Dallas Keuchel is a dependable left-handed pitcher who has primarily worked from the starting rotation in his career. The Houston Astros look to enter Spring Training with a huge question mark to fill their starting rotation. Will Keuchel join Scott Feldman, Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, and Brad Peacock? Or will he be forced to pitch out of the bullpen?
Dallas Keuchel will celebrate his 26th birthday on January 1st as we all celebrate the New Year. He is from Oklahoma and pitched his college days for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. A trend of improving each season led to the Houston Astros selecting him in the seventh round of the 2009 amateur draft.
Since throwing 56 2/3 innings in his professional debut during the 2009 season, Keuchel has pitched at least 150 innings in each season. He made his MLB debut during the 2012 season and improved in 2013. While his ERA remained north of 5, he still logged 153 2/3 innings and led the pitching staff in ground ball percentage. Brent Strom will help Keuchel pitch to his strengths of control and perhaps enable Keuchel to be a break out candidate for the 2014 campaign.
The strengths that Strom can work with are Keuchel’s command and specifically his slider. Though he does not throw hard, his slider is an effective weapon with a 42.3% strikeout rate and a .248 batting average. Keuchel will benefit tremendously through polishing his cutter, change-up, two-seam fastball, or curveball. Maybe with enough work a back-end starter is a possibility.
I think that adding another lefty to the bullpen is a move the Astros absolutely need to make. Everyone would prefer a veteran but Dallas definitely could fill the void. With this in mind, and the Astros rotation possibly adding Asher Wojciechowski, Paul Clemens, or Alex White, Keuchel will be displaced. He likely wouldn’t go too far. Baseball-reference has a player comparison tool. In this case I looked at comparisons through a player’s age 26 season and Bill Swift is close, though Swift was a right-handed pitcher. Both pitchers cracked the majors as a starting pitcher. Both saw some time out of the bullpen in their sophomore season. Swift went on to have two great years from the bullpen before going back to the starting rotation to finish his career.
The Astros have an abundance of starting pitchers to compete for a rotation spot. Keuchel will have a role with the team in 2014. Expect him to be in the bullpen.