On opening day the Astros looked reasonably strong in the starting rotation. Cy Young candidates Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole were the headliners. Wade Miley was coming to Houston after a strong season at Milwaukee last year. Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh, veterans with proven track records of success, rounded out the 4 and 5 positions.
And then there was the depth in the minors. Forrest Whitley would surely be the Walker Buehler of 2019, Josh James would be ready to bring his 100 MPH stuff into the big-time. Framber Valdez showed promise in his cup of tea last year. Corbin Martin, Rogelio Armenteros, Cionel Perez, there was an embarrassment of riches in the Astros system that could fill in in case something went wrong with the original starting five.
The worst case scenario turns out to have been beyond comprehension. And we’re there.
Peacock seems to have an indefinite shoulder injury. McHugh went down with an arm injury, and though seeing occasional use in the bullpen, is considered off-line as a starter. Forrest Whitley has totally bombed out at AAA and has had some arm troubles as well. Corbin Martin had Tommy John surgery. Valdez has been terrible in his last three starts. James has been utterly inconsistent. Perez was terrible and is also nursing arm problems. Armenteros has probably never had the stuff to conquer big league batters. Jose Urquidy?
The Astros have been so desperate they have even used such off-the-radar types as Brady Rodgers and Cy Sneed, the last of whom showed some effectiveness before being sent back down last week.
The Astros no doubt want to add pitching at the trade deadline. But it is a sellers market supreme, the cost will be exorbitant, competitors in the market like the Yankee$ just as desperate as the Astros.
Let’s assume the Astros get one starter at the deadline. That still leaves the Astros short one starter. What should the Astros do?
Here are the possibilities.
- Resort to the opener strategy. Problem: the Astros are thin in the bullpen too.
- Promote Josh James. Problem: see inconsistency issue above.
- Collin McHugh. Problem: The Athletic said today he is not stretched out. Well, maybe stretch him back out again, like you’d have to do with James too. Are the Astros still afraid his arm is fragile? Seems like it, based on how seldom he is being used even in the bullpen.
- Cy Sneed. Seems like in 11 innings he earned it; 4.09 ERA, 3.36 xFIP. Problem: small sample size, seems like over-achieving.
- Rogelio Armenteros. Didn’t do so bad either. Five innings, 3.60 ERA, 3.77 xFIP. Problem: see Cy Sneed comment above. Armenteros fans have always believed he was the prototypical over-achiever, a Dallas Keuchel in waiting.
Tonight Josh James opens for the Astros against the Angels, followed by Framber Valdez. So the Astros, at least for now, have answered the question with option #1. Is that the long-term solution?
Throw in your comments below.