Astros add four players to 40-man roster to protect from Rule 5 Draft

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Jeff Luhnow addresses the media prior to the Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Jeff Luhnow addresses the media prior to the Game Four of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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The Astros added four minor leaguers to their 40-man roster.

The Astros on Wednesday added four minor leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The club added pitchers Cristian Javier, Enoli Paredes and Nivaldo Rodriguez, and first baseman Taylor Jones.

Players signed at age 18 or younger must be added to the team’s 40-man roster within five seasons or they become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Those signed at 19 or older must be on the 40-man roster within four seasons. So the purpose of adding these players to the 40-man roster is to protect them from the draft.

Clubs can select eligible players from other teams and pay that team $100,000. If the player does not remain on the selecting team’s 25-man roster for the entire season, the team must offer that player back to the original club for $50,000.

There are two players currently ranked in the team’s Top 30 prospects who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft and were not added to the 40-man roster. Shortstop Jonathan Arauz, the team’s No. 25 prospect, and outfielder Ronnie Dawson, the team’s No. 16 prospect, are eligible to be taken in the draft on Dec. 12.

A Closer Look

Javier, the Astros’ No. 9-ranked prospect, is a player fans could see in the majors at some point in 2020. The 22-year-old righty was signed as an international free agent in 2015 and has pitched remarkably well in his minor league career, never finishing a season with an ERA of 3.00 or higher.

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He started 2019 in Class-A Advanced and worked his way up to Triple-A by season’s end. All told, he posted a 1.74 ERA in 113.2 innings with 13.5 strikeouts per nine and a microscopic WHIP of 0.968. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, with a low-90s fastball and slider/curveball combo, and he still needs to refine his command and his changeup, but boasts some very intriguing upside.

The 24-year-old Paredes possesses surprising stuff for someone with a relatively small stature. He has a mid-90s fastball that can reach 99 mph along with a solid slider and a developing changeup. He could profile eventually as a reliever and is currently ranked as the team’s No. 13 prospect.

After posting a 1.43 ERA in 69 innings across two Class-A affiliates in 2018, he tossed 94 innings of 2.78 ERA ball between Class-A Advanced and Double-A in 2019. He’ll probably start the year in Corpus Christi but could rise quickly with continued success.

The 22-year-old Rodriguez is ranked as the team’s No. 26 prospect. He has one of the best curveballs in the organization and uses it frequently. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he’s got a changeup with good movement.

He hasn’t pitched above Class-A Advanced yet, but he put up a 2.40 ERA in 105 innings across two levels in 2019. He’s typically done well at keeping runners off base, though we’ll see if that continues as he advances.

Jones, the team’s No. 28 prospect, spent all of 2019 with Triple-A Round Rock and hit .291/.388/.501 with 28 doubles, 22 homers and 84 RBIs. He played mostly first base but also started games at third base and in the corner outfield.

The 6’7″ right-hander is noted as a quality defender at first, so he could prove to be solid insurance if Yuli Gurriel leaves after next season. The 2020 season, which will almost surely be spent mostly at Round Rock, will probably be his audition, as the Astros could be comfortable letting Gurriel go if Jones proves to be capable of the everyday job.

Dawson was the Astros’ second round draft pick in 2016 out of Ohio State. The lefty-swinger is coming off a rough season, slashing just .212/.320/.403 in 103 games at Double-A with 13 steals in 23 attempts. A brief cup of coffee at Triple-A went even worse.

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Arauz is still just 21 years of age and came to the Astros from Philadelphia in the Ken Giles trade. He has yet to hit for average or power and hasn’t done well at stealing bases either. He’s a solid defender but could be a utility player at best if he doesn’t make significant improvements offensively.

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