The Houston Astros’ ace reliever Roberto Osuna has been told today that he may need the dreaded Tommy John surgery.

Manager Dusty Baker did not confirm the news but said on a local talk radio show this morning that “the reality is it’s probably not really good news.”  Yikes.

If this is the case, Osuna will miss not only the rest of the truncated 2020 season, but assuredly considerable time in the 2021 season.  Recall while there have only been 10-11 games so far for most teams, it is August 4th today. This is a terrible situation for both Osuna and the Astros.


Leading Candidates


So who would be the leading candidates to take over this plum role for the Astros?  They are expected to contend all season but have a bullpen decimated by injuries right now.


Ryan Pressly


If Pressly is healthy, there is zero doubt that he gets the first crack at it.  Injuries have been a problem this year with a sore elbow and then a cut thumb.  But he appears healthy now and if that is the case, the job belongs to him.

Last year Pressly struck out 72 hitters in 54.1 innings, with a 2.32 ERA and minuscule .90 WHIP.


chart (26)


It is important to note why Pressly has been successful.  The 2020 sample size is small, but he has thrown his four-seamer 52% of the time.  Generally, his mix is that 95MPH four-seamer, a slider about 89 MPH, and a slower curveball at 81 MPH.  The velocity works well for him and his four-seamer has some natural sink to it, which leads to a higher number of groundballs compared to his peers. The command of the slider has been excellent as well.  Eliminating the sinker worked well for him starting in 2019 as well. Pressly is the guy for Houston, health-permitting.


Andre Scrubb


As i mentioned in yesterday’s “Closing Remarks,” someone named Andre Scrubb got a save last week for the Astros. A rookie this year, Scrubb throws only two pitches: a cutter and a curveball.  So far, in a limited sample size, he has thrown the cutter a whopping 68% of the time.  The chart below shows evidence that he is not giving up hard contact (look at hard hit % and exit velocity), which is great, but we don’t know enough about him.  Scrubb is a 25-year-old rookie with only two weeks’ worth of games under his belt.  It would be a tall order to close for a contending team, but he could get a shot if Pressly falters or is injured again.




Dark Horses


Brad Peacock


As of this writing, Peacock is playing catch on flat ground and attempting to return from early-season shoulder woes. This is progress but a return does not appear imminent. Recall that Peacock also struggled with shoulder issues in 2019.  His role has often been undefined in the Houston bullpen; they have also used him as a starter with mixed results in 2019.  The stuff profiles better in the bullpen.  Could he close if given an opportunity? Perhaps, making him a dark horse.


Chris Devenski


Devenski is also banged up right now with a sore elbow, and he hit the IL the same day as Osuna.  The Astros have preferred to use Devenski as a fireman over multiple innings in the past, but if the soldiers keep falling in front of him, and he returns to health, he could find himself in the mix.


Fernando Rodney


I know you don’t like it, and don’t want to consider it.  But the 43-year-old Rodney was just signed to a contract last week after appearing with the Sugar Land Skeeters this year. He won a ring last year with the Washington Nationals, even as a shell of his former self. He has 951 career appearances and the experience to get the job done with 327 saves.  But recall that with the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins in 2018 he was pretty darn good: 3.36 ERA and almost 10 K/9.  Is it likely he gets the ball in the ninth, for a contending team?  No.  Is it possible?  If the stars line up, yes. The chart below shows that the velocity is slowly dwindling; Rodney gets by now more on guile and smarts than he does on stuff.


chart (27)


In Conclusion


The job belongs to Pressly and I have no doubt that he can do it, given good health.  He has the best chance for success in the role based on the current outlook in Houston.


Possible Waiver Adds


Where could you get some saves if you need them?  And let me tell you, we are ALL looking for saves these days.


Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels


He appears to be back from injury.  I know it is early, but check out the velocity on these pitches:


chart (28)


Middleton has the octane back; the four-seamer which he throws about 54% of the time has gone from 94.1 to 97.1. Early results also show that he is throwing his change-up about four MPH harder at 88 MPH.  The change-up percentage is also higher at 29% thus far in 2020. These are encouraging results, and with Hansel Robles really struggling, Middleton could be next in line for the Los Angeles Angels.


James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians


He is probably already owned in most leagues, but scoop him if he is unclaimed on your waiver wire.  He could get chances in Cleveland with Brad Hand ailing. At the very least he will help you with strikeouts and ratio management, even if he does not get saves.

He is showing potential greatness with these rankings:


Capture 2


Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Royals


Yes, Rosenthal is back in the major leagues after being lost in the injury desert for the last two years. Manager Mike Matheny has been using last year’s closer, Ian Kennedy, as a fireman in sixth and seventh innings to kill rallies.  This has left Rosenthal, and to a lesser extent, Greg Holland, as possible ninth inning closers.  However, Holland has struggled with his command, which means Rosenthal should get save chances.  If he is on your waiver wire, pick him up.  But keep in mind that Kansas City might not win many games and that the bullpen management strategy could change at any time there.