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For Enoli Paredes, Control Is Key

The Astros call up the fan-favorite reliever from Sugar Land to help bolster a taxed bullpen.

MLB: Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Following a particularly grueling series against the Yankees, where we saw Ryan Pressly, Héctor Neris, and Rafael Montero pitch in three of those four games, the Astros decided late Sunday night to bolster the bullpen in preparation for their upcoming series against the NL East-leading Mets. The reliever in question is Enoli Paredes, with Brandon Bielak sent down to take the former’s place on Sugar Land’s roster.

As always the case with Paredes, his ability — or inability — to control the strike zone will determine whether this latest major league stint is either short- or long-term. After all, due to a walk rate that was higher than his strikeout rate with the Astros last season, the right-hander was sent down to Sugar Land in June and remained there for the remainder of the season. It was a stark contrast to his debut season in 2020 when he kept his walk rate more manageable (12.2 percent) and he emerged as an option (3.05 ERA in 20 23 innings) for a battered pitching staff.

While his numbers at Triple-A with the Space Cowboys this season have been impressive — 0.93 ERA in 29 innings — there is still a lot to prove for the 26-year-old reliever. For one, even with a lowered walk rate compared to last season at the Triple-AAA level, Paredes still walks his fair share of opposing hitters.

2021 with Sugar Land

  • 27 13 innings pitched
  • 29.2 percent strikeout rate
  • 15.4 percent walk rate
  • 38 strikeouts-to-20 walks

2022 with Sugar Land

  • 29 innings pitched
  • 35 percent strikeout rate
  • 13.7 percent walk rate
  • 41 strikeouts-to-16 walks

Even though his 0.93 ERA is stellar and the best among all Triple-A pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched this season, his 3.77 FIP and 4.24 xFIP still create enough pause for doubt to creep in. It is fair to wonder if Paredes has adequately conquered his control issues to become a reliable option in a major league bullpen again. That said, the jump in Paredes’ strikeout rate isn’t something to ignore as he makes his return to Houston. There were instances last season when his control was actually decent and he has demonstrated why again in 2022 the Astros would like to give him another opportunity with the parent roster.

In the short term, Paredes provides some depth to a bullpen that was tested numerous times against the Yankees. The Astros were looking at pulling off an impressive four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium it wasn’t for two untimely implosions by Ryan Pressly and Phil Maton. But with another series coming up against the Mets, who also lead their division, the club felt it was necessary to bring back a pitcher who has the stuff to thrive in high leverage situations as Paredes does. For the right-hander to succeed, he must show that his control has been refined enough for him to contribute. If so, a strong performance in the near future could open the door for future opportunities. As one of the more exciting players in the organization, I hope that is ultimately the case.