Despite a strong spring, left-hander Blake Taylor is unlikely to make the Houston Astros Opening Day roster.
Many baseball fans, myself included, think having at least one left-hander in a team’s bullpen is almost a necessity. The ability to give a different look to strong left-handed hitters can be key, as we saw in the 2019 World Series when the Astros‘ all-righty bullpen had difficulty with Juan Soto. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to earn Blake Taylor a spot in the Houston relief corps.
The Astros acquired Taylor from the Mets in the Jake Marisnick trade, and it was thought he would come into camp to compete for a bullpen spot. He made six appearances in Spring Training and did not allow a run, striking out seven batters in seven innings. So why is he on the outside looking in?
For one, though he did keep the opposition scoreless, he gave up four hits and walked five in those seven innings. The five walks, in particular, look a little ugly. There’s nothing that grinds my gears more than a pitcher who can’t throw strikes, so he has some fine tuning to do before he’s ready to pitch meaningful innings.
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With eight bullpen spots total, three are total locks. Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly and Joe Smith will be there barring injury. If Brad Peacock is healthy, he’s in there as well. If Justin Verlander is healthy, that means either Josh James or Austin Pruitt will be in the bullpen, as only one can make the rotation.
That leaves three spots remaining. Chris Devenski likely earned one with five scoreless appearances this spring. It’s hard to come up with a reason why Bryan Abreu doesn’t make the team after he threw eight scoreless frames with 13 strikeouts in Spring Training. That leaves only one spot left.
Framber Valdez and Cy Sneed would probably have an edge over Taylor thanks to the fact that they have major league experience, however limited in Sneed’s case. Taylor has only thrown 11.1 innings at Triple-A in his career, so more seasoning at that level is probably in the cards for him.
This bullpen construction, however, is subject to change with injuries and underperformance, so we could still see Taylor in the majors at some point this season. If he pitches well in Round Rock and cleans up that walk rate, he could be a real factor later on this year. For now, though, his scoreless spring likely isn’t enough to net him a roster spot.