With a little more than a week to go in spring training, the Astros should be ready to finalize their 25-man roster by this Wednesday. Yesterday I wrote that Jon Singleton might not make the opening day roster, but is still an important piece in the Astros future. The Astros have less time to decide on which player will make the rotation to start the season.
Rule 20B Free Agents Deadline
Roberto Hernandez and Joe Thatcher are Rule 20B free agents. This rule states that this player must be informed by the team if he has made the team or not, five days prior to start of the season. This is to allow said player to opt out of contract and seek employment elsewhere. There is a way around it, but you must pay the player a $100,000 fee. With both pitchers status to be decided on Tuesday, the roster will look clearer at that point.
The Astros need to decide what to do, and the decision will be either praised or criticized by Astros fans. The two pitchers competing against each other are Hernandez and Asher Wojciechowski. Hernandez is a nine-year veteran, and Wojciechowski is a young pitcher with injury history. I am predicting that the winner will be Roberto Hernandez.
Why Will the Astros go with Hernandez?
The Astros are loaded with pitching talent in the minor leagues, but not many of them are major league ready. While Wojciechowki appears to be ready from the way he has pitched this spring, the Astros are not going to discard a veteran presence like Hernandez until they can see what he can do in the regular season. Could this be Jerome Williams part II for the Astros?
Let’s look at an updated stats for the two candidates;
Wojciechowski has obviously outpitched Hernandez this spring, with 17 strikeouts compared to Hernandez’s five. Hernandez has not embarrassed himself out there either, and unlike Wojciechowski, he is out of options if he does not make the team. Wojciechowski can be sent down to AAA to start the year, and be called up when needed. He does not have to be on the opening day roster, but Hernandez does if the team wants to retain his services.
A good team has depth on its roster. Not just depth on the major league roster, but also in the minor leagues. If the Astros let Hernandez walk, they would be hurting their overall depth as an organization. If Hernandez struggles during the season, the Astros would then cross him of the pitching depth chart and move on.
Roberto Hernandez has had success in the majors before, but at that time it was under the name of Fausto Carmona. His best year was in 2007 with the Cleveland Indians, where he went 19-8/ 3.06 ERA/ 137 strikeouts in 215 innings. He also made the All-Star team in 2010 with the Indians, after which he started his struggles pitching. In 2014 between two teams, he went 8-11 with a 4.10 ERA.
He is a 34-year old pitcher with nine seasons under his belt, so his presence would not hurt the Astros young team in 2015.
Asher Wojciechowski’s Future
Even if the Astros didn’t really care if they held onto Roberto Hernandez, they have to deal with what I’ve referred to as the George Springer Effect with Asher Wojciechowski. If a baseball player makes his debut on opening day, the player will be granted free agency one year earlier. However, if a baseball team waits twelve games before calling the player up, they will gain one extra year of control. This is what happened with George Springer, and what the Cubs are dealing with in Kris Bryant‘s anticipated debut.
While this could not really be an issue with Wojciechowski, because he is not considered a top of the line prospect. If he turns into an above average pitcher, the Astros would welcome that extra year of control. Wojciechowski has experience at AAA, so besides Dan Straily who is currently getting ready for the season with Fresno, not too many pitchers are major league ready.
Astros fans, this is not goodbye forever for Wojciechowski. Instead, think of this as an “I will see you soon.”
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