Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Astros Soapbox: Time to Grow Up

The Astros shot themselves in the foot … again. The following words are my personal thoughts and opinions on the matter. For background and a great fact-based rant, please read Astros County’s usual excellent contribution.

I feel like I should write something about yesterday’s big news, but I’m not sure what and I’m not sure why. I wasn’t the least bit surprised by the MLB sanctions. They were pretty much what I expected. I was, however, more than a bit surprised that Jim Crane took it all a step further and actually fired A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, even though I think it was the right thing to do.

I’m also not terribly upset by the news. It is what it is. You get to be my age (which admittedly isn’t ancient but definitely older than most of my readers) and you don’t get all that worked up about those things over which you have no control. You just let them slide. And you don’t get all that worked up about those things that don’t result in loss of life or freedom or home. It’s baseball and I love it dearly, but when something goes wrong in baseball, it’s not war or the fate of the country or death and devastation from floods, wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and blizzards. Sure, I get pissed off when MLB does something dumb, but I generally bitch about it and move on.

Jeff Luhnow is a grown man. If he didn’t know what was going on on his team (which he should have) or he did and looked the other way, it doesn’t really matter. Manfred made it pretty damn clear that the GM and Field Manager would be held responsible if this crap happened again. It did and he was. Luhnow is very personable and charming and he always treated me well personally. But he had squandered every bit of good will he might have had within the industry over the years. Internally (and now externally if they were fired or otherwise left the fold), there are a whole lot of players, scouts, coaches and other staff that had axes to grind with Luhnow over the way he handled his business. (Sorry, you’ll have to take my word for this. You don’t talk to hundreds of people in the Astros system over Luhnow’s entire tenure without getting a good feel for how people really felt about him. Right or wrong, he wasn’t widely beloved by the insiders.) Externally, many writers and pundits hated his scorched earth rebuild and other facets of the Astros model. And Luhnow’s public mishandling of situations going back to the Brady Aiken/Jacob Nix debacle didn’t help endear him to anyone.

Again, it doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong. At some point, perception becomes reality. The obfuscation over the Osuna signing was the last straw for many of us. First Luhnow declared that Osuna was remorseful, then Osuna’s lawyer comes out and says he’s not remorseful because he didn’t do anything wrong. Then Osuna does a national print interview basically saying ‘just wait until the case is resolved and I’ll clear up everything.’ And then when the case was resolved, he says nothing. And the Astros throw some money at the local domestic violence charity and pretend that they didn’t insult every single fan who is not particularly happy about hiring someone who has received a massive MLB penalty for domestic violence prior to his case even being resolved. Everything was A-OK and female fans, in particular, were ignored and taken for granted. Add the news that he had to be talked out of drafting confessed child molestor Luke Heimlich and Luhnow no longer gets the benefit of a doubt on his intentions from the vast majority. Again, right or wrong, he was never going to come out of this situation in one piece. And he didn’t.

A.J. Hinch’s situation was a little different. Hinch is truly liked throughout the industry. His statements about this whole situation are gobsmacking. First nothing happened. Then on the record, he knew what was happening but he tried to stop it by busting up a monitor or two, but didn’t actually tell anyone to stop it? That’s horseshit. Either he knew and looked the other way or he knew and someone TOLD HIM to look the other way. Either way, he was a weak leader and shouldn’t be in charge. Personally, I think by trying to keep from throwing people under the bus, he just ended up throwing himself under the bus and made himself look foolish in the process. At least his public response looked sincerely remorseful and apologetic. I honestly feel badly for Hinch. It felt to me like he tried to thread the needle too finely and ended up sticking himself in the eye.

As to Jim Crane, I was shockingly touched by his presser yesterday. Crane is not known for handling the media well. But he appeared sincere and very contrite in his statement and the later Q&A. As surprised as I was initially about his decision to fire Hinch and Luhnow, I really couldn’t see how he could move on with them a year from now. If you temporarily award GM and Field Manager to people and they do well in the positions, do you take that away from them after the season? That makes zero sense to me. And do you really need that baggage after everything that's happened? I think you have to move on and I’m glad that he made that decision. I am, however, more than apprehensive about who Crane will pick for these jobs, though, as I remember back to George Postolos's days as President prior to Reid Ryan (who we really, really need right now by the way).

But none of that really bothers me all that much. I’ve come to expect zero, zilch, nada when it comes to character and honesty in the front office of any team, much as I do for corporate offices, governmental entities, etc. When any of them actually DO show character and honesty, I am more than pleasantly surprised, but I am old enough to know that money and power usually trump character and honesty. It’s not right, but it’s real.

But with that said, there is something from this whole debacle that does bother me. I expect better from individuals that I have met in person. Individuals that I have supported and spent my hard-earned (now hard-saved) money visiting and talking with to tell their stories and help promote them in their quest to make the MLB. When reading the report yesterday, my first thought was this …


The report names no players. Honestly, I think it should. Why should they get off? When the news first came out, my sister was almost in tears as she contemplated the idea of Jose Altuve cheating. She and I talked on the phone again last night. She said to me. “I just want to sit down with Altuve face to face and ask him why? They were so good. Why would they need to cheat? Was I giving my money (we were season ticket holders at the time) to a bunch of cheaters?”

I know that “veteran presence” Carlos Beltran was one of the ringleaders, but not one single player was man enough to tell him to cut it out, to tell him that he wasn’t going to participate? Not one? There comes a time in life when you need to man the hell up and do the right thing even when it’s not easy. Peer pressure is no excuse for doing something that you know is wrong.

Every single player who knew what was going on and didn’t do anything to stop it (whether they participated or not) owes me and you and every player they played against a public apology. They need to prove to me that they are capable of owning up to their mistakes. You want to know who got A.J. Hinch fired? It wasn’t Rob Manfred. It wasn’t Jim Crane. It wasn’t even A.J. Hinch himself despite my earlier comments. It was every single immature, irresponsible player (including Mike Fiers) who let it happen and did nothing to stop it at the time. Yeah, guys, you are directly responsible for the fact that the manager you profess to love is no longer your leader. It’s time to grow up, boys.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Astros Farm Report: 1/13/20

After a long (and much needed) hiatus, WTHB is back to catch you up on the off-season Astros minor league happenings ...

ROSTER MOVES/TRANSACTIONS

Here are the offseason roster moves for the Astros minor league players.

1/9: RHP Peyton Battenfield (Tri-City) and OF Cal Stevenson (Fayetteville) traded to the Rays for RHP Austin Pruitt
Notes: Battenfield was drafted by Houston in the 9th round in 2019 out of Oklahoma State University and had an excellent first pro season. Here is my interview with him from July.  Cal Stevenson came to the Astros, along with Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini, as a part of the 7/31/19 trade with the Blue Jays that sent Derek Fisher to Toronto. Here's hoping that his family didn't invest a lot in Astros gear after the trade.
1/9: RHP Dean Deetz designated for assignment
12/12: RHP Brandon Bailey (Corpus Christi) claimed by the Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft
12/12: RHP Yohan Ramirez (Corpus Christi) claimed by the Mariners in the Rule 5 Draft
12/12: SS Jonathan Arauz (Corpus Christi) claimed by the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft
12/5: CF Jake Marisnick (Houston) traded to the Mets for LHP Blake Taylor and OF Kenedy Corona (assigned to Tri-City) - see below for more
11/20: RHP Cristian Javier (Round Rock) added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft
11/20: 1B Taylor Jones (Round Rock) added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft
11/20: RHP Nivaldo Rodriguez (Fayetteville) added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft
11/20: RHP Enoli Paredes (Corpus Christi) added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft
11/4: LHP Kent Emanuel (Round Rock) added to the 40-man roster (Emanuel was due to become a MiLB FA)
11/4: OF Granden Goetzman (Corpus Christi) elected minor league free agency
11/4: RHP Erasmo Pinales (Corpus Christi) elected minor league free agency
10/16: RHP Chanderson Perez signed (18 year old Dominican)

RULE 5 DRAFT NOTES

A little about the players taken in the Rule 5 Draft.

RHP Brandon Bailey (Baltimore): Bailey had a very solid season with the AA Corpus Christi Hooks in 2019 (3.30 ERA/1.219 WHIP in 22 games/17 starts). Bailey came to the Astros in the November 2017 trade with Oakland that sent Ramon Laureano to that team. Bailey allowed 41 walks while striking out 103 in 92.2 innings of work. He has solid command and is expected to take on a swing man/middle relief role. In my opinion, Bailey showed enough polish and pitch development in 2019 that he is the most likely of the three taken to stick with his new team.

RHP Yohan Ramirez (Seattle): Ramirez is a real wild card (in more than one meaning of the word wild). Ramirez has an electric arm with a fastball that touches the upper 90's and a plus curveball, but his control is still very much a work in progress. In 106 innings pitched between High A Fayetteville and AA Corpus Christi in 2019 (3.99 ERA/1.302 WHIP), Ramirez allowed 74 walks while striking out 158. There was also the matter of 17 wild pitches and 15 hit batters. He is the ultimate high risk, high reward pick up. It will be difficult for him to stick with a team without showing a lot of progress on control and command, but if he is able to harness his talent, watch out! Ramirez is, in my opinion, the least likely of the three to stick.

SS Jonathan Arauz (Boston): Arauz falls somewhere in between the other two in his ability to stick with a new team (again, in my opinion). Arauz's bat has lagged his solid defense over his career, but he mostly held his own in 2019 between High A Fayetteville and AA Corpus Christi, hitting a combined .249/.319/.388 with 22 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs in 115 games. Arauz will be helped by the expansion of the MLB rosters to 26 and could conceivably earn his keep as a utility infielder, helping him to stick on the roster until his bat catches up to the major league level.

FEATURED PLAYERS

This week, let's look at the two players who came to the Astros from the Mets in the December Marisnick trade.

LHP Blake Taylor: Taylor was drafted by the Pirates in the second round in 2013 and was traded to the Mets a year later. Tommy John surgery and recovery sidelined him from late 2015 to late 2016. For the next two years, Taylor was a starter who failed to break through, but a move to the bullpen in 2019 suited him and he put together the most successful season of his career to date (2.16 ERA/1.095 WHIP in 40 appearances, converting 10 of 11 save opportunities). He spent approximately half of the season at High A, half at AA (1.85 ERA/0.949 WHIP) and finished the season by facing and retiring one batter at AAA. Taylor built on his 2019 success with seven appearances in the Arizona Fall League (2.00 ERA/0.778 WHIP). Taylor becomes one of only seven lefty pitchers in the Astros system who finished the 2019 season at AA or higher. Baseball America describes him as having a "mid-90's fastball and a high spin rate on his breaking ball." He turned 24 in August.

OF Kenedy Carona: Corona, a 19-year old Venezuelan (20 in March), has only one professional season under his belt at this point, but it was a very successful season in which he progressed from the DSL to the GCL to four games at short season A to end the year. In 63 games, he hit .301/.398/.470 with 14 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 29 RBI. He also snagged 19 bases (five caught stealing) and walked (29 times) almost as much as he struck out (36 times). He can play all the outfield positions and his defensive numbers stack up nicely against most of his outfield competition in the system. Baseball America describes Corona as athletic with "the ability to play the outfield with some polish at a young age."

2019-2020 FALL AND WINTER BALL

All of the regular seasons are complete except for the Australian Baseball League (where Chuckie Robinson has been playing as recently as over this past weekend). In addition, a few Astros minor leaguers have been playing in the postseason in their respective leagues. Their most recent postseason stats are shown below.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

1B J.J. Matijevic: 27 G | .255/.315/.412
SS Jeremy Pena: 24 G | .183/.248/.290
C Colton Shaver: 18 G | .175/.294/.333
RHP Cody Deason: 6 G | 8.0 IP | 6.75 ERA/2.13 WHIP
RHP Carlos Sanabria: 8 G | 9.0 IP | 9.00 ERA/1.89 WHIP
LHP Blake Taylor: 7 G | 9.0 IP | 2.00 ERA/0.78 WHIP
RHP Jojanse Torres: 7 G | 8.0 IP | 3.38 ERA/1.50 WHIP
RHP Forrest Whitley: 6 G | 25.0 IP | 2.88 ERA/1.24 WHIP

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

C Chuckie Robinson: 21 G | .227/.301/.440

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

OF Bryan de la Cruz: 10 G | .294/.278/.471
RHP Rogelio Armenteros: 5 G | 19.0 IP | 2.37 ERA/1.16 WHIP
RHP Ronel Blanco: 1 G | 0.2 IP | 27.00 ERA/3.00 WHIP
RHP Willy Collado: 3 G | 2.1 IP | 0.00 ERA/0.43 WHIP
RHP Francis Martes: 3 G | 5.2 IP | 7.94 ERA/1.41 WHIP
RHP Leovanny Rodriguez: 16 G | 16.1 IP | 2.76 ERA/0.86 WHIP
(Postseason: 4 G | 3.0 IP | 0.00 ERA/1.33 WHIP)
RHP Cesar Rosado: 1 G | 0.1 IP | 27.00 ERA/3.00 WHIP
LHP Framber Valdez: 5 G | 23.2 IP | 2.28 ERA/1.14 WHIP

MEXICAN WINTER LEAGUE

C Lorenzo Quintana: 42 G | .278/.339/.405
C Cesar Salazar: 15 G | .222/.276/.370
RHP Jose Bravo: 6 G | 20.0 IP | 5.85 ERA/1.75 WHIP
RHP Humberto Castellanos: 13 G | 9.1 IP | 5.79 ERA/1.82 WHIP
RHP Lupe Chavez: 7 G | 17.1 IP | 4.67 ERA/1.38 WHIP
RHP Ralph Garza: 13 G | 15.0 IP | 2.40 ERA/1.00 WHIP
LHP Juan Pablo Lopez: 15 G | 13.2 IP | 0.66 ERA/1.24 WHIP

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

C Ruben Castro: 11 G | .000/.333/.000
LHP Jonathan Bermudez: 4 G | 3.2 IP | 0.00 ERA/2.00 WHIP
(Postseason: 3 G | 2.1 IP | 3.86 ERA/1.29 WHIP)
RHP Layne Henderson: 11 G | 7.2 IP | 3 saves | 7.04 ERA/2.48 WHIP
RHP Felipe Tejada: 9 G | 6.0 IP | 1.50 ERA/1.33 WHIP
(Postseason: 1 G | 1.0 IP | 0.00 ERA/0.00 WHIP)

2019 FINAL SEASON STANDINGS

AAA ROUND ROCK (Pacific Coast League/American Southern Division)
Division Winner
Won over Iowa in Semifinals 3-2
Lost to Sacramento in LCS 0-3
1st 84-56 .600 -.-GB L1

AA CORPUS CHRISTI (Texas League/South Division)
4th 66-73 .475 7.0GB L3

ADV A FAYETTEVILLE (Carolina League/Southern Division)
2nd half Division Winner
Won over Down East in the Semifinals 3-2
Lost to Wilmington in LCS 2-3
3rd 72-67 .518 15.0GB W2

LOW A QUAD CITIES (Midwest League/Western Division)
1st half Division Winner
Lost to Cedar Rapids in MWL Quarterfinals 1-2
2nd 79-57 .581 0.5GB W1

SHORT SEASON A TRI-CITY (New York-Penn League/Stedler Division)
4th 32-42 .432 9.0GB W3

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE (East Division)
4th 25-26 .490 3.5GB W1

ROOKIE LEVEL DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE (Northwest Division)
2nd 38-31 .551 2.5GB W2

INTERVIEWS

The following links are to the interviews I conducted during the 2019 season. Here is a full list of links to all of the interviews I've done since December 2011.

Colin McKee
Enoli Paredes and Cristian Javier
Cesar Salazar
Brett Daniels
Felipe Tejada
AJ Lee
Peyton Battenfield
Franny Cobos and Juan Pablo Lopez
Austin Hansen
Jake Adams
Nivaldo Rodriguez and Enmanuel Valdez
Colton Shaver
Brett Conine
Bryan Abreu and Ronel Blanco
Granden Goetzman
Osvaldo Duarte and Jose Urquidy
Stephen Wrenn

RANDOM PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Montana 2009

Monday, November 4, 2019

2019 Rule 5 Draft Primer and Astros Eligible Players

2019 Rule 5 Draft Primer and Eligible Players

UPDATED 12/12
The Astros lost three players in today's Rule 5 draft (while claiming no one). Here is a little info on those who were lost:

RHP Brandon Bailey (Baltimore): Bailey had a very solid season with the AA Corpus Christi Hooks in 2019 (3.30 ERA/1.219 WHIP in 22 games/17 starts). Bailey came to the Astros in the November 2017 trade with Oakland that sent Ramon Laureano to that team. Bailey allowed 41 walks while striking out 103 in 92.2 innings of work. He has solid command and is expected to take on a swing man/middle relief role. In my opinion, Bailey showed enough polish and pitch development in 2019 that he is the most likely of the three taken to stick with his new team.

RHP Yohan Ramirez (Seattle): Ramirez is a real wild card (in more than one meaning of the word wild). Ramirez has an electric arm with a fastball that touches the upper 90's and a plus curveball, but his control is still very much a work in progress. In 106 innings pitched between High A Fayetteville and AA Corpus Christi in 2019 (3.99 ERA/1.302 WHIP), Ramirez allowed 74 walks while striking out 158. There was also the matter of 17 wild pitches and 15 hit batters. He is the ultimate high risk, high reward pick up. It will be difficult for him to stick with a team without showing a lot of progress on control and command, but if he is able to harness his talent, watch out! Ramirez is, in my opinion, the least likely of the three to stick.

SS Jonathan Arauz (Boston): Arauz falls somewhere in between the other two in his ability to stick with a new team (again, in my opinion). Arauz's bat has lagged his solid defense over his career, but he mostly held his own in 2019 between High A Fayetteville and AA Corpus Christi, hitting a combined .249/.319/.388 with 22 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs in 115 games. Arauz will be helped by the expansion of the MLB rosters to 26 and could conceivably earn his keep as a utility infielder, helping him to stick on the roster until his bat catches up to the major league level.

UPDATED 12/11
The current Astros 40-man roster (as of 12/11) stands at 38 players. The Astros added four players to the 40-man roster on November 20th to protect them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft. They are RHP Cristian Javier, RHP Enoli Paredes, RHP Nivaldo Rodriguez and 1B Taylor Jones. The draft will take place at 9:00 a.m. ET on December 12th at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Let's take a look at all the draft rules and the current Astros eligible players ...


Nick Tanielu and Alex De Goti - August 2019
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Here is a primer based on my understanding of how the Rule 5 draft works and a list of current draft eligible players.


RULE 5

The Rule 5 draft (no, it's not the Rule V draft; please stop calling it that!) was updated somewhat prior to 2016's draft in two ways: it eliminated the lower of two minor league phases of the draft and it increased the compensation payment to teams for players who are lost through the draft. Here is the text of Rule 5 with the Eligibility Rules highlighted in Blue.
Rule 5
ANNUAL SELECTION OF PLAYERS
(a) MEETINGS. A selection meeting shall be held each year at such time and place as the Commissioner shall designate and shall be known as the Rule 5 Selection Meeting. At the Rule 5 Selection Meeting, Major League Clubs may claim the contracts of players who are on Minor League Reserve Lists (filed pursuant to Rule 2) and who are subject to selection as set forth in this Rule 5. If any Major League or Minor League Club shall fail to file Minor League Reserve Lists in accordance with Major League Rule 2, its players on Minor League Reserve Lists shall be subject to selection under this Rule 5 without any restrictions. The Commissioner shall decide all procedural questions that may arise during the Rule 5 Selection Meeting.
(b) METHOD AND PRIORITY OF SELECTIONS. Selections under this Rule 5 shall be made in two separate phases: the Major League phase and the Class AAA phase. A player selected in one of these phases must be placed on the Major League Club’s Reserve List in the same classification of the phase in which the player was selected. Within each phase, only players from a Reserve List of a lower classification Club are eligible for selection. Within each phase, selections shall be made according to the following order and conditions:
(1) Major League Clubs shall select in reverse order of their winning percentages at the close of the preceding championship season, without regard to standings within any Division or League and without regard to post-season results. If two or more Clubs had an identical percentage of games won at the close of the preceding championship season, the selection order of those Clubs shall be determined by the percentage of games won in the next prior championship season, with any remaining ties resolved by continuing to examine the tied Clubs’ respective championship season winning percentages in each preceding prior year, until the tie is broken.
(2) As called in the above order of priority in a phase, each Major League Club shall have a right to select one player subject to selection under this Rule 5. If a Club does not exercise its right of selection when called, or if its right of selection in that phase has ceased because its Reserve List(s) for the classification covered by the phase has reached the allowable limit under Rule 2, the next Club in order shall be called. When a round has been completed, the process of selection shall be repeated until all Major League Clubs have no further right of selection in that phase. A Club
having announced its selection in proper order cannot later cancel the selection.
(3) In any year in which one or more new members have been admitted to a Major League for operations in the next championship season, each such new member may select player contracts under this Rule 5. The procedures and regulations governing such selections shall be as agreed upon by the Major League Clubs.
(4) Any Major League Club may authorize (in writing or by electronic communication) any employee, the Commissioner, or an employee of the Commissioner’s Office to announce its selection or selections at the meeting. Such authorized selections shall be as binding and effective as if announced by a Major League Club official.
(c) PLAYERS SUBJECT TO SELECTION. All players on the Minor League Reserve Lists of Major League and Minor League Clubs, except players on the Voluntarily Retired, Disqualified or Ineligible Lists, shall be subject to selection by other Major League Clubs at the Rule 5 Selection Meeting in accordance with the following:
(1) A player without previous Major or Minor League service who signs with a Major League or independent Minor League Club shall be subject to selection based on the following:
(A) if 18 years of age or under on the June 5 immediately preceding the player’s signing, the player shall be subject to selection at the fifth Rule 5 Selection Meeting that follows the signing date of the player’s first Major or Minor League contract, unless Rule 5(c)(1)(C) applies;
(B) if 19 years of age or over on the June 5 immediately preceding the player’s signing, the player shall be subject to selection at the fourth Selection Meeting that follows the signing date of the player’s first Major or Minor League contract, unless Rule 5(c)(1)(C) applies;
(C) if the signing date of a player’s first Major or Minor League contract is between
(i) the conclusion of the championship season for the Major or Minor League Club to which the player is assigned on such contract and
(ii) the next Rule 5 Selection Meeting,
then the player shall be deemed to have signed after the next Rule 5 Selection Meeting, for purposes of this Rule 5(c)(1).
(2) A player who is re-signed by a Club within one year from the date the Club released the player shall be subject to draft at the Rule 5 Selection Meeting following the date of the latest contract with that Club.
(3) A player who has been subject to draft at a Rule 5 Selection Meeting shall be subject to draft at any subsequent Rule 5 Selection Meeting if the player is on a Minor League Reserve List (filed pursuant to Rule 2 (Player Limits and Reserve Lists)) at the time of the Rule 5 Selection Meeting.
(4) A player
(A) whose contract has been assigned outright by a Major League Club to a Minor League Club,
(B) who has been signed as a free agent to a Minor League Uniform Player Contract for services in the following year and is otherwise subject to selection pursuant to Rule 5(c)(1) or Rule 5(c)(2), or
(C) who has been released unconditionally from a Minor League roster and is otherwise subject to selection pursuant to Rule 5(c)(1) or Rule 5(c)(2), shall be subject to selection at any subsequent Rule 5 Selection Meeting if the player is on a Minor League Reserve List (filed pursuant to Rule 2 (Player Limits and Reserve Lists)) at the time of the Rule 5 Selection Meeting.
(5) A Major League or independent Minor League Club may designate any player on one of its Minor League Reserve Lists to be subject to selection who otherwise would not be selectable under this Rule 5.
(d) CONSIDERATION, PAYMENT, AND RESPONSIBILITY. The consideration for a selection under this Rule 5 shall be as follows:
(1) $100,000, if the selected player is placed on a Major League Reserve List;
(2) $24,000, if the selected player is placed on a Class AAA Reserve List;
In addition to the compensation set forth in this paragraph, an independent Minor League Club shall be reimbursed by a selecting Major League Club for all compensation (including salary, bonuses and benefits) that it has paid to a selected player if the player is selected at the first selection meeting following the first year of the player’s initial Minor League Uniform Player Contract. Payment of the consideration due the selectee Club shall be made in the same manner as provided in Rule 12 Transfer Agreements) regarding other assignments of player contracts. The selector Major League Club must assume all responsibility for the player’s physical condition and for the player’s reporting.
(e) PLAYER-MANAGERS. A Player-Manager shall be subject to selection if the player would otherwise be selectable under Rule 5(c) (Players Subject to Selection). However, a player-manager shall be subject to selection as a player only and the player-manager selected may reject such selection by giving written or electronic notification of such rejection to the Commissioner within 30 days from the date that the player-manager receives notification of such selection from the Commissioner. A player-manager contract that has been executed within 30 days before the close of the season shall not be changed to a player contract during the season following execution of such player-manager contract unless the Commissioner approves such a change in writing.
(f) COVERING UP. No agreement shall be made for the purpose or with the effect of covering up a player from selection. If the Commissioner shall be of opinion that any such agreement has been made, the Commissioner may impose a fine upon each party to such an agreement.
RULE 5 ELIGIBILITY

The highlighted passage above regarding Rule 5 eligibility is somewhat cumbersome. What it means in English is that this year's eligible players basically include: 1) any player who signed prior to the end of the 2015 season; and 2) players who signed after the end of the 2015 season and prior to the end of the 2016 season who were 19 years old or older when they signed. That means most 2016 drafted college players are eligible, but high school players (and some community college players) drafted in 2016 may not be eligible until next year. For the international free agents, one needs to know when the player signed their first professional agreement and their age at signing to make the determination. There is an exception based on players who signed during the off-season, but otherwise, that is the basic gist of it.

MAJOR LEAGUE PHASE OF THE RULE 5 DRAFT

The first phase of the Rule 5 draft is the major league phase. In order to protect an eligible player from being drafted in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, he must be on the major league club's 40-man roster prior to November 20th (if that falls on a business day). Players on the 40-man roster at that deadline are considered "protected."

Obviously not all of a team's best players can be protected on the 40-man roster. That is where the AAA Reserve List helps. If a player from the AAA Reserve List is drafted in the Rule 5 draft, that player must remain on the drafting team's 25-man major league roster for the full season or he will have to be put through waivers. If claimed, the new team will be subject to the same conditions regarding that player. If not claimed, the player will be offered back to the team from which he was drafted.

The cost of drafting a player in the major league phase of the draft is now $100,000. If the player is offered back to the team from which he was drafted, the original team must pay $50,000 back to the drafting team. If the original team declines, the player will be put on waivers.

Last season C Garrett Stubbs, RHP Rogelio Armenteros and RHP Bryan Abreu were added to the 40-man roster by the Astros in advance of the deadline. The front office made the determination that these players were the most likely players to be taken in the Rule 5 draft. The front office took a calculated risk by not adding players such as RHP Jose Urquidy (and others who emerged as top prospects in 2019) to the 40-man roster, but only included them on the AAA Reserve List. They made a determination as to which players, if drafted, were more likely to "stick" on a major league roster for a full season and were very successful in that the only two unprotected players claimed in the major league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, RHP Riley Ferrell and OF Drew Ferguson, were ultimately returned to the Astros. The Astros did, however, lose one player in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft (see below) and that was RHP Ryan Thompson who had been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery when selected.

Since players taken in the Rule 5 draft have to remain on the drafting team's 25-man roster for the full season, pitchers are taken much more frequently than position players simply because it's fairly easy to use a pitcher sparingly out of the bullpen. Position players can't be tucked away quite so neatly if they struggle. It all comes down to another team's ability to find room on their 25-man roster for a full season. It's simply not that easy to do and that's why so very few players are drafted in the Rule 5 draft and stick with a team.

It's also the case that often minor league fans overvalue prospects. We may think much more highly of a player than the other teams' front offices do. When all is said and done, the Astros front office will take some risks in leaving players unprotected, but it will be a highly educated guess based on many factors, including future needs.

MINOR LEAGUE PHASE OF THE RULE 5 DRAFT

There is now only one minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, reduced from two phases in earlier years. The players on the 40-man roster and the AAA reserve list aren't eligible to be taken in the minor league phase of the draft. To my knowledge the AAA reserve list is still set at 38 players so, in essence, you are protecting your top 78 players from the minor league phase. (As far as I know, AAA Reserve Lists are not made public so we are left to guess who the Astros will be shielding from the minor league phase of the draft.)

In the AAA Phase of the draft, a player who is on the AA Reserve List or lower can be drafted for inclusion on the drafting team's AAA Reserve list for a cost of $24,000. The kicker on the minor league phase of the draft is that the drafted player basically becomes that team's property. There is no requirement to offer the player back if he doesn't work out. He can be traded, released, etc. at a team's discretion.

ASTROS 2019 RULE 5 ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

According to my records, the following are those players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December if they are left unprotected. I have organized them by the level at which they were assigned at the end of the minor league regular season. Players who are first year eligible have been #'d. Players who are currently on the MLB Pipeline Top 30 Prospect List (as of 11/4) are noted in red.

My best guess is that the Astros will protect the three top 30 pitchers first (Javier, Paredes and Rodriguez) and then possibly the position players who are the most ready for primetime (De Goti, Jones and Tanielu would be on my short list but cases could be made for MANY more of the players on this list). This could be one of the toughest Rule 5 decisions in a while.

AAA Position Players
#IF Alex De Goti
OF Drew Ferguson
#1B Taylor Jones - added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft
C Jamie Ritchie
3B Nick Tanielu
#OF Stephen Wrenn

AAA Pitchers

#RHP Ronel Blanco
RHP Riley Ferrell
RHP Ralph Garza
#LHP Ryan Hartman
#RHP Cristian Javier - added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft
#RHP Carson LaRue
RHP Brendan McCurry
RHP Gabriel Valdez (on IL at end of season)

AA Position Players
SS Jonathan Arauz
C Carlos Canelon (on IL at end of season)
#OF Ronnie Dawson
OF Bryan de la Cruz
IF Osvaldo Duarte
#C Chuckie Robinson
#SS Anibal Sierra

AA Pitchers
#LHP Brett Adcock
#RHP Brandon Bailey
#LHP/OF Carmen Benedetti (converting to pitcher; on IL at end of season)
#RHP Chad Donato
RHP Justin Ferrell
#RHP Nick Hernandez
#RHP Colin McKee
#RHP Enoli Paredes - added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft
#RHP Yohan Ramirez
RHP Carlos Sanabria
#RHP Andre Scrubb

Position Players at High A or lower
C Oscar Campos
C Ruben Castro
OF Carlos Machado
#C Scott Manea
#OF Juan Ramirez
#IF Yeuris Ramirez
SS Miguelangel Sierra
#IF Ronaldo Urdaneta (ended season on IL)
#2B/3B Enmanuel Valdez

Pitchers at High A or lower
#RHP Humberto Castellanos
#LHP Jervic Chavez
RHP Lupe Chavez
#RHP Fredy Medina
#RHP Leovanny Rodriguez
#RHP Nivaldo Rodriguez - added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft
#RHP Cesar Rosado
RHP Abdiel Saldana
RHP Edgardo Sandoval
#RHP Felipe Tejada
#RHP Jojanse Torres

#First year eligibility for Rule 5 Draft

In addition to the above, the following players are now minor league free agents as of the conclusion of the major league season and they can explore free agency.

Minor League Free Agents
LHP Kent Emanuel - Added to the 40-man roster on 11/4
OF Granden Goetzman
RHP Erasmo Pinales

Monday, September 16, 2019

Astros Farm Report: 9-16

One final regularly scheduled Astros farm report to wrap up the season ...

Two teams (Fayetteville and Round Rock) made it to their respective League Championship Series, but ultimately neither team was able to bring home the hardware. The Astros minor league season officially ended on Saturday with Fayetteville's loss to Wilmington in Game 5. Despite a brilliant outing from MLB Pipeline 29th ranked Astro prospect Luis Garcia (6.1 IP 3H 1R 0BB 11K), Garcia was charged with the loss as the solo home run he allowed in the fourth inning proved to be all the run support Wilmington needed.

There will be one final minor league game on Tuesday as the Pacific Coast League Champion Sacramento River Cats will face the International League Champion Columbus Clippers for a one-game winner-take-all AAA Championship game on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. CT at the Memphis Redbirds Autozone Park. The game will be televised on FS1.

ROSTER MOVES/TRANSACTIONS

Here are the final roster moves for the minor league season. An ongoing list of all of the 2019 season transactions and roster moves can be found here.

9-14: IF Jack Mayfield recalled to Houston
9-13: SS Carlos Correa sent to Round Rock on a rehab assignment
9-7: SS/2B Anibal Sierra assigned to Round Rock from Corpus Christi
9-7: RHP Bryan Abreu recalled to Houston
9-7: RHP Colin McKee assigned to Round Rock from Corpus Christi
9-5: LHP Reymin Guduan released
9-5: OF/SS Myles Straw recalled to Houston
9-5: IF Osvaldo Duarte assigned to Round Rock from Corpus Christi
9-4: RHP Bryan Abreu assigned to Round Rock from Corpus Christi
9-4: RHP Forrest Whitley assigned to Round Rock from Corpus Christi
9-4: OF Ramiro Rodriguez (Quad Cities) activated from the IL
9-4: IF Michael Wielansky (Quad Cities) activated from the IL
9-4: 1B Zach Biermann assigned to Tri-City from Quad Cities
9-4: SS AJ Lee assigned to Tri-City from Quad Cities
9-4: RHP Jairo Lopez assigned to Quad Cities from Tri-City
9-3: LHP Reymin Guduan activated from the restricted list and designated for assignment
9-3: RHP Francis Martes assigned to Corpus Christi from Round Rock
9-2: LHP Cionel Perez recalled to Houston
9-2: C Garrett Stubbs recalled to Houston
9-2: OF Kyle Tucker recalled to Houston
9-2: OF Granden Goetzman (Corpus Christi) activated from the IL
9-2: OF Stephen Wrenn assigned to Round Rock from Corpus Christi
9-2: 2B/3B Enmanuel Valdez (Fayetteville) placed on the 7-day IL
9-2: RHP Francis Martes (Round Rock) activated from the IL
9-2: RHP Yeremi Ceballos assigned to Fayetteville from Tri-City
9-2: LHP Juan Pablo Lopez assigned to Quad Cities from Tri-City
9-1: RHP Francis Martes (Round Rock) sent to Quad Cities on a rehab assignment

2019 FINAL SEASON STANDINGS

AAA ROUND ROCK (Pacific Coast League/American Southern Division)
Division Winner
Won over Iowa in Semifinals 3-2
Lost to Sacramento in LCS 0-3
1st 84-56 .600 -.-GB L1

AA CORPUS CHRISTI (Texas League/South Division)
4th 66-73 .475 7.0GB L3

ADV A FAYETTEVILLE (Carolina League/Southern Division)
2nd half Division Winner
Won over Down East in the Semifinals 3-2
Lost to Wilmington in LCS 2-3
3rd 72-67 .518 15.0GB W2

LOW A QUAD CITIES (Midwest League/Western Division)
1st half Division Winner
Lost to Cedar Rapids in MWL Quarterfinals 1-2
2nd 79-57 .581 0.5GB W1

SHORT SEASON A TRI-CITY (New York-Penn League/Stedler Division)
4th 32-42 .432 9.0GB W3

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE (East Division)
4th 25-26 .490 3.5GB W1

ROOKIE LEVEL DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE (Northwest Division)
2nd 38-31 .551 2.5GB W2

INTERVIEWS

The following links are to the interviews I conducted during the 2019 season. Here is a full list of links to all of the interviews I've done since December 2011.

Colin McKee
Enoli Paredes and Cristian Javier
Cesar Salazar
Brett Daniels
Felipe Tejada
AJ Lee
Peyton Battenfield
Franny Cobos and Juan Pablo Lopez
Austin Hansen
Jake Adams
Nivaldo Rodriguez and Enmanuel Valdez
Colton Shaver
Brett Conine
Bryan Abreu and Ronel Blanco
Granden Goetzman
Osvaldo Duarte and Jose Urquidy
Stephen Wrenn

WATCH THIS SPACE

If you are a regular reader, you know that I have regularly featured players who I felt were flying below the radar this season, in other words, players who weren't considered top prospects. Two of those players (Nivaldo Rodriguez and Taylor Jones) have since been included on MLB Pipeline's Top Prospect List for the Astros at #26 and #28 respectively and I wouldn't be surprised to see others added to the list as some of the current top prospects graduate over time.

But one of the biggest impacts this season has been the emergence of several Latin pitchers who seemingly came out of nowhere. Coming into the season, Cristian Javier (#10), Jose Urquidy (#12), Nivaldo Rodriguez (#26), Luis Garcia (#29) and Jose Alberto Rivera (#30) were not ranked at all by MLB Pipeline. But some of us have been paying attention all along. I would advise against getting wrapped up in the MLB June Draft as the be-all and end-all of player acquisition. The Astros have done an excellent job on the international front and the fruits of those labors are really starting to show.

So my final Watch This Space of the 2019 season is to remind you not to forget about the Latin players in the system. This group below from Corpus Christi represented 188 appearances (61 starts), a 32-26 record with 23 saves, and a 3.06 ERA and 1.169 WHIP over 558.2 innings. They combined for 708 strikeouts (11.4 SO/9). Watch this space ...


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Astros Minor League Playoff Recaps

Results for Friday, September 13, 2019

Tough night on the farm.

PCL Championship: Sacramento 7, Round Rock 5

Sacramento wins series 3-0.

W- Pat Venditte
L- Carson LaRue
S- Enderson Franco

RR home runs: Drew Ferguson (1, solo in 2nd), Taylor Jones (1, 2-run in 3rd)

The River Cats captured the Pacific Coast League crown as they scored three in the top of the 8th to take the lead.

Rogelio Armenteros went 2.2 innings and allowed four runs on six hits, walked four, and struck out one. Carson LaRue tagged in for 4.2 innings and he allowed two runs, both of which were inherited runners that were charged to him, on two hits, walked three, and struck out four. Ralph Garza Jr. pitched the last 1.2 innings and he allowed a run of his own on a groundout, a two-run single that resulted in both of the runners he inherited from LaRue to score, walked one, and struck out two.

Taylor Jones opened the scoring by ripping an RBI double in the 1st inning. Drew Ferguson led off the 2nd with a homer and Jones struck again in the 3rd with a two-run blast. Round Rock had the bases loaded in the 7th but all they got out of it was Jack Mayfield walking in Ronnie Dawson. Carlos Correa went 1-2 and drew a couple of walks; he got the start at shortstop and played seven innings.

Round Rock's next game will take place on April 9, 2020.

Mills Cup: Wilmington 2, Fayetteville 0

Series tied 2-2.

W- Austin Cox
L- Jojanse Torres
S- Tad Ratliff

Fayetteville home runs: None.

The Woodpeckers' bats were silenced as the Blue Rocks forced a deciding game five.

Jojanse Torres pitched well but he received a loss for the first time this season. Torres allowed three hits, one of which was a solo homer, walked two, and struck out six in six innings of work. J.P. France was the first man out of the Woodpeckers' bullpen and he allowed a run, which was an inherited runner that was charged to him, on two hits, walked three, and struck out two in 2.1 innings. Yeremi Ceballos allowed a hit and struck out one as he got the last two outs of the 9th.

Fayetteville only had three hits: a double from David Hensley and singles from Jeremy Peña and Chandler Taylor.

Luis Garcia will take the mound for the decisive game five and he'll take on Rito Lugo at 6:00 Eastern.

Friday's Stars

All photos are from Jayne unless stated otherwise.

Taylor Jones, 1B, Round Rock
2-4, 2B, 2-R HR (1), 3 RBI

Jojanse Torres, RHP, Fayetteville
L, 6 IP, 3 H (solo HR allowed), ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Friday, September 13, 2019

Astros Minor League Playoff Recaps

Results for Thursday, September 12, 2019

Woodpeckers one win away!

Mills Cup: Fayetteville 2, Wilmington 1

Fayetteville leads series 2-1.

W- Nivaldo Rodriguez
L- Kris Bubic
S- Humberto Castellanos

Fayetteville home runs: None.

Both teams had one scoring play; the Woodpeckers' yielded more runs and now, they are one win away from defending the crown they won last year as the Buies Creek Astros.

David Hensley put Fayetteville on the board and in the lead by ripping a two-run double in the 6th inning. Chandler Taylor, who scored one of those two runs, finished 2-4.

Nivaldo Rodriguez delivered in the clutch as he allowed just one run on three hits while striking out seven over six excellent innings. César Rosado struck out three in two perfect innings of relief and Humberto Castellanos worked around a hit in the 9th to close it out, striking out one.

Jojanse Torres will take the mound in game four and he'll face Austin Cox at 6:00 Eastern.

Thursday's Stars

All photos are from Jayne unless stated otherwise.

From top:
Nivaldo Rodriguez: W, 6 IP, 3 H, ER, 7 K
César Rosado: 2 IP, 3 K; perfect outing
Humberto Castellanos: Save, IP, H, K 
David Hensley: 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI