With the World Series now behind us, it is time for the MLB offseason to begin officially. One order of business is determining how to situate the 40-man roster for future additions to the club, such as free agency, trades, or the Rule 5 draft. But who deserves to stay or go from the Houston Astros 40-man roster?
The team has already announced that they are declining right-handed pitcher Chad Qualls’ $3.5 million club option for 2016. There are sure to be even more names joining him on the list of former Astros this offseason. One name that pops into mind is none other than outfielder Robbie Grossman.
Why Grossman specifically, you may ask?
For one he plays in a position that is awfully crowded, even if Colby Rasmus decides to walk. This is an outfield that when healthy projects to have Carlos Gomez in center, George Springer in right, and most likely a platoon set up with Jake Marisnick and Preston Tucker in left. And the issue of where Evan Gattis plays when a specific lineup configuration is used only further complicates playing time. And with more outfield prospects advancing throughout the system, Grossman may find an issue with getting adequate playing time on the major- and minor-league level.
Another reason Grossman may find himself off the 40-man roster soon is that he has failed to live up to any of the promises that the Astros envisioned for him since his solid finish to the 2013 season. He has had two full seasons to show the Astros what they are missing, and while he has been adequate in his time with the Astros Triple-A affiliates, it hasn’t been like he was setting the world on fire.
For instance, he finished the 2015 season in Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies with a .254/.354/.349 batting stat line. That equated into a 93 wRC+ with a .325 wOBA, which is below average. And don’t forget that Grossman did appear in 24 major league games in 2015, but only hitting .143/.222/.245 for a 28 wRC+. Now his 2015 sample size is quite limited, but given his track record in the minors the production has failed to justify a roster spot on the Astros 40-man roster any longer.
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Other Astros’ Outfield Prospects
Perhaps the biggest reason the Astros could elect to waive Grossman 40-man roster is the upcoming Rule 5 draft. As all Astros fans remember last year, the front office made some interesting choices of who to leave off the 40-man roster, specifically Delino DeShields Jr. That was due more from lack of available roster spots in relation to the excess minor league talent advancing through the system. But the Astros may be afraid to let another DeShields slip through the cracks again, which is why Grossman is one of the most logical candidates to drop from the 40-man roster. His roster spot could be used on any one of the numerous prospects that Astros’ fans have become familiar with over the years.
Outfielder Andrew Aplin is one name that comes to mind. Aplin may have limited ceiling, but he has traditionally historically has a favorable strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors. This could be of value to the Astros, especially if the front office projects Aplin to have a solid hit tool and a penchant for walks, albeit with little power. And with Aplin already reaching the Triple-A level he could be viewed as an outfield replacement in the majors next season with more long-term control than Grossman.
Nolan Fontana is another name most fans should know about, as he was the second-round pick by the Astros in the same draft that netted Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers. Unlike his peers, Fontana has had issues with injuries and poor production in the minors. But the potential is still there, especially if Fontana can keep his traditionally high OBP numbers in the above-average range. Don’t forget that the Astros did invest a high draft pick in Fontana so there is doubt that they would give up on him so easily at this point in his professional career.
Aplin and Fontana along with a few other minor leaguers in the Astros system currently hold more potential than Grossman. And with his drop in production taken into account it definitely appears that Grossman could be a prime candidate to be dropped from the 40-man roster. At the end of the day baseball is a business, and the Astros undoubtedly will be examining every possible move before the start of the 2016 season to set the organization up for short- and long-term success.