The Astros announced minor league contracts for eight players. The signees: Casey Daigle, Ray Sadowski, Gary Majewski, Roy Corcoran, and Chris Shelton. Some of the players, like Sadowski and Daigle, have already been mentioned in previous posts here. Majewski, a former Houston schoolboy star, was a very good relief pitcher at one time (posting an ERA below 3 in 2005), but the popular story is that the Nats and Reds overworked him, leaving his arm in bad shape. My recollection is that the Reds talked about filing a complaint against the Nationals after he was traded to the Reds in 2006. His performance hasn't been good since then, but he did have a 3.45 FIP last year for the Phillies' AAA team. Corcoran is another relief pitcher who has had good years as a major leaguer (3.22 ERA in 2008). He was DFA'd by the Mariners during last season, and was picked up by the Astros and pitched decently in 19 relief innings for Round Rock. Corcoran and Majewski have something else in common: they both induce lots of groundballs. Most likely these two guys will provide some depth for the reliever corps by pitching in Round Rock. Since we have discussed Sadowski previously, I won't go back over the details of his Cinderella story with the Giants last year. But he also provides some depth for the starting pitching group. Sadowski is another sinker ball pitcher who can induce groundballs; perhaps we see a pitching characteristic which the Astros value. I assume Corcoran, Majewski, and Sadowski will all be allowed to make an impression during spring training, giving them hope that they can take a long shot at the opening day 25 man roster.
Chris Shelton is an intriguing pick up, mostly because of his legitimate power potential. One of the obstacles he has faced is the lack of defensive ability, which makes him a 1st baseman or DH. AstroAndy mentioned Shelton as a possible Astros target a few months ago; he pointed out that Shelton had actually been given some work at 3d base with the Mariners' farm team. I'm not sure he can be more than an emergency back up at 3d base...but if he could find a way to play the hot corner decently, he might increases his chances at making the major league squad. In any event, Shelton could be a legitimate power threat off the bench--and that is something the Astros have lacked in the past. Shelton made a name for himself in 2006 as a Tigers Rule 5 pick, when he set a historic HR pace to begin the season, with 9 HRs in the first 13 games of the season. Shelton was used briefly as a pinch hitter by the Mariners last year and garnered a game winning hit in an extra inning game. Shelton's line in AAA Tacoma last season: .314, .397, .509,.906. Most likely Shelton plays in Round Rock next year, but if he can impress with his offense in the spring, he might be another long shot for the Astros' bench.