Starter or closer? There has been some speculation as to where Jarred Cosart’s future lies. With the trade of Wilton Lopez and the plain uncertainty in the Houston bullpen, there was the possibility and some rumors that he was a potential closer candidate. The question then was, would this really be a good idea and the best thing for Cosart’s development?
The signing of Jose Veras and the addition of Josh Fields through the Rule 5 draft did help to temper talk of Cosart heading to the bullpen. Additionally, as we head into Spring Training, Jeff Luhnow has been steadfast in insisting that Cosart is and will enter the 2013 season as a starting pitcher. While he will be given a chance to pitch his way into the Astros rotation to start the season, it is more and more likely that the 89th best prospect according to the MLB rankings will start the season in AAA.
Cosart was part of what could turn out to be a franchise changing deal when he arrived in Houston along with fellow Top 100 prospect Jonathan Singleton. The future ace arrived from Philadelphia as part of the Hunter Pence deal and has since progressed through the Astros minor league system.
At the time of the trade in 2011, Cosart had started 19 games that season in High-A ball and had a 9-8 record to go along with a 3.92 ERA. He promptly reported to AA following the trade and recorded a 4.71 ERA in 7 starts to complete his third professional season. Cosart started last season by returning to AA and after 15 starts and a 3.52 ERA, he earned a promotion to AAA. In Oklahoma City, Cosart then started 5 more games and adjusted nicely to the promotion with a 2.60 ERA.
Following the season Cosart pitched 18 innings in the Arizona Fall league over 6 starts after his 114.2 minor league innings. At a quick glance he did not distinguish himself with his 6.50 ERA and 4.5 BB/9. But his performance, along with a closer look into his 2012 performance explain why he is best suited to starting the 2013 campaign as a starter in AAA.
The walks can be explained just by the fact that he is a young pitcher and was at the end of a long season. However it really was not that far off from his minor league track record even though it was higher than we were used to seeing from Cosart. I would not entirely write off his control issues as fatigue, but instead it is something that he will need to work through before he can have big league success.
The 6.50 ERA is not something I would worry about at all. His FIP was 3.03 and his BABIP against was .385 so bad luck can be assigned a lot of the blame. Also the sample size is extremely small, so there is no reason to read too much into his performance in Arizona. However analyzing that performance in tandem with his minor league season does lend some clarity into what we can expect from Cosart going forward.
It seems like Cosart will strike out about 7 or 8 batters per 9 innings which is perfectly fine for a number two or three starter. However, at least so far, he does not appear to have the ability to truly overpower hitters which is what you want from your closer. But he can strike batters out, which is one reason he is the best pitching prospect the Astros have. The greater concern is the control as he won’t last very long if he is walking four batters a game in the AL West.
Honestly, it does not matter who the closer is this season for the Astros. Of course everyone wants to see Houston win as many games as possible and blowing leads late in the game can be frustrating. But that is not something that should hamper the long term development of any prospects, and especially top prospects like Cosart. He will turn 23 in May so he still has developing to do, and it seems very likely that he will become an innings eater that the Astros can count in the front of their rotation.
Cosart just needs a little more time though. It is understandable for Astros fans to look towards the future, because quite honestly that is all that we have. But don’t let your short term excitement hinder the long term outlook. I will not be surprised to see Cosart turning in impressive performances in Spring Training, but let’s just remember that he only has five AAA starts under his belt. His time will come soon enough and while I expect to see him in Houston this season, it just shouldn’t be in April.