Astros face 40-man roster decisions

The Astros must have their 40-man roster set by 11 p.m., which is why club officials spent most of this week in meetings at Minute Maid Park going over the roster. Astros manager Brad Mills sat in on the meetings, along with the front office and members of the player development staff. Owner Drayton McLane participated on Monday and Tuesday.

Several spots on the 40-man have been cleared with players filing for free agency, so the Astros have some wiggle room. Any players on the 40-man roster by the end of today are protected from being taken by other club’s in next month’s Rule 5 draft. The roster is at 33 (if I’m counting correctly) entering Friday and will likely be at 37 at the end of the day after they add some Minor Leaguers. That will leave a few spots open for free agents, though they could create more spots by non-tendering contracts to some players.

But what Minor Leaguers will they add?

Among the players up for consideration are outfielder Drew Locke, pitcher Sergio Perez and infielder/outfielder Koby Clemens, who led all of the Minor Leagues in RBIs last season. Clemens appears to be a man without a position and isn’t likely to be added to the roster.

Generally, players drafted out of college have to be protected after their third full season in baseball, which means those taken in the 2006 draft. High school players have an extra year, meaning high school players drafted in 2005 are eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time.

The Astros can add these players to the 40-man roster, put them on the Triple-A roster, Double-A roster or Class A roster. Anyone on the Triple-A roster can be drafted in the Rule 5 draft and have to stay on the Major League roster for the entire season or be sent through waivers and offered back to the original club for half the waiver price. Players on the Double-A roster can be drafted in the Triple-A portion of the draft and be placed anywhere in the system.

Last year, the Astros selected Locke in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 draft from the Los Angeles Dodgers after he hit .311 with 11 homers and 85 RBIs at Class A Inland Empire. What a find. Locke hit .338 with 20 homers and 109 RBIs at Double-A Corpus Christi last season.

Clemens hit .345 with 22 homers and 121 RBIs and a .419 on-base percentage in hitter-friendly Lancaster and has been tinkering with playing first base. Perez was 11-11 with a 4.68 ERA in 27 starts at Corpus Christi.

Other first-time eligible players for the Rule 5 draft include:  right-handers Bryan Hallberg (Lancaster) and Casey Hudspeth (Lancaster/Corpus Christi), left-hander Chris Salamida (Lancaster), outfielder Jimmy Van Ostrand (Corpus Christi) and outfielder Nick Moresi (Corpus Christi).

Left-hander Fernando Abad and infielder Wladimir Sutil were added to the 40-man earlier this month.

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