Astros pitching prospect Bryan Abreu went into spring training just hoping to make the roster, but the door to the starting rotation may have opened wider.
Bryan Abreu was extremely impressive in his late-season call-up from the Minors last year making his Major League debut with the Astros. That same level of performance has continued through the first few weeks of spring training. He’s not only likely assured himself a spot on the 26-man roster, but Abreu may also be increasing his chance to make the opening day starting rotation.
The injury to Justin Verlander and the uncertainty of when he’ll be healthy enough to return to the mound and start games have changed the immediate needs for the pitching staff. The competition to make the starting rotation this spring has now gone from one open spot to two.
Jose Urquidy, who was the presumed pitcher to take the fourth slot, will in effect move up to take the third position in the rotation. That is if he proves he is still playing at the level to deserve that spot. He hasn’t necessarily been mowing down opposing batters this spring and that could even jeopardize his starting position.
It was thought at the beginning of spring training that the pitchers competing to make the rotation were Josh James, Framber Valdez, and Austin Pruitt. Abreu’s name came up once in a while in the discussion, but he was considered a dark horse candidate and on the outside looking in. That may no longer be the case.
James and Valdez have been very impressive for the Astros this spring, up until yesterday’s split-squad games. Both pitchers got roughed up some in their respective games. James gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in his 3.2 innings of works. Valdez also went 3.2 innings and allowed four runs and four hits.
Pruitt has had a nice spring to date appearing in three games and holds a 2.00 ERA and a WHIP of 0.78 in his nine innings pitched. With no options remaining, he’ll be on the roster whether it be as a starter or a reliever.
Abreu has now appeared in four games, starting one, and has pitched eight scoreless innings in the process. He has kept opposing teams down to a .120 BA and carries a 0.88 WHIP while striking out 13 batters. These numbers don’t come as a shock when looking at his 2019 performance. In seven games he sported a 1.04 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.
Although a small sample of work, the 22-year-old has shown the confidence and skill level to be considered a viable contender for one of the open spots in the starting rotation. Even if Abreu winds up starting the season in the bullpen or even the Minors, he’s got a very bright future ahead of him and I think he will make his mark on the Astros 2020 season, one way or the other.