Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Getting to Know Astros RHP Brandon Bielak

RHP Brandon Bielak absolutely dominated in his first season in 2017 after being drafted by the Astros out of Notre Dame in the 11th round, going 2-1 with a save, a 0.80 ERA, a 0.772 WHIP and five walks to 42 strikeouts in 33.2 innings for rookie league Greeneville (two games) and short season A Tri-City (8 games). Although he hasn't been quite that dominant in 2018, he has more than held his own with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP in his first nine appearances for High A Buies Creek. And the fact that he skipped directly to High A in his first full season (bypassing Low A Quad Cities) speaks volumes about what Bielak brings to the table. I sat down with Bielak earlier this month.

Brandon Bielak - May 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

One of the things that Bielak brings to the table is a fully developed pitch repertoire, "I've got a 4-seam fastball, a spike curveball, a slider and circle changeup. Fastball anywhere from 90-94." As far as his offspeed goes, he is partial to the changeup, "It's just something I have a really good feel for. Something that's my go-to pitch when I need to throw it for a strike," said Bielak.

Bielak credits the Astros organization for his early success, "I learned a lot my first season with the Astros. They changed a few things with my pitches and I kind of just took off from there. I had a good feel for it from the beginning and I just got really good help from managers and coaches. They just helped me out to get where I am today honestly. They helped transform two of my pitches. I just threw a regular curveball and now I throw a spiked and before I threw a slurve and now I throw an actual slider so they definitely know how to develop pitchers in this organization. Just from the first two years with the Astros, I've learned so much about baseball, about pitching, just the overall game. It's clearly been helping me."

One thing that Bielak feels that he does well is to maintain a good game tempo, but there are other aspects of his game that he is working on improving, such as tweaking his changeup to make it more effective against right-handed hitters. And one of his biggest focuses right now is tunneling his pitches in order to keep hitters guessing. "That's one of the biggest things I'm working on now is throwing all my pitches out of the same slot and just working off my previous pitch to get to my next pitch."

As far as getting to the next level developmentally, Bielak knows what he needs to do. "Mainly just building off my previous outing and attacking the zone even more than what I'm doing now. Trusting myself and my pitches. I can't be too perfect all the time. Just throwing my stuff in the zone is going to help me a lot," said Bielak.

Bielak enjoyed watching the Astros in the World Series, but there's something else he enjoyed even more. "(The World Series) was a lot of fun. Those guys are fun to watch and it's even better to see them in Spring Training, just to get that feel. It gives you a feeling like that's where you want to be, that's what you want to work towards. That's where you want to be eventually. That's why we're here right now and that's how we're going to get there when we get there." Acknowledging the depth of talent in the Astros system left Bielak unfazed, "That's the best part. It's about competing with one another and also having fun."

I also reached out to Buies Creek Pitching Coach Drew French to get his take on Bielak. French said, "He's got four pretty close to major league pitches. He has to learn how to locate them better, sequence them better and his pitch selection throughout a game needs to improve. But with it being his first full season in pro ball ... a lot of this stuff is taken away from them in college. These are not decisions they're having to make on their own in college; whereas, now the career is in his own hands. So he's got to do some of these things in game a little bit better, but he's really really bright and intelligent and he's come a long long way in just a short amount of time. I think most of the stuff with him is just getting his reps in, making sure that he's staying on the right track in his delivery. The pitches are ready and now it's just how he uses them and where he uses them is the most important thing. It's been pretty easy for him, but we know, especially here, we need to get these guys ready for AA which is the biggest jump that any of them is ever going to make."

It's exciting for me to watch a pitcher with Bielak's upside. Not only does he have a strong pitch arsenal, he has shown the ability to learn and adapt rapidly, he has a strong pitcher's frame, he has a plan for maximizing his talent, and he possesses a mature, calm demeanor. That skillset should play well going forward in the Astros system and I look forward to watching his journey.

Thank you for your time, Brandon, and best of luck as the season continues to unfold.

No comments:

Post a Comment