Astros Bullpen Battle: James Hoyt or Jandel Gustave?
By Cody Poage
The final stretch of exhibition games will be used to determine the last spot in the Astros bullpen.
As Spring Training begins to wind down and the teams return to their home cities, there are still roster spots that need to be filled. There are plenty of battles to be decided before Opening Day, the Astros included.
The Astros have one such battle in the bullpen. And the contenders are James Hoyt and Jandel Gustave.
In years past, the Astros would’ve likely placed both of these talented right-handers in the bullpen to start off the season. However, the bullpen is full of two things: talented relievers and/or money committed. Please note that the two are not necessarily contingent on the other.
Enter a pair of relievers with more minor league experience than major league experience. Just one open roster spot between them. But each brings much needed depth to a pitching staff that will rely on their bullpen to be better than average.
At this point in time, it is rather difficult to pinpoint on who will win the job. Both of these pitchers have built solid cases in Spring Training.
Hoyt 2017 Spring Training Statistics: 9.1 IP, 2.89 ERA, 11 SO, 1.61 WHIP
Gustave 2017 Spring Training Statistics: 8.2 IP, 2.08 ERA, 10 SO, 0.81 WHIP
As you can tell from above, both pitchers have pitched relatively well. Hoyt has a bit of a higher ERA and WHIP, however, the former Atlanta Brave farmhand has eleven strikeouts.
Gustave on the other hand has been better by the metrics than Hoyt. He nearly has the same number of strikeouts in less innings in conjunction with a lower ERA and WHIP. It is easy to see why teams in the past like the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, and San Diego Padres took a flier Gustave when he was eligible in the Rule V Draft two years ago. After all, it is hard to find pitchers who can reach 100 MPH.
The next round of games against the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs will likely determine who wins the sole bullpen job remaining on the Astros roster. Per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle, the competition between the two may be decided on who pitches more effectively to left-handed hitters.
"Hinch said the Astros are “paying close attention to” the competing relievers’ effectiveness against lefthanded hitters, which is why Hoyt is believed to be the favorite. The coaching staff has had him focus all spring on throwing his splitter, a potential neutralizer against lefties."
As you may recall, the Astros are in an interesting situation in terms of left-handed relief help.
Tony Sipp is currently the only left-handed option out of the bullpen that is making the Opening Day roster. This is mainly due to the fact that he is owed $6 million during the upcoming season and that there were no viable options on the free agent market at the Astros presumably desired price range.
Hence why Hoyt is being considered for the job as well even though his Spring Training statistics were slightly worse than Gustave’s metrics. And it didn’t hurt that Hoyt proved why the Astros are keen on him in terms of left-hander hitters.
Next: Astros: It's Time to Stay Cautiously Optimistic
At the end of the day, the Astros bullpen is going to be a solid unit. Either one of Hoyt or Gustave should make this team better. Only time and left-handed hitters can tell the tale at this point.
**Statistics courtesy of MLB.com**