While the Houston Astros struggled beyond their starting pitching in 2020, it made the most sense that GM James Click and the front office would dive deep into relief pitching free agency. The bullpen was full of youthful arms that hadn’t pitched beyond single A baseball, but they stepped up in the postseason like much of the Astros’ roster. This past offseason didn’t go to plan in the eyes of many fans, but the signing of Ryne Stanek is deemed underrated at the moment.
The right-hander signed on a one year deal for $1.1 million on Jan. 7, but it sparked a few questions of who he was and why aren’t the Astros going all in on All-Star talent. At the time, it made the most sense. As a cheap option for an opener or short reliever, Stanek was also a member of the 2017 Tampa Bay Rays, who employed Click.
While Stanek’s signing might be a cheap deal, the right-hander is proving himself.
Although it is early in the season, Stanek could be on an Opening Series high or hitters haven’t come around to what he’s doing, but what stands true is that the right-hander is control over his pitches away from being lethal. The right-hander has three appearances in 2021, and through 3.2 innings, Stanek has fanned six (14.7 strikeout per nine) and hasn’t allowed a hit.
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It is early in the season, but for a pitcher who has struggled with giving into contact is underrated to open the season. With a three pitch arsenal, Stanek has used his fastball 50% of the time, while splitting the rest of his pitches between a split finger and a slider. While relying on his fastball the most, the right-hander has been used in mostly low leverage situations this season, as he is battling control issues early.
Through 13 batters faced, Stanek’s command has led to two hit batters and a walk. While being his only base runners this season, the right-hander hasn’t had issues with hitting batters in the past, so this is most likely an early season hiccup.
Stanek’s future in the bullpen could be reassessed at the end of the season, but while being an addition for depth now, his low risk contract is just what the Astros needed. Stanek has been performing past expectations, but will he keep it going?