The Astros made headlines last December when they signed right handed pitcher and former Cubs closer Héctor Rondón. The 30-year-old Venezuelan was the Cubs closer in parts of the 14’,15’,16’ seasons. He had success in that role and it is clear the Astros need a better option at closer. Could this be the move A.J. Hinch needs to make to fix the bullpen? Let’s explore.
The Astros have blown 7 saves through 56 games and do not have a clear closer. Ken Giles has struggled through the first part of the season and was benched during last year’s playoffs. The bullpen seems lost right now and Róndon might be the answer. This year he has gotten off to a hot start with a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings pitched.
Like most modern closers Rondón is a power pitcher. His fastball sits at an average of 96.7 mph and hitters are only batting .208 against it. His slider is also hard, sitting at an even 86 mph and hitters are only batting .233 against that pitch. These two pitches are keys to being a dominate closer and power pitcher. This is what elite closers like Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller primarily throw.
Besides Rondón’s stuff and current numbers what makes him an intriguing prospect to be our closer is his history at the position. He has 77 career saves and in the 2014 and 2015 season (his two full seasons as closer) he racked up 59 combined saves in 67 opportunities. That’s a save rate of 88%. He was thought to be one of the elite closer in the league and was only replaced by Chapman when the Cubs traded for him in 2016.
The Astros Bullpen has been in a rut recently and have had trouble finishing games all season long. 7 blown saves thus far in the season is far too many and the problem is seemingly growing with two blown saves this week.
Ken Giles has gotten the bulk of the save opportunities this season and has continued to struggle in clutch moments. Others like Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock have gotten a few chances but haven’t really done anything with them.
The point is that Rondón is the only player on our roster other than Giles that has a sizeable amount of save experience and at one point was an elite level closer. Thus far this year Hinch hasn’t gone to him in that role but the question is why not try it? We need a new option in the closer role and without trading for someone, Rondón is the best we have on the roster.
The Astros are going to be competitive down the stretch this year and we need a shutdown option at closer. It is the one major hole our team has and needs to be addressed. Rondón is not a guarantee to be that option but he is worth a shot.
The big righty has been a dominant closer on a contending team and is off to a hot start this year. Unless the Astros are thinking of trading for another reliever, it’s time to give Rondon a shot in more high-leverage situations.