Brandon Bielak Continues To Impress
Within months of his selection in the 11th round of the 2017 draft, Brandon Bielak fell under the tutelage of pitching coach Bill Murphy at short-season Tri-City.
At Notre Dame, Bielak’s velocity fluctuated, falling from 93-95 mph as a sophomore to 90-93 mph as a junior. His curveball was “decent,” though not considered elite. Bielak did not throw a true slider.
With Murphy’s mentoring at Tri-City, Bielak threw 29.1 innings with a 0.92 ERA. He walked just four hitters and struck out 37. A slider was introduced. His curveball danced to both sides of the plate and, now, is considered a “real weapon” within the Astros’ organization. His velocity gradually crept closer to his sophomore standards.
“When we saw the improvements he made in 2017, we kind of joked, ‘This guy is going to be in big league camp in a year,’” said Astros farm director Pete Putila. “Kind of half joking, we knew there was a chance with what he was capable of showing.”
That joke is now a reality.
In 117.2 combined innings across high Class A and Double-A last season, Bielak struck out 131 hitters while yielding just 29 earned runs—rising from the Astros’ pitching prospect surplus in the process.
The 22-year-old garnered his first invitation to major league spring training last month—one of only four members of his draft class to receive one. Just two others were pitchers—top 10 prospects J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin.
“He’s made a bunch of improvements, and he’s performed really well, too,” Putila said of Bielak. “The stuff has ticked up and performance has come with it.
Mirroring Bielak’s meteoric rise, Murphy was recently promoted to the Astros’ minor league pitching coordinator. Bielak’s work with the coach was “integral,” Putila said, in his development within the system.
Bielak’s velocity has continued to increase—he touched 96 mph in games this season, Putila said—while the curveball shines as Bielak’s main out-pitch. The slider has progressed and so has a circle changeup that rounds out his four-pitch arsenal.
“He pounds the strike zone. He actually increased the number of strikes he was throwing,” Putila said of Bielak, who boasts a career mark of 2.6 walks per nine innings. “He’s improved in just about every way that you can since signing with us.
“It’s pretty cool to see him come up through the system and immediately become a guy that’s right there.”