Feb 17, 2023; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Bryan Abreu (52) delivers a pitch during a spring training workout at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-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 relief pitcher Bryan Abreu.
After years of waiting for a breakthrough, the Astros were finally rewarded when Abreu was finally able to put together his tremendous stuff with command and confidence.
Abreu put together his finest season for the Astros, going 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Abreu became one of manager Dusty Baker’s most trusted relievers down the stretch and in the postseason, where Abreu took his game to a new level.
Abreu’s postseason numbers are straight out of a video game. In 11.1 IP, he did not allow a run, allowed only four hits and four walks, and struck out an absurd 19 batters.
Abreu’s command had always been the biggest issue holding him back, as he has a career walk rate of 4.5 walker per 9 innings, an extremely high number. He had been able to find success in the minors despite the walks because of his wipeout stuff, but that walk rate rendered him ineffective at the major league level.
In 2022, Abreu reduced his walk rate from 4.5/9 IP in 2021 to 3.9/9 IP in 2022. He also increased his strikeout rate from 9.0/9 IP to 13.1/9 IP. Abreu regularly hit triple digits with his fastball, and his slider had sharper, later break.
In previous seasons, Abreu would suffer from confidence lapses, especially after walking batters with two outs. It became a recurring theme with him, where he would allow a two-out walk, and then allow that runner to score. Sometimes he wouldn’t be able to get out of the inning. All that changed in 2022.
Initially used in lower leverage situations to start the season, Abreu grew more confident with each passing positive outing. Baker managed him flawlessly, allowing the 25-year-old reliever to build confidence at the major league level and gradually increasing the importance of his appearances.
By season’s end, Abreu was one of Baker’s top relievers.
Abreu will enter 2023 in a role similar to the one he was used in late last season, as one of Baker’s most trusted bullpen weapons. Abreu will likely handle the seventh inning, leading to Rafael Montero in the eighth and Ryan Pressly in the ninth. Abreu will also take eight-inning duties when either Montero or Pressly is unavailable.
Expect to see Abreu also get a handful of save opportunities over the course of the season, as he makes the most logical sense as the heir apparent at closer should the team ultimately part ways with Pressly at some point in the future.
Houston will want to see if Abreu can handle the role. To do so, he will need to continue to improve his command and walk rate and maintain the high confidence and strikeout rates he demonstrated last season, especially in the playoffs.