Thursday the Astros trimmed their 40-man roster by sending Kyle Weiland to AAA Oklahoma City and outrighting five more players. Pitchers Fernando Abad, Sergio Escalona, Edgar Gonzalez, and Jose Valdez along with infielder Matt Downs are now restricted Free Agents. Today the Astros removed five more players from the 40-man, including Arcenio Leon who was claimed off waivers by Milwaukee.
Weiland won a spot in the Astros starting rotation last spring but stumbled out to an 0-3 record and 6.62 ERA in three April starts. Weiland was then sidelined with an infection in his pitching shoulder, which may have contributed to his struggles. He underwent surgery and missed the remainder of the 2012 season. If he proves to be fully recovered and can get back on his game, we could see Weiland back in Houston some time in 2013.
Fick was claimed off waivers from St. Louis last July and posted an unattractive 1.783 WHIP in 23 innings with Houston. The reliever appears to be a favorite of G.M. Jeff Luhnow, who drafted him in the 15th round of the 2007 draft. Personally, I don’t see anything that separates Fick from the other players that were rightfully sent packing.
Arcenio Leon becomes the second Astros player to be claimed by another team this week. Jordan Schafer was claimed earlier by the Braves. Leon spent his entire age 25 season at AA Corpus Christi where his walk rate of 4.7 per 9 innings had to be a deciding factor in his being placed on waivers.
The Astros also added a pair of players to the roster by claiming Sam Demel and Jake Elmore from the Diamondbacks organization. Demel spent most of 2010 and 2011 pitching out of the D-Backs bullpen before being returned to AAA in 2012. The 27-year old righty had a 4.07 ERA and fanned 10.2 batters per nine in 56 appearances out of Reno’s bullpen last season. Demel should go to Kissimmee as a favorite to nail down a spot in the Astros ‘pen.
Elmore, a 25-year old shortstop, had a breakout season at Reno in 2012. After two seasons at the AA level Elmore put it all together in AAA, posting a .344/.442/.465 slash line, stealing 32 bases, and driving in 73 runs. After being called up in September, Elmore hit .191 in 73 plate appearances with the D-Backs. He figures to get a long look in Spring Training and should break camp as the Astros backup middle infielder.
Expect more moves of this nature in the coming weeks as the Astros ready for the Rule 5 Draft. Houston has the first pick again this season and will be looking to add another player at that time.