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Who makes the Astros’ postseason bullpen?

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 18: Reliever Joe Smith #38 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on April 18, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 7-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 18: Reliever Joe Smith #38 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on April 18, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 7-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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The Houston Astros have plenty of candidates to make the postseason bullpen, so who’s in and who’s out?

It’s a luxury most teams would love to have. With the playoffs coming up, the Astros have more candidates for the postseason roster than roster spots. Specifically, the bullpen has been a strength for most of the season, and, unfortunately, some quality pitchers may get left out.

Last season, the Astros carried 11 pitchers on the ALDS roster, then carried 12 pitchers during both the ALCS and World Series. This analysis assumes A.J. Hinch will do the same this season. It also assumes there are no injuries between now and the end of the regular season that would affect the postseason roster.

Spots Locked Down

The starting rotation is pretty much set with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel. Assuming he’s ready, Lance McCullers will likely be on the roster as a long reliever. That’s five spots down, leaving six or seven remaining.

Virtual guarantees to make the roster are Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon and Collin McHugh. All four have had excellent seasons, and nothing short of injury or epic meltdown would keep them off. That leaves two more spots for the Division Series, and three for the ALCS/World Series.

The Candidates

Will Harris — Harris hasn’t quite had the season Astros fans have come to expect. His 3.64 ERA is the highest of any of his seasons in a Houston uniform, as are his WHIP and Hits/9. Still, he’s a veteran with postseason experience, so he can’t be counted out.

Brad Peacock — Of those on the fence, Peacock seems to have the best shot. He’s posted a 3.13 ERA almost exclusively in relief this season with a sky-high strikeout rate of 13.4 per nine innings. He also has the ability to throw more than one inning, which is even more valuable in October. He can be penciled in for a spot.

Joe Smith — After a slow start, Smith rebounded to post another excellent season. The veteran is 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA this year and would be a great weapon if the Astros need a groundball. He’s also thrown five scoreless postseason innings in his career. He should be penciled in as well.

Tony Sipp — Sipp has had an incredible bounce-back season, pitching to a 2.06 ERA in 35 innings. He’s allowed drastically fewer hits and home runs than in the previous two seasons and is striking out more than a batter per inning. As the only veteran lefty in the mix, his inclusion might depend on potential matchups and whether Hinch feels comfortable with an all-righty bullpen.

Josh James — This is the wild card. The electric rookie has fanned 24 batters in his first 16 innings and can touch triple digits with his heater. Control can sometimes be an issue, but he can also pitch multiple innings. He might not make the Division Series roster, but if the Astros advance and add an extra pitcher, he would have to be under consideration.

Chris Devenski — It seems odd, but Devenski may be on the outside looking in. He simply hasn’t been himself lately, with a 4.12 ERA on the season and only five appearances since the trade deadline. His track record is impeccable, but with so many other options, Devenski may be on the sidelines.

Framber Valdez — The rookie lefthander has been impressive thus far, posting a 2.20 ERA in his first 28.2 innings. Working against him is the fact that the Astros have a veteran lefty in Sipp who is also having a great year and is more accustomed to relief work. It seems unlikely that Valdez would make the roster with so many other options available.

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The Verdict

As it stands, Peacock and Smith should be on the playoff roster. If McCullers is included, that would round out the Division Series bullpen. Sipp and James seem like the two best options to add in case of injury or if the Astros advance to the ALCS. It speaks to the impressive depth of this team that Harris and Devenski could both be left off the roster, but that’s how many better options the Astros have.

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