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Starting nine: Astros 40-man roster; Rule 5 protection

TCB staff talks about the Astros' 40-man roster.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros made a slew of moves ahead of the Rule 5 draft cutoff on Friday including: trading Jonathan Villar, cutting ties with Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, and Luis Cruz. The Astros added left-hander pitcher Reymin Guduan, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, right-hander Chris Devenski, outfielder Danry Vasquez, right-hander Brady Rodgers, outfielder Andrew Aplin, infielder Nolan Fontana,  right-hander Kyle Smith, outfielder Andrew Aplin, and infielder Nolan Fontana.

The question posed to the TCB staff was:

Are you happy with the Astros decisions with the 40-man roster?



I still feel strongly that not throwing a protection Devenski's way is very likely going to mean that one of the other 29 teams are going to gamble on him as a depth middle reliever. Maybe that's not a huge deal, given the overall strength of our minor league stable of arms, but he is a guy I have pegged (right or wrong) to end up a very solid arm in the majors, and soon. Some feel he's still six months to a year away and thus less likely to be selected, but my feelings are that it only takes one team to disagree for us to lose him. The rebuilding teams, like the Phillies, make particularly good sense - they can take a chance on him, stash him in the bullpen in a season where losing is fine (if not outright advantageous) and continue working with him while he struggles a bit in the majors. So Devo is one guy I was really hoping to see protected. Otherwise, after thinking about it for the last few hours, I'm good with the rest of the protections.


I am mostly happy. "Protect Joe Musgrove and David Paulino" was my only real requirement, and they did so, so I'm good. I think some of the other additions aren't really necessary and the space could be better used elsewhere, but I'm not upset by them protecting other guys. It just kind of throws cold water on the hopes of a significant signing when guys like Nolan Fontana and Andrew Aplin take up the last spots.


I agree with Brian, except that my list was one shorter: So long as Musgrove was protected, I was going to be fine.

Do I understand Fontana or Minaya? No, I don't. But it's defensible, especially if you see Minaya as a trade chip, which I still suspect he is. Meanwhile, there's not a lot of 40-man flexibility left.


I think filling the 40-man indicates that Luhnow and company expect to be making trades. Speaking of which, if the Astros front office were the gang in Oliver and Company, who would be which? I gotta think Luhnow'd be Dodger and Mejdal would be Einstein, right? Who's Oliver? Carlos Correa? I digress.

As for the selections, I dunno. Musgrove was a no-brainer, but he's the only one in my opinion. I've literally never heard of Alfredo Gonzalez before today, but with the lack of depth in the minors at that position and his strong year at and behind the plate (or so I was it's understandable. I'm more of a skeptic on Paulino than everybody else because I struggle to envision a world in which a 21 year old with under 110 career innings would be added to even an ML bullpen, considering he just only completed 30 innings at High-A, and didn't perform particularly well. But if the front office believes in upside there worth protecting, I'm game. Vincent Velasquez was in a similar spot a year or so ago. I'm glad that Andrew Aplin was protected; it's been asked where he's gonna play, but unless Marisnick starts taking walks and whiffing less, and once Carlos Gomez leaves via trade/free agency, the outfield depth is going to look really thin. I like that Aplin will play great defense, doesn't strike out, and has a nearly Ensbergian walk rate. There's no thump in the stick, but he's a guy I'd hate for the Astros to lose for several reasons.

Which brings me to the final three. Nolan Fontana is one of the most perplexing baseball players I've followed. That walk rate. But...what else? TCB knows I was Jonathan Villar's biggest detractor around here, but I don't understand why Villar was traded just to protect Fontana. Or did they just like Cy Sneed that much and Fontana wouldn't have landed him? Oh, I'm sure Fontana will make a decent utility man in the near-ish future, and that he probably would have been selected in the Rule 5 for just that reason. But I'm just not sure the bat will play in the majors. And finally, I don't understand why either Gustave or Minaya were protected. They both throw gas, and it's possible one or the other would have been selected. But so what? They may even turn out to be good in the majors, but so what? Are the Astros lacking for young bullpen options? Like some others here, my preference would have been opting for Devenski or Rodgers. But at the same time...the Astros may be able to afford the loss of a couple back-end starters better than a couple of intriguing relief arms. Whodathunkit? Excess starting pitching.

I know my reply is getting long, but I think there are some interesting non-moves related to the 40-man that might explain why a couple decent starters were left off. Brett Oberholtzer, Brad Peacock, Dan Straily, and Asher Wojciechowski are still on it, so the Astros obviously still see them as potential major league contributors. As are (obviously) Michael Feliz and Velasquez. Remember when the best the Astros could muster up were Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton? Those guys wouldn't even make this 40-man roster.


I'm OK with the Rule 5 protection list. My only reservation is not protecting Devinski, who had a fine season in Corpus Christi. He was so exceptional at times last year that he seemed ready to make the jump to the majors. Devinski was a bit of streaky pitcher, throwing a no hitter in A ball, sharing a no hitter in AA, and opening the AA season with 27 straight scoreless innings. So, my gut feeling is that there is some risk he could be selected in the Rule 5. But, then again, I'm sure the Astros' front office has a better handle on this than me. As for the decisions on Minaya and Gonzalez, keep in mind that, as fans, we don't have the Astros' intel on other teams' approach to Rule 5 selections; the Astros may have fielded inquiries on these players from other teams. The Rule 5 protection process is less about ranking minor league talent, and more about predicting which players are most at risk of being selected.