We’re already in the 2020-2021 offseason and closer Roberto Osuna was let go by the Astros, leaving a huge question mark for the closer’s role when we are less than 150 days away from Opening Day. So... Who will be closing games for Houston in 2021?
Right now, the team still has veteran, efficient reliever Ryan Pressly, who will enter his walk year next season. Since Osuna got injured in the early stages of the campaign, Pressly took over his duties. Before 2020, the 31-year-old had recorded only six saves throughout his seven-year career.
He struggled in the early going. By the end of his ninth appearance, Pressly had a 5.87 ERA (11 H, 5 ER, 7.2 IP) with one loss and two blown saves. But even though he lost two more games and had two other blown saves, the Texas native racked up nine saves and 20 strikeouts in 13 1⁄3 innings between August 25 to September 25 (2.03 ERA).
However, Pressly has been more efficient as a setup guy. From 2016 to 2019, he accumulated 71 holds, including 44 while pitching for the Astros in one year and a half. And don’t know about you, but I’m more comfortable having Pressly in the eighth inning rather than the ninth.
But if the Astros won’t get somebody via trade or free agency to occupy that slot, Pressly might be your man based on experience and the career he’s had. Although, don’t close the door at other in-house options.
If I was Dusty Baker, there are two other men I would consider for the closer’s role besides Pressly. Those are young righties Enoli Paredes and Cristian Javier. Let me give you my explanation about this...
First, let’s go with Paredes. He was good. According to Baseball-Reference, the 25-year-old wasn’t that efficient in high-leverage situations, but he finished with respectable numbers and a good performance in his first four postseason appearances.
Paredes seems to be talented enough to think about him as the closer or at least to receive some save chances and see how he performs. His only problem is his control (4.8 BB/9 in 2020), but even though that has been a constant since he became a professional, he fixed it at times this season or, as some would say, had his ups and downs.
This is something he needs to overcome to have better WHIP, FIP, ERA... I mean, to be even more dominant. In fact, when he didn’t walk anybody during the regular season, his ERA was 2.45 (3 ER, 11 IP). But when he issued at least one base on balls, his ERA was 3.72 (4 ER, 9.2 IP).
How about Javier? He was lights out as a rookie to save the Astros starting rotation, has a good repertoire, and is great at avoiding baserunners (0.99 WHIP in 2020). But the finalist for the AL ROY might end up becoming a late-inning option for the team or, why not, its closer.
As I said, the 23-year-old Javier was excellent in his first year as a major-leaguer. But he failed to go deep in games and worked exclusively as a reliever in five appearances during the postseason (2.89 ERA, 9.1 IP).
Javier has some points in his favor. For example, he cruises against righties (.101/.202/.253, 27 strikeouts, 89 PA), held hitters in RISP scenarios (.179/.242/.429, 11 strikeouts, 33 PA), and was better than Paredes in high-leverage situations. Besides, we saw his best version from pitch 1 to 25: .159/.185/.317, 26 strikeouts, 65 PA.
Obviously, there are always options to check out in other organizations or free agency. Established, accomplished closers like Mark Melancon, Alex Colomé, Ken Giles, Kirby Yates, Brad Hand, Liam Hendriks, Sean Doolittle, and company are currently unemployed. The Astros have a couple of months to decide what to do with this vacancy, one of their multiples needs to address this offseason.