Apr 13, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Will Harris against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Although this is a battle for two spots, I really only see one spot being up for grabs here. I will say that I see Gregerson starting off the season as the closer, with Qualls and Fields as the main set-up guys in the 7th and 8th. If Gregerson struggles and Fields exceeds like he did last season, I can see Fields closing out games for Houston.
This leaves Sipp to keep coming in whenever he can in a very similar role as last season, but also being to split up the time with the newly acquainted Neshek, which will help both of those arms tremendously. Now, for the last two members of the bullpen on Opening Day:
Will Harris: Harris will be given every opportunity this spring to earn himself a spot on the Opening Day roster, and I do think he will do well with those opportunities. Like the next guy I’m choosing, he didn’t allow a run last season after mid-August. I don’t expect that streak to continue forever, but if he can pitch like he did outside of those two outings last season, the Astros have themselves a solid reliever who isn’t a free agent until 2020.
Kevin Chapman: If Chapman and Harris can pick up where they left off in 2014, this bullpen could be one of the best in the league. Like Harris, I don’t expect that streak to continue that he ended on. But if the post-OKC Chapman arrives, the Astros have another good lefty option out of the bullpen.
You may notice I don’t have Jose Veras listed here. This prediction includes players currently on the Astros roster, which is why he isn’t on it. If Veras does indeed sign with the Astros, then I predict Harris makes the team over Chapman as the last bullpen guy. But Chapman won’t be far behind, and it’s a good thing if the Astros have to have a guy like that in AAA. That would mean there isn’t any room for him on the 25-man roster, and that’s the kind of depth that should make anybody happy.
Assuming Veras doesn’t sign with the Astros, I don’t think Harris and Chapman will find themselves in too many high-pressure situations early on the in the season, but they can certainly pitch themselves into making the bullpen a “next-man-up” kind of team. If either of these two struggle, or if the rotation is really having a hard time eating up innings, then I can see one of the starters in AAA being called up to be a long reliever. Let’s hope though that we don’t see a situation like that arise, and that the bullpen has the opportunity to become one of the best in all of baseball.
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