The Astros sent four players to minor league Spring Training, including first baseman Taylor Jones.
The process of winnowing down the Spring Training roster is underway. On Monday morning, the Astros sent four players to minor league camp: first baseman Taylor Jones, pitchers Nivaldo Rodriguez and Enoli Paredes, and catcher Chuckie Robinson.
Jones, Rodriguez and Paredes are all on the 40-man roster, so they were technically optioned back to the minors. They were added to the 40-man roster this past offseason to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, though none were likely to make the Opening Day squad. Robinson was simply reassigned.
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Robinson appeared in eight games this spring, notching one hit and one RBI in 12 plate appearances. The 25-year-old, who was a 21st-round draft pick in 2016, spent all of 2019 with Double-A Corpus Christi, slashing .217/.276/.324 in 409 plate appearances.
Paredes posted a 1.64 ERA in 44 innings for High-A Fayetteville in 2019 before making the jump to Corpus, where he posted a 3.78 ERA in 50 innings. The 24-year-old made three appearances this spring, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks in five innings. He’s currently ranked as the team’s No. 13 prospect with a fastball that can touch the upper 90s and a solid trio of offspeed pitches.
Rodriguez also gave up two runs in five innings this spring, allowing four hits and a walk while fanning five. The 22-year-old is the team’s No. 29 prospect, with scouts noting his excellent curveball but a lack of a truly good secondary offering. He posted a 2.40 ERA in 105 innings across two Class-A levels in 2019 and could be ticketed for Double-A.
Keeping Up with Jones
Jones, currently the club’s No. 24 prospect, really made an impression this spring. He hit .353/.389/.588 over 18 plate appearances, playing mostly first base but also some third base as well. He also started 29 games in the outfield for Triple-A Round Rock in 2019, so his ability to play all four corner positions is a plus, and he got rave reviews from manager Dusty Baker.
Jones is already 26, but he didn’t become a full-time position player until his senior year at Gonzaga. He’s tapped into his power at the plate over the past two seasons and become a strong defender at first base. He hit .291/.388/.501 with 28 doubles and 22 homers at Round Rock last season.
If he can continue to improve and master Triple-A pitching, he can position himself as the heir apparent to Yuli Gurriel. With Gurriel set to become a free agent after this season, a strong performance from Jones could push the front office to let Gurriel leave and hand the first base job to the youngster.