The Orioles announced this morning that they’ve traded right-hander Hector Velazquez to the Astros in exchange for a player to be named later. Baltimore had outrighted Velazquez off its 40-man roster just prior to Opening Day.
Velazquez, 31, spent the past three seasons with the Red Sox, throwing well from 2017-18 before stumbling to a 5.43 ERA in 56 frames in 2019. He’d previously logged a 3.12 ERA in 109 2/3 MLB frames, with averages of 5.9 strikeouts, 2.7 walks and 0.9 home runs per nine innings. The righty’s low strikeout right and lofty 80.7 percent strand rate prompted fielding-independent metrics to treat that ERA with some skepticism, but even metrics like FIP (4.24), SIERA (4.54) felt he was at least a passable option.
Things deteriorated last year for Velazquez when his walk and home run rates spiked. His strand rate not only regressed toward the league average (72.3 percent) but blew right by it and swung toward another extreme: 61.9 percent. Velazquez doesn’t miss many bats, but he can generate grounders with a low-spin sinker when at his best, as evidenced by a near-50 percent grounder rate in 2018.
It’s a necessary depth move for an Astros club that has been hammered by injuries on the pitching staff. Houston currently has nine rookies on its staff, including seven relievers who hadn’t accrued a single day of MLB service prior to Opening Day. It’s not clear whether Velazquez will be selected directly to the Major League roster, although given the sheer inexperience that currently permeates the Houston roster, there’d seem to be a decent chance that Velazquez will be called up in the near future.