CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Astros trimmed four players from their spring roster Sunday, optioning outfielder Andrew Aplin, infielder Nolan Fontana and pitcher Asher Wojciechowski to Triple-A Fresno and reassigning infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp to Minor League camp, according to manager A.J. Hinch.None of the position players were expected to make the
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Astros trimmed four players from their spring roster Sunday, optioning outfielder Andrew Aplin, infielder Nolan Fontana and pitcher Asher Wojciechowski to Triple-A Fresno and reassigning infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp to Minor League camp, according to manager A.J. Hinch.
None of the position players were expected to make the club out of Spring Training, but all three are candidates to make their big league debuts at some point this year. Hinch said to expect more cuts this week in advance of the Astros' trip to Mexico City next weekend to play the Padres.
"This will be a busy week, obviously, with roster management when it comes to getting the numbers down a little bit before we get to Mexico," he said.
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Wojciechowski, who was the biggest surprise of camp a year ago when he made the Opening Day roster, allowed one hit, two runs and two walks in two innings in Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Phillies and was optioned following the game.
"We need to get him started on a more regular routine," Hinch said. "He's caught in the middle a little bit where he's started in the Minors. He factored more in the bullpen competition for a long man/extra reliever. He fell behind a couple of guys, so we decided to make the move today after his outing."
Aplin, 25, combined to hit .296 with 10 doubles, two homers, 40 RBIs, 32 steals and a .413 on-base percentage in 105 games last year between Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi. Aplin profiles as a fourth outfielder who can do a little of everything, and his versatility will be key if he's to impact the big league roster.
"I saw a more confident player than we did last spring," Hinch said. "He's a really good fundamentally sound outfielder, has enough speed, has enough at-bat quality to make himself a viable option if we need it. We don't have a ton of outfielders on the [40-man] roster outside of the five that are on our team. He becomes a very realistic candidate to make his debut at some point this summer, and he has the skills to do it. I saw a comfortable player in his element this spring."
Fontana, 24, hit .241 with 74 walks, 40 RBIs and a .369 on-base percentage last year at Fresno. Like Aplin, Fontana's versatility and steadiness on defense could make him a valuable commodity in a backup role at some point this season.
"His at-bat quality is very, very good and he walks a lot," Hinch said. "We'd like to see a little more production out of him. I'm very comfortable with him on defense with every position on the infield, except for first base. While we look loaded in the infield to break camp if we can stay healthy, usually you go through a couple of different bench-type players breaking in that way, and he could do that."
Kemp, 24, split his 2015 season between Fresno and Corpus Christi, combining to hit .308 with 19 doubles, four triples, 48 RBIs, 35 steals and a .388 on-base percentage. Hinch said he'll play some second base and outfield while in Fresno.
"We were pretty excited to get him in camp," Hinch said. "We know he can play second base, and being able to play all three outfield positions will be key for him. As you think about breaking onto our team, we're a tough roster to crack. I said that in the beginning of the camp. Versatility for these guys coming back if we need them is going to be key."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.