Astros Rotation Options Moving Forward
The Astros are attempting a late season push at one of the final Wild Card spots absolve for the 2016 season, but with the Astros’ up and down rotation and the loss of Lance McCullers, that makes a comeback that much tougher. The Astros can’t seem to get both the pitching staff and the lineup on the same page for an extended period of time, which will likely be a huge key to the 2017 season. With some moving pieces at the end of the year, we’re going to take a look at where the Astros stack up going into 2017 in the rotation.
2017 is the year everyone expects great things from the Astros. One thing is almost certain: Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers will be back and they will easily be one of the AL’s top 1-2 punches in the rotation. I say almost because we are still unsure on Lance McCullers going forward. With his elbow giving him troubles, hope and pray it won’t lead to the dreaded Tommy John Surgery.
Keuchel has had his glory moments too, but hasn’t been anywhere close to the Cy Young Keuchel we saw in 2015. I think he will bounce back in 2017 and re-discover his old form and be one of the best in the AL again next season.
The rest behind them is a crap-shoot. Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers have been up and down all season long, and Doug Fister is set to test the market as one of the best arms available (which says a lot about this year’s pitching in Free Agency).
That being said, it sounds like any upgrades to the rotation will either be from within or via trade. I for one can see Joe Musgrove being a regular in the rotation from this point forward. He flashed utter dominance at the start of his career but has hit a rough patch as of late and will continue to learn how to pitch to MLB Hitters. He can easily slide into the #3 spot for Houston as soon as next year.
Chris Devenski is also an option moving forward, but one has to wonder if Houston is going to mess with a good thing. Devenski has been flat-out nasty coming out of the pen, garnering Rookie Of The Year consideration as a go-to option as a reliever. Houston will still most likely try him out for the rotation, and he could still be a legitimate starter for Houston if need be. Devenski after all was a starter for much of his tenure in the minor league system.
Houston has mentioned moving forward they would like Michael Feliz to be a starter long-term, and the chance they make that transition in the Spring is pretty good. Feliz has the makings of a starter, and without a doubt has the fastball for one, along with his respectable arsenal of pitches. He started out straight up unhittable in the beginning out of the pen, but has since cooled down and hasn’t been used as much as the beginning. Feliz could be in the rotation soon, especially if something else opens up.
Despite all the talent that has graduated from the Minor League System, the Astros still have two pitchers in the system that could see time as early as next year in Francis Martes and David Paulino. Martes is currently in AA and Paulino was promoted to AAA only a few days ago. They both could get a strong look in Spring Training, but might show patience with both as Paulino has a injury history and Martes is still just 20 years old. Nevertheless, both have shown dominance at their levels of Minor League Baseball and could see a reward for it soon.
Going forward, the Astros will explore all options in the trade market. Chris Sale‘s name came up a lot at the Deadline along with Chris Archer and an array of Rays pitchers as well. Personally, I think the Astros should look to trade a few pitchers on the team to nab some solid starters via trade. Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers could be looked at by other teams, and going forward I believe the Astros need to upgrade the staff without overspending too much from the Farm or the MLB team. Obviously Chris Sale would cost a pretty penny, but he could be totally worth it as a true staff ace if the price isn’t as astronomical as it was at the deadline. The White Sox could legitimately look to move him the future as well, but most likely won’t shy away from the expensive mindset.
McHugh and Fiers have been respectable in their time in Houston, and I feel like they could make some other teams happy as well. A trade for Chris Sale could turn this team from a Contender to a World Series favorite. Imagine a rotation with the likes of Sale, Keuchel, and a healthy Lance McCullers, along with Musgrove and Devenski/Feliz. That rotation would give the opposing AL lineups fits year in and year out.
With Fister set the hit the market, there is a very slim chance the Astros resign him, but nevertheless they will explore that option considerably before letting him walk. With Free Agency being weak this upcoming offseason in the pitching category, the Astros most likely will look to other teams or even their own to bolster the rotation for the future team. They certainly have the ammo to pull off a Chris Sale/Archer deal, and no doubt the Astros have been doing their homework on both players. With the Astros having some roster spots opening up soon, Luhnow no doubt will be exploring all his options to field the best team in 2017, and my bet is he’ll be leaving no stone left unturned moving forward.
**Photo Credit: Tammy Tucker**