Friday, May 22, 2015

Comings and Goings: Sept 2014 onward (May edition)

This list will be periodically updated over the course of what is likely to be a busy 2015 season.  The Astros will be trying to position themselves for contention, and 2015 likely represents the last chance for some long-ish tenured Astros.  I may have missed someone - please feel free to discuss and mention below in the comments.

Since the end of the 2014 regular season, the Astros have seen the following players enter or exit the organisation.  Some of the exits remain with the organisation, but are considered exits because they were outrighted off the 40-man.


Akeem Bostick, SP, Jan 2015.  Acquired in the trade of Carlos Corporan - a reasonable haul for a backup catcher who had been DFA'd.  A long way from making any contributions - will start the season in the low minors, or perhaps even short-season ball.

Fausto Carmona, SP, Feb 2015.  See Hernandez, Roberto.

Hank Conger, C, Nov 2015.  Traded by the Angels to the Astros early in the offseason for another backup catcher and some young SP depth.  Conger and Castro have really similar minor-league hitting numbers, and both Castro and Conger match up well in a platoon with Max Stassi, so most observers seemed to think that another move involving Jason Castro was soon to occur.  But nope, Castro and Conger are opening 2015 in a job-share at this stage.

Harlen Florencio, P, Dec 2015.  Aged 19, from the Dominican Republic.  No organised ball in the US as yet.  Signed as a free agent.

Evan Gattis, DH, Jan 2015.  Traded from the Braves for a handful of mid-level Astros prospects.  Power-hitting righty seems like a candidate to fill one of the offensive black-holes in LF or 1B.  The Astros are hoping for an improvement in his overall numbers because he is no longer expected to squat behind the dish 160-odd times per night.  Comes with 4 years of team control, so may slot into DH if Chris Carter leaves for whatever reason.

Luke Gregerson, RP, Dec 2014.  Signed as a FA for a very reasonable 3-year contract.  Gregerson was arguably the third best RP available, but the first to sign with the Astros after they offered competitive contracts to Andrew Miller and David Robertson.  Solid 'pen addition.  Possibly recruited by A.J. Hinch, with whom he has spent time with while in San Diego.

Jandal Gustave, RP, Dec 2015.  Was claimed in the Rule 5 draft in late 2014, but was returned from San Diego after being claimed by the Red Sox and traded to the Royals.  Now in Corpus.  So, has been moved from "exit" to "enter".

Will Harris, RP, Nov 2014.  Claimed off waivers in early November by Arizona.  Some really interesting numbers - including his age (29) - but he seems like a guy with good peripherals who has pitched in tough pitcher's parks (Arizona and Colorado), so he could be poised for a breakout.  The early 2015 results seem to indicate that he has broken out, as predicted in this column prior to the season.

Roberto Hernandez, SP, Feb 2015.  Signed as an XX(B) free-agent to a minor-league deal with a moderate major-league salary of 2.65MM.  Has been really solid through the first 8 weeks of the season, going 6 innings or more in 9 of his first 10 starts of the season.

James Hoyt, RP, Jan 2015.  Traded from the Braves in the Gattis deal.  Hoyt is an interesting righty relief-pitcher with a slider-fastball mix with good velocity.  Has taken the scenic route to the upper minors - much like Gattis - as he was out of baseball for a year or two.  Has opened the season at Fresno, with mixed results so far.

Dylan James, SP, Nov 2014.  Undrafted college player, no pro-ball appearances.  Signed as a free agent.

Dan Johnson, 1B, Jan-Mar 2015.  Not really an 'enter' because he has already 'exited', having been traded to the Reds toward the end of Spring Training.  He was never on the 40-man and was assumed to be going to hang out in Fresno - but not any more.  Famous for one great hit.  Oh Lordy!  But really, as unlikely to be added to the 40-man as an NRI could be.

Jed Lowrie, IF, Dec 2014.  Jed-back-to-Houston was a great offseason signing and it put all those stupid stories about the "beaning" to rest once and for all.  Jed was a much-loved addition around these parts for seemingly not a lot of money, and it should be great seeing him man short until Correa's eventual arrival.  His lefty bat is also much needed in a lineup that hit righties poorly last year.

Pat Neschek, RP, Dec 2015.  The Astros won the bidding on the righty sidearmer who had a great 2014 with the Cardinals.  Two-years guaranteed, option for a third at a reasonable price.  Another good relief option.  Nice!

Colby Rasmus, CF, Jan 2015.  Signed as a free agent after the Astros traded Dexter Fowler.  Lefty-hitting OF with power who has been solid to the point of writing in late-May.  Previous relationship with Jeff Luhnow may have contributed to this signing.

Robert Stock, P, Mar 2015.  The very definition of "lottery ticket" - and a long-odds lottery ticket at that! - is one way to describe this signing.  Robert Stock is a 2009 second-round draftee who signed with the Cardinals when Jeff Luhnow was the Scouting Director.  Stock was signed as a catcher, but after posting a .644 OPS as a 21 year old at Lo- and Hi-A, he converted to pitching.  In 2014, again between Lo- and Hi-A, he posted a 6.1 K/9 against a 6.5 BB/9, and a 4.12 ERA.  May be the last time we write about him on this site.

Dan Straily, SP, Jan 2015.  Traded to the Astros from the Cubs for Dexter Fowler.  Was likely to be challenging for a back-of-the-rotation SP slot, but has been optioned to minor-league camp.  Has shown signs of recent improvement, but still carrying an ERA in AAA north of 4.

Joe Thatcher, RP, Feb 2015.  Signed as a non-roster invitee and XX(B) free agent with a 1.3MM ML salary.  Another member of the 2011 Padres 'pen, and another personal friend of A.J. Hinch, I would guess.  Has been reasonable as a LOOGY so far in 2015.

Luis Valbuena, IP, Jan 2015.  Traded to the Astros from the Cubs for Dexter Fowler.  Two years of team control left.  At the time of writing, Valbuena leads the Astros with 10 home runs, but his OBP is a little south of .300.  It will be interesting to see how he finishes up the year.

Jose Veras, RP, May 2015.  Veras returned to the Astros for the third time on a minor-league deal in May.  He will head to Extended Spring Training, then probably to Fresno.  At the time of the signing, the Fresno 'pen was kind of bad.


Matt Albers, RP, Oct 2014.  Matt Albers was signed prior to the 2014 season to stiffen up the 'pen.  He strained a shoulder after 10 innings, giving up 1 ER in the process.  He spent the last five months of the season in the DL - much of it the 60-day DL - and was granted free-agency upon activation.  Now a White Sock, but broke his finger in a brawl.

Angel Baez, P, Mar 2015.  Minor league pitcher traded from the Royals organisation for cash considerations in the offseason.  Was on the "Enter" list.  He is 24, spent last season in AA-ball, striking out a few (10.3K/9) with walking about half as many (4.2BB/9).  Was released from Corpus, last pitching on May 16, with an 8-something ERA.

Anthony Bass, RP, Nov 2014.  "Sea Bass" was subtracted from the 40-man roster right before the Nov 20 deadline to protect minor-leaguers in the Rule 5 draft.  Now with Texas, with some Major-League appearances.  Was injured for bits of 2014, but frequently ineffective after solid early-season form.

Jose Cisnero, RP, Nov 2014.  Outrighted off the 40-man in November, elected free-agency, now a member of the Reds.    It would have been hard seeing a fit for Cisnero in the 2015 bullpen, especially given his poor 2013 and 2014 performances.

Carlos Corporan, C, Jan 2015.  Corporan was offered a contract in November, DFA'd in January (to make room for Colby Rasmus) and traded to the Rangers for a 19-year old live arm (Akeem Bostick).  Corporan was liked by most Astros fans, but it was not clear that he would also be called a Killer C (along with Castro and Conger) on the roster.  Best of luck, Carlos.

Jesse Crain, RP, Oct 2014.  Signed with the Astros prior to the 2014 season as an injured bullpen force.  Never became un-injured.  Now back with the ChiSox.  But looks great in an Astros hat (unless the picture has been updated, that is!)

Delino DeShields Jr, OF, Dec 2014.  The speedy outfielder is likely to remain in Arlington for a significant portion of the season after being lost to the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft.  CF and 2B represents a position of strength for the Astros, so perhaps this isn't a huge loss, althought DDS Jr did kill the Astros in the recent 3-game sweep in late April.  Appears to have a late-inning pinch-runner role with a Rangers team that now seems unlikely to complete for the post-season.

Darin Downs, SP/RP, Dec 2014.  Outrighted off the 40-man roster in December, but has reappeared on the Grizzlies' roster, so he remains in the organisation.  Downs was a serviceable swingman for the Astros in 2014, but appears to be out of the fifth-starter slot.  Eventually granted his release from Fresno on May 20, after pitching to a 4.96 ERA in just over 16 frames.

Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Jan 2015.  Traded to the Braves in the Gattis deal.  Folty was expected to be a front-runner for one of the two vacant Astros' SP back-of-the-rotation slots.  He pumps gas in triple-digits, so he certainly big-league velocity, but he seemed very hittable throwing out of the 'pen for the Astros in late 2014.  He has some variable breaking stuff (sometimes average, sometimes worse), and struggles with control.  This loss may hurt, but most analysts seem to think that he has control and breaking-ball problems that are going to be difficult to address.  The Constable loved him, but probably doesn't now, because he is a Barve, and the Constable hates Barves.

Dexter Fowler, CF, Jan 2015.  Traded to the Cubs for Dan Straily and Luis Valbuena.  Great source of OBP for the Astros, but Fowler played at a position of unprecedented major- and minor-league depth, doesn't have enough power for the corners, and was not a great fielder.  Last year before free-agency.  Having a good season for the Cubs.

Dan Johnson, 1B, Jan-Mar 2015.  Not really an 'enter' because he has already 'exited', having been traded to the Reds toward the end of Spring Training.  He was never on the 40-man and was assumed to be going to hang out in Fresno - but not any more.  Famous for one great hit.  Oh Lordy!  But really, was as unlikely to be added to the 40-man as an NRI could be.

Marc Krauss, IF, Dec 2014.  Krauss was outrighted off the 40-man, claimed by the Angels, then outrighted off the Angels' 40-man without being claimed... so the Astros had another opportunity to reacquire him that they opted not to take.  Krauss hasn't done much in the Majors (career .615 OPS) and doesn't bring any other obvious skills to the table, so is unlikely to be missed.  Spent some time in the Major Leagues with the Angels in May 2015

Chris Lee, SP, May 2014.  The 22-year old was traded from Lo-A in exchange for 655.8K of International Bonus money.  Lee is now an Oriole.

Ariel Ovando, 3B/LHP, Dec 2014.  Lost in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft to the Cubs.  Not much of an "exit" as he had not gotten out of short-season ball, and never got anywhere near the 40-man roster.  Still, interesting move, bears watching, especially as he will be moved to the mound by the Cubs.

Carlos Perez, C, November 2014.  Perez was a 23 year old catcher who had ascended to AAA.  He had a reputation as a defensive whiz with a light bat.  He was added to the 40-man, then immediately traded to the Angels for Hank Conger.  Recently had his first major-league hit.

Gregorio Petit, IF, Dec 2014.  Outrighted off the 40-man roster, but appears to have accepted an assignment to Fresno.  I quite liked Gregorio, and would be happy to see him in the Majors again.  Especially if he was recording the game-winning hit in Game 162 to send the Astros to the playoffs.  Anyone else be happy with that??  Well, it ain't gonna-happen, because Gregorio was traded to the Yankees for cash considerations (or a PTBNL) just before Spring Training ended.  Best of luck, pal.

Alex Presley, CF, Mar 2015.  Presley was DFA'd after signing a 1MM contract early in the offseason.  However, Colby Rasmus signed as a FA after this, and both profile as lefty swingers with the defensive chops to play all three OF positions if needed.  After Marisnick's solid spring, and Joe Thatcher needing to be added to the 40-man, an out-of-options Presley was DFA'd just prior to the start of the season.  Presley later accepted an assignment to Fresno, where he remains.

David Rollins, SP/RP, Dec 2014.  Rollins was claimed by the Mariners in the Rule 5 draft.  One of a number of C-grade pitching prospects in the high-minors for the Astros.  Was lights out in Spring Training as a lefty reliever for the Mariners and looked destined to make the roster, but then got suspended for 80 games for Stanozolol use, which ironically makes him even less likely to be returned to the Astros.  Farewell!

Rio Ruiz, 3B, Jan 2015.  Traded to the Braves in the Gattis deal.  Ruiz sat comfortably in the Astros top-10 prospects on most evaluators' lists, but usually right behind Colin Moran, also on the 3B depth chart.  Most scouts had some concerns over Ruiz, but he was lauded for his solid hit tool and good strike-zone recognition.  This one could hurt, but the Astros had a few months to evaluate Ruiz right next to Moran, and clearly chose Moran, who went on to have a better Spring Training than Ruiz (for what that is worth).

Andrew Thurman, SP, Jan 2015.  Traded to the Braves in the Gattis deal.  Seen as a throw-in after a rough year in the lower minors.  Seemed like a quick exit for a 2013 2nd-rounder but the numbers were not good at Lo-A.  There is plenty of time for Thurman to turn it around, but he probably wants to do it sooner rather than later.

Ronald Torreyes, 2B, May 2015.  DFA'd to make room for Preston Tucker, then traded to Toronto for a PTBNL or cash considerations.  Torreyes was eyebrow-raisingly added to the 40-man instead of DDS Jr, then removed from the 40-man around 5 weeks into the season after a slow start (.200/.211/.214 triple slash in 72 PA's).  Adding to the DFA decision was the progress made by Tony Kemp and Carlos Correa in the minors, and Villar in the majors.

Nick Tropeano, SP, Nov 2014.  Tropeano seemed to have the inside running on one of the two 2015 rotation slots.  He seemed to lack a breaking ball, but did have a great changeup and decent fastball velocity.  The counter-argument is that the Astros traded a decent, controllable, young SP for a backup catcher.  Definitely bears watching, and will probably hurt some - perhaps as soon as 2015.  As of late May, has had one start in the majors with the Angels.

Jose Veras, RP, Oct 2014.  Elected Free Agency after the season finished.  Loves the Astros.  Probably outside the Astros offices at MMP holding a 1980's boom-box above his head, trying to serenade Jeff Luhnow.  Got signed by the Barves, but then released on March 19, so the prospect of a reunion remains credible.  Would look good in the Fresno pen as a depth piece (of he would agree to that), but will probably catch on somewhere.  Re-signed with the Astros on a Minor League deal in May, so is also placed in the "enter" portion of this article.

Alex White, SP, Mar 2015.  DFA'd to make room for Roberto Hernandez, who made the team as an XX(B) FA.  Alex had TJS in early 2013, and has struggled since his return in mid-2014.  Accepted assignment to Fresno, with variable results so far.

And finally... Josh Zeid, RP, Nov 2014.  Outrighted off the roster prior to the deadline to protect minor-leaguers from the Rule 5 draft.  But the Tigers pounced quickly... and for good reason, given the state of their 'pen.  A solid bounce-back candidate, especially after having both feet operated on last year.  Good velocity and movement.  Currently pitching for AAA Toledo in the Tigers' system and has not seen the majors so far in 2015.