The Astros have a large number of players that will be eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft. Thanks to Farmstros for posting the list. In order for the Astros to protect players, they must be added to the 40-man roster. There are plenty of names on the list that most of us have never heard before. Obviously several of them will be left unprotected. But there are at least nine players on the list that I think the Astros should keep.
A 23-year old right-handed starter from the Domincan Republic, Cisnero had a breakout season in 2012, going 9-6 with a 3.40 ERA in twenty AA starts before being promoted to AAA. In Oklahoma City he won four of five decisions despite seeing a decline in his overall numbers. Cisnero is a hard thrower and has averaged well over a strikeout per inning in his five year minor league career. In addition to a blazing fastball, Cisnero features a sinking 2-seamer and a tremendous slider.
Control has been an issue and his off-speed pitches are works in progress. Although he has been used exclusively as a starter in the minors, Cisnero could secure a spot in the Astros bullpen sooner rather than later. Whether he makes it as a starter or reliever, expect to see Cisnero in Houston by the All-Star break.
Cosart, still only 22-years old, was rated by Baseball America as the #50 prospect going into the 2012 season. The 6 ft. 3 in. 180-pound righty was limited to 115 innings pitched this season due to recurring blisters on his pitching hand and is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
Cosart’s arsenal includes a high-nineties fastball as well as a hard 2-seamer. His curve and changeup are also rated as plus pitches. Cosart has ascended quickly through the minors, making it all the way to AAA before the end of the 2012 campaign. He has maintained an impressive career hit rate of 7.9 per 9 IP and also keeps the ball in the yard (0.4 HR per 9 IP). Part of Cosart’s success can be attributed to an excellent ground ball rate, but some say he has the potential to get more strikeouts. If he can stay healthy, some scouts point to his “inverted W” delivery as a cause for concern, Cosart could be part of the Astros rotation come September.
Grossman, who recently celebrated his 23rd birthday, came to the Astros from Pittsburgh in the Wandy Rodriguez trade. What the Astros like about the young outfielder is his plate discipline. In 2011 he drew 104 walks and scored 127 runs at High-A Bradenton. He followed that up with 77 walks at the AA level in 2012. The strikeouts are also a bit high, but Grossman has shown a little pop and has above average speed on the base paths. The switch-hitter from Cy-Fair High School should be protected and sent to Oklahoma City to start the season.
The Astros will want to hang on to Krauss due to his power potential. After coming over in the Chris Johnson trade, Krauss belted five homers in seven games at Corpus Christi. He was quickly promoted to Oklahoma City where he struggled down the stretch. The owner of a .276/.370/.481 slash line in four minor league seasons, Krauss is a corner OF/DH type who has scrapped switch-hitting in favor of batting left-handed. His inability to hit lefties makes Krauss project as more of a platoon player or pinch-hitter. Like most young power hitters, his strikeout rate is also high.
Lo, who will turn 27 in April, finds his career is a bit behind schedule after missing almost all of 2011 and part of 2012 with Tommy John Surgery. Another right-hander with a mid-nineties heater, Lo has been successful working in late relief in the Arizona Fall League. Lo also possesses a plus curve and the Astros may want to get a longer look before giving up on him. The Astros don’t have a surplus of hard throwers and if Lo continues to pitch well in Arizona he could be in Kissimmee in February.
Oberholtzer is a 23-year old lefty who entered pro ball at the age of 18, hence his eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft. Acquired in the Michael Bourn trade, Brett has posted a 3.75 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP in 561 minor league innings, almost all of them as a starter. Although he’s not a power pitcher, his strikeout-to-walk numbers are good. The rest of his numbers are nothing to write home about but the Astros will probably want to see if his experience translates into success at the AAA level this year. If so, Oberholtzer could be in the back end of a big league rotation in 2014.
Approaching his 22nd birthday, Perez is an offensive-minded catcher with decent defensive skills to boot. Perez has a good eye at the plate, as evidenced by his career 221/180 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His offensive potential is too much to ignore. A quick bat suggests that his power will eventually develop into more than just doubles.
Perez has also been lauded for his game-calling skills behind the plate. A big part of the deadline deal with the Blue Jays, Perez quickly became one of the Astros top catching prospects. For that reason I can’t imagine he would be left unprotected.
In 2012 Stoffel had an outstanding age 23 season, posting 27 saves and a 2.33 ERA at AA Corpus Christi. The key to Stoffel’s success was a dramatic improvement in his command. Jason had only 13 unintentional walks in 58 innings pitched. That was quite an improvement from 2011 when he issued 21 walks in 48 innings.
Stoffel features a fastball that clocks consistently at 93, a hard-breaking slider and curveball. The University of Arizona product has averaged more than a strikeout per inning at all levels and should be headed to AAA in 2013.
Villar is a toolsy shortstop that the Astros will certainly want to be patient with. Jonathan will enter his age 22 season with five years of experience and 162 minor league stolen bases to his credit. Still a bit raw and immature, Villar’s 2012 season ended early when he broke his hand trying to beat up a door. Although he still has a lot to learn, Villar is rated as one of the Astros top prospects.
Other players that warrant consideration: (age listed is as of Opening Day 2013, stats are from 2012)
1B/3B Erik Castro, 25 (27 HR, 108 RBI at High-A Lancaster)
OF Jacob Goebbert, 25 (.304/.399/.473 at AA Corpus Christi)
RHP Ross Seaton, 23 (8-8, 4.07 at AA Corpus Christi)
RHP Josh Zeid, 26 (66 K in 56 IP at AA Corpus Christi)
With the exception of Seaton, these players were all a bit long in the tooth compared to their competition. They are also less likely to be drafted by other teams.
Assuming that the Astros decide to add ten of these players to the 40-man roster, ten others will have to be dropped. I’ll take a look at who those players might be in an upcoming post entitled non-tender candidates.