Feb 18, 2023; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Ronel Blanco (56) throws a pitch during spring training workouts. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Astros Player of the Day: Ronel Blanco
Welcome to the 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 Ronel Blanco.
Blanco was an international signing by the Astros in 2016 and has since spent much of his career in the minor leagues for Houston, working up to Double-A in 2018 and then to Triple-A in 2019 before the missed 2020 season for all of MiLB. He continued in Triple-A in 2021, appearing in 42 games where he posted a 3.40 ERA and an impressive 11.40 strikeouts per nine innings.
He followed that remarkable year by having an impressive spring in 2022, earning him one of the expanded roster spots the team started the season with after the labor dispute pushed back the beginning of the season. He made his MLB debut on April 8, wrapping up a lopsided victory for the Astros in Anaheim, where he went 1.1 innings while allowing a run on two hits while notching his first-career strikeout.
Blanco made seven total appearances in April of 2022 but could not carry over his minor-league success as he would allow five earned runs across four of those outings, ending up with an ERA of 7.11. When the roster sizes returned to normal, Blanco became the odd man out for Houston’s bullpen before ultimately spending another season with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, where over 44 appearances, he’d return to his standard form, finishing the season with a 3.63 ERA and improving his strikeout numbers.
Blanco is primarily a fastball and slider-heavy right-handed reliever, though he will also toss the occasional changeup and curve. His heater averages 95 mph, though he can reach close to 100 at times, one of the reasons for his strikeout upside.
He used the offseason to get some reps in the Dominican Winter League, where he was dominant. However, with the Astros’ bullpen spots mostly accounted for in what was baseballs best bullpen in 2022, it’s hard to see a path for Blanco to make the Opening Day roster. The benefit he provides the Astros is a quality reliever with swing and miss potential available should an injury strike during the season who can quickly make the short drive from Sugar Land to contribute to the big-league team should they need him.