Astros: Does James Hoyt have a shot at the Opening Day roster?

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 04: James Hoyt
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 04: James Hoyt /

If anyone is going to claim a job on the Astros’ Opening Day, they’ll have to earn it.

The Astros do not have many weaknesses on the roster. Besides a somewhat open job or two, most of the roles have already been determined. That’s just the reality of a championship team with most of its players returning. As spring training begins to warm up, though, there could opportunities for a few players.

Enter one pitcher named James Hoyt.

The other half of the Evan Gattis trade from a few years ago, Hoyt has thrown 71.1 major league innings with a 4.42 ERA and 3.80 FIP since 2016. He can reach the mid-nineties and throws primarily a fastball-and-slider combination with a change up mixed in on seldom occasion. In other words, his stuff isn’t bad. It’s actually quite decent.

The age-31 pitcher has yet to receive a true shot, though, as a key cog in the Astros’ bullpen. I know Hoyt actually made 43 appearances last season, but it didn’t feel like he was viewed as a reliever to lean on as situations got a bit hairy.

As the Astros are set to play their first spring training game in 2018 on Friday, it is fair to speculate about Hoyt’s status in the major league bullpen.

The backend of the ‘pen is pretty much set in stone with Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Will Harris. The additions of Joe Smith and Hector Rondon only complicate matters for Hoyt. Houston also has Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock set to start the season as the swing pitchers out of the bullpen, barring any injuries to the starting rotation. That’s seven total relievers and that’s not counting the left-handed Tony Sipp as the eighth and final pitcher in the bullpen. Now, we have eight relievers listed before Hoyt. There may not simply be enough room.

Jake Kaplan of The Athletic presented an interesting thought that “The Astros aren’t hellbent on carrying a lefty simply for the sake of carrying a lefty.” The article also notes Hoyt as a potential addition to the bullpen if the Astros choose to go such a route. Heck, the team could decide to role with Devenski as their left-handed specialist, if it ever struck their fancy. Take a look at Devenski’s splits through any baseball statistic database, and you’ll see my point.

Next: Astros plan to give Yuli Gurriel some reps as a middle infielder

Looking ahead, it’s difficult to envision Hoyt on the Opening Day roster barring an injury or two. He will likely start the season with the Fresno Grizzlies, Houston’s current Triple-A affiliate. Of course, he has promising stuff and will likely see some action in the Astros’ bullpen sooner or later.

**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**