The off-season has gotten a bit more interesting with the signing of Cuban top OF Prospect Pedro Leon by the Astros. The Astros have been making smaller under the radar moves up to now, including signing two veteran relievers in Ryne Stanek and Pedro Baez. There have been long term rumblings of the Astros having an interest in other higher-end relievers from Liam Hendriks (since signed by the Chi-Sox) to Brad Hand to Joakim Soria to Alex Colombe and others.
If the Astros actually add another arm like Hand or Soria or Colombe, the situation in the bullpen will get “interesting”. The pitching staff will likely number 13 and that would leave 8 spots in the bullpen after you subtract the assumed starting rotation of Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy. How do those 8 spots look like right now, if the Astros add another top reliever in the mix?
- New unnamed, unsigned reliever…
- Ryan Pressly
- Pedro Baez
- Ryne Stanek
- Joe Smith
- Blake Taylor
- Enoli Paredes
- The catfight of the century
Assuming the first seven spots are correct and based on last year’s performance it should be (except for Smith who sat out 2020 but was good in 2019). That means there are a bunch of folks who could be in line for the last spot in the bullpen including Brooks Raley, Josh James, Andre Scrubb, Cionel Perez, Bryan Abreu, Nivaldo Rodriguez, Humberto Castellanos, Luis Garcia, Brandon Bielak, Brandon Bailey and Austin Pruitt (who may not be ready to pitch at the beginning of the season). Even if the Astros don’t sign another sure thing reliever, they still have a bunch of guys striving for the last two spots in the bullpen.
Raley would seem to have a foot up because of being a left-hander and also for being effective after arriving from the Reds last season. Scrubb despite Framber-ish (pre-2020 Framber) control issues was effective despite walking the high wire with so many men on base. James and his huge arm/ potential may be getting close to fish or cut bait time. Pruitt was brought here specifically to be a swingman between the bullpen and the rotation. Garcia was intriguing in a short cameo last season. Bielak was good and then he wasn’t. Bailey was good and then he disappeared. Rodriguez and Castellanos pitched like the youngsters they were. Perez and Abreu have had some flashes in the past.
Some of these pitchers still have options. The Astros may be grooming some of them as starters. There will be needs for additional pitchers as injuries and performance dictate. But there are also pitchers behind these guys hoping for the next spot, such as Forrest Whitley, Tyler Ivey, Hunter Brown, Peter Solomon, Jairo Solis, Shawn Dubin and a cast of thousands (it seems).
What am I saying here? I am saying don’t be surprised or alarmed if some young pitchers go elsewhere in a trade for something the Astros need (e.g. outfielder). They don’t have to do this, but if letting go of one of these pitchers is all that stands between the team and bringing in a better OF than they have right now, they may just go for it.
- If the Astros sign a well thought of reliever, what will their bullpen look like?
- What will it look like if they don’t sign one more?
- Who might be in line to be part of a trade package?
- Of the young guys, who is the newest set of untouchables?