2017 Reds

Bullpen Sleeper?

Editor’s Note: I hope you will join me in welcoming Adam Taylor to the Redleg Nation family. Please make him feel welcome! — Chad Dotson

One name to watch in the battle for bullpen openings is Barrett Astin. Astin is a 25-year-old, right-handed pitcher and former third round pick out of Arkansas. He was acquired as a player to be named later during the 31 August 2014 trade of Jonathan Broxton to the Milwaukee Brewers. (History will remember this trade as the beginning of “The Closing of the Window.”) The salary dump allowed the Reds to shed Broxton’s nearly $11 million in future salary ($1 million for the rest of 2014 and the entire 10 million due in 2015). However, then general manager Walt Jocketty said the two players the Reds were receiving would “contribute in the next couple of years at the major league level.”

Fast forward to Pensacola, summer 2016. Barrett Astin produced a 2.26 ERA in 37 games and over 100 innings for Cincinnati’s AA affiliate. Over that period, including 11 starts, Astin also had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 96/25.

Could Astin help the Reds major league club in the bullpen? Known for throwing strikes and a 92-95 mph fastball, the 6’1” 225-lb Astin certainly looks the part of multi-inning reliever. The Reds added Astin to the 40-man roster this offseason, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft. Apparently, his break-out campaign in the Florida pan-handle raised eye brows in the Reds organization.

Astin - Minor League Stats

So what’s the catch?

While Astin’s stats at AA-Pensacola last summer are impressive, 2016 was his second season spent at that level.  In Astin’s first season in Pensacola, he pitched a rather unsightly 5.63 ERA in 76.2 innings, allowed more hits than innings pitched (85) and posted a pedestrian strikeout-to-walk ratio of 61/39. Astin’s 2015 performance offers context for his forward step in 2016. More perspective: Compare the 25-year-old Astin to Brandon Finnegan, who is 23 with nearly three years of Major League service time.

But just because Finnegan might be on a faster track, that doesn’t mean Astin can’t offer the Reds value in a different role. Perhaps 2016 was a quantum leap forward for Barrett Astin in his development. In addition to being named a Southern League Mid-Season All Star for his work in Pensacola, Astin was named a Rising Star for his performance as a member of the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League. Appearing in 11 games in the desert against some of baseball’s brightest talents, Astin pitched to a 3.21 ERA over 14 innings, notching one save and holding opponents to a .255 batting average.

Astin - AFL Stats

An organization in the stage of rebuilding that the Reds are at needs to be open to any and all potential talent.  Sure, Barrett Astin could afford to spend some time in Triple-A Louisville. But considering he’s already 25 years old, the gain in development of a pitcher his age between Double-A and Triple-A might not be worth the toll on his arm. With about three weeks to Opening Day, Astin currently sports a 1.93 ERA. With an extended Spring Training due to the World Baseball Classic, Astin will have the opportunity to pitch himself into the 11th or 12th man on the pitching staff.

A 25-year-old, hard-throwing reliever who can miss bats, doesn’t walk batters, and can pitch multiple innings is the type of arm that can make a bad bullpen good, and a good bullpen great. A couple relievers like that (Austin Brice anyone?) could help Bryan Price run up a few more wins and keep his job. 

Leading up to 3 April, Dick Williams, Bryan Price, and Mack Jenkins will continue sorting through the endless cast of arms vying for a spot on the white chalk that Monday afternoon. Should circumstances and performances dictate that he not be on the initial Opening Day roster, Astin will see high leverage situations in Louisville and be among the first calls for reinforcements.

It’s possible that the first player acquired in the rebuild process will be around to help open the window for the next good Reds team.

22 thoughts on “Bullpen Sleeper?

  1. I did not know about him. Thanks! I will be looking for his name in the box score.

  2. Welcome Adam. Nice insights. I thought the re-build started on the last day of the winter meetings in 2014 when Latos and Simon were traded. But you are right, it could go back further to August 31, 2014, I mean 31 August 2014. And there is still a lot of rebuilding to do. Man is this a long rebuild or what?
    Astin sure has a shot to shine. Herget is having a fine spring. AAA Louisville looks like it might have one heck of a bullpen when all the spring dust settles.
    Thank you for your service. It is greatly appreciated. Look forward to more of your writings.

    • WVREDLEGS – you bring up a great point about the Latos and Simon trades. Adding Suarez and Desclafani for Latos and Simon (in separate deals of course) has to go down as wins in Walt Jocketty’s trade scorecard. As far as the potentially stacked bullpen down at Louisville, my comment is…it’s nice to finally have built up some depth in the organization. Perhaps we’ve seen the last of the Steve Delabars and the Ross Ohlendorfs. Sincerely appreciate your comment – thanks again!

  3. Think Astin has a really good chance to make the 25 man roster. He can pitch multiple innings and can make a spot start also. My guess is that the Reds go with Finnegan, Feldman, Reed, Stephenson and Adleman as starters to begin the season. Keeping Garrett, Davis, Romano and Castillo down in the minors for the service time issue. Disco goes on 60 day DL and Ogando and Walker DFAd. That opens 3 spots for Luetge or Coleman, Iribarren and Kivlehan to make the Reds. Bullpen would be Astin, Luetge or Coleman, Wood, Cingrani, Storen, Iglesias and Lorenzen. Bench of Barnhart, Turner, Alcantara, Iribarren and Kivlehan. Don’t spend additional money on Jennings, Raburn or Arroyo. Use that money to aggressively pursue Luis Robert, if he becomes available.

    • Steve – I certainly agree that after the first round of significant cuts, Astin’s chances of coming back east with the big league club have certainly increased.

    • In order to keep both Walker and Kivlehan, maybe not DFAing Walker and Kivlehan starting the year in Louisville might be a better move.

  4. Welcome Adam and thank you for your service!

    I appreciate the trip down memory lane thinking about the trade of Broxton late season in ’14. I had forgotten that Astin was one of the pieces received. But I have certainly had hopes that he will be one of contributors to a much improved bullpen this year. They only had one way to go from last year, right?

    He made the first roster cut today. I’m thinking there is going to be some reshuffling of the pitching staff coming up and he will get a chance to start this season on the MLB roster.

    • MrRed – thank you for your comment! I definitely appreciate your support. Astin has certainly pitched himself into the conversation do far this spring.

  5. C Trent article today quotes price saying top 7 or 8 starters in play for bullpen…To include Stephenson.reed and Adleman…Garrett and Davis are not…I believe Garrett starts the year as the #5 starter….Finnegan.feldman.Garrett are in….Arroyo will be if there’s any way he can…Adleman will be long relief….And reed and Stephenson are competing for final spot….He left door open for Romano but I believe he and Rookie start in AAA.

    • I agree but would be surprised if Garrett started the season with the team. It just makes too much sense to keep him in the minors, if only to begin the season, in order to delay his service time just a bit. Every little bit counts…

  6. In some ways questions about Astin’s development are a non-issue. If he continues to pitch like he did in 2016, in the Arizona fall league, and now in the Cactus League he’ll be in the bullpen before long whether he has to sojourn in AAA first or not. If he flounders in Cincinnati or struggles in AAA he’ll have time in Louisville to hone his craft. Either outcome will be consistent with where he rightfully belongs on skill and results. I think long term he joins a solid Reds bullpen and eventually helps make it into a real positive for Cincinnati. It is nice to have so many developing arms!

  7. Welcome young man, thanks for your service as well as your fine article.Here’s hoping to see a lot more of them.

  8. Nice first piece Adam! Looking forward to more of your contributions. As an USAF veteran, I think I can forgive the fact that you’re in the Navy… Just kidding Adam, I was mostly at Ft. Meade and we were a joint service operation. The Naval enlisted and officers I met were all very good folks. Thank you for your dedication in making it a career.

    As for Astin, I love guys who throw strikes, especially when they have decent arms. I think I’d like to see him work some at AAA but at 25, he may be able to skip it and have the maturity to not let his inevitable struggles at MLB effect him too much.

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