After not having a lefthanded reliever for much of 2019, the Houston Astros now have multiple southpaws.
The Houston Astros haven’t had a dominant lefty arm out of the bullpen in quite some time. Tony Sipp was an Astro from 2014-2018 and wasn’t always the best lefty out of the pen. In the 2019 playoffs, the Astros did not carry a lefty arm, and this came back to bite them.
You need that lefty to come in for matchups, which the Astros couldn’t do against Juan Soto in last year’s World Series. To make the situation worse, MLB made the move away from the LOOGY with the new rule that a pitcher must face three batters or finish the inning now.
So prior to this season (and prior to being fired), Jeff Luhnow made an interesting trade that dealt away the team’s best defensive outfielder, Jake Marisnick, for two prospects, one being Blake Taylor. Taylor was sought out to be a reliever for the future, but to many fans at the beginning of the season, he was an unknown name.
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The lefty has taken a pivotal role out of the pen this year as Dusty Baker and Click started to restructure the arms with the help of Brent Strom. Falling to injury, Taylor missed a week, but appeared in 22 games in his rookie season. After the first week of the season, he was on the rookie watch list with teammate Cristian Javier. Through those 22 games, Taylor went 2-1 with an ERA of 2.18, striking out 17 batters and having a WHIP of 1.21. The slick lefty would’ve made a great case to be the Astros only All-Star this season due to other injured players.
Now we move on to the journeyman, Brooks Raley. He can be considered a rookie this season as a 32-year-old who played in MLB as a starter for the Chicago Cubs in 2012 and 2013. While only appearing 14 total games over those two years, Raley spent time in the minors and the KBO. In 2020, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds, and through four games he posted a 9.00 ERA that had him designated for assignment.
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A struggling Astros bullpen was looking for any arms, so Click traded a player to be named later for the lefty. In 17 games with the Astros, Raley struck out 21 batters in 16 innings. He dropped his ERA to 3.94 in Houston. As previously stated in the Astros: Comparing ALCS roster changes from 2019 to 2020, I brought up that the Astros might not use Taylor and Raley in the same games, but I was so wrong. Baker has looked to these guys multiple times throughout the ALDS and ALCS.
Lastly for the lefties is Cionel Perez. An unknown name to many fans, Perez only appeared in seven games this season for the Astros, but has been an up and down replacement over the last three seasons. In 6.1 innings, Pérez posted a 2.84 ERA and struck out eight batters. We could see him in the bullpen next year, but the young core is looking for that last piece to become elite in the future. Perez didn’t make any of the playoff rosters this season.
Raley will be off contract after this season, while Taylor and Perez are not yet eligible for arbitration.