Rule 5 draft and the roster- Who will be on the 40-man roster?
Now that we have established who is likely to be leaving the next step will be to assess who will be on the 40-man roster and does the roster address the holes left behind by the players that leave? As we do this we need to consider the Rule 5 draft.
The details of the Rule 5 Draft are available from the Queen of Astros Minor Leagues – Jayne Hansen here
An Rule 5 eligible player is...
1) Anyone who signed prior to the conclusion of the 2014 season.
2) Any player who was 19-years-old at the time of signing after the end of the 2014 season or prior to the conclusion of the 2015 season.
3) Most 2015 drafted college players.
4) Any high school players drafted in 2015 will wait one more year.
What this means is certain minor leaguers whose name you know can be drafted away from the Astros if they are not added to the 40-man roster. The number of players the Astros will want to add from the 2014-2015 drafts partially explains their willingness to let the free agents previously discussed to walk.
On 11/2/18, the Astros signed Chris Herrmann in a classic quiet Jeff Luhnow increase your options and low risk- high potential reward type of move. His name shows in green in the table above. This move will set up other potential bigger moves at catcher will discuss in later sections.
The following table shows what I believe will be the Rule 5 draft roster IF no Ramon Laureano type trades are made between now and 11/20/18 (the day Rule 5 rosters are set).
The players in red font are currently NOT on the 40-man roster and the number is the prospect ranking in the Astros system. This brings the roster to 38 which leaves limited room for Free Agent signings.
Also, the top prospects such as Whitley, Alvarez, Martin, Beer, and Bukauskas are not on the projected 40-man roster. It is highly possible at least one if not more of these players will be added to the roster in 2019. Before we move forward, it is critical to understand there are only one or two roster spots even available to add a free agent this offseason.
MLB Free Agents
Earlier we said Catcher, First Base, Left Field, and possibly one Starting Pitcher are the biggest needs this offseason.
Catcher- Currently the Astros have three internal options (with 2018 stats per Fangraphs and 2019 projections)
None of these options inspires confidence. Starting Catcher is a HUGE hole for the 2019 Astros. Any of these CAN be a backup for this team. What are the viable options for a starter?
Best Available via trade
The Astros fan base has clamored for Realmuto for a year now. He is salaried controlled for two more seasons. The Marlins have multiple needs. Using the same ranking system we did to evaluate the Astros roster earlier (10 is the top 3 teams at the position, and 1 is the bottom 3 at the position), this is how the Marlins rank and the potential tradeable assets from the Astros who could be offered.
To simplify the analysis here, the Steamer600 projection from Frangraphs.com projects a player into a full-time starter role and projects their full-season value. The Astros are highly unlikely to offer Tucker nor Whitley. However, you can see how many players the Astros MIGHT consider tradeable would be and upgrade for the Marlins in 2019; and as they develop, their projected WAR would also rise. What if the Astros offered Stubbs (1.4), Reed (-0.1), Alvarez (1.7), Bukauskas (1.2), and McCurry (0.2) for Realmuto (3.7)? Should the Astros give up that much for two guaranteed years of Realmuto?
Best Free Agent Options
There are likely three options for a free agent Catcher. Shown here are their stats in 2018, their Fangraphs Depth Chart projections for 2019. Also shown here are several sources projecting what their contracts will be and an average of these projections.
Finally, a “Value Assessment” is done. This is asking how much is each WAR likely going to cost the Astros. Obviously, the smaller the number; the better the value for the Astros.
This would indicate Grandal and Ramos are the best investments. I believe the Astros will sign one of these two rather quickly or they will get a more cost-effective contract with Maldonado (2 yr/$8MM total.) I believe the Astros will sign a catcher vs. trading for Realmuto.
As for the other positions of need, First Base and Left Field, I do not believe the Astros will sign a top Free Agent, at least not until February.
Next time, we will address what some of the options are at Starting Pitching now with McCullers out all 2019.
Check out the other parts of the series below.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference, Sportrac, and Fangraphs***