Houston Astros: Weeding out the 40-man roster, Villar, Grossman.

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The Houston Astros start preparing for the Friday 11:59 ET deadline to protect the 11 eligible players from the Rule V draft with a flurry of moves Thursday afternoon. The writers at CTH have done a Weeding out the 40-man roster series before today’s news, with one of our featured players indeed being released. At the start of the day, the Astros had 37 players on the 40-man roster, which only left three open spots on the roster.

Last season around this time, the Astros failed to protect Michael Feliz, which sparked so much conversation about their decision as he was in the Top-100 prospects at the time. Luhnow made the announcement mid-afternoon that he would not be protecting Feliz, which caused me to write this: The Next Johan Santana? Michael Feliz not Protected by Astros. Rumor has it that Luhnow was working on the Evan Gattis trade at that time, and Feliz could have been involved, but he later announced that he was added. I wrote about that here: Michael Feliz Added to the Astros 40-Man Roster, How the Rule 5 Draft Works.

A year later, the Astros hope that they don’t miss out on another player like they lost in Delino DeShields Jr to the Texas Rangers last in the Rule V draft. Let’s take a look at today’s moves.

Jonathan Villar Traded

The first Astros trade of the offseason involved the once shortstop of the future, at least until Carlos Correa arrived. When he came up, he brought this fire to the lineup with his hustle on the bases and occasional pop. However, his production quickly dropped off and then the boneheaded mistakes started. Don’t get me wrong, Villar has the tools to be a good player, he just occasionally lacks the focus. He could go on to his new team and still have a successful career, but appears to be a Marwin Gonzalez type of utility infielder.

The Astros traded Villar to the Milwaukee Brewers for High-A pitcher Cy Sneed. Take a second and give you a chance to snicker about his name, yes Dallas Kuechel just won the Cy Young Award yesterday, now let’s get back to business. Sneed was drafted in the third round of the 2014 MLB draft by the Brewers. He struggled in his first season of pro ball, going 0-2/ 5.62 ERA/ 31 strikeouts in 38 innings. Sneed got back on track in 2015, going 6-11/ 3.62 ERA, and 122 strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings between low and high A teams. Stats from Baseball-Reference.

This move gets the Astros 40-man roster down to 36.

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Robbie Grossman

The Astros also released Grossman. As part of the Wandy Rodriguez trade much was expected from the former top prospect, but he never seemed to find the balance needed to hold onto a roster/lineup spot. There was a time where Grossman was a regular player with the Astros, and the they offered him a long-term contract despite the low service time. Thankfully he did not accept, but he will find a way onto another team if, for nothing else, he’s good outfield depth. Grossman helped the Triple-A Grizzlies win the AAA Championship. Some might say he had less talent than Villar, but he has more heart. I will miss Robbie, but we saw this coming here: Houston Astros: Weeding out the 40-man Roster, Robbie Grossman.

Grossman played 190 games with the Astros in his career, hitting .240/ 11 homers/ 63 RBI/ 15 steals over three years. This move gets the Astros 40-man roster down to 35.

Luis Cruz

The casual fan may have never heard of Luis Cruz, but he has been in the Astros system since 2008. He was drafted as a 17-year-old left-handed pitcher out of Puerto Rico. The Astros must have felt like after eight seasons in the minor leagues; there was little reason to protect him on the 40-man roster. Cruz had a 42-40/ 4.40 ERA/ 746 strikeouts in 799 1/3 minor league innings. I predicted he would be on the 2017 Astros World Series roster here: Astros 2017 World Series Roster Part II, I was a little off.

Next: Houston Astros 2015 Season Recap: Jonathan Villar

This move gets the Astros 40-man roster down to 34. This will give the Astros some room to protect some of their top prospects from the Rule V draft. Who are these prospects, check back at CTH later for more information.

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