Sep 21, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcherCollin McHugh
(31) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
When I heard the Astros were interested in Jason Hammel, the first thought that popped into my head was, “why?” Now I know we are just at the beginning of the offseason, and every rumor should be taken with a grain of salt, but it is still one that has to make you wonder.
Based on the 2014 season, Dallas Keuchel, Scott Feldman, and Collin McHugh are unofficially guaranteed a spot in the rotation in 2015. Yes, that leaves two spots left in the rotation, but let’s not forget before the trade deadline, the Astros had six guys in the rotation; the three I mentioned above along with Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, and Brad Peacock. The Astros eventually traded Cosart with Oberholtzer and Peacock remaining in the rotation through the rest of the season.
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The Astros had excess starting pitching in 2014 thanks to the breakout seasons of Keuchel and McHugh, and they do in 2015 as well. If you don’t believe me, why did they trade Nick Tropeano already for a backup catcher? Bringing in anybody else from outside of the organization not only would keep Oberholtzer and/or Peacock out of the rotation, but it would also keep guys like Mike Foltynewicz, Asher Wojciechowski, and Jake Buchanan out of the rotation even longer.
No, Oberholtzer and Peacock should not just be handed rotation spots out of Spring Training, but they should have the upper leg on the rest of the competition. Only Foltynewicz is expected to be a big part of the future for the Astros out of the guys just outside the rotation looking in, but what about the next batch of guys who could jump into the conversation at any point this season?
I’m talking about the guys waiting in Corpus Christi: Mark Appel, Lance McCullers, Josh Hader, Vincent Velasquez, and Kyle Smith. You have to expect a majority of these guys to move onto Fresno at some point this season, and potentially up to the pros in September, or sooner.
Appel’s troubles at Lancaster are well documented, as is his success once moving on to Corpus. What might be going a little unnoticed is his time in the Arizona Fall League with the Salt River Rafters this winter. In 7 starts, Appel is leading the league with 31 IP and is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA. He’s struck out 24 batters while only walking 8. Quite simply, this is the Mark Appel the Astros were expecting when they drafted him in 2013. If Appel keeps this up in Spring Training and early on in 2015, he very well could find himself in the Astros rotation as some point this season.
Velasquez did feature a setback in the AFL with his strained lat, but he will be a big part of the AA Rotation. Every guy who is expected to be part of the 2015 AA Rotation are in the Top 15 of the Astros prospect list. Needless to say, the AA Rotation is going to be stacked in 2015, and these guys need to be able to move up to AAA if the opportunity arises. What they don’t need is to be stuck there because there is no room in AAA or in the majors.
The Astros had plenty of problems in 2014, but the starting rotation was not one of them. The Astros are fortunate to have a problem a lot of teams would envy to have, and that is too much starting pitching. What they don’t need to do is add more to the problem.