The Houston Astros‘ bullpen looked to be retooled entering the 2021 season, but as injuries continue to plague the late-inning arms, Enoli Paredes is soon to return. While we don’t have a timetable on his return just yet, it is worth evaluating whose seat he is taking.
While the right-hander has been working back to normalcy in Corpus Christi, Paredes said that he was almost back two weeks ago from his side injury. The long-motioned pitcher hasn’t hit a major league mound since April 8 and is looking for a return in the coming weeks. As the 10-day injured list doesn’t remove you from the 40-man roster, there will still need to be a corresponding option to bring him back.
With Enoli Paredes hopefully returning soon, who’s going to be optioned?
As Paredes has been out for almost a month, the right-hander has been dearly missed, as the bullpen looks more different every week. The right-hander made a big splash in 2020, as he went from a wild pitcher to a trustworthy arm in big situations.
In three games (1.1 innings) thus far, Paredes has only fanned two batters to his six walks, so it is evident that his command was still off entering the season. While walking half of the batters he has faced, he could benefit from more time developing in the minors after a big jump in 2020, but the Astros have trusted the right-hander, and his rehab stint could lead to big things.
This one might come as a surprise, since the usage of Bryan Abreu is sky rocketing within each series, but the right-hander could benefit from more time in the minor leagues. While the mainly go-to early game replacement at the moment, Abreu has tossed 16 innings with a 4.50 ERA and 17 strikeouts. As Manager Dusty Baker continues to show his trust and usage of Abreu, the thought of also optioning Brandon Bielak should come into play.
As Bielak has been used in longer situations, the right-hander has appeared in six games (14.2 innings) with 12 strikeouts. Both right-handers have starter ability, and with the rotation still banged up, one of these guys will continue you to be a sixth starter option with Jake Odorizzi out. As the go-to long reliever, I wouldn’t bet on Bielak being sent down.
Sadly, this one might happen sooner than later. Kent Emanuel was immaculate in his first major league outing, as he went 8.2 strong innings, but with only two appearances since, the Astros aren’t using him much.
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While also being a starter option, the Astros didn’t look to him much against the left-handed heavy lineup of the Tampa Bay Rays. There isn’t a high level of trust in Emanuel, even after a dominant relief outing. The Astros have carried at least two lefty arms in their bullpen the last two seasons, and with Blake Taylor still on the IL, it would make the most sense to keep Emanuel on the roster.
Although just joining the roster, Andre Scrubb is still dealing with command issues in his first three games. While pitching through three innings since his return, the right-hander has a 6.00 ERA in a small sample size. As the Astros test his leverage once again, Scrubb looked to be getting off easy in high leverage situations in 2020 with an ERA sub 2.00.
While still acclimating to the major leagues again, a few appearances in AAA could benefit the right-hander, as he wasn’t highly thought about of making the roster to start the 2021 season. With Pedro Baez being out for an indefinite time, Scrubb makes sense to sit in the bullpen once it is fully healthy.
While clubs aren’t limited this season to 13 pitchers on staff, the rule of restricting the amount of pitchers a team has is on hold. With the Astros recent struggles in their bullpen, they could take a different approach and option Robel Garcia, who has only played in nine games this season. As anticipated of starting the season as minor league infield depth at AAA, his last option could be used here, as the Astros look to maximize their possible arms.