For most, Spring Training isn’t about the end results. While there are instances when performance in camp could foreshadow future performance, it's not something to stress about. Instead, we should be paying close attention to what is occurring under the hood. A popular application behind this line line of thinking is the examination of a pitcher’s velocity. It is a litmus test of sorts, even though its effectiveness can differ depending on the context of a situation.
I say all of that to get to this point: The Astros ought to be concerned about Pedro Báez and his continued velocity decline. Here is what his velocity readings were a couple of days ago in his only Spring Training appearance.
Astros have to be concerned about Pedro Báez, who was throwing 89-90 mph in his scoreless inning today with 79 mph changeup. In 2020 – the year before he signed – he averaged 94.4 mph on fastball & 86.8 mph on changeup, Last year, coming off injury, he was 90.4 FB/83.2 change.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) March 29, 2022
Báez, who is now 34, has seen his fastball velocity gradually declined from 97.1 miles per hour in 2017 to 94.4 miles per hour in 2020. While the sample is far too limited, we do know that he averaged out his fastball at 91 miles per hour last season. The same noticeable decline applies to his slider and changeup. In an era where velocity is king, this seemingly continuous development is ominous as his readings dip even further in camp.
Of course, it is essential to note that Báez was impacted last spring by COVID-19 followed by right shoulder soreness. Who knows what his velocity would look like if he were able to ramp up without any health issues? While it is evident that his velocity was lagging behind his peak at the time of his signing, Houston was likely hoping he could rebound to some degree and continue to limit the damage by avoiding hard hits, which he was ranked in 99th percentile back in 2019. One can't help but speculate about the long-term effects of both ailments have had on the former Dodger.
But for the Astros, there is a fairly high possibility at this juncture that they'll won't recoup much value from their $12.5 million investment into Báez if these velocity woes continue at this pace. At the time, it felt like a signing that had the potential to backfire solely for the dipping velocity readings despite the positive end results. But when the bottom drops as it is currently occurring with Báez, then those good results may not happen again.