The Houston Astros should call Bryan Abreu back up to help their bullpen.
The Astros have hit the skids in early September thanks to their faltering, inexperienced bullpen. Injuries to key relievers have forced Houston to rely on guys who were pitching in Round Rock and Quad Cities this time last year. The great Brent Strom seemed to have found a way to buoy this young bullpen, but alas, it was all on borrowed time. Regression has finally reared its ugly head.
Houston was swept in disastrous fashion by the Angels, losing a lead in every game with each bullpen pitcher looking listless on the mound. This carried over to the Oakland series, where the Astros squandered a solid Cristian Javier performance on Labor Day. Cy Sneed gave up three runs in what seemed like three minutes in the eighth inning, and it was over. Thankfully Houston was able to split the double-header on Tuesday to stop the bleeding.
And the hits just keep coming (not the good kind). Relievers Blake Taylor and Chris Devenski (now with a nifty new ponytail) went to the Injured List after some poor showings. Brad Peacock didn’t look right in his first appearance. Cionel Pérez has had good moments but has been far from un-hittable. Sneed has been getting shelled for most of the season.
Everyone else on the staff has been giving out runs like candy on Halloween. It’s too bad the Astros can’t just roll out Ryan Pressly, Andre Scrubb and Enoli Paredes every night. During the recent six-game losing streak, the bullpen worked to an 8.85 ERA, and frankly it feels like it should be much higher.
So, what do Dusty Baker and James Click do now? The season is winding down and the way Houston is playing, they may not make the playoffs, let alone win the division. Alex Bregman’s return Tuesday should help the offense, but there are no real options left for pitching. No rock has been left unturned. I do have one suggestion to offer – call up Bryan Abreu. Again.
Plenty of Potential
Abreu is the Astros’ fourth-ranked prospect who has had a few stints in the bigs, including pitching an inning during the 2019 postseason. He’s an athletic 6-1 220 pounds with a great pitching repertoire. His fastball clocks up to the upper 90s and he has an electric curveball and slider for his off-speed pitches.
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He showed some of his potential during his big league time last year, where he notched 13 strikeouts in 8.2 innings (13.5 SO per nine innings) and made batters miss with an imposing 32 percent swing strike rate, per Baseball-Reference (for reference, Gerrit Cole was at 28 percent last year with Houston). When he has command of his pitches, he might be one of the best in the game.
However, Abreu struggled mightily earlier this season with exactly that – command. In his three appearances, he was wild on his delivery, resulting in an upside-down strikeout to walk ratio, and he only threw 40 percent of his pitches for strikes. Those erratic numbers are near Spring Training Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn levels.
Not only was he missing bats, he was missing gloves. No one knew where the pitch was going, including him. Ultimately the team sent him back down to Corpus Christi, with Baker stating that he showed up out of shape and was thinking way too much on the mound. Watching Abreu miss the plate 60 percent of the time, it’s hard to disagree.
But that was early August. This is now. Abreu has undoubtedly had time to work himself back into shape and hopefully refine his control back to 2019 levels. With the season slipping away, I think it’s time to bring Abreu back up.
Nothing to Lose
Maybe Abreu isn’t truly ready to come back up, but what other options do you have? No one in the bullpen, other than maybe Pressly and Scrubb, is reliable, and the starters are certainly feeling that stress. Abreu has shown the ability to have three different pitches that can use to punch out batters. I’m not sure anyone in the current bullpen even has two pitches that can do that.
And what’s the worst case scenario? What if he walks too many batters? The Astros walk the fourth-most batters in the league. Adding a wild Abreu won’t change much. What if he hasn’t improved? He was great last year, and he can’t be much worse than he was earlier this year. If he comes back and his performance is somewhere in the middle, I’ll take it. On the other hand, what is the best case scenario with calling him up? He shows more command, strikes out some batters and keeps the Astros in these pivotal games.
If the Astros are going to do anything in the next couple of weeks, they can’t keep rolling out guys who give up hits and runs in bunches. Abreu is crazy talented with the potential to be a monster reliever or a closer. If his command is elevated, he could deliver big shutdown innings to a team that desperately needs it.
The way the bullpen is trending now, what have we got to lose?