Next up for the Houston Astros, Michael Freeman.
As the Houston Astros are starting spring training with only one projected left-handed pitcher on the roster in Tony Sipp, there is a perceived need in the bullpen. While the Astros have right-handed relievers in the bullpen who can often neutralize left-handed hitters, at some point during the season, the Astros might feel like they need more than one lefty in the bullpen. The one who is probably most ready is Kevin Chapman, but the Astros seem to have lost their faith in him. The Astros have also inquired on 40-year-old Randy Choate according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.
However, there appears to be someone in-house who has caught the eyes of the Astros brass and prospect evaluators alike, this player was drafted in the 7th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Oklahoma State University. His name is Michael Freeman, who was the unexpected ace for the Cowboys before being drafted by the Houston Astros. I know what you are thinking, he was just drafted, he will not help the Astros for a few more years.
Normally that is the case, but Freeman moved quickly through the minor leagues in 2015 starting with the Class-A Quad City Bandits, then the Lancaster Jethawks and finished the season with the Corpus Christi Hooks. Granted, his stay with the Hooks was short, only being two games at the end of the season. However, he pitched well throughout his debut of professional baseball, let’s take a look at his stats below.
As you can see, he may not have dominated with strikeouts, but the guy knows how to pitch. Mike Ellias brought him up during the Bloggers Roundtable saying that he has the stuff to pitch potentially for the Astros at some point this season. In interviews with Talking Stros, both Jim Callis and J.J. Cooper both said keep an eye on Freeman, who has big league stuff already. They both said that with the lack of a second lefty, Freeman could emerge as that guy.
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If his stuff is so good, why did he last until the 7th round, because he had a breakout year his senior year in college. According to John Heley, he was a regular guy before his breakout senior year, if which he made some small changes to his delivery that led him to a 10-3 record with a 1.31 ERA. He earned the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Award and All-American honors in 2015. Many people were not paying attention until that time, so the Astros were able to snag him in the seventh round.
While he was a starter in college, the Astros have him tabbed as a reliever, which explains why he moved up the ranks so quickly in 2015. The Astros will most likely start with the Double-A Hooks, which could mean that he could get the call-up when needed as we saw in 2015 with the way they handled Michael Feliz.
Last season in the hitter-friendly Lancaster (Quad Cities) via MiLB.com, Freeman held left-handed hitters to a 0.000 (0.083 in Quad Cities) batting average and 0.135 (0.165 Quad Cities) average versus righties. Yes, it was a small sample size, but could be beneficial for the Astros down the road. With Sipp under control for the next three seasons, Freeman could make the lefty specialist in the bullpen a strength of the bullpen. Freeman will join @TalkingStros on March first, listen to see what he says.
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**