2nd place: Cionel Pérez
Cionel Pérez’s name might sound familiar. That’s because the 23-year-old lefty has appeared in 13 games for the Astros over the last two seasons. In 2018, Pérez wowed with his .158 opponent batting average in 8 relief appearances. Nevertheless, control remained a major issue in 2018 as Pérez gave up 7 walks in less than 12 innings of work.
Last season, Pérez pitched in five games, and only surrendered two walks; however, he experienced difficulty getting outs likely due to missing spots and leaving pitches over the middle of the plate. In 9 innings of work in 2019, Pérez gave up 11 hits, 10 runs, and three homers.
Without question, Pérez suffers from command and consistency issues. But what Pérez has going for him is a formidable 95-mile-per-hour fastball, and the chance to get even better at such a young age. After all, most players—as young as Pérez was during his major league debut in 2018—are progressing up the minor league ranks or still pitching in college.
There remains a small chance that Pérez’s stuff will win the day if he finds his command and becomes more mechanically sound. If he progresses, he could be pitching in the big leagues for many years to come.
In my estimation, Pérez currently has the second-best chance of any lefty to make the 2020 opening day roster. If Pérez is receptive to coaching and makes necessary adjustments, look for the Astros to consider bringing him in as a lefty relief specialist when a more established right-handed pitcher goes on the injured list.