Jun 18, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Brandon Bielak (64) pitches against the Chicago White Sox in the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight: Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout the spring.
Today’s Astros Player of the Day is pitcher Brandon Bielak.
Bielak is a former 11th-round pick by the Houston Astros in the 2017 Draft out of Notre Dame. After three years in the Astros minor league system, he finally got his first shot at the big league roster in the pandemic-shortened season of 2020. While his results were not good (3-3, 6.75 ERA, 1.75 WHIP), it’s important to recognize the insanity of the way that season took place (two spring trainings, a 60-game season starting in July, etc.), the eventual cancellation of the minor league season, and remember that he was 24 years old. His 4.8 BB/9 and 2.5 HR/9 rates were rather troubling, however.
Bielak showed improvement in 2021, splitting time between the Astros (50.0 IP) and Triple-A Sugar Land (17.1 IP). With the big league club, he went 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, showing marked improvement from the season before. He lowered his walk rate to 3.8 BB/9 and drastically reduced his home run rate to 0.9 HR/9, giving the Astros insurance for injury and providing depth in stretches where they needed extra pitching.
Last season, Bielak served in the same insurance role for the Astros, but due to Houston’s overwhelmingly good health in the pitching department and career years from multiple players, he was not needed as much on the big league team. Bielak did not have a record in 2022 for Houston, pitching only 12.1 innings for the major league squad. He posted a 3.65 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, again showing improvement at the MLB level for the second straight year. He once again lowered his walk rate, down to 2.9 BB/9, although in a limited sample size.
Bielak, entering his age-27 season, is expected to begin the year with Triple-A Sugar Land, where he posted a 3-6 record with a 3.15 ERA in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Bielak will continue to serve as insurance for the Astros in case they need a fresh arm, whether due to injury or otherwise.
Along with players like Shawn Dubin, J.P. France, Enoli Paredes, and Ronel Blanco, Bielak will likely spend the majority of the season at Sugar Land. Bielak provides low-cost depth, is a player the team is familiar with, and knows the Astros’ pitching philosophies. Bielak is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2024.