With the Astros’ bullpen in need of left-handed support and the free agent market dwindling, could Aaron Loup be the solution?
For the Astros, the lack of a lefty specialist out of the bullpen is well documented, and there is not a lot of star power in free agency. With Zach Britton seemingly destined for both big money and a reunion in the Big Apple, the Astros must dig deep to find a gem on the open market. That gem is Aaron Loup.
As the 2017 season came to a close, the Houston Astros had a choice to make, whether or not to resign the ever so vexing and commemorated long-standing lefty, Tony Sipp. Sipp had himself quite the turn around year last season, to the tune of a 1.86 ERA spread over 38 innings in 2017.
However, his inconsistency paved the way for the Astros to not extend a contract as they look to find a more stable arm to hold left-handers down. Many fans will agree, that with Chris Devinski being a solid arm to shut down lefties, there is always room for one more.
Enter in Aaron Loup. Coming off a year which was mostly spent in Toronto, until a trade at the deadline saw him traveling south to Philadelphia. At first glance, the stats don’t motivate, as his 4.54 ERA over 39 innings isn’t good at all. However, his K/9 stayed at a consistent 10.0, as he finished the season with 44 K’s. A keen eye will notice that these stats look eerily similar to Gerrit Cole, a familiar top ace in 2017.
As with many of the Astros’ recent pitchers, spin rates and the use of sinkers or cutters has had an increase spike in the last several years. Aaron Loup has a repertoire that utilizes both a sinker and a cutter, as well as a killer changeup and a sweeping curveball.
The sinker has been scouted at topping 93 MPH, while consistently sitting at 92 MPH. He started using his cutter more in the second half of the season which saw an uptick in velocity, inflating from an 83 MPH rate to a more modest 86 MPH. With these solid pitches, Loup is able to effectively get hitters to ground out at a better percentage than Tony Sipp, as evidence of his 49.2 GB% compared to Sipp’s 41.5%.
This is the moment Baseball America’s recently anointed Manager of the Year Brent Strom starts to salivate. Loup’s spin rate of his cutter ranks in the top 25 of spin rates, only 20 RPMs off of Will Harris and 13 RPMs off of Charlie Morton. Loup’s sinker also ranks in the top 25, 200 RPMs above the earlier mentioned Zach Britton. A pitch, Britton has made a name for using.
Aaron Loup has had previous success, and his 2018 season shouldn’t be used as a barometer of his future. Am I insinuating that he could be the next Aroldis Chapman or Blake Treinen? No. However, the Astros have the need for his services and he has the potential to be a double threat lefty arm. If Brent Strom gets a hold of him and works his magic, as he has on countless pitchers on this team now, you could be looking at a very deadly
and undervalued bullpen.