Contributions from Chris, Jesse and Clarence
Not only are the Winter Meetings a time for interviewing potential general manager candidates, signing free agents and making trades, but there's also a draft. Instead of drafting players out of high school and college, teams get the opportunity to draft from each others farm system. This keeps teams from stock piling talent in their farm system and helps competitive balance.
So who's draft eligible. Anyone not on a teams 40-man roster who was signed at 18 or younger and has at least five years in the minor league system or was signed at age 19 or older and has at least four years in the minor league system. The order is determined by record and is the same order that will be conducted in the Rule 4 draft this summer. The Astros will pick first.
*If the player was signed as a minor league free agent and taken in the rule 5 draft it appears they can elect for free agency. But why would you if you're selected in the rule 5 it's a shot at the big leagues.
There are some rules and restrictions that come with the selection. First is that each selection comes with a $50,000 price tag. Second for the team to keep that player he must remain on the Major League roster the entire season. If the team decides not to keep a player he can offer them back to their original club for a $25,000 reimbursement. As was the case with Lance Pendleton last year.
Some teams will let the drafting team keep that player and pocket the $50,000 or the teams can work out a trade, as was the case with Willy Taveras. In 2003 Taveras was selected by the Astros out of the Cleveland Indians system. At the end of Spring Training the Astros and Indians worked out a deal in which the Indians got Jeroime Robertson for Luke Scott and the rights to Willy Taveras (Why isn't Hunsicker interviewing again?).
There have been some high profile names that have come out of the draft: Johan Santana, Shane Victorino, Josh Hamilton and Roberto Clemente are some of the more notable names. There are also some less notable names two of which have been pitching in the Astros system after being selected. Wesley Wright was taken in the 2007 rule 5 draft and Anuery Rodriguez was selected last year.
Paul Clemens, received in the Michael Bourn trade, was the only pitcher with rule 5 eligibility to be placed on the Astros 40 man roster. The other eligible players are: Pitchers Danny Meszaros, Xavier Cedeno, Sergio Perez, Dayan Diaz and Kyle Greenwalt, outfielder Brandon Barnes, Jon Gaston, Collin DeLome and T.J. Steele and infielder Kody Hinze.
Of those names no one is a sure bet to be taken. The players I could see going are Cedeno, Diaz, Barnes and Hinze. Cedeno could start or be that lefty out of the bullpen. Diaz only made it to low A ball but has some outstanding numbers in relief. Barnes could make for a decent backup outfielder. Hinze is a first baseman with a .781 OPS in AA. My guess would be that at most Cedeno will be tried out for a bullpen spot but he's not the only lefty available in the draft.
The rule 5 draft takes place this Thursday. Hit the jump to find out about some of the players available.
The Astros Select
The Astros 40 man roster sits at 38 so the Astros have two available slots for the rule 5 draft. That doesn't mean that the Astros will draft two players. They could draft one or even none. Teams don't have to select players they're free to pass especially if their 40-man roster is full. Nine teams have full 40-man rosters: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco and Toronto.
Personally, I'd like to see the Astros grab two players in the rule 5. With the front office in a reboot state it wouldn't be a bad idea to give the new GM a full 40 man roster to play with. Unless of course they're close to signing a free agent, like Johnny Damon, in which case they'll need a 40-man roster spot for that.
The Astros have needs all over the field. Really the only two spots set in stone are first base and left field where there's sure to be a combination of Carlos Lee and either J.D. Martinez or Brett Wallace next year.The pitching staff has depth but lacks talent in that depth.
Shortstop is easily the position the Astros need a body for the most. Unfortunately picking the Astros biggest position need and plugging it into the rule 5 draft isn't going to work. The shortstops available are either uninspiring or lack the ability to stay at the position. Their are some decent pitchers available but the starters fall right in line with what the Astros already have and there are enough intriguing position players available that it'd be a waste to make the first selection a reliever.
The most interesting position players are in the outfield and at the catcher position. Jason Castro by all accounts will be the starter next year. However he is coming of surgery and the Astros could look at a right handed compliment to Castro. Martinez and to a certain extent Brian Bogusevic look to have the corners locked up, but there may be an opening in center field with the high flying Jordan Schafer's drug exploits. If the Astros plan on trading Wandy it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a starter in the rule 5.
Jordan Danks: A 25 year old White Sox center field prospect has a brother already in the Major League rotation, John Danks. Jordan spent last year in AAA playing for the Charlotte Knights posting a .257/.344/.425 line from the left handed batters box. Which isn't far off from his .258/.340/.408 career line. His 14 homeruns last season was the first time reaching double digits and might indicate he's finding a bit of power. On the base path's he's had good success stealing at 76% success rate for his career. The downside offensively is that he's striking out like Adam Dunn. If you thought Michael Bourn's strikeouts were bad, Danks takes it to a whole new level. Defensively he's a plus defender in center field.
Sean probably put it best when he said this could be Shane Victorino for the Astros (an Ed Wade selection by the way). The strikeouts are worrying but being able to provide teen power while still getting on base, stealing bases and providing plus defense in center makes him a great option in center field.
Erik Komatsu: Clack's favorite. The 24 year old left handed hitting outfielder is a recent Washington Nationals acquisition for Jerry Hairston Jr. He's an on base player that can play all three outfield positions. Last year between Huntsville (Milwaukee) and Harrisburg (Nationals) he posted a .277/.367/.382. Komatsu walks almost as much as he strikeouts, but lacks power hitting only 7 homeruns last year. He's not the greatest base stealer either, a lot like Hunter Pence in fact. He can steal a base but you'd rather he didn't try to often. Defensively he's got an accurate arm and appears to be solid at all three outfield positions. Minute Maid Parks center field may be a stretch for him but a majority of center fielders are going to be stretched out there.
What Danks isn't Komatsu is, an on base guy. Which makes him a very good candidate to replace Bourn in the lead-off spot. He's never played above AA but he's also a year younger and if last year was any indication the Astros may not have a problem with that. The Astros can't go wrong with either Danks or Komatsu both appear capable of playing the center field position and each bring something the Astros desperately need. Power and the ability to get on base.
Clarence AKA Clack:
I am surprised that the Nats made Komatsu available. He was the Brewers' minor league player of the year in 2010, and he was having al good season in AA before he was traded to the Nats. His minor league offense tailed off with the Nats, and maybe that's why they left him off the 40 man roster. But the Nationals' front office and manager extolled his potential when they traded Jerry Hairston for him at mid season. After acquiring him, the Nats suggested he might be a 4th outfielder call up if injuries occurred. He might be worth looking at in spring training as a competitor with Shuck and others for the 5th outfielder slot.
Gorman Erickson: The soon to be 24 year old switch hitting catcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, has some potential to be a good offensive option at the catcher position. He rebounded offensively from a poor 2010 campaign batting .293/.379/.486 between high A Rancho Cucamonga and AA Chattanooga. He has a good walk rate, low strike out rate and reached double digit homeruns for the first time last season. Defensively he's still a work in progress but there's potential there to be a good backstop.
The Astros are looking at the possibility of carrying a third catcher next season. Erickson would be a nice candidate to do so. Unfortunately Mills wants that catcher to be able to play other positions. Erickson aside from 11 games at DH has seen all of his time behind the dish. If the Astros are willing to drop that stipulation Erickson could be an Astros selection.
John Hester: A 28 year old right handed hitting catcher in the Baltimore Orioles system. He was acquired with Mark Reynolds from the Arizona Diamondbacks last year around this time. Between the two systems he hit .252/.324/.350 at AAA. He's been at AAA since 2009 so that may say something about his potential at the major league level. He does have some power, but doesn't walk a lot and is very slow. Something the Astros might be interested in is that he calls a good game. His defense though probably isn't on par with Humberto Quintero.
The biggest thing Hester brings is that he'd be a cheaper option than Q who's set to make over a million in arbitration this year.
Brad Meyers: The 26 year old right handed Washington Nationals product spent a majority of his time starting between AA Harrisburg and AAA Syracuse last year. He posted a 3.18 ERA in 138.2 innings. The thing that stands out about Meyers is that he will not walk people. Last year he walked only 15 batters. It's pretty clear that he's a command and control type of pitcher. He's got a good repertoire including a low 90's fastball, curveball and changeup. He projects to be a middle to backend of the rotation starter.
Chris AKA CRPerry13:
Prior to 2011, Meyers was the 15th-best prospect in a good Washington Nationals system, according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. Goldstein said, "He has a deep arsenal and plus command and control; scouts just wish he threw harder." Just like Jose Altuve for the Astros, the results that Meyers keeps delivering should begin to speak for themselves, despite scouts' concerns. In 138.2 IP last season across three levels, Meyers held a 7.5 K/9 and a 1.0 BB/9 with an ERA of 3.18. He holds a career 2.86 ERA in over 450 innings. That's enough for a tryout in my book. If the Astros take this guy, the numbers indicate he could immediately succeed as their #4 starter.
Clarence AKA Clack:
Meyers' K:BB rate is great, and he probably is the most ML ready starting pitcher among the Rule 5 candidates. In AA, he worked over 40 innings before yielding a walk, and then it was an 8 pitch BB against a major league hitter.
Nick Barnese: The soon to be 23 year old is a right handed starter that has seen a steady climb through the Tampa Bay Rays system. Last year in AA Montgomery Barnese posted a 3.76 ERA in 117.1 innings with a 1.415 WHIP. He features a 89-94 fastball with movement, a curveball and a good changeup. He projects to be a middle to back end of the rotation starter. He posted the worst numbers of his career last year. John Sickels recently said that he has durability/injury concerns and rated him as a C+ prospect.
Like Meyers if the Astros are intent on trading Wandy and/or Meyers Barnese makes sense, but personally I would prefer Meyers.
Jesse AKA conroestro:
In terms of guys that have a good chance at sticking on the roster all year, I would say maybe Brad Meyers, Jordan Danks, or Pat Venditte would be good options and a safe pick. However If I was looking at upside then I would like Nick Barnese. He is definitely not ready, but has potential to be a decent starter in the future if he can get his walk rate under control. He is probably my favorite this year in the draft.
Bryce Stowell: The 25 year old right handed in the Cleveland Indians system is one of the best relief pitchers available. Scouting reports indicate he plays in the high 90's with the occasional triple digit reading. He also has a developing slider and a changeup. He only pitched 38.2 innings last year due to personal issues but did post a 2.09 ERA with a 35.4 K%. The negatives are that he walks almost 5 per nine innings and has struggled with arm issues in the past. Stowell projects to be a late inning reliever at the Major League level.
Stowell's walk rate, injury and personal issues are a concern but he wouldn't be a bad selection for a bullpen that struggled last year. A second round selection for Stowell or any other reliever is more likely.
Chris AKA CRPerry 13:
Stowell is a 25-year old right-hander with control issues. Prior to 2011, Goldstein ranked him #12 in the Indians system and had this to say: "This power reliever whiffed 102 over 67 1/3 innings in 2010; his upper-90s fastball should reach the majors in 2011." Stowell never made it to the majors, but his career line sits at 3.17 ERA with a 12.1 K/9. His elite strikeout rate and high walk rate make him look like a young Brad Lidge to me, and one thing the Astros lack is power power pitchers. If this guy is available later in the Rule 5 draft, the Astros need to take a look.
Brandon Sisk: The left handed 26 year old Kansas City Royals product is a relief pitcher with a low 90's fastball and low 80's off speed stuff. Between AA Northwest Arkansas and AAA Omaha Sisk posted a 2.52 ERA in 60.2 innings. He's got a good strikeout rate 8.6 K/9 and a decent walk rate 3.4 BB/9. He'd make for a good LOOGY.
Johan Yan: The righty side-arming 23 year old relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers has posted some pretty impressive numbers in the minors the last two years. Between high A Myrtle Beach and AA Frisco Yan compiled a 1.06 ERA in 68 innings of work. He features a heavy 87-90 mph sinker, a developing slider and a changeup. He's a converted shortstop so he's still a bit new to the pitching game but is showing a lot of success. He's been moving quickly through the Ranger's system and could be ready for majors in 2012 regardless of whether or not a team drafts him.
Clarence AKA Clack:
Yan may be one of the easier pitchers to keep on the roster because he can be used as a one hitter ROOGY reliever. I like the sidearm-quirky delivery relievers in that role, because hitters aren't used to seeing them.
Cesar Cabral: The soon to be 23 year old is a left handed relief pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization. Cabral is no stranger to the rule 5 drat as he was selected last year by the Rays but was returned to the Red Sox before the end of Spring Training. He's got good numbers across the board posting a 2.95 ERA between high A Salem and AA Portland in 55 innings. His K/9 has been trending upwards since he began pitching in the Minor Leagues, it peaked at 11.5 last year. His 3.4 BB/9 also isn't terrible and appears to be a result of him improving his strikeout numbers. As for stuff he has a low 90's fastball, a good low 80s change, mid 70's curvelball and low 80s slider.
Chris AKA CRPerry13:
Despite a 5-year minor league career, Cabral will be 23 years old in 2012. He's a lefty power reliever who posted a 11.5 K/9 last season with a not-shabby (for a strikeout pitcher) 3.4 BB/9 . Controlled wildness may make his ERA fluctuate initially in the majors, but at his age the Astros could use him in low-leverage situations while he learns to harness his stuff.
Pat Venditte: The 26 year old switch relief pitcher (ya you read that right) is a New York Yankees product. Venditte posted a 3.40 ERA in 90 innings at AA Trenton last year. He struck out almost a batter per inning and walked 3.1 per nine innings. Even though he has the platoon advantage his stuff isn't that great and he lacks an out pitch. From the right side he has an over the top delivery with a low 90's fastball and curve ball. From the left he has a much slower fastball to go along with a slider and changeup. If you're wondering what happens when a switch hitter comes to the plate here's a video.
There are still a lot of question marks about whether or not Venditte can be a viable relief option at the Major League level. Obviously he has the platoon advantage against every batter but his stuff is lacking. However if the Astros are looking for a reason to get fans to the ballpark this could be an option.