One aspect which I enjoy about following the minor league side of the Houston Astros is that it gives me a chance to study numerous functions of a baseball franchise that I don't find much information about on the team's big league website or other outlets that focus on the happenings at Minute Maid Park.
For example, as the season opener draws near, I am fairly certain that one of many things in the minds of the Astros minor league staff is the Rule 5 draft status of their players. At the end of the 2009 season, about 25 players will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December for the first time unless they are added to the 40-man roster in the fall.
I assume that two of these players, Chris Johnson and Bud Norris will be on the 40-man roster before the regular season wraps up. In addition to Norris and Johnson, there are five players who could increase their value and force their way onto the 40-man roster with a strong season:
Sergio Perez, RHP. Perez was injury plagued in 2008. The starter was in big league camp as a non-roster invitee.
Bryan Hallberg, RHP. Hallberg was a solid set up man in High A in 2008. A repeat in AA could merit him the protection of a 40-man spot.
Jimmy Van Ostrand, 1B/OF. Van Ostrand was solid in Salem, struggled in Corpus and represented Canada in the Olympics in 2008. I assume he will be making his case in the Corpus Christi outfield in 2009.
Koby Clemens, C. Clemens is still a work in progress as a catcher. However, a big showing in 2009 may make a team willing to take a Rule 5 shot on him.
Leandro Cespedes, RHP. Cespedes was the most consistent starter at Low A Lexington last season. He is a long shot, but a strong High A showing, could land him on the 40-man roster.
In addition to these five players, Mark Ori, Chris Blazek, Tip Fairchild, and Josh Flores will be in their second year of Rule 5 eligibility and may merit a closer look the second time around. This was the case with Drew Sutton, who was left vulnerable to the 2007 Rule 5 Draft before being added to the 40-man roster last fall.