He got a chance, and that's usually the most a Rule 5 draft pick can hope for. When the Astros selected Nate Freiman from the San Diego Padres during the second round of the Rule 5 draft over the winter, fans had dreams of a man-beast breaking windows in Minute Maid Park with his monstrous power shots. Alas, it was not to be.
Several factors worked against Freiman from the start, who was released by the Astros on March 23rd and was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Oakland A's. To begin, he was competing with an incumbent at first base, Brett Wallace, who has tenure with the organization, history with the General Manager from when he was drafted by the Cardinals, and has the flexibility to play Third Base as well. The Astros also committed several million dollars to Free Agent 1B Carlos Pena, who (despite the wishes of some fans--not me!) was never in danger of losing his roster spot due to his guaranteed contract. But one's chances never go so low that they can't be made lower with a good shovel, and when the Astros traded for Chris Carter, another hulking 1B with monster power, Freiman's chances at earning a roster spot dimmed to that of a red dwarf next to a supernova.
And that was all before Spring Training.
Freiman had an unexceptional spring, hitting .278/.278/.417 in 36 plate appearances. It's a small sample size, but only a handful of Astros hitters (most of them roster certainties) were given more trips to the plate than he was. Freiman drew a total of zero walks (a feat matched only by Carlos Corporan and Jose Martinez) and was out-homered by ten other players.
In such a small sample, one should not draw predictive conclusions, but the fact is, Freiman was outplayed by several others who could be considered as surprises: namely, Brandon Laird (.319/.396/.660), Brandon Barnes (.314/.324/.714), and Rick Ankiel (.361/.415/.667) all of whom are also fighting to earn roster spots against long odds. The Astros let it be known from the beginning: This year, spring performance does matter, and players who perform the best will earn space on the club. Freiman's production did not justify holding onto him at a position four players deep.
So, the A's now have the option to hold Freiman on their roster all season or expose him to waivers, where if unclaimed, he will return to the Padres. There's always a chance that irony could rear her ugly face, and Freiman will take over for Chris Carter on the A's and mash, causing regret and hair-pulling among the Astros' faithful. But in truth, the odds against Freiman are still pretty long. At least in Oakland he might be able to succeed where he was unable in Houston.