Keeping Up with the Astros Prospects: Lance McCullers

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In this edition of Keeping Up with the Prospects, we interviewed Astros RHP pitching prospect Lance McCullers, who was drafted with a supplemental first round pick in 2012. The Astros signed Carlos Correa, the number one overall pick that year, to an under slot value to be able to sign McCullers and Rio Ruiz. McCullers was seen as an early first round pick with some signability issues, which is why the Astros were able to draft him. Most of the early picks in the 2012 draft have become close friends, including Correa, McCullers, Ruiz, and Brett Phillips. Everywhere this core of prospects play, that team wins the league championship that year.

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Most of the early picks in the 2012 draft have become close friends, including Correa, McCullers, Ruiz, and

Brett Phillips

. Everywhere this core of Astros prospects play, that team wins the league championship that year. Ruiz was traded in the offseason for

Evan Gattis

, but this has not stopped the 2015 Corpus Christi Hooks from winning in Double-A. Part of the reason for the success of the Hooks is the talent on the team with Correa,

Tony Kemp

,

Conrad Gregor

,

Josh Hader

, McCullers,

Mark Appel

, and others.

McCullers had a down season in 2014 and came into the 2015 season with a drive to become better. I asked him about what he had done to improve below. He has pitched well early in the 2015 season, allowing his first runs of the season in last night’s game. Even after his loss last night, he is still having a great season.

2014 Stats: (Lancaster) 3-6/ 5.47 ERA/ 115 strikeouts in 97 innings.

2015 Stats: (Corpus Cristi) 1-1/ .90 ERA/ 28 strikeouts in 20 innings.

Here is the interview with Lance McCullers.

CTH: On Twitter earlier in the offseason, Brett Phillips said you, Vincent Velasquez, and Phillips were all at a yoga class. Who is better at yoga, you or Phillips?

McCullers: Brett is the pro at yoga, he did it multiple times every week during the off-season, I would join him now and then but struggled to keep up!

CTH: What has been the key to your recent success and turnaround from last year? (Was it just pitching at Lancaster?)

McCullers: I think it had more to do with my mindset last year vs. this year. I have grown closer to God and am much more confident in myself. My pure “stuff” has always been there, but I had waited for my mind to catch up, and I think it has.

CTH: What specific adjustments have you made to adjust to the talent at Double-A? (This is from an Astros fan)

McCullers: I have actually made the adjustment of going back to what has always made me good, being a competitor and trusting myself. I went through a rough time last year. It wasn’t easy to fail like that, and it made me change a lot of things about myself which lead to worse outcomes, but I am back to who I had always been.

CTH: What did you learn from your outing at Minute Maid Park?

McCullers: The MMP trip was such an eye opener for me. It has been the first time I have felt “close” to the big leagues. First time I could actually imagine myself pitching there in front of thousands of Astros fans. I learned a lot from the big leaguers there in those couple of days.

CTH: Some people see you as a future closer, some as a starter. Where do you see yourself in five years?

McCullers: The best part about those people is they don’t make any decisions on my future. I see myself helping the Astros win baseball games and ultimately a World Series. I have the ability and quality pitches to be a starter at the big league level, that I am confident in that. If the Astros make me a closer, people forget you can’t win without one of those, then I will gladly take the ball in the 9th for years to come, I think I have the mentality for that as well.

CTH: You have allowed 0 earned runs in 14 innings this year. Has there been a time you had a runner in scoring position, and how did you attack that hitter?

McCullers: Of course, there have been many times this year, and even when guys are not on base they are a threat to score. But like I said, I am 100% confident in myself and my ability to make key pitches with men on base to avoid all the runs I can. You have the option of getting ground balls to keep runners at that certain base, or you have the option of going into a strikeout mode to avoid jams.

CTH: You have 21 strikeouts in 14 innings. Do you consider yourself a strikeout pitcher?

McCullers: I consider myself a power pitcher and most often that “style” of pitching results in strikeouts. I enjoy striking people out, but I understand it’s important to get quick outs and keep my pitch count down. You have to take what each team gives you on a certain day. Some teams are really aggressive and get to the ball early in counts, those days you have to utilize pitches that help you get out of the innings quickly. Other teams take and get deep into counts and give you the opportunity to get those K’s. It is all situational.

CTH: Which pitcher would you say you have a similar pitching style to and who did you emulate as a young player? 

McCullers: I don’t think any two pitchers have the same pitching techniques. They may have “similar” pitches, but It’s one of those things that is unique to everyone, but my favorite pitcher in the big leagues is Mad Max (Max Scherzer). He is an absolute Picasso on the mound. The way he mixes pitches and goes after guys at the same time is fun to watch. He is one of the reasons I made the mechanical adjustment to bring my arms over my head in my wind up.

Thanks to McCullers for doing this interview with CTH, and I hope to have the opportunity to do it again someday this year. McCullers will be part of the Astros future. With the Astros winning right now, the future is looking bright!

Part 1: Keeping up with the Prospects: Preston Tucker

Here are links to my prior interviews:

Astros Prospect: Tony Kemp

Astros Prospect: Conrad Gregor

Astros Prospect: Brett Phillips (He wants to go by Maverick)

Astros Prospect: Preston Tucker

Dan Straily Interview

Astros Prospects: Joe Sclafani

Here is an interview done earlier in the offseason with McCullers by Kennon Riley.

Next: Can the Astros Make the Postseason in 2015?

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