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Astros add trio to roster for Rule 5 Draft protection

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wasn't joking when he said Wednesday that the team planned to use as much time as necessary to set its 40-man roster in advance of Thursday's 10:59 p.m. CT deadline. And with an hour to spare, the Astros made a late addition.

Hard-throwing right-hander Michael Feliz, who was left off the 40-man in the announcement the Astros made earlier in the day, was added to it about an hour prior to the deadline, putting the roster at 39. Luhnow said the Astros were working on a trade that didn't come to fruition, prompting them to put Feliz on the roster.

Earlier on Thursday, the Astros added right-hander Vincent Velasquez and infielder Ronald Torreyes to the roster, while losing right-hander Josh Zeid to waivers and outrighting right-hander Anthony Bass to Triple-A Fresno. Bass was arbitration-eligible, which gives him the option to elect free agency or accept the outright assignment.

"We intentionally did not say that was our final roster because we knew we had until 11 o'clock tonight," Luhnow said. "There's always a lot of discussion the day of the roster setting. It's a good opportunity for teams to talk and see if someone needs to be protected or maybe if another team wants him, you could swap guys like that. We had a couple of things cooking and nothing came to fruition."

Video: Top Prospects: Michael Feliz, RHP, Astros

When asked if the team was working on a deal involving Feliz, Luhnow declined to elaborate.

"All along, I said we were going to use our available time and we were working on something that didn't come to fruition, and the end result of that is we're putting Feliz on the roster," Luhnow said.

The Astros have one roster spot remaining to add a free agent or acquire a player in the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings on Dec. 11, though Luhnow hinted Wednesday the Astros might be inclined not to make a selection. The Astros could still open some 40-man roster spots as well.

"There's a lot of factors that go into making these decisions, and we're trying to look at what's in the best interest of the Astros primarily in 2015 and also trying not to damage our long-term prospects," Luhnow said.

Feliz, the Astros' No. 7 overall prospect, is perhaps the hardest thrower in the system, sustaining mid-90s mph over the course of seven innings. He has starter potential and is making strides developing his secondary pitches.

He went 8-6 in 25 appearances (19 starts) with Class A Quad Cities in 2014 with a 4.03 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings pitched. Feliz, who was originally signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent in 2010, participated in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game as a member of the World Team roster.

"That was his coming-out part to the industry, and we definitely feel [he's] worthy of a roster spot," Luhnow said.

Torreyes, 22, hit .298 with 20 doubles, five triples, 46 RBIs and a .345 on-base percentage in 126 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014. The switch-hitter started at five different positions for the RedHawks last season, including 68 at second base, 24 at third base, 11 at shortstop, 10 in center field and five in left field.

Since his professional debut in 2010, Torreyes has posted some of the lowest strikeout rates in his 502 games in the Minors. In his 2,125 career plate appearances, he struck out just 122 times (5.74 percent). Torreyes was originally acquired by Houston on July 2, 2013, from the Cubs in exchange for international pool space.

"I think Ronnie is the type of guy who could have an impact this year in the Major Leagues, and we just didn't want to see it happen with another club," Luhnow said. "Hitting is the hardest thing to do in our game, and he's got bat-to-ball skills that are elite compared to his peers, especially given his age and the level he's at. We'd love to see what he can do with that bat at the Major League level this year. He's a guy that has a chance to come up and help us out."

Velasquez, 22, combined to post a 7-5 record and a 3.52 ERA in 18 games (13 starts) with Class A Advanced Lancaster (15 games) and the Gulf Coast League Astros (three) in 2014. In his 64 Minor League innings last season, Velasquez struck out 91, while allowing a .216 batting average against. He also pitched in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, making five appearances (four starts) for the AFL champion Salt River Rafters before injuring his oblique.

"He's going to probably spend a good part of this year at Double-A, and we'll see what happens after that," Luhnow said of the Astros' No. 8 prospect. "He had a successful year at high A and showed some real promise getting some good hitters out in the Fall League. With him, it's also about his ceiling. He's truly a top-of-the-rotation possibility and certainly not a guy you want to expose to another club at this point."

Bass, 27, went 1-1 with two saves in 21 appearances for the Astros in 2014. He split his season between Houston and Oklahoma City, where he made 14 appearances for the RedHawks. Bass was acquired by Houston from San Diego on Dec. 11, 2013, in exchange for a player to be named (Patrick Schuster, who was the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft).

Players not on the team's 40-man roster who signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years can be taken in the Rule 5 Draft.

Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the team's 25-man roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original club.

"You have to balance the equation of what's the risk they're going to get selected and what the chances they're going to stick with the club at the Major league level all year if the year selected vs. the cost of having more players on your roster, especially players you don't expect to contribute in the next year or two years," Luhnow said. "That's where you get into operating with one arm tied behind your back if you have multiple players on your roster that aren't expected to contribute in the near future. It makes it more difficult as a general manager to have the flexibility. You need to make to constantly improve the team in the short term."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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