Astros: will Andre Scrubb start the season in the minors?

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

After a season full of young, rookie arms trotting from the bullpen, the Houston Astros signed a small surplus of experienced arms. These pitchers include Ryne Stanek, Pedro Baez and Steve Cishek (NRI), but also the return of Joe Smith from an opt-out will take a seat in the Astros’ pen. So, the next name to address would be Andre Scrubb, and where he fits into the bullpen in 2021.

If the Astros go a typical haul of eight relievers, this will most likely leave Scrubb in the Minor Leagues. With Brooks Raley, Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor and Ryan Pressly making up the rest of the names listed, then Scrubb will be the last man out, looking in. Although having the most innings pitched by any Astros reliever in 2020, the right-hander will have to work on his control before seeing a permanent spot at the Major League level.

With the Astros bullpen looking a little crowded, Scrubb will most likely start the season in AAA.

The Astros acquired Scrubb from the Los Angeles Dodgers near the 2019 trade deadline for utility man Tyler White, who no longer plays in MLB. At the time, it didn’t look like a huge move, but comparing it to the Astros trading Jake Marisnick to the New York Mets for Blake Taylor and a prospect, Houston has made two steals for the future of their bullpen.

Scrubb went 23.2 innings in 2020, while most of his outings included getting out of jams late into ball games. The right-hander dominated batters, while striking out 9.1 batters per nine innings, but this also came with a high walk rate. Scrubb is a pitcher of long at bats and working counts to try to catch batters swinging at off-speed pitches. Control has been the only downside to his game, and if he hones in on this, then he has the ability to be an All-Star reliever.

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While having 20 walks to his 24 strikeouts, the Astros will know what to focus on in Scrubb’s Minor League progression. This isn’t a sentence to AAA; it is more of a holding place. While Sugar Land is less than an hour away from Minute Maid Park, the Astros will most likely bring Scrubb up for the extended double-header roster. Even though we are close to a year since the pandemic started, teams will miss games due to these issues once again combined with weather conditions.

With an ERA below 2.00, Scrubb will put himself into loaded bases situations, but he has also only given up five runs in his career. There is a good sign that Scrubb is a well-relaxed pitcher when it comes to these high-tense situations. Pitching Coach Brent Strom sees a steal in the Dodgers’ trade, and he is correct on that.

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At 26-year-old, Scrubb will be competing for a roster spot this spring, but he might come up a little short in making the 26-man roster. The Astros could expand their pitching staff at points during the season to add Scrubb among others to the roster, but this happens in baseball; injuries, trades, etc. will affect the overall balance of a roster.

Baseball Reference is projecting the right-hander to go 57 inning and post an ERA of 3.95, which is no where near his 2020 campaign. This projection does seem a little weighted, but all in all, control will be Scrubb’s main focus this spring.