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Houston Astros: Bold Predictions Based On Spring Training

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Aug 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Mike Fiers (54) waves to the crowd after pitching a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Minute Maid Park. The Astros defeated the Dodgers 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Mike Fiers (54) waves to the crowd after pitching a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Minute Maid Park. The Astros defeated the Dodgers 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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While Astros Fans Will Focus on Ken Giles, Pat Neshek Will Quietly Become the Astros’ Most Dominant Pitcher in the Bullpen in 2016.

Mar 12, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Pat Neshek (37) delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the game at Roger Dean Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Astros 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 12, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Pat Neshek (37) delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the game at Roger Dean Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Astros 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /

The Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles closer controversy will be the main story for the Astros bullpen in 2016, but other plot lines have developed in Spring Training thus far. Some examples of these story lines are the lack of left-handed pitchers, who slots in the long relief role, and if any prospects make the cut.

But, Pat Neshek has certainly made some headlines this spring as well. Starting with an interesting press conference on Day 1 of Astros camp, Neshek made headlines with a bone growth that was removed from his foot in the offseason. Not the prettiest way to start the year, but baseball is a grown man’s game.

After all the medical talk was finished, Neshek went to work in Kissimmee. Through five appearances so far, Neshek has a 1.93 ERA, six strikeouts, and a 1.29 WHIP. Two out of his five appearances have been perfect innings (no walks, hits, or runs), and four of his five appearances have been scoreless outings.

Based on his spring results, I would expect Neshek to be the main pitcher in the 8th inning for the Astros, perhaps even taking over the closer role if Gregerson or Giles struggle for an extended period. Neshek claimed that his foot injury bothered him throughout 2015, which would explain his struggles towards the end of the season.

Neshek started the 2015 season pitching very well, collapsed in September, and was mostly unavailable in the postseason. Although he got a couple of playoff appearances, Neshek just was not the same after the All-Star Game. His 5.06 ERA and .315/.371/.539 slash line allowed after the all-star break is a sign that something definitely was not right.

In 2016, I expect Neshek to put this gross injury behind him and perform consistently well for the whole season. He’s too valuable, as a veteran reliever, to disappear as a relief option in September and October. As long as Giles and Gregerson duke it out for the closing spot, I expect Neshek and Tony Sipp to be solid veteran presences in the Astros clubhouse and on the mound.

If everything goes well health-wise, Neshek will lead the American League in holds while lowering his ERA from 3.62 in 2015 to around 2.00 in 2016. He has been even better than this before, so I’m predicting Neshek to have his first stellar season with the Astros this season.

Next: Bold Prediction #3: Preston Tucker Will Establish Himself as Astros DH

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