*Ryan Pressly is presumably the closer for 2021. Brent Strom:
My guess right now is Ryan Pressly, who did a great job last year, save for two games. He only had like two bad outings last year...one game in Arizona that kind of blew him up a little bit, and then again in Texas, where his velocity was way below and a guy hit a home run to tie it up. Right now, I would say he is probably the leaders, having been with us.
Pressly allowed 5H/3ER, 1K:2BB in his first two appearances (0.2IP, nine batters faced), settling at a 40.50 ERA by the time both Verlander and Osuna were done for the year. Over his next 21 appearances, Pressly allowed 16H/5ER, 28K:5BB, 2.21 ERA / 1.03 WHIP, including that Texas game Strom mentioned. Dusty Baker just wants him healthy.
Strom also noted that Steve Cishek (which seems like a promising report on the chances of Cishek making the Opening Day roster), Joe Smith, and Pedro Baez could factor into the closer role, and that it's up to Dusty Baker.
In that link we also find that Andre Scrubb and Bryan Abreu are drawing early praise, there's an awful lot of pitchers in camp, and Dusty Baker had very nice things to say about Pedro Gomez (who seemed like a very good person).
*And here we find a very good article from Chandler Rome on the importance of Brent Strom. Strom:
There's this feeling out there that we do something super special as an organization. I think we just do our due diligence and we turn every rock over to try to find how we can help whatever pitchers we acquire.
I truly hope there's a Brent Strom understudy.
*Joe Smith is very happy to be back with the Astros. Dusty, on Smith:
Joe is one of the leaders on this team. Guys listen to him, they gravitate toward him, they follow him. Not only is it great to have Joe in the bullpen, but he's a quality guy that we all trust.
*Framber Valdez: "I want to have some nasty pitches this year." I, too, would like Framber to have some nasty pitches this year.
*Jerome Solomon: Dusty isn't the retiring type.
*SI's first Power Rankings of 2021 have the Astros at #8.
*Forrest Whitley, who may or may not exist, is in West Palm Beach but not working out at the team complex, for some reason. James Click:
Occasionally, out of an abundance of caution, there are protocol steps that have to be taken players and personnel are cleared to report. We expect those steps to be completed soon, which will still give everyone enough time to prepare for the season.
Related: Here is a really good interview from FanGraphs with the aforementioned possibly-alive Forrest Whitley, who is a Trevor Bauer fanboy. It's in there, I swear. Also, there's this quote:
Everything I've done since I've been with the Astros has...pretty much been self-driven. I haven't had much outside influence. I'm pretty stubborn. I don't always like to listen to people.
If there's anything that the Astros have been about since 2012, it's definitely without a doubt just sort of letting players do whatever they want. (But also keep in mind the above-linked interview with Brent Strom).
But there's also this one: "It goes without saying that this season is super, super important for me."
It's a really, really insightful read, lots of mechanics/grip analysis. Good interview, and it's not pay-walled, so have at it. I'm actually really excited to see what Forrest Whitley does this year. But also I hope he stops listening to Tyler Bauer.
*Missed this, from earlier in the week when the state was freezing over, but Keith Law released his Astros' farm system report. Law:
The Astros are still finding hidden value through R&D and some great work on the player development side, and have a number of guys who look like breakout candidates for 2021, if we get a minor-league season.
The Top 20 - click the link to read the write-ups:
1. Forrest Whitley
2. Luis Garcia
3. Pedro Leon
4. Hunter Brown
5. Jeremy Pena
6. Jairo Solis
7. Korey Lee
8. Shawn Dubin
9. Colin Barber
10. Jordan Brewer
11. Tyler Ivey
12. Alex Santos
13. Brett Conine
14. Luis Santana
15. Freudis Nova
16. Alex McKenna
17. Joe Perez
18. Nathan Perry
19. Zach Daniels
20. Austin Hansen
Jeremy Pena is #66 on FanGraphs' Top 100 prospects list. Brett Conine is #70 and Forrest Whitley is #100 on Dan Szymborski's Top 100 ZiPS prospect list for 2021.
*Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve teamed up to provide 25,000 meals to children affected by the storm this week.
*Outside: Lessons from the 100 most influential studies in sports medicine.
*A Musical Selection: