Continuing our series of 2017 MLB rookie profiles, we turn out attention to Jandel Gustave, right-handed pitcher inhabiting the Houston Astros bullpen.
Gustave was originally signed by the Astros as a free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2010. Extremely raw at first, he was wild and usually ineffective at the lowest levels, though he drew some notice in Low-A in 2014, posting a shaky 5.01 ERA but fanning 82 men in 79 innings while lowering his walk rate from previous standards.
This got him noticed by the Boston Red Sox, who selected him in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. He was subsequently sold to the Kansas City Royals, then claimed on waivers by the San Diego Padres in spring training, then sent back to the Astros in early April. He dramatically improved in 2015, posting a 2.15 ERA in 59 innings in Double-A while saving 20 games, then consolidated with a solid 2016 in Triple-A.
He made his major league debut late last year with a 3.52 ERA in 15 innings with a sharp 16/4 K/BB.
Gustave ranked 13th on the pre-season 2017 Houston Astros Top 20 prospects list with the following comment:
13) Jandel Gustave, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, posted 3.79 ERA in 57 Triple-A innings, 55/23 K/BB; posted 3.52 ERA in 15 major league innings with 16/4 K/BB; fastball can hit 99, slider is erratic, doesn’t have a change-up, limited to relief; control was problematic in the minors but he kept his command in gear during major league exposure; if that remains true, can be a bullpen force. ETA 2017.
Gustave was excellent in 2017 spring training (1.80 ERA in 10 innings, 13/4 K/BB), solidifying his hold on a bullpen spot. He’s struggled with his control in his first three outings of the regular season, walking four in 2.2 innings, but I imagine the Astros will be patient given his overall body of work over the last two seasons.
There’s no big mystery with Gustave: this is a classic bullpen profile with a 93-99 MPH fastball, featuring both two-seam and four-seam varieties. His slider remains inconsistent and he doesn’t have a true change-up, but there’s plenty of stuff in the arm and he’s shown the ability to get major league hitters out when his command is working.
He should be around for years in a middle/short relief role but will need to show more consistency with his secondary pitches to get a chance at closing.