Player-to-Be-Named-Later's Time is Now

Most of the attention given to Cincinnati’s trade at last year’s deadline was shedding Jonathan Broxton’s contract. This season for “player to be named later” Barrett Astin is making a statement that the Reds got something more than payroll relief in that deal.

Daytona rode a four-run rally in the fifth inning to a 7-4 win over visiting Clearwater Monday to go 31-20 on the season and maintain their hold on first place in their division. The Tortugas tied the game at one in the fourth when Sebastian Elizalde tripled and scored on a double from Robert Ramirez. Wendell Soto got things started the next frame with a single in front of Junior Arias’s home run. After that Alex Blandino and Elizalde followed with a hit and walk before Ramirez struck again with a triple. The home team piled on a couple more in the seventh on sac flies by Elizalde and Taylor Sparks.

Ramirez led the way with three hits and three RBI while Blandino and Arias added two hits apiece. On the mound Barrett Astin got the win for six-plus innings over which he allowed only two runs (one earned) and six hits while striking out eight without a walk. Joel Bender took the ball in the seventh and pitched into the ninth before getting in trouble. El’Hajj Muhammad recorded the final out to for the save.

Astin might not be a familiar prospect to many Cincinnati fans because he was in the Milwaukee system until he and Kevin Shackleford came over in exchange for Jonathan Broxton before last season’s trade deadline. So far it looks like a good deal for Cincinnati, mainly because Broxton and his $9 million salary are sitting on a near-seven ERA for the Brewers.

Meanwhile Shackelford is pitching in the Pensacola bullpen while Astin has brought his earnie down to 2.17 after 12 appearances/seven starts at Daytona. He came into Friday’s game off two scoreless starts and has allowed more than two runs in only two outings. He’s kept a nice K/BB ratio of 39/12 over almost 50 innings and his WHIP is below 1.2.

At the time of the deal shedding the Broxton contract was probably the primary reason for the deal, after all he left for a couple of players to be named later. However, Astin is showing that he might turn out to be an unexpected bonus. After Milwaukee selected him in the third round out of the University of Arkansas in 2013 his 4.30 ERA over a short season at Helena wasn’t bad for the Pioneer League. However, he was near five at low-A Wisconsin last year. This season Cincinnati advanced him to high-A anyway and so far the results have been good.

Astin is a 6’1”/210#, 23 year-old right-hander with a fastball that sits in the low-90’s. He does a good job keeping it down and hasn’t given up a home run yet in 2015. His best pitch is his changeup and he also throws a slider that is effective against left-handers. He doesn’t quite have the ideal size desired for a starting pitcher, but he’s big enough to keep doing it if he proves he remains effective. Actually when he was a college reliever he ran his heater up into the mid-90’s before the Razorbacks increased his workload by moving him into their rotation.

Now he’s on a mission to become more than a financial windfall for Cincinnati. He wasn’t at the top of Reds prospects lists coming into the season, but his success might gain consideration for a promotion to AA by the end of the season. Though his future will probably include a more permanent move to the bullpen, the door has not shut on chances that he’ll remain a starter and his ability to keep the ball in the park will be a bonus at any level he pitches. This year’s edition of the Reds have certainly had their problems in the bullpen, but it doesn’t appear like Broxton would have been an answer had he stayed. Perhaps one day Barrett Astin might provide one in the future.

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