Houston right-hander Ryan Pressly was solid in the shortened 2020 season. He converted 12 of 16 save opportunities with a 3.43 ERA (2.81 FIP), 1.33 WHIP and a strikeout rate that finished in the 86th percentile. Sure, his .253 batting average against him is a bit higher than one would like, and it’s unfortunately supported by some underwhelming numbers in his batted ball profile. However, he has a firm grasp on the closer’s role in Houston, as the Astros didn’t do much for ninth inning competition.

He doesn’t offer elite strikeout numbers, which pushes him below the likes of guys like Cleveland’s James Karinchak and Los Angeles’ Raisel Iglesias , despite the fact that one could argue Pressly’s situation is far more lucrative for saves, but he’s posted three straight seasons of a strikeout rate north of 30 percent. He doesn’t do it with overwhelming velocity, but more so a slider and curveball that generate whiffs at an astronomical rate.

His curveball and slider have generated a whiff rate of at least 30 percent each of the last four years, highlighting in 2020 with each pitch registering a whiff rate of at least 43 percent. Now, he did switch up his repertoire a bit in 2020. The shortened year was the first time since the 2014 season that his four-seam fastball wasn’t his most used pitch. In fact, he used his curveball more than his slider in each of the three seasons prior to 2020. However, in 2020, he threw his slider 41.9 percent of the time, his fastball 37.1 percent of the time, and his curveball 21 percent of the time. That was a shift for Pressly, but the whiff rates remained high, and his curveball maintained its elite spin rate (99th percentile in 2020).

It’s worth noting, however, that his curveball was elevated much more than recent seasons. In 2019, his curveball induced a launch angle of two degrees, but it jumped to 18 degrees in 2020, and of course, it resulted in a career low ground ball rate for that pitch, as well as a career high fly ball rate (just one home run though).

Fortunately, his other pitches resulted in fewer fly balls, mitigating a steeper drop in his overall ground ball rate.

Pressly did a great job of avoiding the barrel of the opposition in 2020. His 3.7 percent barrel rate in 2020 was his lowest mark since 2015, and in three of the four seasons prior to the 2020 campaign, he was above six percent. Now, his exit velocity of 89.7 miles per hour was elevated, and much closer to his career average, compared to 2019’s career low 86.6 miles per hour. When you look at his Statcast profile at a glance, there’s a lot of good, but two glaring numbers.

One thing to monitor in the 2021 season is if he can drop his walk rate like he did in 2019. He’s posted a career 7.5 percent walk rate, and his 2020 rate of 7.7 percent is right on par with that. In 2019, however, he posted a career-best 5.7 percent. The encouraging thing is his walk rate trended down, and he walked just three batters over his final 14.1 regular season innings. In the postseason, his walk rate of 3.6 percent was excellent by his standards, and overall.

Pressly is currently the seventh closer off the board, per NFBC data, and he represents a great value. Sure, if you’re against taking a closer earlier in drafts, you won’t be acquiring Pressly’s services, but if you want a solid closer at a bargain compared to others, Pressly is your guy. Sure, he might not post an elite strikeout rate like James Karinchak or Edwin Díaz , but he has the opportunity to notch more saves than both of them, especially the former. Also, it’s not like Pressly doesn’t strike guys out. His 31.9 percent strikeout rate from 2020 is still solid, it’s just not in the elite range.


The Houston right-hander has nestled himself in a nice tier of closers and he has some solid upside, especially since he appears to have a rather firm grip on the job, and his leash is rather lengthy. After three straight years of a swinging strike rate above 17 percent, not only could he notch 30 saves this year, but he could push a 34-35 percent strikeout rate.

With all that said, I’m a big fan of Pressly in 2021.


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