One of the reasons the Astros targeted Pressly was because of his high spin rate. According to Baseball Savant he's second in the league with 3104 RPM. The leader is Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Chris Stratton who has a spin rate of 3105 RPM. Spin rate is the rate of spin on a baseball after it is released, according to MLB.com. The more spin on fastballs and breaking balls; the tougher they are to hit. On the other end of the spectrum the less spin on changeups and knuckleballs makes those pitches harder to hit.
Spin rate isn't the only indicator of success. Stratton has a career 5.06 ERA in 256+ innings. Pitch usage, control, command, umpires, ballparks, weather, fans, hot dogs, nachos, and political arguments on Twitter all still play a factor (caveat: Some of these play a larger role). Still Charlie "F" Morton is top 10 in spin rate with 2875 (remember him?). Justin Verlander is Top 20. Mike Fiers 24th.
With the Astros in need of pitching help, I decided to take a look at the Top 50 pitchers (and one outside) and spin rate and see if there are any sneaky (or not so sneaky) pitchers the Astros could be targeting.
Sonny Gray - Cincinnati Reds
Despite a +37 run differential, the Reds are in the NL Central cellar. Gray has a 3.94 ERA in 82+ innings. There are signs the ERA could improve even more over the remaining season. He has a 3.62 FIP and 3.64 xFIP. He ranks 7th in spin rate with 2891 RPM. He's in the Astros budget ($7.5MM this year) and controllable over the next three years ($30.5MM) and has a club option for 2023.
Felipe Vazquez - Pittsburgh Pirates
Unlike the Reds, the Pirates have a -43 run differential. They will have to make a decision soon on being sellers or buyers soon. This year is different from past years in that there is no longer a waiver trade deadline. It's all July 31 or nothing.
Vazquez, unlike the rest of the pitchers on this list, is a reliever. He's left-handed though. Something the Astros desperately need in the bullpen. This year he has a 1.80 ERA in 35 innings. His 2765 RPM ranks 26th in the league. He's signed through 2021 (four years $22MM) with club options for 2022 and 2023.
Marcus Stroman - Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays own a -77 run differential in a AL East dominated by New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays (yes the Rays), and Boston Red Sox. There's already talk of Stroman and the Astros. Stroman has a 3.18 ERA over 105+ innings. He's 32nd in spin rate. His 3.82 FIP and 4.16 xFIP suggest he may have some clunkers in the second half of the season. He's a free agent in 2021.
Tanner Roark - Cincinnat Reds
Roark has a 3.36 ERA or 85+ innings. He ranks 38th in spin rate Like Stroman, his 3.50 FIP and 4.39 xFIP suggest that there are some bad outings ahead. He's controllable through the end of next season and someone that probably won't cost as much as a Gray or Stroman.
James Taillon - Pittsburgh Pirates
Right at 50th in spin rate is Taillon. Unfortunately, he's on the 60-day IL and was recently cleared to play catch. I doubt he's traded.
Matthew Boyd - Detroit Tigers
This was suggested by Michael Shopoff (@mshopoff) on Twitter. Boyd was recently connected to the Astros by Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Boyd has a 3.72 ERA in 101+ innings. His 3.58 FIP and 3.52 xFIP are a good indicator of continued success. He ranks 152 in spin rate. A fourseam (50%) and slider (35%) are the pitches he uses the most. He's dropped his sinker, curve, and changeup for the most part this year.
What other potential trade targets would you like to see the Astros go after?