The Houston Astros have fielded strong bullpens for the last few seasons. In 2022 in particular, Houston rode a particularly dominant bullpen to a World Series title.
Unfortunately, Hector Neris, Phil Maton, and Ryne Stanek all are free agents this offseason, meaning Houston has to replace 1/3 of their bullpen innings from last year. With three of James Click's big acquisitions all leaving, Dana Brown has to rebuild the bullpen, and it sounds more and more likely Houston will do so with internal candidates.
So who are those candidates?
5 Astros relievers who will have a much bigger role in 2024
Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu are sure things in the eighth and ninth innings, but beyond them, lots of innings are up for grabs. Let's take a look at five Astros relievers who will have a much bigger role in 2024.
#1 Bennett Sousa
Bennett Sousa didn't draw much attention when the Astros claimed him off of waivers late in the season, but he looks like the Astros next great reclamation project.
Sousa made five appearances for the Astros down the stretch, throwing 6.1 scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking none. Sousa was ineligible for the playoff roster because of when he was claimed, but Dana Brown conceded he'd have been on the playoff roster were he eligible.
6.1 innings is a very small sample size, but Sousa looked like an elite reliever in his brief Astros tenure. He has crazy spin rates, and while again a small sample size, Statcast loved his xERA, xBA, whiff, chase, walk and strikeout rates.
His spin rate on his fastball and slider took off in Houston, which has been a constant during the Astros reign of terror.
Is Sousa going to be a high-leverage Houdidin artist like Hector Neris? Probably not. It would be totally unfair to expect a guy that bounced around the league to overnight replace one of the best leverage arms in the game.
But Sousa could absolutely fill a Phil Maton-esque role that eats up a lot of innings and is very capable of getting big bats out. Sousa will have the opportunity to carve out a big role for himself in 2024, and look for him to do just that.