Spring training is coming to an end, and with that comes the finalization of the Astros 25-man roster for this season. Several roster moves have already taken place, but three questions standout the most in regards to moves that Wade and Mills have already made, or will make before opening day.
1.) Why wasn’t Aneury Rodriguez given more of an opportunity to compete for the fifth starter’s role?
By now you are all aware of the fact that the Astros selected Nelson Figueroa for the final spot in the starting rotation. Figueroa beat out rule-5 picks Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton, Ryan Rowland-Smith, and top prospect Jordan Lyles. The last couple of weeks it seemed like the decision came down to Jordan Lyles and Nelson Figueroa. Ed Wade and Brad Mills did get it right by reassigning Lyles to minor league camp as he can use the time to fine tune his craft, but it seems like they ignored another capable candidate.
If you haven’t figured it out by now I’m talking about one of the rule 5 picks Aneury Rodriguez, who seemed like he was never really given a fair chance to showcase his talents for the rotation this spring. There is the obvious disclaimer that spring stats do not carry much weight, but if it was a competition this spring, then there really wasn’t anything else to analyze but spring performances, which means that Figueroa’s end to last season shouldn’t have carried that much weight. It has been said that September performances are similar to spring training in the way that a good performance towards the end of the year does not always translate into success the next season. An argument could be made that in the limited amount of opportunities he was given, Rodriguez outperformed Figueroa this spring. While the obvious benefit of added experience is brought to the rotation by choosing Figueroa over Rodriguez, there seems to be 3 strong arguments that could have been made in Rodriguez’s favor for that final spot that we will discuss after the jump.
1.) The last time I checked it seemed like the Astros were rebuilding.
The Astros farm system has a long way to go, but is getting stronger. Some people have said that the Astros have a chance to be competitive in 2 or 3 years. If this is truly the case then it seems like the Astros would be better served going with Rodriguez, who has more upside, over a guy like Figueroa who brings little upside to the Astros beyond this year. The simple fact is rookie pitchers seem to struggle in their first shot in the majors.Why not give Rodriguez that year for the experience with the possibility of him rounding into form in 2 or 3 years when the Astros have a greater chance to be competitive.
2.) What about Aneury Rodriguez’s rule-5 status?
Aneury Rodriguez has to be kept on the 25 man roster all season or the Astros risk the chance of having to offer him back to the Rays. There is a good possibility that the Astros could hide Rodriguez away in the bullpen this season thus being able to retain him for the future. The problem with this is that he has been groomed as a starter throughout his minor league career, and also had a good amount of success at the triple-A level last year. By keeping Rodriguez in the bullpen all year he misses out on continuing to build up his total innings pitched, which would make it tough for him to convert back to a starter at the major league level next year as well. By putting Rodriguez in the bullpen his develop as a starter is not set back by just this season, but by next the next season as well.
3.) Who would be used as the primary spot starter?
The role of a swingman is not one that most view very highly, but having a capable spot starter to safeguard against injury without having to make a roster adjustment would seem to be beneficial to any club. Brian Moehler was able to fill this role the last couple of years with a decent amount of success, and based on his performance last year, Figueroa could probably perform better in that role than Moehler. The point I'm trying to make is that in this situation it seems like Figueroa brings more value to the team as a spot starter than he would in the rotation if Rodriguez is able to put up comparable numbers. If Rodriguez proves that he's not ready to man the role after a couple of starts, then you always have Nelson Figueroa ready and waiting as an insurance policy.
2.) What do the Astros do with Fernando Abad?
Fernando Abad entered spring training as one of the favorites to win a lefty spot in the pen. The problem is that Abad has not had the same success that he had to close out last season. With one of the lefty spots seemingly going to Ryan Rowland- smith, should the Astros go with Gustavo Chacin as the second lefty in the pen, assuming that the Astros decide to carry two lefties this year? With the success that Abad had at the end of last year, coupled with his strong showing as a starter in winter ball, hopes were high for Abad entering the start of spring training. The results however have not carried over to the spring, and Abad has not done anything to warrant a spot on the 25-man roster thus far. At this point it seems like the Astros would be best served sending Abad to Oklahoma City, giving him the chance to continue to convert into a starter. If Abad could put it together in triple-A, having both him and Lyles for the future would provide quality depth and a brighter outlook for the team. This thought process goes hand and hand with what was mentioned earlier, are the Astros trying to be competitive now, or are they rebuilding for the future.
3.) Who will win the fifth outfielder's role this year?
The Astros surprised several people today by reassigning Brian Bogusevic to minor league camp, and keeping J.B. Shuck in big league camp. This would seem to make Jason Bourgeois the favorite to win the spot, but stranger things have happened. It seems like the Astros would be best served starting Shuck out in Oklahoma City this year, where he can continue his development. In Oklahoma City Shuck can continue to develop as an everyday player, as where with the Astros he would be used sparingly. The only situation that I see Shuck start for the Astros this season would be if an injury occurs. Shuck’s power concerns could be negated if other starters carried their weight in that department. If Pence, Lee, Wallace, Johnson, and Hall all hit with the power the Astros hope then that would mask Shuck's lack of power. If this scenario played out then Shuck's value to the team this year would probably be greater to the club than it would be in the future. The Astros would probably like better defense and more power in the long-term out of their outfielders, which means if he started or played a lot this season, that may not translate into next season and beyond.
To sum everything up, with the current roster decisions that Ed Wade and Brad Mills have made, you have to wonder if Wade has sacrificed some of the future development of players this season for a few more wins in an attempt to campaign for his job next season. It seemed like Ed Wade finally got Drayton to commit to a full on rebuilding process, but has taken a couple of steps backwards in that process so far this season.