The Astros’ bullpen may be getting crowded

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?

  1. New unnamed, unsigned reliever…
  2. Ryan Pressly
  3. Pedro Baez
  4. Ryne Stanek
  5. Joe Smith
  6. Blake Taylor
  7. Enoli Paredes
  8. 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.

So questions…

  • 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?

37 comments on “The Astros’ bullpen may be getting crowded

  1. *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?
    Cheap and bottom half.
    *Who might be in line to be part of a trade package? Blake Taylor
    *Of the younger guys, who is the newest set of untouchables? Hunter Brown
    and Tyler Ivey, because I obviously don’t have a clue about anything Astros.


  2. Dan, I like the multiple question format.
    I wasn’t being smart aleck in my first comment. The Astros current bullpen is ranked 20th by Fangraphs, so that is bottom half.


    • I don’t take it as a smart alleck comment, OP. After a season when they had so many guys pitching as rookies or with rookie status, they look like they will be closer to the 2019 version of the bullpen – an optimist would say more experienced rather than older.
      The 2019 bullpen was 2nd in ERA in all of baseball while the 2020 version was 16th. It will be interesting to see if this bullpen is more like one than the other.


      • 16th in the league in ’20

        -Astros had luxury of being within 2nd place striking distance, and used them when trotting out a bunch of newcomers.
        -Some worked out or had mixed results;
        Paredes Garcia Javier Scrubb Bielak Raley Taylor.
        -Some not-so-much but we wouldn’t have confirmed otherwise;
        Bailey, Sanabria, Castellanos, Sneed, Biagini, Devo, (Armenteros Hughes).
        -Plus, we lost Osuna Peacock and Smith production (as you’ve noted many times).
        -There’s always something to be said about The Process.

        As to the influx of bullpen talent aboard, I’m optimistuc Click can manage the array with similar alacrity as Rays juggled their handful themselves. With creative use of options available, or by having players who sacrifice some IL time so their colleagues can keep warm too. Carlos Correa said he stayed in RR an extra week, and Astros were able to highlight Tony kemp to trade for Martin Maldonado at deadline. It takes that kind of creativity and sacrifice because lord knows we can’t keep ’em all. I believe Baez and Stanek put Castellanos on notice as bubble guy. And as you say, Dan, Josh James.

        Always important in these discussions to know who has options, and who can be put on the backburner.


    • I went to help my kids do some fencing and they made dinner. Now I’m gonna watch Blue Bloods.
      Hey Dan, we heard from Becky and Sandra and Billy on your last post.
      You’re doing good!


      • Oh just checking in … now do be clear because a GEICO commercial got me confused, were you fencing with a sword or fencing with posts and rails, OP?


      • When I typed that I wondered if you had seen that commercial.
        No, we are putting up fence to give the goats a new area to clear. We use pipe from the oil patch for our corner posts, regular T-posts every 15 feet and 4 ft high wire mesh fencing. This will give the goats and their two guardians about 6 acres to play in. The protectors are beautiful Great Pyrenees. There is also a pony in there. They all play together, except at feeding time when they get territorial. This pen will be amazing and will be their main pen with their water supply and shelter.
        The goats clear the land and raise the foliage up to about 6 feet. The dogs keep the Coyotes, bobcats and wild hogs away. they are very protective and they much prefer to be around other animals than humans.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So this makes me picture OP sneaking out of the oil patch at 2 AM carrying lengths of pipe while oil is pouring out on the ground where the missing pipe should be…,that’s probably not right either.
        Thanks for sharing your life with us OP. We have 3 people in 1350 sq ft right now – so you might feel a little claustrophobic if we switched places…,


    • Dan, I am not much of a goat guy. I’m more of a fence guy. And a cattle guy.
      A former golf guy. My house is smaller than yours. We just have a lot of pasture and trees to go with it.
      My daughter is a converted city girl who moved here and built their homestead on a piece of land that was so wild that I told here not to buy it. I told her there were people living there with loincloths and poison dart guns.
      They bought it and built a beautiful homestead. They raise their own beef, pork, chicken, ducks, turkey, eggs, venison and have a big garden and greenhouse. They grow their own hay. He works from home and she works a part time job.
      I cannot believe what they have carved out of the land. He built her dream and she takes care of them and looks after us. They are relentless workers.
      My wife and I did the same conversion from city life to country life 25 years ago and two of our children have followed our path and 2 of them chose the city life and visit the farms often. It’s not for everyone, but we did follow our dream.

      Liked by 2 people

      • On this note, I’m starting late in life but planning for the last week to purchase a 30 acre spot in East Texas to start clearing. I saw a goat pen on wheels for sale yesterday, and figured I might be able to pull something off like that someday. It’s quite daunting the amount of work ahead… secretly, well not a secret now, I don’t have high hopes for a normalized season this year, so Astros may go on backburner in 2021 for me.

        We’ll go and walk the property today which they’re currently using as a hunting lease. 20 acres to clear, pour a pad, running electric water sewar, fencing & digging a pond could take me a year without much help or the right equipment. Going to have to give up Astros prospects and start mining my own. I won’t have any idea what a Geico commercial is, already fading from memory. This is about the 3rd year in a row I haven’t the foggiest who won Super Bowl, NCAA National Championship. And yet I used to be able to spit out every stat imaginable. Life has gone like that in phases over the years as I couldn’t get interested in the 2008-2013 Astros. When the owner is incompetent, or doesn’t care it’s hard to buy in. At least it seems, Crane wants to win but the way the brand is being treated, and the direction of Rob Manfred generally… I try to just focus on the young guys who are still trying to make it, when odds are stacked against them. 2021: the year of the uphill climb.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good luck with making your dream come true Go Stros!!

        OP your daughter and her husband sound like amazing people. These kind of stories are special and heart warmng. You and your wife should be very proud.


      • OldPro, I was literally going to ask your email address for the express purpose. But generally here sure, anytime. As long as I don’t infringe on the purpose of the blog and all. Thanks


      • I don’t think this will offend:
        1. Don’t go exotic or small on your septic. A larger tank is almost always better. You will avoid problems.
        2. Angel Soft tissue dissolves. Use it. The words “Septic Safe” is misleading.
        3. The worst enemy of laying hens is a rooster. They divide, harm, and wear out your flock. I have spent the last 10 years around chickens without spending a dime on them. I watch my kids owning them. The egg production is so smooth until someone decides they want a rooster.
        4. Metal Roof!
        5. It is easier to get rid of the root ball of a tree with the trunk attached. Don’t spend the rest of your life with stumps everywhere. Your mowing equipment will last twice as long.
        6. Keep a pile of dirt handy. Fill up those holes where the tree used to be!
        7. Find out what you need to have to get a farm sales tax exemption and get it. Now! And find out what you are allowed to use it for.
        8. There are grants available to you for such things as ponds, wells, storm cellars and greenhouses. Some are through the county and some are federal. Don’t be afraid to find out about it. Your county extension agent can help you with info about this, if he is a good one.
        9. Go to your local livestock sale barn and sit through some of the auction. It will educate you about livestock. Knowledge is money.
        10. You will get advice from a hundred different sources and some of that advice will be polar opposites. You will learn how to weed this garden!
        11. One of my farm kid families stay up late and sleeps late and one of them goes to bed at a decent hour and gets up early. Guess who is more successful and who is always scrambling and behind. There is a reason God created sunrises and sunsets.
        12. Most important: Finish what you start.

        Liked by 1 person

      • God Bless you for taking the time to open up your playbook, garnered from yrs of trial and learning. Profound wisdom is invaluable! Hopefully, I’ll report in on the progress from time to time having avoided these pitfalls.


      • I don’t know about the rest of our readers OP, but I’m cool with the 12 hints for farming – anytime you want to pop them out there…,


  3. When Nov 10th arrived and the 2021 season began, here is what people said the Astros needed.
    1. Starting outfielders
    2. A better bullpen and another late inning guy.
    3. More depth in the rotation.
    4. A backup catcher.
    The Astros have not taken care of any of those things. The two bullpen guys they signed actually lowered their WAR projections.


  4. Dan that was a superb analogy about the cat fight brewing in the ‘pen.

    Like a real good one, they will go at each other relentlessly and loud. It will be the poor batters who get scratched and clawed the most however.

    Speaking of noise, like Bielak in Winter of 2019, other teams are really squaking about Dubin. If there’s only one spot they’re fighting for, I’m here to say, They Need a Bigger Boat!

    Probably time to start trading the hangers-on and free up some 40-man space, if we’re going to address SP, backup catcher as a minimum.

    I suppose if we consider Correa in arbitration or possible trade, that would have to conclude first?


  5. Dan P’s baseball version of OP’s 12 farming tips
    1. Don’t go small on your stadium bathrooms. Especially the ones for the ladies. You will avoid problems.
    2. The Angels seem to be a Soft organization and unable to take advantage of having the best player in baseball.
    3. The worst enemy of developing youngsters is a self serving roosterish diva. They divide, harm, and wear out their welcome on your team. The run production is so smooth until someone decides they want a rooster/diva.
    4. Metal Roof? Never! They are just plain ugly.
    5. As the Texans are seeing with Jack Easterby, it is easier to get rid of the root of your teams problems if you dig out the root with the offending parts of the trunk attached. Don’t spend the rest of your life with stumps from the previous regime all over the place. Your quarterback will stay twice as long if the responsible party is removed.
    6. Keep a pile of dirt handy. Use it to slant those foul lines for the benefit of your team.
    7. Find out what you need to do to get the small market subsidy from the big market clubs and get it…. Now! You don’t even have to spend it on your stinky club since there is no floor to how much a team can spend.
    8. There are grants/bond issues available to you from the county and state for new stadiums or stadium improvements for such things as suites, video screens and screaming sound systems. Don’t be a sucker billionaire – look into redirecting some of that money meant for the needy to you.
    9. Go to your local baseball tryout sites and sit through some of the action. It will educate you about prospects. Knowledge is money.
    10. You will get advice from a hundred different sources and some of that advice will be polar opposites. You will learn how to weed this garden!
    11. Some of your farm kids stay out late, show up late and want to leave early. Some of them go to bed at a decent hour and get up early and works their a$$e$ off. Guess who is more successful and who is always scrambling and behind. There is a reason God created sunrises and sunsets.
    12. Most important: Finish what you start.

    Just a little tongue in cheek here….


  6. If this is the depth chart of sorts, then let’s look at options.

    New unnamed, unsigned reliever…
    Ryan Pressly
    Pedro Baez
    Ryne Stanek
    Joe Smith
    Blake Taylor
    Enoli Paredes
    The catfight of the century

    Astros threw 1462 innings in 2019.
    About 1/2 by top four:
    JV 223
    Cole 212
    Miley 167
    Pea 91

    I don’t see any 200 IP guys on the roster today, but we have a lot of former Starters in minor leagues which didn’t have the ability to get those starts in HOU without injury. If it wasn’t necessity the Astros pitched in more of a tandem pattern, then examples of wheels falling off for Bielak, or Scrubb and James not finding the plate were other reasons guys didn’t go longer in their outings. It must be the reason Astros are still connected with innings-eaters at this point.

    Consequently, we’ll see more Bulk Starter, or 3 innings pre-planned than years’ past, and not the least of which reasons is teams have a hard time keeping a healthy stable. In the Astros case, we’ll probably see a Bielak start, then be sent to SL, in order to bring up Taylor. Whitley might start and have a poor showing, which allows us to bring up Pruitt from his re-hab. It’s going to be a merry-go-round, I tell ya. Especially if LMJ and Greinke have a spell of struggling, then we will be relying on Framber Javier and Urquidy to pick up the slack. I’m more excited by this than worried. I do understand (like the 2019 Corpus team who lost so many Holds), it’s not optimal managing this kind of pitching schedule. Bet we see more of it leaguewide, though, since Cole and JV are few & far between.

    Teams can’t keep pushing pitchers too hard. The balance between nutrition, weight training & rest is vital, and Astros are always hiring up in these departments. I feel this is such an important subject because if we aren’t going to trade Correa or LMJ, and we think we “have a chance”, then all cylinders must be clicking. If we have another loss ike Alvarez JV or Osuna, 2021 is NOT built to absorb these kind of losses. That is why I advocate TRADE! The risk is too high, and getting a 73rd pick on the field in 5 yrs for Correa is a complete Loss vs what value is sitting there..

    I honestly don’t see a huge drop off with Bregman/Diaz at SS, and giving Toro half a season at 3B. Ready to call up Pena, or even let Straw have some innings. The idea would be to land a marquee player that Amateur Draft won’t allow because of punishment.


  7. “It’s something that I think all of us would like to have, and it can certainly make you feel better about your bullpen than if you don’t have someone who maybe has done it in the past,” general manager James Click said of a set ninth inning option. “However, there are always guys who step up into that role every year. There are new closers every year, and our young talent on this roster did an impressive job last season in stepping up in some roles that, if we’re being honest, I don’t think that we thought that they might have been ready for, and our hand was forced because of a lot of different reasons.”

    Always back the young guys, James. Well done.


  8. My lord. I didn’t sign on for a day and lo and behold, DanP, et. al., turned this into the Farm and Ranch Magazine. (Love it). It has been said by Mark Twain and others, “Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes away.” (Change the word Exercise to Owning a Farm) Having been raised in rural East Texas, I know that “making a farm” is hard work. So I feel sorry for people that want to “try it” without conviction. The results are beautiful but it does not come easy.


    • And to get back to the post, I think 1OP’s list is correct but not in my order. 1. Get a starting pitcher. 2. Get 1 or 2 outfielders. 3 Find Mario Rivera II. 4. Backup Catcher, nope. Starting Catcher, OK.

      Now GS1 is going to jump on me again, but from what we have seen with the Click/Crane team, I am not too sure they are not going to sit out this trading/free agent season again and maybe the next trade deadline. I am not Bopert, just if the Astros think that have equal talent (or even almost equal talent) at a much smaller price, then take your chances. I want to always be in the contention. With a historical record of 4630 wins and 4697 losses – .496 , I will take over .500 ever year and hope we get lucky in the playoffs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We stood pat 2016 deadline, but saw our chance Winter 2017 to $pend that money money. Hopefully Astros can compete in 2021, and 2022. That is my main concern.

        I think you guys are absolutely right about “trying out farming”! It might simply turn out after a few of AC’s naps to be a place for a luxury RV that doubles as a deer blind HaHa! At least way out in the middle of the woods, nobody can hear me yelling at the Astros for boneheaded play.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. You mentioned Bailey, Dan, and we sent him to CIN for cash.

    I’d say Torres is your breakout, but he has a year before R5 and there are a number of guys who are roster’d waiting their turn in guys like Shawn Dubin or Nivaldo Rodriguez. The latter is a prime example like Bryan Abreu who all have tremendous upside when they have time to master their craft. Adding more names to the bullpen will jeopardize those innings, unless Astros plan on using SL/CC as their newer proving grounds.

    With Smith’s return, I suspect they’re done acquiring more relievers, and really don’t think they’ll get a Starter of note.

    A breakout candidate on position side is probably Diaz since he’s likely to get more oppo’s this year. Here’s a guy who is 5 seasons of intermittant play removed from a promising rookie year at 134 OPS+. Given that Straw had a poor 2020, he’s another frontrunner to turn things around, assume CF, and never look back. Often maligned for being a light hitter, Straw takes these criticisms personally and works hard. Not the sexiest list of guys, but then again we’re the Astros! Nobody will give them their due, even if they win it all. The media will find a way to highlight the other team’s player’s age. How old is Juan Soto btw?


  10. A nice little write-up on Pete Solomon.

    “We both learned a lot about the game of baseball in the minor leagues — especially mentally,” Bielak said. “I think he learned how to prepare his body and his mind to get ready for a start or relief in the Astros organization and just know what he needs to do to prepare his body day in and day out. I think that was the biggest change that I’ve seen from the college to the minor leagues.”


  11. You know, if the team stays the same for 2021 as it is now and they don’t get some outfielders, then that might mean there is a plan to rebuild.
    How do you do it?
    2021 ends and you give Correa a QO and he walks.
    You let LMJ walk.
    Let Greinke and JV walk.
    You don’t renew Gurriel and Pressly’s option and they walk.
    That’s everyone from the 2017 team gone except Bregman and Altuve, who are the only guys left with significant salaries and you make 2 blockbuster trades for high end prospects and your payroll is now at $0 dollars and there is nobody left from 2017 for anybody to call a cheater.
    You start over with Alvarez, Tucker, Straw and McCormick, Baez and all your young pitchers, a bunch of draft picks and prospects and about $200 million in luxury tax room and a new CBA.
    All the perpetrators from your scandal are now playing for other teams and you start over.
    If Click just lets this team go into 2021 without fixing itself, I could see this happening. I’m watching the Rockets and Texans doing it right now, so don’t tell me it couldn’t happen.


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