With pitching it is probably better to have more choices than fewer. If that is true then Manager A.J. Hinch and pitching coach Brent Strom are in great shape in regards to the 2017 Houston Astros bullpen.
The bullpen could be a seven man or eight man set-up; seven man will be assumed for this post. In general, the bullpen would consist of a main closer, four or five relievers (including at least one lefty) who share the 6 thru 8 innings and one or two longer relievers who could also be swing men for spot starts. Here is a look at each of these areas.
Last season, Ken Giles and Luke Gregerson both saved 15 games for the Astros while Will Harris saved 12 games. It is no doubt that the Astros are hoping that Giles, who they traded for in a 5 for 2 trade a year ago, grabs this role. But there are other options, such as Harris, Gregerson or even Michael Feliz and Chris Devenski. Giles was bad then very good, then not as good last season.
- Likely Closer. Giles – time to give him the job and step aside
- Next Men Up. Gregerson and Harris
- Wild card. Lance McCullers Jr. Hey if the Astros decide he can’t hold up for 200 innings, could he hold up coming out of the bullpen 50 times for the close?
The best reliever against LH batters last season was probably righty Will Harris. Tony Sipp had pitched well for the Astros for a couple seasons, was given a 3 yr/$18 million contract and immediately pitched poorly with a 4.95 ERA and a 1.603 WHIP. Other options are Ashur Tolliver (a 29 year old who has had good success in the minors and a poor 5 game cup of coffee at the majors), Reymin Guduan (a big armed 24 year old with control problems) and Kevin Chapman (who has never stuck in the majors since a good debut in 2013).
- Likely Lefty. Sipp. The Astros are not going to pay him $6 million to pitch in the minors or $12 million to pitch elsewhere – at least starting the season.
- Next Men Up. Tolliver or Chapman though both could be released and gone
- Wild Card. The Astros pick up someone from elsewhere
Sixth thru Eighth Inning.
This is where it will get interesting to a point. There is no doubt that Gregerson and Harris will be here. Now with Pat Neshek gone, and Josh Fields gone and forgotten, there are questions about who else will rotate in and out of these spots. Michael Feliz would seem to be in one spot. Does Devenski move from long relief to a 7th or 8th inning role? Is James Hoyt given another shot after some up and down in his cup of coffee last season? How about Tolliver or David Paulino or Jandel Gustave, who all made their mlb debuts last season?
- Sure Things. Gregerson, Harris and Feliz
- Likely Fourth. Hoyt
- Next Men Up. Gustave, Paulino
- Wild Card. Devenski
Scott Feldman (4-1 and 2.41 ERA after he was moved to the bullpen), Chris Devenski (3-2 1.61 ERA and 0.83 WHIP out of the ‘pen) and Michael Feliz (8-1 including some critical extra inning games where he shut the door until the Astros scored) were weapons as long relievers last season. Will Devenski be moved to the rotation? Will Feliz move to the late innings? Will Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock or even Charlie Morton end up here?
- Likely Long Reliever. Not sure how likely, but Devenski for this spot until they move him to the rotation
- Other Spot. Peacock/Fiers whichever man is still standing or not traded/released
- Next Men Up. Paulino, Brady Rodgers or Francis Martes
- Wild Card. Charlie Morton if his curve ball spins him out of the rotation
Where do you think the bullpen is headed and who do you think will be in it?