The 25th man on the Astros 25-man roster.
With eight Houston Astros players off representing their countries in the World Baseball Classic, there will be many players getting the extra reps. While most of the pitchers have stayed behind, Luke Gregerson, Kevin Chapman, and Dayan Diaz are off to the WBC. Only one of those players has a chance of making the 25-man roster. Gregerson is that player, but there will be some extra innings for some of the young arms.
Manager A.J. Hinch told us on Talking Stros that he prefers 13 pitchers. Let’s assume that Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Joe Musgrove are in the rotation. The locks for the bullpen are Ken Giles, Will Harris, Gregerson, Chris Devenski, Michael Feliz, Tony Sipp, and Mike Fiers. That leaves one spot open in the bullpen. Let’s break their respective roles on this team.
With his stuff, Ken Giles is the obvious candidate for closer on this team. He did not have his best season with the Astros, but he did show glimpses of dominance. In 67 2/3 innings last year, he struck out 102 hitters. He had a 4.11 ERA with a 2-5 record and 15 saves, but he got off to a rough start. The Astros traded for Giles to be the closer, but then he wasn’t, and then he was again.
The setup guys.
The other candidates for saves could be Harris and Gregerson. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Devenski get saves here or there. Harris was a better pitcher in non-save situations last year, and Gregerson has in his career as well. Feliz could also find his way into this role, but he must be more consistent. After the poor start to 2016, Feliz was sent down to Triple-A. When he returned, he was up for good but hit a wall late in the year.
Love him or hate him, Sipp is the guy. The Astros brought in some other options for a left-handed reliever, but they are not having much luck this Spring. Ashur Tolliver, C.J. Riefenhauser, and returning Chapman. One of the options I will discuss in a little while is having a decent Spring. However, Sipp is the guy for now. They went without a second lefty reliever last year, so I can see them opening the season that way again.
The long relievers.
The Astros have a unique feature. They have three relievers who could be in the starting rotation. These are Fiers, Feliz, and Devenski. While Fiers would most likely be the long guy, the Astros are stretching Devenski out this Spring to be able to pitch multiple innings again. Fiers has pitched out of the bullpen before, but he understands that might be his role in 2017.