At 8 PM ET, the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft passed with the Astros staying quiet as a flurry of activity came across the wires. Earlier in the day, the club announced that three players: catcher Garrett Stubbs, starting pitcher Rogelio Armenteros and reliever Bryan Abreu, had been added to the 40-man roster.
Protecting Armenteros was an easy move- the righty is very advanced, to the point that he likely would’ve pitched in the majors in 2018 for most any other club. Over the last two seasons, Armenteros has amassed 166.1 innings at the Triple-A level, maintaining a K rate of around 28% with a sub-10% walk rate. Opposition made more hard contact against him in 2018 than in 2017, and he isn’t one to overpower the opposition with premium stuff. He sports a three pitch mix highlighted by a plus changeup, and projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter. With the Astros’ rotation taking hits this offseason and the trade of Trent Thornton, it became a no-brainer to retain Armenteros’ services.
The Astros decision on Stubbs was also a straightforward one after the backstop’s resurgent 2018 season. The contact-oriented catcher was a favorite in Astros circles after posting astronomical OBPs in 2016, but saw his contact quality take a hit in 2017 as he largely struggled with the bat across Double and Triple-A. Despite issues, Stubbs was able to maintain his stellar BB and K rates and continued to do so in 2018, where he raked to the tune of a .310/.382/.455 line in 84 games. A strong athlete, Stubbs was also successful in all six of his stolen base attempts. His defensive skills are well regarded, and he has the look of a major league catcher, though likely in a secondary capacity.
Abreu is the most surprising addition to the roster, but it’s easy to understand why the Astros chose to do so. The 21 year old has only reached the Low-A level thus far, but was dominating in 38.1 innings there last season after being promoted from Tri-City. The 6’1” righty struck out a staggering 44.4% of opponents and had a tidy 1.64 ERA. The Fangraphs prospect team note that Abreu has been up to 97 with his fastball, and that both his slider and curveball flash plus. Abreu is seen as a pure relief arm, but he has major league stuff which would’ve made exposing him to the Rule 5 a risky proposition.
The most notable players not added to the roster were infielder Jonathan Arauz and reliever Riley Ferrell, a former third-round pick. Arauz was a ranked prospect entering the year and started hot at Quad Cities with a .299/.392/.471 line, but completely fell apart after a promotion to Buies Creek. Arauz’s most highly regarded tool is his bat, and with his hitting skills looking to need serious work it’s unlikely that he will be selected. Ferrell is a similar case to Abreu in that he has major league ready stuff, but the former TCU closer has struggled with consistency and his command continues to look like a liability. Regardless, teams are sure to be intrigued by his plus fastball and slider and may think they can bring out the last tick of command that he needs to be an effective reliever. Ferrell makes some sense for needy teams, and though there may be enough talent in the Rule 5 rule to push him out of consideration, there is a real possibility that the Astros could lose him in December.