Astros protect three players from Rule 5 Draft

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Rogelio Armenteros #66 of the Houston Astros poses for a portrait at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 21, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Rogelio Armenteros #66 of the Houston Astros poses for a portrait at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 21, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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The deadline to protect eligible minor leaguers from the Rule 5 Draft was Tuesday, and the Astros protected three.

The Astros had some roster decisions to make with a few minor league players. The deadline to add Rule 5 Draft eligible players to the 40-man roster was 8 pm ET Tuesday. If the eligible players were not added to the 40-man roster by then, the Astros run the risk of losing them.

The team added Rogelio Armenteros, Garrett Stubbs, and Bryan Abreu to the 40-man roster to protect them from. Notable players who were eligible but not protected include Jonathan Arauz, Riley Ferrell, Cy Sneed, Drew Ferguson, Jack Mayfield and Jamie Ritchie.

Rule 5 in a Nutshell

Check out this piece from MLB.com for a full explanation of the Rule 5 Draft. Basically, players who’ve been in the system for a certain number of years and are not on the 40-man roster are eligible to be drafted by other teams for $100,000. The drafting team must keep the player on its 25-man roster for the entire season or offer the player back to the original team for $50,000.

The purpose is to prevent teams from stockpiling major league talent in their minor league systems. The Astros have a few noteworthy prospects who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year, so they had to decide whether to add them to the 40-man roster or expose them.

They already addressed one of these players, trading Trent Thornton to Toronto for Aledmys Diaz. Here’s a look at the players who were protected, as well as some who the team could potentially lose on Dec. 13.

Rogelio Armenteros, SP

Check out our prior spotlight on Armenteros. He’s the Astros’ 12th-ranked prospect, having spent all of 2018 and part of 2017 at Triple-A. He’s probably good enough to be a back-of-the-rotation starter already, so protecting him was an easy call. He could find himself competing for a rotation spot in Spring Training 2019.

Garrett Stubbs, C

You can read our prior spotlight on Stubbs. He slashed .310/.382/.455 at Triple-A in 2018 and racks up his share of doubles, even if his homer totals are light. He’s the team’s 15th-ranked prospect, though scouts seem to doubt he’s big enough to handle a full season’s workload behind the plate. Even then, he’d provide a solid bat in a part-time role. He was also part of the package the Astros supposedly offered for Bryce Harper, so protecting him was an easy call as well.

Bryan Abreu, SP/RP

Adding Abreu was a bit of a surprise, considering he’s never advanced beyond A-ball. Signed as an amateur free agent in Nov. 2013, his first few minor league seasons were unimpressive. But he burst onto the scene in 2018 with a 1.49 ERA over 54.1 innings with 90 strikeouts. It seems a stretch that a team would keep him on the major league roster all season, but the Astros evidently felt strongly enough to protect him.

Riley Ferrell, RP

Ferrell being left off was a bit of a surprise, as he’s the team’s 17th-ranked prospect. He does have some work to accomplish to become an effective big league reliever, as he was tagged for a 6.75 ERA in Triple-A. But his 1.90 ERA in Double-A in 2018 shows his promise, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team take a chance on the Astros’ third-round pick from 2015. A plus fastball and nasty slider combo can make for an effective reliever.

Jonathan Arauz, SS

Arauz is the team’s 24th-ranked prospect, acquired along with Ken Giles from Philadelphia. He hit just .167/.223/.288 in 71 games at High-A ball in 2018, so his bat won’t stick in the big leagues yet. That makes him an unlikely candidate to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. He’s still just 20 years old, so the potential is there. But a team would be hard-pressed to keep him on the major league roster at this point.

Cy Sneed, SP

Here is our prior spotlight on Sneed. Acquired from Milwaukee in exchange for Jonathan Villar, the right-hander posted a solid 3.83 ERA in Triple-A in 2018. He’s not ranked among the team’s top 30 prospects, but he is a former third-round pick. It’s possible a rebuilding club takes a chance on him.

Drew Ferguson, OF

The former 19th-round pick has quietly made his way through the minor league system. He posted a solid .305/.436/.429 line in Triple-A in 2018, though his season was shortened by injury. He doesn’t offer a ton of power, but he’s a career .297/.393/.455 hitter in the minors with 65 stolen bases across four seasons. He’s already 26, but a rebuilding club in need of young outfield help could give him a shot.

Jack Mayfield, IF

Check out our prior spotlight on Mayfield. The 28-year-old is far from a top prospect, but a team desiring a utility infielder could give him a look. He’s got plenty of Triple-A experience, hits for a decent average and a little power, and can play all over the infield. He’s probably blocked in Houston with the addition of Diaz.

Next. Justin Wilson a low-risk, high-reward option?. dark

Jamie Ritchie, C

Ritchie was the Astros’ 13th-round pick in 2014 and has a career .406 OBP in the minors. He reached Triple-A for the first time in 2018 and hit .321/.433/.519 in 25 games. Catchers who can contribute with the bat are scarce, so it’s possible a team takes a flier on him. The 25-year-old is not ranked among the team’s top 30 prospects.