Those who know me know that I am enamored with good pitching. And not just starting pitching. I love me an effective relief pitcher. So it almost goes without saying that I have really enjoyed the growing reputation of The Regulators. If you've been living under a rock, The Regulators is the name that Brett Myers gave the Astros bullpen in his new leadership role. It conjures up images of frontier justice in the Old West, with #MountUp becoming the hash tag of choice as one of the crew comes in to pitch.
So I decided to look at the Astros minor league relief corps to come up with a group that mostly mirrors the big league bullpen staff. What players could one day get the chance to Mount Up on the Minute Maid Park mound?
When I looked at the stats for the current Astros bullpen, I was struck by one commonality more than any other -- high strikeout rates. Through Saturday, May 26th, the lowest SO/9 was Fernando Abad's 7.0 and ranged up to Wesley Wright's 9.5 SO/9. So in compiling this list, I weighted that factor very highly. Bear with me on some of these match ups because it wasn't always easy to find a good fit. All stats are through Saturday's games.
CLOSER - I like this match up. Neither Myers nor Chowning overpowers with 95mph+ fastballs, but Myers relies heavily on his curveball while Chowning features a nasty slider to complement the lower 90's fastballs that each throws.
Brett Myers - 1.59ERA 0.824WHIP 12SV 7.4SO/9 4.67SO/BB .183BA 2.36GO/AO
Jason Chowning (LEX) - 0.78ERA 0.826WHIP 8SV 13.3SO/9 4.25SO/BB .138BA 1.85GO/AO
SET UP MEN - Brad Mills hasn't really established a specific eighth inning guy this season, but Brandon Lyon and Wilton Lopez have been used frequently in that position. I couldn't find anyone who really correlates to Lyon, in particular, in that his SO/BB ratio is off the charts so far this season and he has a higher flyball rate than most of our minor league candidates. With that said, here are my suggestions.
Wilton Lopez - 2.42ERA 0.885WHIP 7.3SO/9 7.0SO/BB .222BA 1.55GO/AO
Brandon Lyon - 1.56ERA 1.096WHIP 9.3SO/9 9.00SO/BB .258BA 0.62GO/AO
Murilo Gouvea (LEX) - 3.04ERA 1.050WHIP 11.1SO/9 4.71SO/BB .216BA 1.20GO/AO
Jose Valdez (OKC) - 2.18ERA 1.016WHIP 10SV 10.9SO/9 3.13SO/BB .173BA 1.16GO/AO
Obviously at 29, Jose Valdez isn't exactly considered a prospect anymore, but you can't argue with results (at least I can't). Gouvea's book is that his curveball is simply unhittable when it's on.
LEFTIES - Fernando Abad's trip to the DL and Xavier Cedeno's subsequent call up put a bit of a wrench in my plans as Cedeno was going to be one of my lefties. Not only does he have a 0.42 ERA at Oklahoma City with a high strikeout rate, left-handed batters are only hitting .029 against him.
Wesley Wright - 2.92ERA 1.297WHIP 9.5SO/9 2.60SO/BB .234BA(.103vs.LHB) 1.43GO/AO
Fernando Abad - 5.00ERA 1.385WHIP 7.0SO/9 7.00SO/BB .250(.222vs.LHB) 1.00GO/AO
Kevin Chapman (CC) - 2.66ERA 1.732WHIP 11.0SO/9 1.53SO/BB .244BA(.184vs.LHB) 0.79GO/AO
Pat Urckfitz (LAN) - 4.84ERA 1.433WHIP 10.1SO/9 3.57SO/BB .275BA(.147vs.LHB) 0.65GO/AO
MIDDLE RELIEF - Neither of my nominees can touch 100 like Rhiner Cruz, but Dayan Diaz has been hitting 95 to 97 this season with an almost effortless delivery. I worried about Jason Stoffel with his performance during the Arizona Fall League last year, but he has been great so far this season; he could easily be one of our setup men as well.
Rhiner Cruz - 2.40ERA 1.267WHIP 7.2SO/9 1.50SO/BB .216BA 1.13GO/AO
Fernando Rodriguez - 3.78ERA 1.320WHIP 8.6SO/9 2.00SO/BB .219BA 0.40GO/AO
Dayan Diaz (LEX) - 1.11ERA 0.986WHIP 4SV 10.4SO/9 2.55SO/BB .165BA 1.56GO/AO
Jason Stoffel (CC) - 1.33ERA 0.885WHIP 5SV 8.4SO/9 3.17SO/BB .169BA 1.05GO/AO
LONG RELIEF - I'm going to take a detour with this last position. Instead of replacing David Carpenter/Enerio del Rosario in the bullpen, I'm going to add a long reliever/spot starter. I was happily surprised to notice that there really hasn't been much of a need for long relief this year due to the strong starts that Bud Norris, Wandy Rodriguez and company have provided. But I like having that swing man in my bullpen and, since this whole thing is a fantasy bullpen anyway, why not indulge myself? With that said, I am going to go with Carlos Quevedo. Mickey Storey would also be a good possibility for this position with his 10.5 SO/9 and 4.71 SO/BB ratio, but he needs to show me better results on a more consistent basis.
Carlos Quevedo (LEX) - 3.05ERA 0.939WHIP 9.4SO/9 8.00SO/BB .228BA 1.03GO/AO
Obviously, relief pitchers have the most volatile stats of all as one really bad outing can skew the numbers drastically, but overall I like this group and I'm interested to see how they fare over a full season. It remains to be seen if we have any Regulators in waiting among them.
For more on the Astros minor leagues, please visit What the Heck, Bobby? or follow me on twitter @whattheheck57. In case you missed them, I posted interviews with Lancaster Closer Kirk Clark and 2B Delino DeShields Jr. last week.