A few months back, I wrote that Lucas Harrell‘s spot in the rotation was in danger due to poor performance. I stick to that and, at that time, his spot was in question. A lot has changed and after today’s brilliant performance against the Metropolitans in New York, he has not only changed my mind about his future with the Stros but his spot in their rotation. I’d always considered him a bullpen/5th starter type but nothing more. A nice fit for a rebuilding club, think Brian Moehler or Nelson Figueroa. Hard to justify that belief, as I type this, and even my expectations have now risen to an entirely new level.
After today’s performance, it’s not a stretch but rather cold hard fact that Lucas is the best starting pitcher in the Astros’ rotation. That says a ton about a guy who was brought in as a waiver claim last season but also speaks to the state of the Astros and Bud Norris. Bud, one of my favorites, has had a forgetable season that hopefully he can learn from and use to rebound next season. That said, Harrell has simply been a better and much more effective starting pitcher with, what I consider, lesser stuff. His fastball isn’t special and none of his pitchers are devastating but he finds a way to get batters out. In a way, his control has simply been okay but what he has learned to do so brilliantly is work around hitters even if it results in putting them on base. I can’t honestly say his ceiling is much higher than this but if what he has done on a very bad club is any indication of what might be to come, the Stros have something to look forward to.
So what is Lucas Harrell then? Is he Brian Moehler reincarnated or is he a middle of the rotation starter? Well, if you take this season as the jumping off point, it sure looks like Lucas has a chance to be a quality middle of the rotation starter. On this Astros team, it could go in many different directions. He’ll never be a top of the rotation pitcher but with the Stros he has a chance to lead a young rotation for a few years. The hope is that when Lyles, Norris, or the next wave of young Astros’ starters take flight, he can simply slide into his ideal role as a nice #4 or maybe even #3 starter. He could also see himself traded during the Winter, which is completely understandable. Lucas might never be better and be more of a bargain than he is now so clubs looking for someone of Harrell’s ability will probably call Jeff Luhnow at some point over the next few months.
If he is traded, don’t get upset at Jeff Luhnow because he would be cashing in on a career year. However, if he is still around come 2013 that would seem to be a good thing. The Astros will need good, durable pitchers going to the AL West and Lucas can give them quality innings. I know his performance in 2012 has changed my mind and while I’m not completely on the Lucas Harrell bandwagon, I have my right foot on the first step.