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Astros: 2023 Rule 5 Draft- Protection List

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Note 12/6:

MLB Phase:

No Astros were selected- GREAT news

Astros did not select anyone- no surprise


AAA Phase:

Astros Selected by other teams

Tyler Brown, RHP, 25, AAA

Kervin Castro, RHP, 25, MLB

Marty Costes, OF, 28, AAA


Astros Picks-

Railin Perez, RHP, Boston, 22, A

Carlos Betancourt, RHP, Philadelphia, 23, A+


As we showed in the Off-Season Outline the teams in the MLB must set a 40-man roster they want for the 2024 season on 11/14 by 5PM CST. These players will be protected from the Rule 5 draft.


So what IS the Rule 5 draft and why is it important?


Per the MLB.com website

Held each December, the Rule 5 Draft allows clubs without a full 40-man roster to select certain non-40-man roster players from other clubs. Clubs draft in reverse order of the standings from the previous season. Players signed at age 18 or younger need to be added to their club's 40-Man roster within five seasons or they become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons.


Not every club will make a selection, but those that do pick a player must pay $100,000 to the club from which said player was selected. Rule 5 Draft picks are assigned directly to the drafting club's 26-man roster and must be placed on outright waivers in order to be removed from the 26-man roster in the subsequent season. Should the player clear waivers, he must be offered back to his previous team for $50,000 and can be outrighted to the Minors only if his original club does not wish to reacquire him. A Rule 5 Draft pick can be placed on the Major League injured list, but he must be active for a minimum of 90 days to avoid being subject to the aforementioned roster restrictions in the next campaign.


Clubs may trade a player selected in the Rule 5 Draft, but the same restrictions apply to the player's new organization. However, a club may also work out a trade with the Rule 5 pick's original club to acquire his full rights, thereby allowing him to be optioned to the Minors under traditional circumstances.


Ok that's what it is but why is it important? Today is the day that teams set their official 40-man roster list of players that are PROTECTED from this Rule 5 draft. If a team signs another player between now and 12/7 (draft day), they must add that player to the 40-man roster. If the roster is full, they must DFA a player and that player would be exposed to the normal waiver process where there is no compensation


Also, Marwin Gonzalez was taken in the Rule 5 draft in 2011 by Boston and the new Houston GM Jeff Luhnow traded for him almost immediately. Gonzalez was the very first player Luhnow acquired for the Astros. Such diamonds in the rough can be rare. Seth Martinez came to the Astros in the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft in December of 2020.


I have taken the Fangraphs.com Roster Resource page for the Astros and developed a few lists. Here is who I THINK the Astros will set as their Rule 5 Draft roster to protect them.


First here is what we would expect the current Astros Active roster would be if they were to play a game today. I also included Garcia and McCullers here who would be on the IL today if there was an IL. (There is not in the off-season.)

For all of the next lists it would help for you to understand my formatting. The shading in the cells means this:

The next list is the nine players currently on the 40-man roster that would be in the minor leagues.

With these nine players the 40-man roster is currently at 37 players. Ideally at this time of year a team would prefer to stay in the 37 to 38 player range to facilitate trades and to be able to participate in the Rule 5 draft.


You can see why several of the players here were featured in many of the trades I proposed in the "Improving The 2024 Astros" articles.

In the table above I am proposing the Astros strongly consider removing the 4 players in yellow from their 40-man roster. I believe since they were on the 40-man roster means that removing them means they would be DFAd. I do not believe all four will be DFAd. In past years, I always THINK the Astros will remove more players than they do. I guess I love prospects too much.


If these four are dropped, the roster would sit at 33 players.


I am going to give you my list of who I think they should add and then show you how I got to this conclusion.

If the Astros added all five of these players, they would be at 38 players on the 40-man roster. They could just drop two of the players in yellow above while they work on a trade for some of the 40-man roster players.


If they add all five of these players, I think the Astros are indeed trading from their 40-man roster.


Why these five players?

They play a critical position/ role

A. Berryhill and Salazar may battle for the backup catcher or third catcher role if the Astros do acquire a veteran backup. I could argue that if I had to start the season today with a backup catcher, I would pick Berryhill over Salazar.

B. Whitcomb hit 35 home runs in 2023 in the minors and is probably more of a second base prospect who can fill in at SS and 3B too. He and Wagner are probably the best middle infield prospects at the top of the system. Wagner does not have to be protected until next year.

They are considered the top prospects

A. Of all of the prospects needing protection from the Rule 5 draft, Corona and Barber are at the top of the list. Corona will probably start the season in AAA, and Barber might be there by mid-season. Would a bad team be willing to let either finish their development in the MLB? I don't know. If the team still had Gilbert in the system, I would take the chance here. With Melton probably a step behind both of these guys, it makes this a tough call. I would rather have either of these guys at AAA this year than Julks if for no other reason than their age.

B. Tamarez is probably better than his rankings currently. I believe the Astros love his stuff. His fastball and slider are great pitches. His control is not - yet. If left unprotected, I think a team would take a chance on him.


Ok that is my justification for these five, but let me take you step by step how I got there.


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Let me show you the core of the Astros Minor League system. This data and most of the data here comes from the excellent Roster Resource folks at Fangraphs.com. This list has over 130 players on it, but that is not EVERYONE in the Astros minors. I am keeping the size of the picture small to keep the article length manageable.

You will see many of the best prospects are not eligible for the Rule 5 draft yet. That is good! Of this list, 50 of the players here would be considered eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December.


Let's factor out the players that have not reached AA at least. It is very unlikely an MLB team would promote a player from A ball and have him on the 26-man active roster all year. Now we are at 37 players. Let's sort this list based on the highest level they have played and the highest prospect ratings from Fangraphs and the MLB Pipeline.

The first 16 are position players and the last 21 are pitchers. I included also what the Steamer projection system shows for how each of these players would be projected to perform in the MLB if they were expected to play in the majors this year. This is a good way to think about if a team would REALLY Rule 5 draft a player.


I also added the trade values from the baseballtradevalues.com website for the players they have available. I labeled some of the players in AAA that had decent projections as tradeable. I listed the AA players with high prospect ratings as tradeable as well. This is all very subjective and subject to change.


I will admit I am NOT the prospect expert. I intend to use this article to get feedback and see what others say. This list will likely change right up to the deadline as I learn more.


You can see where the five I proposed to add in the green table above show up on this list.


Whitcomb is second among the AAA players. Dirden had such a rough year in AAA (68 wRC+), I don't think any team drafts him. Berryhill is mainly on my list because he is a catcher I don't want to lose. Corona and Barber are on the top of the AA players.


For the pitchers, you see Tamarez is second on this list and is the only Rule 5 pitcher in AAA or AA to be rated as a top prospect by both Fangraphs and MLB Pipeline. Ivey is 27.5 years old, and I don't think a team drafts him and frankly I don't believe the trade value for him. He was put on the restricted list in 2022 and did not pitch at all last season.


Well, there you have how I got to my list of players to consider adding.


Many times in the week or two before the Rule 5 draft a team will trade players they know have value that they don't think they want to protect to a team that can use that player. In these deals they will seek a younger prospect that does not need to be added to the 40 man roster.


For example according to baseballreference.com on November 19, 2021, the Astros traded Garrett Stubbs to the Philadelphia Phillies for Logan Cerny (minors).


Here is my list of players I would try to trade for younger prospects or as adders to the trades for players the team really needs.

I will respond with an update when the Astros set their actual list. I am sure I am proposing they add too many.


Update 11/14/23 5:00PM- As expected the Astros did NOT add all of the players to the 40-man roster that I suggested they should have. They only added Kenedy Corona. Therefore, I would consider

- Luke Berryhill

- Shay Whitcomb

- Colin Barber

- Misael Tamarez

to be most at risk to be picked in the Rule 5 draft. Will any of these be picked? We will see in December.


I always project too many players will be protected. I am sorry for that.


Let's look at what I said last year.


I thought the Astros should protect Corey Julks and that it was possible Grae Kessinger could also be picked. Julks was on the Astros active roster from opening day until August 29th. So, was I wrong thinking he should have been protected or were the other 29 teams wrong for not selecting him? Or were the Astros wrong for playing and rostering Julks in the MLB for as long as they did? THESE are the conundrums that make the Rule 5 draft process so hard.


Kessinger was called up on June 5th and on IL on August 19th. Kessinger was recalled September 1st as rosters expanded. So, was I wrong when I said Kessinger not being protected was a risk? Welcome to my world.


Brewer, Murray, and Berryhill were clearly not players that needed to protected last year. I admit I love the prospects.


Let me know what you think. Site members can comment below.


Astros: 2023 Rule 5 Draft- Protection List

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