Who is the 2016 breakout Astros prospect, a case for James Hoyt?
Last offseason, the Houston Astros made a controversial trade at the time sending three top prospects to the Braves for Evan Gattis and some other guy. Jeff Luhnow was beaming at the Bloggers Roundtable last year about that other guy, and how he was thrilled to get him thrown into the deal. Luhnow mentioned that he started reading about how this other guy was doing in the Winter Leagues, and secretly wished that people would stop talking about this guy because the Braves might not include him.
The other guy is none other than James Hoyt, more than a throw in. At the beginning of last season, I predicted that Hoyt would be in the bullpen at the end of the season for the Astros. I waited patiently, but it never happened, mostly because of the talent on the major league roster. It was relatively healthy all season, except one pitcher going on the DL at a time.
Chad Qualls was bought out this offseason, and he has since signed a multi-year deal with the Rockies. Ken Giles was recently added to replace Qualls in the bullpen as well as re-signing Tony Sipp, the bullpen is pretty much set depending on what they do with a second left-hander or a long man reliever. Hoyt could be an option quickly if there is an injury or someone goes all Qualls on us because he showed us the man in Triple-A last season. Hoyt was the Will Harris of Fresno last season, what could he be on the Astros?
To answer this question, we will look at the right-hander’s stats from Triple-A last season. Spoiler alert, he is a losing pitcher who is not even on the Top-30 prospect list, why am I so high on him?
Triple-A Fresno Stats: 0-1/ 3.49 ERA/ 66 strikeouts in 49 innings/ 9 saves
That is impressive at Triple-A, he was a big reason the Fresno team did so well in the playoffs last season. He allowed one homer all year while walking 11 batters in 49 innings, which represents a 2.0 walk per nine innings pitched. He then pitched in winter ball again this year and was as impressive as he was last season.
Venezuelan Winter League: 1-2/ 1.53 ERA/ 40 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings/ 14 saves
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The thing that jumps out at you the most is his strikeout rate, 12.1% strikeout rate per nine innings. He gets his strikeouts from his fastball that sits in the middle nineties and a slider that helps keep hitters off-balance. Like Joseph Musgrove, Hoyt is 6’6” and throws at a downhill plane. The one thing that he has going against him is that he is currently 29-years-old, due to not playing baseball until 2011 at the age of 24 in independent baseball. He was signed by the Braves in 2013 after playing in Mexico in 2012.
He may not be one of the top prospects, but he can still get hitters out. He may not have taken the same route to get to the big leagues, but he should be effective in the bullpen with his two pitches. He needs to reach the major leagues soon because he is in his prime right now. No, I am not rooting for an injury, but if the Astros decide the carry eight relievers, he could be one of them.
James Hoyt is major league ready, keeping him sharp in Triple-A is the best option is not needed to start the season, but I am ready to see him in the Astros uniform. What Luhnow has done the past two season is build up the depth of the bullpen and Hoyt is a big part of that.
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**