Baseball trades can seem excruciating when teams swap top-end talent for prospects who may not be seen for years. But in the specific case of Ryan Pressly, who instantly set career bests after being traded to the Houston Astros, everything could finally be leveling out.
Pressly made an immediate impact on the Astros bullpen. In 2018 he closed the year with a .77 ERA over 23.1 innings pitched after being traded midway through the season. He broke out the next year, becoming a premier arm for the Astros with a 2.32 ERA, .90 WHIP, 11.9 K/9 in 54.1 innings of work. He even pitched an inning against the Minnesota Twins in the 2020 Wild Card series, collecting a save while working a flawless frame and striking out two hitters
With the success Pressly has achieved during his time in Houston, it seemed like the Twins would have a tough time getting a return on investment from this trade.
Enter Jorge Alcala.
He and outfielder Gilberto Celestino were the Houston prospects who arrived in the Pressly trade. Alcala was assigned to Double-A Chattanooga in 2018 and made his major league debut as a September call up in 2019.
But Alcala made his mark on the Twins bullpen last year. Appearing in 16 games, he posted a 2.63 ERA over 24 innings. With the combination of a strong fastball that averaged 97.2 mph in 2020 with a complementary 88.9 mph slider, Alcala piled up a 10.13 K/9 and a 3.0 BB/9, both above league average.
The development of his slider has helped Alcala achieve success. He throws his high-powered fastball 46.2% of the time, and his slider 44.7%. By not overusing his electric fastball, he’s able to keep hitters guessing, which has correlated to a lot of swing-and-misses. Alcala also features a changeup that he threw 8.9% of the time in 2020.
The Twins decision to carry four catchers and leave Alcala off the 2020 playoff roster was a bit of a surprise. Alcala was mainly used in low-leverage situations throughout the 2020 season. The combination of his usage and minimal major league experience could have factored into the decision to keep him off the roster.
Looking ahead, Alcala is set to solidify his role as a weapon in the back end of the bullpen. He should be a complement to Tyler Duffey, who is coming off a career season, and newcomer Alex Colome, the former Chicago White Sox closer who has had a 2.95 career ERA over his eight seasons as a pro.
Alcala was one of the most-used arms out of the bullpen when it comes to innings pitched last year. His 24 innings were tied for third on the team behind two pitchers who were partly used as openers, Tyler Clippard (26.0) and Matt Wisler (25.1).
Next year you will see Alcala used in high-leverage situations while solidifying a major role in the bullpen. His ability to light up the radar gun will certainly draw attention from fans who have been looking for an upgraded bullpen for years.