Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6’1” Weight: 225 lbs.
Barrett Astin was born on October 22, 1991 in Forrest City, AR. Forrest City, also known as “The Jewel of the Delta”, sits about 45 miles West of Memphis, TN and neighbors other booming cities such as Wynne, Earle, Cotton Plant, and Greasy Corner. (As a former resident of The Natural State, I find great joy in finding the most obscure names of towns in rural Arkansas. Toad Suck is another good one.) After finishing his high school career at Forrest City High School, he decided to call the Hogs and continue his baseball career at the University of Arkansas.
While at Arkansas, he jumped around between the bullpen and the rotation during his three years. As a sophomore, he was mainly used as the team’s closer where he earned 11 saves and made two appearances in the 2012 College World Series. He moved to the rotation as a junior where he spent most of the season as the Friday night starter, going 4-4 with a 1.79 ERA on the year. This performance was good enough to get him drafted in the 3rd round at 90th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013.
As he did at Arkansas, Astin has bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation during his minor league career. This was no different in Double-A Pensacola in 2016, where he made 11 starts in 37 appearances for the Blue Wahoos and turned in the best full season of his minor league career. In those 37 appearances, he accumulated a 2.70 ERA over 103.1 innings while walking 2.2 per 9 innings and striking out 8.4 per 9, both totals the best of his career. He has typically pitched better in relief than in the rotation so that fact, combined with the multitude of starting pitching prospects in the Reds’ system at the moment, means that he most likely sticks in the bullpen as a member of the Reds.
August 31, 2014: Traded by the Milwaukee Brewers with Kevin Schackelford to the Cincinnati Reds for Jonathan Broxton.
Astin relies heavily on a 4-seam fastball and a sinker that sit in the mid-90’s with his fastball reaching as high as 97 mph. He most-often uses a slider as his secondary pitch while occasionally mixing in a change-up or a curve ball. Here is what John Sickels had to say about Astin after the trade was completed back in 2014.
After posting his best season of his career last year, Barrett Astin used that momentum to have a solid spring training, where he posted a 3.86 ERA and struck out 14 batters against 2 walks over 11.2 innings. Considering the struggles of the Reds’ bullpen in 2016, the timing couldn’t have been better for Astin to put together a performance like that. After taking a deeper look at what the Reds are trying to do with their pitching staff in 2017 and with what Astin has done in his career, he seems like a great fit for this bullpen coming out of spring training.
It’s been no secret this off-season that the Reds are trying to get the most out of their relievers in high-leverage situations instead of assigning roles. There has already been plenty of talk about using Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen as multi-inning firemen who could each accumulate 100 innings over the season. However, with the combination of injuries and lack of experience in the starting rotation, there is no guarantee that the starters will be able to pitch late into games night after night. At some point, Iglesias and Lorenzen will need rest and there will more than likely be a need for someone to bridge the gap until the two best relievers are needed.
This is someone like Astin is perfect for the bullpen. Since he has spent time as a starter and a reliever, it is already known that he can pitch multiple innings in an appearance. Even when he came on in relief he wasn’t a one inning and done type of pitcher. Of his 26 relief appearances in 2016, Astin pitched at least two innings 11 times over the course of the season.
While all of this looks great on paper, he is still obviously going to have to perform well in this role. Astin is the only one in the bullpen without MLB experience, so if he goes out and gets shelled in April I could see the Reds sending him down pretty quickly. They certainly don’t want a replay of the Great Bullpen Disaster of 2016. But if he does show up and thrive in this role, he’d be the perfect stopgap for the Reds to bring on to get to their hammers at the end of the game.