Astros: Bryan Abreu making case for playoff roster spot

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 09: Bryan Abreu #66 of the Houston Astros pitches in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park on September 09, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 09: Bryan Abreu #66 of the Houston Astros pitches in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park on September 09, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Rookie reliever Bryan Abreu could be under consideration for a spot on the playoff roster.

There’s been a surprise late entrance into the race to make the Astros playoff bullpen. Rookie right-hander Bryan Abreu has looked the part of a weapon so far this month and could be the shot in the arm the relief corps needs this postseason.

Admittedly it’s a small sample, but it’s intriguing nonetheless. In five September appearances spanning 6.1 innings, Abreu has allowed one run on four hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts. He possesses a lively fastball and a knee-buckling curveball, seemingly fitting the organization’s profile for an ideal pitcher. He’s currently ranked as the team’s No. 5 prospect.

There may be some bullpen spots up for grabs here, so there’s a case to be made that the untested rookie should get a shot. What are his chances though?

The Bullpen Outlook

Barring injury, Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon and Brad Peacock are favorites for spots on the roster. How many spots remain open will probably depend on a few factors.

The first would be just how many relievers the Astros plan to carry. The team carried 11 total pitchers in the ALDS in 2017 and 2018, which gives them four starters and seven relievers. We’ll assume they’ll do the same this year. The above named pitchers would take six of those spots, leaving one spot remaining in the bullpen.

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Much will depend on what the team decides to do with its fourth spot in the rotation. Wade Miley struggled again on Thursday, while Jose Urquidy will essentially be auditioning for that spot tonight. If Miley gets the nod, Urquidy could take the final bullpen spot. But if Urquidy gets the ALDS start, things would get interesting.

It would be difficult to justify putting Miley in the bullpen when he’s had so much trouble in the first inning this month. Getting hammered right out of the gate is not a way to help the team in relief. The upside of Abreu would have to trump the risk of Miley.

There are some other names who would be under consideration, such as Chris Devenski, Josh James, Framber Valdez and Joe Biagini. None of them have been consistent, and they all carry ERAs north of 4.50. James has put up five straight scoreless appearances and Devenski has put up four straight, so they can’t be counted out entirely.

But Abreu’s upside certainly helps his case. Even if he doesn’t make the ALDS roster, the Astros have carried a 12th pitcher in the ALCS and World Series in the past two seasons, so he could be a candidate in those series as well, should the team advance that far.

Abreu’s Case

One thing Abreu has going for him is MLB hitters will have a lack of familiarity with him. With only 7.1 big league innings to his name, there won’t be as extensive of a scouting report as there would be on Devenski or James. This has to work in his favor.

Plus, this wouldn’t be without precedent. The Astros put James on the 2018 ALDS roster when he had only 23 big league innings under his belt, giving him the roster spot over Peacock, Smith and Rondon. They banked on his arm and his upside, so they could do the same with Abreu.

However, Abreu is not without his warts. He wasn’t exactly lights-out in Double-A this year, posting a 5.05 ERA in 76.2 innings for Corpus Christi, and has zero regular season experience at Triple-A. He might just be too inexperienced for the team to feel comfortable giving him playoff innings.

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But if they want to roll the dice on a player’s potential, Abreu could be that guy. There’s still a lot that has to transpire over these final three games, so stay tuned.

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