Cristian Javier: Astros 2020 Rookie of the Year

Cristian Javier debuted in the Astros’ rotation under awful circumstances. On July 29, the 23-year-old Dominican righthander made the first start of his major league career in place of Justin Verlander, who injured his elbow five days earlier.

The Dodgers loomed, too, just one day after a benches-clearing incident between the two clubs at Minute Maid Park.

Javier was steady in the face of uncertainty. He earned the nickname “Reptil” in the minor leagues for his emotionless demeanor and silent nature on and off the field. Stakes or a step up in competition do not faze him.

“You wouldn’t think he was a rookie. He seems unrattled by most things,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He doesn’t miss anything. You can read his eyes. He’s always paying attention.”

Javier dominated Los Angeles’ potent lineup for 5.2 innings, striking out a season-high eight batters and yielding just two hits. Verlander’s injury proved to be season-ending, and Javier’s spot in the rotation was entrenched. He excelled.

Javier finished his rookie season with a 3.48 ERA in 54.1 innings. Among rookies who threw at least 40 innings, Javier’s 0.99 WHIP ranked second behind only the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin.

Javier allowed three or fewer earned runs in nine of his 10 starts, befuddling opposing lineups with his hoppy, disappearing four-seam fastball and a slider that improved throughout the season. Javier’s velocity does not excite—he averaged 92 mph on his four-seamer—but opponents hit just .208 against it.

Javier’s success is somewhat unsurprising. He was the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year last season, but still entered 2020 with only 11 innings above Double-A. His emergence as a reliable big league arm is amplified given that Verlander will miss 2021 after having Tommy John surgery and the rotation’s overall uncertainty.

Javier made the Astros’ postseason roster, where he worked as a multi-inning reliever. The Astros prepared him for that role during a late September series, again against the Dodgers. Javier struck out five batters in two innings.


— The Astros did not include touted righty Bryan Abreu in their postseason player pool, and there is no indication that he was injured. Abreu reported to summer camp out of shape, multiple people in the organization said, and was sent to the alternate training site to revamp his delivery. Abreu walked or hit nine of the 20 batters he faced in the majors this year.

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