30 Players in 30 Days: Josh Fields
Josh Fields was first drafted in the second round of the 2007 MLB amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves, but did not sign and opted to return to the University of Georgia for his senior season. He was then selected with the 20th pick in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Seattle Mariners. In 2011, Fields was part of a three-team trade that sent him to the Boston Red Sox. Fields stayed in the Red Sox organization for a season and a half before the Houston Astros drafted him in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft.
Fields spent the entire 2013 season (minus a rehab assignment) with the Houston Astros. He showed a live fastball, but an alarming 17.8% of fly balls hit off of him went for a home run (league average is 7.5%), and he walked a high 4.3 batters per nine innings. He improved across the board the next season and brought his strikeout to walk ratio up from 2.22 in 2013 to 4.12 in 2014. By the beginning of 2015, Fields was the only true flamethrower in the team’s bullpen and figured to fit into a mid-reliever role.
Fields began the season on the 15-day DL with a groin strain and didn’t make his first appearance until April 25, a scoreless inning with one walk and one strikeout. Fields’ next appearance did not go quite as smoothly. Just two days later against the San Diego Padres, the right-hander was called in for the 7th inning to hold a 4-3 lead. He was only able to record one out while allowing three hits, the last an RBI double before Pat Neshek replaced him.
Fields responded to that rough outing with 11 straight scoreless appearances through May 27. In those games, Fields struck out 18 in 10 1/3 innings while surrendering just two walks and three hits. He remained a strong option in the bullpen after that stretch still, only allowing a run in three of his next 11 appearances.
The reliever’s toughest outing of the season came on July 3 against the Red Sox. Fields came on in the bottom of the 7th inning against his former organization with a 7-5 lead. The first batter, Xander Bogaerts singled on a ground ball up the middle off of Fields, and he walked David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez on back-to-back full counts. Fields was pulled without him recording an out and was on the hook for the two runs that crossed the plate that inning.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
On July 18, Fields gave up two runs in a close game against the Rangers, but again followed with a dominant run through Aug. 19: 13 games, 11 innings, 0 runs, four hits, two walks, 13 strikeouts. His reward? On Aug. 20, Fields was optioned to Double-A Corpus Christi. Of course, it wasn’t a demotion so much as a roster crunch and a spent bullpen that needed Vince Velasquez‘s arm.
The downside to the demotion was that Fields’ seemed to be out of rhythm when he returned in September. He allowed seven earned runs in his first two appearances back with the team (he had not allowed more than two earned runs in an appearance all season), but he did settle back in and allowed just three more runs over his next 8 1/3 innings while striking out 11.
Fields made both the Wild Card and ALDS rosters for the Astros and made his first career postseason appearance in Game 2, a scoreless 2/3 inning against the Royals. As is the story of most of the Astros’ bullpen, Fields’ season ended on a sour note. He was tasked with holding the deficit to one run in the ninth inning of Game 4, but after a walk and a strikeout, Eric Hosmer drove a high fastball into the Astros bullpen to seal the Astros’ fate.
More Houston Astros Season Recaps:
- Vince Velasquez
- Tony Sipp
- Jonathan Villar
- Preston Tucker
- Mike Fiers
- Hank Conger
- Chad Qualls
- Jon Singleton
- Joe Thatcher
- Marwin Gonzalez
What to expect in 2016
Fields has improved in every season he was spent with the Astros. He is a high strikeout guy thanks to his fastball that can touch 97 MPH and an improved breaking ball.
Many around baseball think that the Astros need to bring in a back-end flamethrower to bolster the soft-throwing bullpen, and Fields definitely has a chance to complement that type of guy in the later innings. He needs to bring his WHIP down to really factor in as that guy, though, mostly due to his 3.4 BB/9. Regardless, Fields has only surrendered two home runs over each of the last two seasons (Chad Qualls allowed six in one less inning of work) which is impressive for a guy that throws as hard as he does.