In a recent bit of VERY surprising news, the Houston Astros announced that Lance McCullers Jr will get his first major league start on Monday, May 18 against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park. (It’s ok if you want to read that first sentence again). The Astros have not announced yet who they’ll have to move to make room on the 40-man roster for the young prospect.
McCullers was just called up to AAA Fresno yesterday, but the team fast-tracked him to the Majors as of today. After a spectacular start to the season at AA Corpus Christi, McCullers seemed like a logical call up to the triple-A team until this news broke today. Over the course of his time with the Hooks, McCullers posted a 0.62 ERA/0.90 WHIP, giving up 15 hits and 2 homeruns, with 43 strikeouts over 29 innings of work. Yep, he’s been phenomenal.
In some ways this is surprising given Jeff Luhnow’s patience and plan for developing young players. However, in other ways it is not.
The Houston Astros have had some very poor showings from their fifth starting spot in the rotation. Among the four pitchers who’ve filled that role are Asher Wojciechowski, Sam Deduno, Brad Peacock, and Brett Oberholtzer.
The team was hoping that either Peacock or Oberholtzer would be able to lock down that fifth spot. Unfortunately, they’ve both been struggling with injuries. Peacock first had to recover from offseason hip surgery, and then he got one start before suffering an intercostal lat strain. Obie has been dealing with a recurring blister on his finger which is why he left the game early on Wednesday night. Wojo won the role out of Spring Training, but was knocked around quite a bit in his his three starts, though he did well in one appearance out of the bullpen.
Here’s a look at how they’ve done in those seven starts:
- Wojciechowski – 3 starts, 12.0 IP, 21 hits, 13 earned runs, 12 strikeouts.
- Deduno – 2 starts, 8.2 IP, 14 hits, 11 earned runs, 8 strikeouts.
- Peacock – 1 start, 5.0 IP, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 strikeouts.
- Oberholtzer – 1 start, 3.0 IP, 5 hits, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts
That equates to 45 hits and 28 earned runs for a 8.94 ERA over 28.2 innings pitched from the fifth starting spot. To say it’s been poor would be an massive understatement.
As for the pitching at AAA Fresno, it has also been underwhelming. From the guys who are on the Astros’ 40-man roster, there’s Dan Straily, who was acquired from the Cubs as part of the Dexter Fowler trade, and has a 5.22 ERA over 29.1 IP; Jake Buchanan, who was called up to Houston on Thursday, has a 5.08 ERA over 33.2 IP; and Luis Cruz has a 5.40 ERA over 28.1 IP. They’ve been struggling as well.
As for McCullers, he was a first round draft pick out of Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida, in 2012. He was part of the same draft class as Carlos Correa, who was promoted earlier this week to AAA Fresno, and Preston Tucker, who has already been called up to Houston. That is a strong draft class for GM Jeff Luhnow.
So, how did the Astros’ Twitterverse react to the McCullers’ news? Here’s a few fan tweets:
Yep. Astros fans are surprised and excited for this debut. Congrats, Lance McCullers Jr! Welcome to Houston. All eyes will be on you Monday night.
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