HOUSTON -- A season-ending injury to Astros ace Justin Verlander turned into the opportunity of a lifetime for Cristian Javier.
Javier, the Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019, took Verlander’s spot in Houston's rotation in late July and put together a terrific rookie campaign. As a result, he’s a finalist for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, along with Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis and White Sox outfielder Luis Robert.
The winner, determined by a result of voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, will be revealed Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network.
Javier went 5-2 with a 3.48 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 12 appearances (10 starts) for the Astros this year. His .188 opponents' batting average was the lowest among AL rookies and ranked fourth among AL pitchers (minimum 150 batters faced). He led AL rookies in ERA, was tied for fourth in wins, finished second in starts, was fourth in innings pitched (54 1/3) and was third in strikeouts (54).
Javier, 23, made his Major League debut in relief on July 25 against the Mariners before joining the rotation July 29, He allowed one run and struck out a season-high eight batters in 5 2/3 innings against the eventual World Series champion Dodgers in his first start. Javier allowed three or fewer runs in nine of his 10 starts.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $10,000 at 17 years old in 2015, Javier reached Triple-A Round Rock last year, pitching in two games for the Express after spending most of the '19 season with Double-A Corpus Christi. He was expected to start the 2020 season in Round Rock's rotation before a rash of injuries and an expanded roster (as well as there being no Minor League season) led to him making Houston's Opening Day roster.
Javier’s four-seam fastball averaged 92.2 mph this year, per Statcast, but opponents hit just .208 against a pitch that hitters struggled to square up despite the lower velocity.
Javier also posted the third best opponents' batting average by a rookie in franchise history (minimum 200 batters faced). Only Billy Wagner (.165 in 1996) and Bill Dawley (.185 in 1983) were better. Javier also recorded the third best WHIP by a rookie pitcher in Astros history, behind Chris Devenski in 2016 (0.91) and Dawley in '83 (0.92).
Javier is aiming to become the fourth Houston player to earn a Rookie of the Year Award, joining Jeff Bagwell (1991), Carlos Correa (2015) and Yordan Alvarez (2019).