Last offseason, general manager James Click reeled in a veteran reliever by the name of Pedro Baez. The right-hander spent his last seven seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was now starting a two-year deal with the Houston Astros worth $12.5 million plus escalators to boost the value.
After testing positive for COVID-19 during spring training, Baez’s progression back to baseball was postponed. The 33-year-old was placed on an extended spring training list, working back to normalcy in West Palm Beach until shoulder soreness shut him down.
Since then, Baez has been placed on the 60-day injured list in late April. The right-hander began his 30-day rehab assignment on July 15, and with a little less than two weeks left, Click has pointed to the next homestand as his return.
With Pedro Baez’s Astros debut on the horizon, his fastball velocity hasn’t reached normalcy.
Baez comes with a three-pitch arsenal, heavily dominated by a fastball and changeup combo. With a slider also at disposal, the right-hander’s offspeed was never a candidate to push 90 MPH, but his fastball velocity is the concerning part of his repertoire.
Over six appearances on his rehab assignment, Baez has jumped from Low-A to Triple-A with a fastball sitting in the low 90s. On Monday, the right-hander was topping out at 91 MPH on his four-seam fastball, while maxing out at 93 MPH during his rehab assignment.
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Comparing this decrease to previous seasons is what makes this situation even more concerning, as velocity concerns could hint to injuries. While there has been nothing reported on Baez’s health, it is worth noting that he averaged 94 MPH in a small sample size of 2020 and 96 MPH in 2019.
Baez has an aging arm, but with consistent fastballs in the high 80s and low 90s, there could be something else up with the right-hander. Minor League Baseball doesn’t have its own advanced metrics page to compare his rehab appearances to pervious seasons, but this inconsistency in velocity would be even harder to shake off at the major-league level.
If Baez doesn’t look ready to come back to the roster, he still has 12 days left on his rehab assignment. The right-hander could finish his stint in Sugar Land, while the Astros are in Anaheim in two weeks.
While a 60-day IL patient, Baez’s return will require a corresponding move, which would look like a DFA of a current roster holder or possibly another Astro falling to the long-slated injured list retroactive to their last game. Baez is scheduled to pitch again on Tuesday for the Skeeters.
With a flurry of roster moves affecting the Skeeters recently, the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks welcomed some new faces in right-handed pitcher Tyler Brown, infielder Bryan Arias and outfielder Matthew Barefoot from High-A Asheville, as right-handed pitcher Nick Gonzalez was reassigned back to Double-A after one appearance in Triple-A. Along with their success, these players were pushed up due to the domino affect of new draft signings.
There is a 28-man limit on Double-A and Triple-A roster, usually hinting to players moving up this time of the year. But for infielder Michael Wielansky, he was placed back on the development list. This is the second time this season, but with rehab assignments not affecting the roster numbers, it is interesting to ponder why this has happened twice.