Aug 16, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Josh Fields (35) pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Fields might not necessarily be on the market due to his strong underlying numbers in 2014, and he may be something that the Astros covet, but after the signings of Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson this offseason, the Astros bullpen looks rather busy.
Following the aforementioned Neshek and Gregerson, the Astros have bullpen mainstays Tony Sipp and Chad Qualls, creating a solid back of the bullpen. Along with them, they have a number of young arms who got a taste of the bullpen last year, who look ready to take on larger roles.
Along with a full bullpen, he also got demoted to AAA in May of 2014 due to poor performance, and went on the 15 day DL due to forearm soreness. All of this combined could make him available for the right price.
Fields doesn’t look to appealing at a quick glance, with ERA’s of 4.45 and 4.97 in ’14 and ’13 respectively, but his peripherals, especially in 2014, offer plenty of value and the potential to acquire him before his ERA lowers to a number closer to his 2014 FIP.
His 2014 FIP of 2.09 led him to a 1.5 fWAR, but it was his very strong 11.52 K/9 and career best 2.80 BB/9 that show signs he could be a valuable back of the bullpen piece. His 2014 HR/FB was 2.9%, which is due to raise, but even if that raises to league average, his numbers are still strong, which is evidenced by his strong 3.15 xFIP.
The culprit for his high ERA? Most likely his very high BABIP of .343 – well above league average – and his 60.4 LOB%. If those two normalize to near league average rates, along with his HR/FB, you’re looking at a solid bullpen piece with the potential to be a back of the bullpen arm with his strikeout rate.
He relies on his cutter, throwing it 64.38% of the time in 2014, sitting at 95.33 mph and getting 17.15% of swings and misses with the pitch according to Brooks Baseball. Opponents hit .245 against it due to a .400 BABIP, which is bound to regress.
He throws his curveball 20.10% of the time, and while it doesn’t garner a high percentage of whiffs, opponents only .229 against it. He compliments those two pitches with a changeup that averaged 79.04 mph with a 10.24 whiff percentage.
The former first round draft pick in 2008, and rule 5 selection in 2012 showed dramatic improvements in 2014, and his ability to produce a high strikeout rate makes him an intriguing option. Along with that, the 29-year-old is under control for three seasons.
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