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Astros MiLB Position Review: Relief Pitchers

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See how the relief pitchers performed last season

Houston Astros v Washington Nationals
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 01: Manager Dusty Baker #12 of the Houston Astros takes the ball from Shawn Dubin #75 during the fourth inning of the Spring Training game against the Washington Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark on March 1, 2021 in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Now that the season is over we will review each position in the minor league system during the 2021 season. This week I will be looking at the relief pitchers.

Previous Position Reviews:

Catcher

First Base

Second Base

Third Base

Shortstop

Outfield

Starting Pitchers

TOP PERFORMERS

Shawn Dubin

Dubin has electric stuff and put together a really good season in Triple-A. Dubin 16 games and made 8 starts (though most were short) but dominated striking out 69 in 49.2 innings. His strikeout numbers were even better as a reliever as he struck out 33 in 21.1 innings. He was also added to the Astros 40 man roster this off-season. I think we will see him in 2022.

2021 Stats: 16 G, 3.44 ERA, 49.2 IP, 35 H, 19 ER, 19 BB, 69 K, 12.5 K/9

Ronel Blanco

Blanco has been in the Astros system since 2016 but put together had his best season as a pro as the primary closer for the Skeeters in 2021. He finished with a 3.40 ERA picking up 22 saves and striking out 57 in 45 innings with his fastball/slider combo. He held batters to just a .157 BAA. He is also pitching in the Dominican Winter League and has been dominant there.

2021 Stats: 42 G, 3.40 ERA, 45.0 IP, 29 H, 17 ER, 16 BB, 57 K, 11.4 K/9

Jonathan Sprinkle

Sprinkle was an undrafted free agent signed in 2020 but has shown that he would have been selected if the draft hadn’t been cut short. Sprinkle had a phenomenal first pro season striking out 79 in just 44 innings. He was pretty much unhittable allowing just a .154 BAA. He pitched across three different levels finishing the year in Double-A.

2021 Stats: 31 G, 3.48 ERA, 44.0 IP, 24 H, 17 ER, 27 BB, 79 K, 16.2 K/9

Nick Hernandez

Hernandez was drafted by the Astros in 2016 and put together a great season with a 1.61 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A and striking out 69 in 51 innings. He also held hitters to just a .145 BAA. He only pitched in a couple games in Triple-A but appears to be a guy who could be in Triple-A next year and on the cusp of a major league call-up.

2021 Stats: 33 G, 1.61 ERA, 56.0 IP, 28 H, 10 ER, 31 BB, 69 K, 11.1 K/9

Felipe Tejada

Tejada has been in the Astros system since 2015 but had a solid 2021 in relief. He pitched in 35 games and had a 3.66 ERA with 68 K in 51.2 innings. His success has continued in the Dominican Winter League as well but is now a minor league free agent.

2021 Stats: 35 G, 3.66 ERA, 51.2 IP, 49 H, 21 ER, 18 BB, 68 K, 11.8 K/9

Jon Olczak

2021 was Olczak’s first year in the Astros system but he pitched well posting a 2.81 ERA in 48 innings in relief. He started in Double-A and after dominating was promoted to Triple-A where he had another 19 K in 18.2 innings. He was 27 years old in 2021.

2021 Stats: 36 G, 2.81 ERA, 48.0 IP, 34 H, 15 ER, 10 BB, 53 K, 9.9 K/9

Devin Conn

Conn was a 19th round pick back in 2018 and was another solid contributor in relief during the 2021 season. He started the year in High-A and was promoted to Double-A after 22 K in 18.1 innings. He finished the year in Double-A posting a 2.67 ERA in 33.2 innings.

2021 Stats: 34 G, 3.46 ERA, 52.0 IP, 38 H, 20 ER, 17 BB, 53 K, 9.2 K/9

Riley Ferrell

Ferrell was a former 3rd round pick by the Astros in 2015. He suffered some setbacks along the way but pitched in Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 posting a 2.93 ERA with 48 K in 40.0 innings. The walks were high but he is now an MLB free agent.

2021 Stats: 38 G, 2.93 ERA, 40.0 IP, 27 H, 13 ER, 27 BB, 48 K, 10.8 K/9

Michael Horrell

Horrell was a 30th round pick in 2019 but had some success in 2012 striking out 47 in 53 innings while posting a 2.21 ERA. He split time between High-A and Double-A this past season.

2021 Stats: 31 G, 2.21 ERA, 53.0 IP, 49 H, 13 ER, 25 BB, 47 K

2022 OUTLOOK/CONCLUSION

Often we see a bullpen built from all over. Sometimes it comes from former starters, free agents, or guys who were relievers all along. The Astros have some solid relief pieces in the system in Blanco, Sprinkle, Hernandez and the others. If the Astros have injuries in 2022, these guys could get a chance. Relief pitching is always tricky though because it feels like a lot of them come out of nowhere.