Ranking the Astros Most Deserving of a Contract Extension
By Alec Brown
2) Cristian Javier
What can be said about Cristian Javier that hasn't been already? He started two combined no-hitters, including the second no-no in World Series history. He's a proven October performer. His "invisiball" fastball makes him a nightmare for opposing hitters (and even teammates in Spring Training as alluded to by Alex Bregman). Javier earned the nickname "El Reptil" for his cold-blooded nature, as evidenced by his playoff domination.
Simply put, Javier is special. He's special in the regular season and he's special in the playoffs. He is special at home and he's special on the road. He's special as a starter or as a reliever. But with his role finally carved out as a starter for good, Javier's value is about to explode.
Javier's 2022 regular season numbers were phenomenal: 11-9 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 11.7 K/9, a 152 ERA+. His expected numbers were almost impossible to believe: 98th percentile in expected batting average, 96th in expected ERA/wOBA, 95th in expected slugging, 94th in strikeout rate and 82nd in whiff rate. Had he not spent his first two months in the bullpen, he'd have recorded enough innings to qualify as an ERA leader and likely would have made serious noise as a Cy Young candidate.
Entering next season as a full-time starter, he'll likely be a trendy pick among Cy Young favorites. If Javier records another season like he did in 2022, his price tag will skyrocket. The Astros should not allow that to happen.
He is three years younger than Valdez and is not nearly as reliant on the ground ball. In fact, no pitcher in baseball is as reliant on the fly-ball as Javier. His 56.9% fly-ball rate led the bigs. He possesses an elite ability to miss bats and limit hard contact.
Javier is arbitration eligible for the first time and will eventually enter unrestricted free agency at age 29.
Both Valdez and Javier should be rotation cornerstones for years to come, but Javier's youth and projected lack of dependence on the shift make him a slightly more deserving extension candidate. Even still, there is a greater need for one other Astro to be locked up long-term by the time pitchers and catchers report in February.