Kevin Chapman (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Astros Are Left with One Left Hander in the Bullpen

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Ever since the Houston Astros claimed Raul Valdes off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies last fall, I questioned his place on the 40-man roster. So it is only fitting that as he is designated for assignment today, once again I have my doubts.

One benefit, if you can call it that, of having the worst record in baseball is that it gives you the highest waiver priority. Now it is not something to be excited about, and has minimal impact, but it is a perk. That allowed Jeff Luhnow to claim former Pittsburgh Pirate, and more recent member of the Minnesota Twins, Alex Presley off waivers.

Presley has had an up and down career so far and struggled in Spring Training hitting .189 in 37 at bats. So far in his major league career Presley has 769 at bats in which he has hit .264 with 17 home runs, 60 RBI’s, and 20 stolen bases. The left-handed batter is a versatile defender and makes the perfect fourth outfielder. At this point what you see out of the 28-year old is what you get, but there is still some room for growth.

With the Astros only carrying three bench players before the acquisition of Presley, and no true backup outfielder, I like this addition. It also brings the bullpen down to seven relievers which I think is sufficient. This is especially true when you have two starting pitchers, Brad Peacock and Jerome Williams, pitching in relief along with Anthony Bass who has some experience as a starting pitcher.

But this does not mean I totally agree with the composition of the Astros’ pitching staff. All spring Bo Porter stated a desire to have two left-handers in the bullpen, and the veteran Valdes was a perfect fit for the role. So far this spring the 36-year old had a 1.69 ERA in 5.1 innings with six strikeouts. The presence of Valdes would also reduce the load on Kevin Chapman.

To be fair, Darin Downs is more than capable and available in AAA, so this more of me having an issue with Dallas Keuchel in the rotation. Nothing against Keuchel because I think he is a solid swing pitcher, but the Astros would have been better served by sending him down to AAA and moving Peacock into the starting rotation.

With no options remaining, Peacock must remain in Houston, but at this point I rather see if he can improve on his strong second half of 2013 than suffer through more of the same from Keuchel and his 5.82 ERA to go with a 1.65 WHIP this spring.

 

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