prospect guy, have to keep up with? Oh, about 6000 or so minor leaguers. Yeah, I’ll cut him some slack.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is wise to have a forgiving heart and cut some slack, yes sir.

      Here is a progression of why I’ve liked these players not-previously ranked.

      1 page of 31 for brevity sake.

      Apr 28, 2019
      “De La Cruz, let’s look at each level he played — stats comparison to others in our system. Here, you can see where a guy like him gets overshadowed by more highly-touted, higher draft, higher dollar and FV guys.

      For example, going all the way back to age 17, DSL Astros Blue, 2014 he SLG .459 (2nd to Wander Franco not that Wander), and led BA with .344. Appy ’16 he played with Toro, had a solid OBP. Had a hiccough in TC, and the following year in Tri-City as well, but has really started to regain his early plus bat that he flashed when at each level he slugged, and got on base. It was last year at combined BC, and QC that he got to play amongst some studs Matijevic Beer McKenna Meyers … and has *held his own* pretty well.

      This year in Fayettville, De La Cruz is leading BA, just behind Beer in OBP, and leading in SLG and OPS. Never been a big K guy, between 2 teams in 2018, he had 4.92 PA /SO.


      Prospect Report: April 29th, 2019

      “McCormick, and De La Cruz
      Seeing key RBI from them DAILY!

      Chas McCormick, 24, (+0.2 years older in Corpus), 24.1% walk rate 0.43 K-BB gives him a .460 OBP. He had a 4.11 HR% his last yr at Millersville, so there is hope for launch angle convert xBH forward. Defensively, he is virtually flawless, and has played some CF.

      In Spring, he went 1-3 with a BB, HR, 2 R, SB

      Can he replace Adolph altogether in the Top 30 at 29? *I’d give the nod* The main reason being Adolph’s numbers were inflated in the NYPL, as most real prospects don’t spend that much time there. There are a number of good observations and comments about Adolph here (the consensus being he is too highly ranked, and why).”

      In retrospect too, sure wish we could have gotten either Vientos, or Peterson instead of Santana/Adolph/Manea in the NYM Davis trade. At any rate, I’d been hi on Chas and Bryan before Adolph.

      This was my rationale then
      “I gave up on Adolph before the 1st ab, because I don’t understand who he was going to beat out? Maybe you know. Sure he has “an interesting blend”. Can you see anyone in this group he’s going to surpass?

      Maybe – Machado, Costes, LaCroix, Goetzman
      Probably Not – Wrenn, McKenna, Meyers, Beer, Dawson, Matijevic, De La Cruz, McCormick
      No Chance – Tucker, Straw, Fisher, Alvarez. (17)”

      commented on Astros Prospect Stock Report 2019: Volume 1 from The Crawfish Boxes, Apr 24, 2019, 7:54pm EDT

      Looks like this was spot-on, except I’ll take Marty Costes going farther than Adolph. [grinning]


      “It might be fun to ask, who will have a better career, de la Cruz, McCormick or Colin Barber?”

      commented on Game 66 Thread: June 8th, 2019, 3:10 CDT. Orioles vs. Astros. from The Crawfish Boxes, Jun 8, 2019, 6:58pm

      I ask you: who else would have posed that question on 6/8/19, except perhaps McCormick and De la Cruz’s scouts Ha!


      Fast Forward
      The Runner Sports does an article in March comparing BDLC to Teoscar

      Astros Prospects Who Could Bounce Back in 2020
      Feb 27, 2020 Notes

      “Surging from behind of The Astros Future 4th OF?
      Corey Julks needs to go On the Radar now!
      Strong, not super fast but a solid corner. Look for him in RR sometime in 2020(1).

      Bryan de la Cruz another guy who has put on some really good weight. Made a great defensive play, excellent angle and speed in CF; and hit a BOMB (wind aided). He was ahead of my own aggressive schedule for him last yr, and still improving steadily.

      Another guy his teammates rave about is Jake Meyers.
      He and de Goti put together a picture perfect relay yesterday to gun down the enemy. A former pitcher, that arm was on display.

      Also the Moxie — Meyers got beaned careening off his shoulder. Stood in and took it — that showed me something! *Needs upper body strength, but he’s a helluva glove.

      Chas McCormick. Dusty made sure the kid got another start after the bone crushing GrandSlam he hit to straightaway centerfield. Plays with a lot of joy and guts. Has true plate command, makes solid contact.”


      “Since Spring, I’d pick up De la Cruz from us,
      and a few pitchers” [if left exposed in Rule 5]

      Jul 27, 2020

      “Fix this for me if you disagree
      Current Prospect OF depth chart FV ranks:
      Leon (Dec.)
      De la Cruz
      CJ Stubbs”

      on Draft Day 2 Twitch Hangout with Spencer Morris, Jun 12, 2020, 12:23am

      TODAY? Future Value (not whether they can stick in HOU)
      1. Barber 2. Daniels 3. De la Cruz 4. McCormick before Brewer on hit tool.

      Tightly knit!

      Leon becomes a bit of an unknown on upside from one scout, so I’m backing off ’til we hear more particulars in January. He may well have been training hard in Cuba and come in with ML potential in short order, like Luhnow knowing Yuli could play. However, being precise airtight with $5m budget in Int’l market this year is vital.

      It was the vision of some exceptional visonaries the Stubbs bros would play together someday, while we’re on the subject look-aheads.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Chas McCormick was told by the Astros in 2016 he’d be drafted by us, but he never got the call.

      “That’s where I was like, okay, at least they have interest. As long as I stay focused my senior year, I think I should get drafted as a senior sign, and that’s exactly what happened,” McCormick recalled, failing miserably in hiding that infectious grin.

      He put up these numbers to finish off his Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference career .379/.433/.600

      “He’s one of the most beloved guys in our program ever,” Millersville head coach Jon Shehan proudly beamed to MiLB. “I can tell you that Chas always steps up to the plate and gets hits. He’s a super competitive kid, and I think has a chip on his shoulder. He was one of the best players at the D-II level, and I think he wants to prove to other teams that he was overlooked coming out of college.”

      It is said he was on no other team’s draft boards.

      He was drafted by the Astros in the 21st round of the draft in 2017, signed for a paltry $1,000!

      Two years later in 2019, he was named an Houston Organization All Star.

      In his 1st AB in Corpus he hit a 2R HR.
      Check out this catch he made diving over the fence!

      Liked by 1 person

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