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Astros: Can Bryan Abreu make the 2021 big league roster?

Jul 21, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Bryan Abreu (66) pitches against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 21, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Bryan Abreu (66) pitches against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /
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Barring injuries or surprising underperformances, the Houston Astros 26-man roster appears to be nearly set to begin the season. Spring Training will show us how true that really is, of course, but things look relatively settled for the time being. So where does that leave young pitcher Bryan Abreu?

Abreu, who turns 24 in April, is one of the more talented young pitchers in the Astros system. He was ranked as the team’s third-best prospect by MLB Pipeline last year and is consistently rated highly by other outlets. He had an impressive major league debut in 2019, allowing one run in 8.2 innings out of the bullpen with 13 strikeouts.

Could Bryan Abreu crack the Houston Astros major league roster this season?

Unfortunately 2020 was a lost season for him as he showed up to camp in July out of shape, according to manager Dusty Baker. That led to Abreu being unable to throw strikes once the season began, as he walked seven batters and plunked two more in 3.1 innings before being optioned off the roster.

Baker noted that Abreu looks great this spring, so he’s looking to get things back on track. He’s got arguably the best curveball in the system to go along with a mid-90s fastball and a solid slider. If he can throw strikes, he has the potential to be a real weapon.

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For now, I’m going to assume the Astros will carry 13 pitchers. That leaves eight bullpen spots, and barring injury, we’ll have Ryan Pressly, Joe Smith, Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Brooks Raley, Pedro Baez and Ryne Stanek in there. That leaves only one remaining spot, which is likely to be taken by non-roster invitee Steve Cishek. So Abreu appears to be on the outside looking in.

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Abreu has spent time as a starter in the minor leagues, so it’s possible the Astros will stretch him out this spring. They have Josh James and Austin Pruitt as veteran depth that will be ready sometime after the season starts, but it’s unclear what roles they’ll have when they come back. Behind the five starting pitchers, there’s very little certain rotation depth.

At this point Abreu appears to be ticketed for Triple-A Sugar Land to begin the season, though if he looks good in Spring Training, he’ll certainly be one of the first guys up in the event of an injury. With pitchers in line to greatly surpass their workloads from 2020, teams will likely need plenty of depth to make it through 162 games.

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So even though Abreu might not break camp with the big league club, he has an excellent chance of making an impact for the Astros at some point this season, either in the rotation or in the bullpen. How he pitches this spring will go a long way toward determining just how big of an impact he might have.

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