Prospect Season Review: Josh James
Not unlike many members of the Astros’ organization, Josh James had a great season in 2018; unlike most of them, his came out of nowhere. The 6-3 right handed fireballer was a 34th round pick out of Western Oklahoma State College in 2014. Now he is the 2018 Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. What is even more surprising is that he has a chance (though probably a slim one) to make the Astros’ 2018 postseason roster.
James maintained an absurd 171/49 K/BB in his 2018 season pitching for AA Corpus Christi and AAA Fresno. He threw 114.1 innings in the minors with a 3.23 ERA and a 3.11 FIP. His outstanding performance earned him a big league call up on September 1st. James made his Major League debut that night getting the start and striking out 9 Angels in 5 innings, his only blemish a 3-run homerun to Kole Calhoun. Since then James has pitched well for the Astros — well enough that AJ Hinch will have to consider him for the postseason roster. All this considering that coming into Spring Training Josh James was essentially a middle of the organization pitcher. Overall he has a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings for the Astros.
James’ rise can be contributed to his increase in velocity from last year to this year. His previously low-90s fastball now hangs out in the upper-90s and can get to triple digits — in his first inning of big league work he threw a fastball 101.1 MPH, faster than any big league starter this year other than Shohei Ohtani. In that way, James fits the mold of an Astros’ starter; he’s a big guy who throws hard and gets a ton of strikeouts.
It will be interesting to see how James factors into the organization’s plans moving forward. Is he a dominant starter? Could he help in the bullpen? The case could be made that he could impact the club in either role because his stuff is good enough to compete at the highest level — a triple digit fastball and a nasty slider, both of which can get big league hitters out as we have seen in his limited time with the Astros. Regardless of how these questions are answered moving forward, Josh James showed us in 2018 that he needs to be in the future conversation, ending the season in a much better position than where he started.
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