The Astros put the finishing touches on their 40-man roster Thursday which will be their official roster going into the December 11th Rule V draft which will close out the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
Velasquez: Another journey step
Houston tried to free up some room by waiving two pitchers but one was claimed while the other cleared and was optioned to AAA Fresno. The Astros lost reliever Josh Zeid when he was claimed by the Detroit Tigers. The 27-year-old righthander was part of the Hunter Pence trade with Philadelphia in 2011. In the majors, Zeid was 0-1 with a 5.21 ERA in 48 games over parts of two seasons.
Righthander Anthony Bass, who spent most of last season on the disabled list, was sent to Fresno. Also age 27, Bass pitched in 21 games for Houston last year with a 1-1 record, a 6.33 ERA and two saves. Because Bass became arbitration eligible this month, he has the option to declare for free agency or return to AAA.
There was no surprise that the Astros added righthander Vincent Velasquez to the 40-man roster rather than risk losing him after his showcase performance in the Arizona Fall League. A second-round draft pick of the Astros in 2010 from Garey, CA, Velasquez has been hampered by injuries. Last season, though, the 6-3 righty finished with 15 games in High-A Lancaster where he posted a 7-4 record with a 3.74 ERA - solid numbers in a hitter-friendly league. Velasquez fanned 72 batters in 55-1/3rd innings and has the stuff to climb quickly through the upper tiers of the minor leagues.
The other addition was somewhat of a surprise. Infielder Ronald Torreyes, a Venezuelan, batted .298 with 20 doubles last year at AAA Oklahoma City. A waiver claim in 2013 from the Cubs, Torreyes is blocked at second base by fellow countryman Jose Altuve so the Astros appear to be grooming him as a utility player. He spent time at shortstop, third base and the outfield in addition to second. Both Velasquez and Torreyes are 22.
The Astros have lost some of their pitching depth before this. Nick Tropeano was dealt to Anaheim, Paul Owens was signed by Oakland and David Martinez was signed by the Rangers.
Earlier this week, the Astros signed veteran outfielder Alex Presley to a one year contract at $1 million dollars. Presley was in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Last year, Presley hit .244 with six homers in 254 at bats while missing significant time to injury. The Monroe, LA, native is 29 and will need to return to his .259 career average if he hopes to stay around long.
Houston currently has 38 players on their roster, giving General Manager Jeff Luhnow some flexibility to sign a free agent or draft a player himself. Like all the other teams, any player taken in the Rule V needs to be kept on the 25-man roster the entire season or be offered back to the club that lost them. The Astros were able to make this work with reliever Josh Fields but few players taken actually make it through the entire season.
Update: Just before the deadline, the Astros also added righthander Michael Feliz to the 40-man roster to give them 39 players. Feliz and Velasquez were the two most often predicted to be protected. Feliz was 8-6 with a 4.03 ERA at low-A Quad Cities but the 21-year-old Dominican struck out 111 in 102-2/3rd innings which enticed scouts for other organizations.
- Bob Hulsey