Astros Rule 5 picks; What role will they play?


With the first pick in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft the Astros chose right-handed pitcher Rhiner Cruz from the New York Mets organization. The Astros also chose another pitcher, Marco Duarte, but traded him to Boston in exchange for shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. Both players will have to spend the entire season on the Astros roster or be offered back to their original organization. In full rebuild node, the Astros may decide to keep both players.

Cruz is a 25 year-old from the Dominican Republic and is currently playing winter ball in his native land. Cruz has a power arm but has yet to harness his control. That sounds familiar! Cruz has served as a reliever in the minors and could find a spot in the Astros bullpen this season. The Astros are hoping that Cruz will eventually establish himself as a dependable late-inning reliever.

Stashing a Rule 5 reliever on the roster all season is pretty commonplace, but a shortstop could be a slightly more difficult proposition. That’s what makes the trade for Gonzalez so intriguing. The two shortstops already on the Astros 40-man roster, Brian Bixler and Angel Sanchez, are both out of minor league options. If Gonzalez makes the club, Bixler and/or Sanchez would be exposed to waivers. The possibility also exists that one of the shortstop candidates could be traded.

I don’t think the Astros would have acquired Gonzalez unless they intended to keep him. But I could be wrong. As Alex mentioned in an earlier post, Jeff Luhnow is always thinking one move ahead.

The Astros like what they see in Gonzalez, who will turn 23 prior to Opening Day. Gonzalez is currently hitting .321 with 16 RBIs for Caracas in the Venezuelan League. Gonzalez has been playing in the Cubs minor league system since he was seventeen and advanced to the AAA level in the middle of last season. Gonzalez hit .274/.326/.376 in 60 games at Iowa. Gonzalez is a switch-hitter and has steadily improved his defense at every level. The Astros are said to be very impressed with his glove. Keep an eye on him in Spring Training. If he impresses the coaches Gonzalez could start the season as the Astros starting shortstop. That could be considered a risky move, but the rebuilding Astros have more to gain than lose. It wouldn’t be an unprecedented move. The Florida Marlins took Dan Uggla in the 2005 Rule 5 Draft and that worked out pretty nicely. Uggla was an All-Star in his rookie season and has gone on to have a pretty good career.

Tags: Astros Dan Uggla Marlins Marwin Gonzalez Rhiner Cruz Rule 5 Draft Winter Leagues

  • LEXthePEX

    I really like the Marwin Gonzalez deal, if for nothing else to reduce Sanchez’ playing time. I don’t expect Hanley Ramierz or Jose Reyes but he could turn into a very nice utility guy.

    Not sure what I think about Rhiner Cruz being the 1st pick but the guy does throw VERY hard. Throw him the mix with Jose Abreu and that could be a nice duo with Melancon.

  • LEXthePEX

    I really like the Marwin Gonzalez deal, if for nothing else to reduce Sanchez’ playing time. I don’t expect Hanley Ramierz or Jose Reyes but he could turn into a very nice utility guy.

    Not sure what I think about Rhiner Cruz being the 1st pick but the guy does throw VERY hard. Throw him the mix with Jose Abreu and that could be a nice duo with Melancon.

    • Stroscrow

      @LEXthePEX
      Where to start with Rhiner. Hard(ish) thrower. Sits mid nineties, but sever control issues and also lacks secondary pitches. I’m hopeful that when he was scouting there was something noted in his mechanics that Heck and co saw and felt like they could fix it. If this is the case then the selection will look better.

      Still, don’t him having all that great of a chance at sticking. Melancon, Fernando Rodriguez, and Wilton Lopez all seem like locks for a bullpen spot. Add in a lefty and then you have three spots left. Lyon may be a given, Juan Abeu pitched well enough to get a strong look. Maybe Rhiner will be sitting in that last spot, but it seems like the Astros would have just as many internal options that could give what Rhiner can give.

      • Its Gonna Happen

        @Stroscrow @LEXthePEX just had to bring up Lyon didn’t you?

        You’re right about Melancon F-Rod and Lopez being locks, but we have some pretty good candidates in Carpenter Valdez (If he can do what he does in AAA) An-Rod (could be a SP?) and Storey. I agree that Cruz was a risk with the #1 pick, with his seemingly HUGE control issues, but I think he has as much upside as anyone else. His upside being a closer with dominant stuff (if he can figure out a secondary pitch).

        Marwin Gonzales, you have to love him for the name alone. Now, its no Wallace Gonzales, but its still pretty good. There are conflicting reports about how good his D actually is but his bat seems like it has the potential to be REALLY good, ya know, for a SS. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do and I hope we keep him. If he’s good enough to be considered a Major Leaguer at 23, just think what he could be in his peak years 27-30

  • Stroscrow

    I think Alyson Footer tweeted that the Rule 5 pick was completely Assistant GM David Gottfried’s decision, and that Luhnow was not a part of that decision.

    As for Marwin Gonzalez, I really like the pick and believe that he will stick on the roster all year long. As far as what he brings to the table defensively I have heard varying reports both good and bad. I think his bat has steadily improved and some of the Cubs outlets even reported that things may have started clicking for him last year as he started looking like a more complete player.

    I don’t think you have to worry about Brian Bixler or Angel Sanchez getting claimed if they were optioned as every team pretty much has an Angel Sanchez and a Brian Bixler. Even if one gets claimed I view the two to be pretty interchangeable, and thus I really don’t see it as much of a loss.

    I was real disappointed with the Rhiner Cruz pick. I felt like the Astros really dropped the ball on that one. I felt that with the shape the Astros system was in, that they needed to treat the rule 5 draft as a chance to snag the player with the most upside, and not really the one who could help the team now. Brad Meyers and Terry Doyle seemed like good fits. Alot of people were high on Jordan Danks, but I viewed him more as somebody that seemed redundant with Jordan Schafer already on the team. Jiwan James may have been the player with the most upside, but was also a long ways away from being considered a polished prospect. My favorite was Nick Barnese of the DevilRays. He had a good year last year, and still has Middle of the rotation upside, though it may be unlikely that he hits it. He was the pitcher that I considered most similar to Aneury Rodriguez of last years draft, and I think there is a good chance that Barnese becomes a better pitcher than Aneury.

  • Stroscrow

    @LEXthePEX
    Where to start with Rhiner. Hard(ish) thrower. Sits mid nineties, but sever control issues and also lacks secondary pitches. I’m hopeful that when he was scouting there was something noted in his mechanics that Heck and co saw and felt like they could fix it. If this is the case then the selection will look better.

    Still, don’t him having all that great of a chance at sticking. Melancon, Fernando Rodriguez, and Wilton Lopez all seem like locks for a bullpen spot. Add in a lefty and then you have three spots left. Lyon may be a given, Juan Abeu pitched well enough to get a strong look. Maybe Rhiner will be sitting in that last spot, but it seems like the Astros would have just as many internal options that could give what Rhiner can give.

  • Stroscrow

    I think Alyson Footer tweeted that the Rule 5 pick was completely Assistant GM David Gottfried’s decision, and that Luhnow was not a part of that decision.

    As for Marwin Gonzalez, I really like the pick and believe that he will stick on the roster all year long. As far as what he brings to the table defensively I have heard varying reports both good and bad. I think his bat has steadily improved and some of the Cubs outlets even reported that things may have started clicking for him last year as he started looking like a more complete player.

    I don’t think you have to worry about Brian Bixler or Angel Sanchez getting claimed if they were optioned as every team pretty much has an Angel Sanchez and a Brian Bixler. Even if one gets claimed I view the two to be pretty interchangeable, and thus I really don’t see it as much of a loss.

    I was real disappointed with the Rhiner Cruz pick. I felt like the Astros really dropped the ball on that one. I felt that with the shape the Astros system was in, that they needed to treat the rule 5 draft as a chance to snag the player with the most upside, and not really the one who could help the team now. Brad Meyers and Terry Doyle seemed like good fits. Alot of people were high on Jordan Danks, but I viewed him more as somebody that seemed redundant with Jordan Schafer already on the team. Jiwan James may have been the player with the most upside, but was also a long ways away from being considered a polished prospect. My favorite was Nick Barnese of the DevilRays. He had a good year last year, and still has Middle of the rotation upside, though it may be unlikely that he hits it. He was the pitcher that I considered most similar to Aneury Rodriguez of last years draft, and I think there is a good chance that Barnese becomes a better pitcher than Aneury.

  • Its Gonna Happen

    @Stroscrow @LEXthePEX just had to bring up Lyon didn’t you?

    You’re right about Melancon F-Rod and Lopez being locks, but we have some pretty good candidates in Carpenter Valdez (If he can do what he does in AAA) An-Rod (could be a SP?) and Storey. I agree that Cruz was a risk with the #1 pick, with his seemingly HUGE control issues, but I think he has as much upside as anyone else. His upside being a closer with dominant stuff (if he can figure out a secondary pitch).

    Marwin Gonzales, you have to love him for the name alone. Now, its no Wallace Gonzales, but its still pretty good. There are conflicting reports about how good his D actually is but his bat seems like it has the potential to be REALLY good, ya know, for a SS. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do and I hope we keep him. If he’s good enough to be considered a Major Leaguer at 23, just think what he could be in his peak years 27-30