The Astros have announced that that both Rule 5 draft picks, Marwin Gonzalez and Rhiner Cruz will make the Opening Day roster. Per Rule 5 draft rules, a player must stay on the big league club the entire year or be offered back to his original club for $25,000.00. Lucas Harrell has also won the fifth starters spot in the rotation as Jordan Lyles has been optioned to AAA Oklahoma City and will begin the season there. He and Paul Clemens will be first in line for a big league promotion if a current starter is injured or not performing. These announcements, along with the recent cuts and options have set the Astros Opening Day roster. All we need is an official announcement from the club.
Rhiner Cruz was the first overall pick in the Rule 5 draft this past season as the Astros plucked him from the Mets. A power pitcher, with a fastball that easily hits 95 and sometimes higher, Cruz relies on this pitch a lot. He also throws a decent slider that looks more like a slurve. He needs help developing that pitch if he truly wants it to be his “out pitch” at the big league level. Cruz posted a 3.89 ERA over two levels last season, striking out 69 batters and walking 45 in 71 2/3 innings with the Mets organization. Any unprotected player who signed at age 19 or older and has been in his current organization for at least four years, or who signed at age 18 or younger and has been in his organization for at least five years, is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Cruz fit that mold. He had a less than stellar Spring Training this year as he posted a 6.75 ERA over 9.1 innings. He was also selected by Greg as the Astro having the worst Spring Training just a few weeks ago in our weekly roundtable. He will enter the season as a bullpen arm and has a 50/50 chance of remaining with the club the entire year.
Marwin Gonzalez was also a Rule 5 selection by the Astros, however, he was not taken by the Astros but rather by the Red Sox. The Astros traded their second pick in the Rule 5 draft, Marco Duarte to Boston for Gonzalez straight up. The 23-year-old shortstop will be a back up infielder. His primary position is shortstop but can also backup third base and second base. He hit .288 with a .343 on-base percentage and a .400 slugging percentage in a 2011 season split between Class AA and Class AAA for the Cubs. This year in Spring Training, he hit .182 over 44 AB’s, however, his defense was superb. Gonzalez could see extensive playing time if Jed Lowrie‘s injury is worse than we thought and he ends up losing time due to it. I believe he will stick on the Astros roster all year and not be offered back to the Cubs. These are two low risk moves by the Astros that could end up paying huge dividends if everything works out. Here’s hoping it does.