Hunter Brown — September 2022 Forecast: Astros Bullpen
Hunter Brown has been magnificent at Triple A this year. And while the Astros see him as a starter in the future, he could fill Cristian Javier’s role from last year provided Javier stays in the rotation.
The Astros are in an enviable position where they actually have too much pitching. Their rotation is second in the American League in ERA by .01 to the New York Yankees — 2.83 for the Yankees to 2.84 for the Astros — and that’s despite missing last year’s ace Lance McCullers Jr.
When fully healthy, the team has seven starters in Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Jake Odorizzi, Lance McCullers Jr. and Cristian Javier.
Their bullpen is even more stellar leading the entire Major Leagues in ERA by nearly half a run at 2.43. The closest team to them is the Detroit Tigers at 2.83 and then no other team has a bullpen ERA under three.
Simply put, Brown is in the rare position of being blocked at both the starter and reliever position. It’s strange to say the least considering normally there’s five spots in a rotation where surely one can be filled, and if not, there’s seven to eight spots in a bullpen where again, normally there’s a weak link to fill in.
It’s possible Brown comes up due to someone having an injury or struggling with effectiveness, but more than likely, he’ll have to force his way on by continuing to be spectacular in the Minor Leagues.
And again, while the Astros see him longterm as starter, he’s been unhittable as a reliever. Here are his numbers side by side of starter vs. reliever:
Starter: Seven starts, 29.1 innings pitched, 3.64 ERA, 40 strikeouts against 19 walks
Reliever: Three appearances, 14 innings pitched — two games finished at five innings each, 0.00 ERA, 20 strikeouts against two walks
You read that right. He’s given up zero runs coming in from the bullpen. In two appearances, he pitched five innings to close a game out and four innings in his only other appearance in relief. There have been 50 total plate appearances against him as a reliever, and he’s struck out 20 batters which means he’s struck out 40% of the batter’s he’s faced as a reliever.
He’ll be a starter someday, but for the immediate future, his place will be as a right-handed Josh Hader come season’s end.