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Astros 40 in 40: Josh Fields

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It's apparent why Jeff Luhnow and the front office coveted a power arm for the bullpen so much.

Of nine relievers who tossed at least 10 innings for Houston in 2015, eight had average fastball velocities of 92.3 MPH or lower. It was a solid bullpen, but it wasn't anyone's idea of high-octane, to say the least.

There was that one exception though, and his name is Josh Fields. Nabbed with the first pick in the 2012 Rule 5 draft, Fields checked in with an average reading of 94.1 in 2015, just a hair behind team leader Vincent Velasquez (94.5) and the best of the relievers by far. He reached as high as 97.7 MPH, the best reading of his career.

Though some concern exists about Fields going forward, mostly due to his notable streakiness and incredibly-low HR/FB ratio (3.5% in 2015), there's no doubt he has talent, and he showed it last season. He whiffed 11.90 batters per nine innings, which was tenth-best among qualified relievers (and Ken Giles was 15th at 11.19, by the way). Rather than his heat, though, the real weapon is his potent knuckle curve, which had an average of 6.5 inches of vertical movement in 2015 (Craig Kimbrel's was 5.9 inches, for reference).

Fields has been tantalizing and frustrating; 2016 will see him eyeing some more consistency. He has the stuff, body, mechanics and mentality of a closer, and further refinements could ultimately see him assume that role one day, if not with Houston than with another club. With a 2.19 FIP under his belt, there's a real chance for it, even if he may only be an over-qualified 7th inning man for the next couple of years. The Astros will happily take that.