Who is Chris Devenski?
Is it possible that a former 25th round pick who was acquired by his current team as a player to be named later in a trade for Brett Myers, is the most valuable relief weapon in all of baseball? That is the case for Houston Astros’ relief pitcher Chris Devenski, the best player in baseball you’ve never heard of.
Drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 25th round of the 2011 Major League Draft out of CSU Fullerton, Devenski started his Astros career in 2012, throwing a no-hitter with the Lexington Legends. In 2015, he was named the Corpus Christi pitcher of the year, before making his major league debut in 2016 at the age of 26.
Switching between the rotation and the bullpen, Devenski finished fifth in the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year voting with a 4-4 record, 2.16 ERA, and 0.914 WHIP in 48 G and 108.1 IP. Incredibly, he struck out 104 batters against only 20 walks (5.20 K to BB Ratio) while only allowing 0.3 HR/9. Going into the 2017 season, Devenski competed with Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove, and Mike Fiers for a spot in the Astros rotation; at the end of spring training, Astros Manager A.J. Hinch decided to move Devenski to the bullpen full time as a multi-inning relief pitcher.
In his new role, Devenski has thrived out of the gate in 2017, going 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA, 0.45 WHIP, and 21 K in 11.0 IP. In his first two appearances of the season (both Astros wins) Devenski went a combined 8.0 innings, striking out 14 batters, while only allowing four base runners and one run. His next two appearances, while shorter in length, only lasting three total innings, were equally as dominant, with three scoreless, seven strikeout innings. Right-handed batters are hitting .091 against Devenski, who has a 0.00 ERA against right-handers for the season. For the season, Devenski has thrown 67.1% of his pitches for strikes, and hitters are hitting .108 against him overall, no doubt in part due to his 17.18 K/9 and 21.00 K/BB ratio.
Combining with fellow stud relief pitchers Ken Giles, Will Harris, and Luke Gregerson, Devenski has helped the Astros bullpen surge out of the gate, with the eight best ERA in baseball at 2.98, and fourth best bating average against at .177. Primarily a two-pitch pitcher, using a tight a fastball and a fall off the table change up, Devenski also has a slider and a curveball in his repertoire. In an interview with theringer.com’s Michael Baumann, Devenski listed the following reasons for his effectiveness and success.
- Stay Ahead in the Count: Get ahead, get ahead.” And then you can expand the zone. It was really instilled in me to get ahead of hitters. I’d rather give up a home run than have a four-pitch walk, in my mind, because you’re gonna beat me with your best stuff.”
- Have a good change up: It’s a circle changeup grip. It’s that simple. I’ve been able to teach myself some key pointers on it to get depth and to have it work for me. It’s a big pitch. That, along with having your fastball. “I can’t forget that I have a good fastball too, and even my slider, I feel like, is good. I believe in all my pitches and am willing to go out there and give it all I got every night.”
- And a Slider, Too: “That pitch (slider) is still nowhere compared to where the changeup can be at, but in time with hard work and preparation and all that, that could be a very good pitch in the near future.
With a rotation that has been inconsistent outside of ace Dallas Keuchel, having a multi-inning relief weapon such as Devenski is exactly what the Astros needed to bridge the gap to the back of their bullpen. If the Astros continue their current run of success and win the AL West as predicted by many writers this preseason, you can almost guarantee that Devenski will be thrust into the spotlight of the postseason, and become a household name overnight.