Yesterday the Houston Astros promoted right-handed pitcher James Hoyt to the major league roster. Hoyt is a rarity: a 30-year-old rookie arm with above-average stuff and a strong minor league performance record. He appeared in the majors last year with the Astros but still holds rookie status for 2017. Let’s do a quick update.
James Hoyt pitched college baseball at Centenary but wasn’t drafted after posting an 18.82 ERA during an injury-plagued spring in 2010. He performed well at an independent tryout camp in 2011, pitched well in the Mexican League in 2012, signed with the Braves system as a free agent in ’13, then was swapped to Houston in the Evan Gattis trade.
Hoyt rated as a Grade C+ but did not get into the pre-season Top 20 Houston Astros prospects list for 2017, ranking somewhere in the 21-25 range.
Since getting healthy his record is marked by ridiculous strikeout ratios: he fanned 105 in 82 innings in 2013, 77 in 59 innings in 2014, 66 in 49 innings in 2015, and a stunning 93 in 55 innings in 2016, moving up the farm system ladders. During this trial with the Astros last year he fanned 28 in 22 major league innings, with nine walks, 16 hits, and a 4.50 ERA. He fanned eight in five shutout innings in Triple-A so far in 2017.
Hoyt is not doing this with junk: he got his fastball up to 95 in the majors last fall and has been reliably clocked as high as 96 in the past. He relies heavily on his slider, noted as having “exceptional depth” by BrooksBaseball, and will mix in an occasional change-up. He’s shut down right-handers easily at all levels and has held his own against lefties, meaning he doesn’t have to be limited to ROOGY work.
Overall Hoyt presents a short/middle relief profile but a fun one if you, like me, have a fascist love for strikeouts.