Who is Ronel Blanco? Meet the 30-year-old Astros pitcher with first MLB no-hitter of 2024

Ronel Blanco wasn’t expected to be in the Astros’ 2024 rotation. There was no guarantee he would even wind up on the MLB roster to start the season.

It’s safe to say manager Joe Espada, and Houston fans, are glad he’s in the starting five. Blanco, in his first start of the 2024 season, spun a no-hitter against the Blue Jays, holding Toronto to two baserunners on a pair of walks while striking out seven.

“I’m very excited. I couldn’t believe it. A very happy moment for me,” Blanco said through a translator after the game.

Blanco is a relative unknown in the baseball world, having logged only 25 appearances in his big-league career and eight starts. 

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Here’s what you need to know about the latest pitcher to make MLB history.

Who is Ronel Blanco?

Blanco is a right-handed pitcher for the Astros who now has the first no-hitter of the 2024 season.

Where is Ronel Blanco from?

Blanco is originally from Santiago, Dominican Republic. He signed with the Astros as a 22-year-old back on April 27, 2016, as an international free agent. He spent the 2016 season in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League.

The Athletic reported Blanco was working at a car wash part-time in Santiago to support himself and his mother, but signed on a $5,000 bonus when the Astros extended him an offer.

Ronel Blanco age

Blanco is 30 years old, celebrating his birthday on Aug. 31, 1993. He made his MLB debut on April 8, 2022, when he was 28 years old.

But reaching the majors was anything but easy for Blanco. He was largely a reliever for the Astros throughout the minors, and at first, he enjoyed a rapid rise, going from Rookie League in 2016 to reaching Triple-A by the end of the 2019 season. 

However, he struggled in that 2019 season and did not pitch at all in 2020 as the minor-league season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Blanco returned to Triple-A in 2021 and pitched well, posting a 3.40 ERA in 42 appearances largely as the team’s closer. Still, he did not get the chance to reach the majors. The next year, as a 28-year-old, he began the season in the majors, but he struggled struggled with a 7.11 ERA in seven appearances. He returned to Triple-A and had a 3.63 ERA at Triple-A.

Blanco began the 2023 season back in the majors and was up-and-down all season, spending most of May and the second half of the season in Triple-A. In the minors, he worked largely as a starter, and he saw success, fanning 81 batters in 73.1 innings of work with a 3.68 ERA. While in the big leagues, he had a 4.50 ERA between seven starts and nine relief appearances spanning 52 innings of work. He struck out 52 batters and walked 28.

There was no guarantee Blanco would begin the 2024 season in the majors for the third straight season. However, Justin Verlander and Jose Urquidy deal with preseason injuries that necessitated the move for Blanco to pitch in the rotation. He posted impressive spring training numbers, not allowing a run in five games (four starts) spanning 15.2 innings with 18 strikeouts and only four walks and six hits.

Ronel Blanco stats

Here’s a look at the stats from Blanco’s career prior to his start on Monday.

Year G-GS IP ERA K BB HR AVG
2022 7-0 6.1 7.11 7 4 1 .296
2023 17-7 52 4.50 52 28 12 .251
Career 24-7 58.1 IP 4.78 59 32 13 .257

What pitches does Ronel Blanco throw?

Blanco throws four pitches: a fastball, slider, changeup and curveball. During his no-hitter, he threw the changeup more than any other pitch 36 times, compared to 32 sliders, 30 fastballs and only four curveballs, per Baseball Savant. The cambio topped out at 87.4 mph and averaged 85.7 mph, a 7.9 average mph difference from his four-seamer.

The changeup from Blanco averaged 33 inches of vertical break and 13 inches of horizontal break, making it a filthy pitch. There were 10 whiffs on the pitch (42 percent) and five called strikes.

Blanco’s fastball averaged 93.6 mph and had 14 inches of vertical movement and eight inches of horizontal movement. The pitch generated only two swings and misses, but caught batters looking four times.

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The slider was another standout offering from him as it averaged 86.9 mph with 27 inches of average vertical break and only two inches of horizontal break. There were eight whiffs on the pitch and three called strikes for a 32 percent called strike plus whiff rate.

His curveball averaged 80.2 mph with 45 inches of vertical break and nine inches of horizontal break. Of the four curves thrown during the game, one was put in play and two were called strikes.

Astros no-hitters

Blanco’s no-hitter marked the third straight year Houston has tallied at least one no-hitter. Framber Valdez threw a no-hitter in 2023, and the team had two combined no-hitters in 2022. Overall, it was the 17th in team history.

Here’s a look at the history of no-nos by the Astros. All games are wins, unless otherwise noted.

Date Pitcher(s) Opponent Score
May 17, 1963 Don Nottebart Phillies 4-1
April 23, 1964 Ken Johnson Reds 1-0 (L)
June 18, 1967 Don Wilson Braves 2-0
May 1, 1969 Don Wilson Reds 4-0
July 9, 1976 Larry Dierker Expos 6-0
April 7, 1979 Ken Forsch Braves 6-0
Sept. 26, 1981 Nolan Ryan Dodgers 5-0
Sept. 25, 1986 Mike Scott Giants 2-0
Sept. 8, 1993 Darryl Kile Mets 7-1
June 11, 2003 Roy Oswalt, Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel, Billy Wagner Yankees 8-0
Aug. 21, 2015 Mike Fiers Dodgers 3-0
Oct. 3, 2019 Aaron Sanchez, Will Harris, Joe Biagini, Chris Devenski Mariners 9-0
Sept. 1, 2019 Justin Verlander Blue Jays 2-0
June 25, 2022 Cristian Javier, Hector Neris, Ryan Pressly Yankees 3-0
Nov. 2, 2022 Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, Ryan Pressly Phillies 5-0
Aug. 1, 2023 Framber Valdez Guardians 2-0
April 1, 2024 Ronel Blanco Blue Jays 10-0

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