How will the forgotten reliever in the Houston Astros bullpen fair in 2016?
And for those wondering, yes, I am talking about Josh Fields. Lost in all of the excitement of Ken Giles coming over from the Philadelphia Phillies, it is easy to forget that Fields was one of the primary reasons the bullpen improved in 2015 for the Houston Astros.
The 30-year old right-hander is coming off a career year where he went 4-1 with a 3.55 ERA/2.19 FIP in 50.2 innings. His 2.19 FIP in particular was quite impressive considering that he finished tenth out of all qualified relievers in that same category in 2015. And if he can come close to replicating that level of success again next season, perhaps even improve, then the Astros bullpen will continue to remain a strength of the club in 2016.
But what should the Astros realistically expect from Fields next season?
His peripherals in 2014 and 2015 were quite good, but the actual results varied. While his home run and walk rate climbed last year, his groundball percentage and K/9 climbed as well. Part of the issue remains with his BABIP, which has stayed north of .300 the past two seasons. But if his continued improvement is sustainable, it could possible that his 2016 season sees that statistic drop to below the .300 line. However, Fangraphs Steamer and ZiPS projections differ on this subject. Steamer currently projects a .279 BABIP while ZiPS actually projects his BABIP to climb to .319 this upcoming season. And with statistics like BABIP, it is difficult to project exactly what will happen.
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Here are my 2016 projections for Josh Fields:
Record: 3-2 W-L
Fields will be counted on to be a reliable weapon for the Astros this season. While he may have to fight for innings alongside Will Harris after the acquisition of Giles, the veteran reliever will be used in a variety of roles. And if he can somehow finally achieve results closer to his peripherals, he could become one the Astros most valuable weapons from the bullpen for manager A.J. Hinch.
The Astros bullpen for the most part has stayed intact after an offseason that witnessed Tony Sipp hit the free agent market and the potential long term solution being acquired. Besides a minor change or two, the improved bullpen in 2015 should still remain as such in 2016. Sipp is back. Harris has made a name for himself. Pat Neshek appears healthy. Giles and Luke Gregerson remain as viable options in high leverage situations. And in the middle of this discussion belongs, deservingly so I might add, is a reliever name Fields. The bullpen appears to be in great shape moving forward into 2016.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**