If there’s someone who deserves a shot in the Astros’ starting rotation to become a full-time starter is Cristian Javier. His bullpen role leaves us all having the feeling he can give more and more. And recent history has proved us right, thanks to what Javier has done since the 2020 season, when he got to the Big Leagues.
Javier seems to be in pretty good shape to start the season. After three relief appearances against the Angels (2) and D-Backs, he’s thrown 8 1/3 scoreless innings with five hits, one base on balls, and 12 strikeouts. How not to include Javier in the starting rotation when there’s a starter like Jake Odorizzi?
Across 100 frames as a starter, the 25-year-old right-hander is 8-3 with a 3.42 ERA and 106 punchouts. Those are pretty good numbers from a pitcher that doesn’t have a defined role and has served more as a swingman or emergency starter than any other role.
Besides, Javier carries an 8-2 record with a 2.78 ERA in starts in which he completed five innings. Another fact about his possibilities as a starter is that he began last season in the rotation, pitching his first nine games out of the gate. Over that span, Javier threw 48.2 innings of 29 hits and 17 earned runs, with 58 strikeouts and a 3.14 ERA.
If you’re saying “JaViEr DoEsN’t HaVe EnOuGh PiTcHeS tO Be StReTcHeD OuT As a StArTeR”, let me tell you something. He can fool more than one hitter with his fastball-slider combination because, well, those two are plus pitches. Especially his slider, this delivery has given him excellent results since 2020, with only 13 hits allowed in 161 at-bats, good for a .081 opponent batting average.
His whiff percentage also tells us about how good his combo is. It’s gotten up and up every year since his MLB debut:
Javier’s whiff percentage through the years:
2022: 32.4% (it went down to 28.3% after his appearance on Wednesday)
Plus, the Astros could encourage him to throw his changeup more, a pitch he’s used only seven percent of the time. The outcome with that pitch hasn’t been bad at all since 2021: 5-for-23 (.217), which suggests he could give it a try more often.
Currently, the Astros’ rotation is full even without Lance McCullers Jr., but the team shouldn’t hesitate giving opportunities to Javier, and even prioritize him when they have a spot — especially now with Odorizzi with an 0-2 record, a 9.00 ERA, and nine earned runs in nine innings (seven walks). Unlocking his full potential might be the same as using him as a starting pitcher. Time will tell.