Astros Prospect Profile: Josh Hader
By Jason Burke
A couple of days ago, Astros prospect Josh Hader was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to chat with co-editor Eric Huysman about his journey to this point, and what the season ahead has in store for him. Today, we take a look at what some of the experts are saying about Hader, who was acquired by the Astros in the Bud Norris trade, along with L.J. Hoes at the 2013 trade deadline.
First, let’s talk about last season. In time split between Lancaster (22 games, 15 starts) and Corpus Christi (5, 4), Hader threw a combined 123 innings, and accumulated a 3.29 ERA between the two stops. It was in the California League, where the bats make loud noises, that Hader stood out, going 9-2 with a 2.71 ERA. In his short stint in Double-A, the 6’3″ lefty saw his ERA balloon to 6.30, largely in part to his walk rate increasing from a 3.3 in High-A ball, to a 7.2 with the Hooks.
Presumably, Hader, 21, will start the 2015 season where he finished out 2014 so that the Astros can track his progress, and hopefully see him earn a call to the next level at some point during the season. Even though his walk rate became worrisome late last season, his strikeout rate also jumped from 9.8 to 10.8 percent, which shows he has the “stuff” to deliver outs against a higher level of competition.
MLB Pipeline has Hader ranked as the Astros #8 prospect, saying, “Even with all of his advances so far, Hader still has plenty of room for growth. His secondary pitches have good potential, but they are inconsistent. Hader needs to refine his command. He started making those adjustments in 2014 at Class A Lancaster, where he has thrived despite pitching in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the Minor Leagues.” Pipeline also mentions that Hader has drawn comparisons to White Sox ace Chris Sale due to his body type and delivery.
Baseball Prospectus doesn’t have Josh Hader listed within the Astros top-ten prospects, but they do list him as a “Prospect on the Rise,” saying, “[the] lefty enjoyed a season to build upon with High-A Lancaster, working with an upper-80s to low-90s fastball with lots of dance out of a tough low three-quarters slot.
His slider is a second potential above-average offering that can make lefty bats highly uncomfortable due to the angle of approach. His change is a third usable weapon, though both it and the slider regularly play fringe average or below, as Hader is still working to find a consistent release that allows him to work the totality of the zone with each. He’ll need more precision in execution to continue his run of success against stiffer Texas League competition, and could find a home as a useful lefty relief arm should he prove incapable of turning over upper-level lineups with his fastball-heavy approach.”
BP also mentions that the southpaw has the ability to reach 95 mph on the gun, which could benefit him in shorter outings coming out of the bullpen.
No matter the role that Josh Hader finds himself in as his career progresses, he looks to be a solid pickup that could play a role in the Astros future of competitive seasons. Which role he ends up in will largely depend on two things: his control, and the development of his changeup and slider. With three pitches Hader has the look of a starter. But with two, he could see more time coming out of the bullpen, throwing the 95 mph cheddar.
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