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Taking Stock - Misael Tamarez

A 6’1” flamethrowing righty, Tamarez rode his heat to big strikeout totals in 2022. Is the profile well rounded enough for him to hang around in the rotation?

Syndication: The Corpus Christi Caller Times Lucas Boland/Caller Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

From the first time he took a professional ballfield, Misael Tamarez has shown a combination of intriguing traits that had some scouts rating him quite aggressively despite his inexperience at the time. Though just 6’1” and not especially broadly built, Tamarez has long hit the mid-90s with regularity, and has seen his top end velo continue to creep up to as high as 99 MPH this past season. Better yet, the fastball has elite ride, allowing it to stay above hitters’ bats at the top of the zone or above it. He showed early changeup feel too, which in addition to his cuttery slider gave him a relatively mature three-pitch mix out of the gates.

Tamarez debuted in 2019, logging 38 and 23 innings across the DSL and GCL, striking out about 24.5% of opposing batters while allowing less than a hit per inning and just one home run, evidencing the quality of his stuff. He did walk far too many batters at around 13%, but I probably don’t have to tell you that young pitchers often grow out of wandering location, and while at 19 he wasn’t exactly young for the leagues he was pitching in at the time, his career was still in the nascent stages so it was far from cause for alarm to see him issuing a lot of free passes.

After a year off due to COVID, the Astros deemed Tamarez ready for full season ball as a 21 year old in 2021, and in some ways he was more impressive than he had been two years prior. His strikeout rate jumped all the way to 34% with Fayetteville, and he again limited meaningful contact with just a .179 AVG against and 3 HR allowed in 43 innings at the level. Walks continued to be a problem as he walked 15% of opposing hitters, but had outings where he limited them well so it had the look of more of a start to start consistency issue. Team brass deemed him ready for a promotion at this point, and pushed him to High-A to close out the season.

With Asheville, Tamarez was able to find the strike zone with a bit more consistency, walking just 7.3% of opposing hitters in a 33 and 23 inning sample without his strikeout rate dipping too much- it remained very strong at 28.5%. He was slightly more hittable, but was more effective overall than he had been in Fayetteville, which is quite impressive in context. The strong finish built some solid hype for him entering 2022, and the Astros seemed to agree as they pushed him straight to Double-A to open the season despite relatively limited experience in the A-ball levels.

In Corpus, Tamarez’ workload was ramped up a bit, and while there were some bumps in the road for him his profile largely held up. His walk rate crept back up to 12.8%, and while he still managed to limit hits, he allowed more hard contact than at any prior stop, surrendering 1.57 HR/9 after being at or below 1.07 at all prior levels. On the plus side, his velo continued to improve, and his strikeout rate held steady at 28.3%, so it was certainly an impressive transition as the jump to Double-A is the toughest on the minor league ladder.

Obviously, the Astros would love to see Tamarez continue progressing towards a long-term starter role, but is that something we should expect? It’s not impossible, but I’d say its currently a bit iffy. That’s partially due to the most obvious risk factor, his shaky location, which may not improve enough to start as his arm stroke is very vertical and a bit funky, but also because I’m not sure his arsenal is truly deep enough. I quite like his changeup- it has enough separation and raw movement and he has feel to throw it against both righties and lefties, but I’m less confident in the slider, which moves on two planes but has pretty muted movement. Whatever his role, he’s going to be fastball dominant, but I think one of the secondaries would need to jump along with the command for him to remain a rotation piece.

Armed with one of the best fastballs in the minors, some mechanical deception and at least enough command for it to play in short relief, Tamarez’ future looks bright in one role or another. There are routes for his profile to improve in the coming year, but he likely needs to find one to remain a starter through the upcoming season, as he’ll need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft next offseason. I’d like to see him try out a different breaking ball of some kind, but I’m not sure how much exploration the Astros have already done with him in that department. If he is to continue starting, I’d expect it to be because he found another tick of command and the changeup improved further, with the breaking ball remaining a tertiary piece.