Velasquez and McCullers’ struggles could lead to Astros trade


When the Astros promoted Lance McCullers Jr and Vincent Velasquez, most people thought that they had found the players to patch into this rotation.  While these two have tons of potential, they are showing that they will have the occasional off game or two learning how to pitch in the majors. Dallas Keuchel is still the Astros best starter, even with Saturday’s loss. The number two guy is probably still Collin McHugh, followed by Lance McCullers, Brett Oberholtzer, and Velasquez.

I am not saying either McCullers or Velasquez are bad pitchers, they are still learning to pitch. The young guys have the stuff but have struggled recently with pitch count and going deep in the games. These guys have tons of upside, but a veteran starter for the playoffs should be on Jeff Luhnow’s shopping list. The Astros don’t appear to be on the hunt for a back of the rotation guy who might be cheaper, but prefer to go after a true 1-2 pitcher.

They could keep these two pitchers in the rotation even when veteran pitcher Scott Feldman returns for the DL with his meniscus tear and surgery. They could go with a six-man rotation to save some innings from the young guns for September and the playoffs so that the Astros will have fresh arms.

Lance McCullers

Of the two pitchers, McCullers appears to be the one with the most potential to be successful this year. McCullers stuff is electric, and his attitude is fiery on the mound. He will be a staple in the rotation for a few years, but his emotions got the most of him in his last start. McCullers control waivers from time to time, but his stuff and demeanor is reminiscent to Roy Oswalt.

Let’s take a look at McCullers’ stats from Baseball-Reference

As you can tell, A.J. Hinch is being really stingy with McCullers innings and pitch count. Hinch has also showed an early hook on McCullers so far. McCullers is a competitor and wants to stay in the game to clean up his own mess. A trend you can tell by the table above is when McCullers control is good he goes deep into the game. If McCullers has two or more walks in the game, Hinch does not let him build up his pitch count and pulls him early.

While McCullers had his worst start of the season in Friday night’s game, but some would say his stuff was his best all season. Most of the damage against McCullers was due to poor defense around him that led to his frustration on the mound. Once McCullers gets a handle on his pitches, watch out MLB baseball because this guy is good.

Vincent Velasquez

Velasquez has probably the best arm in the Astros system, and he is striking out major leaguers with the Astros. However, he has long at-bats and innings as he demonstrated in today’s game versus the Mariners. He threw 43 pitches in the first inning, with two walks and most hitters taking him to 3-2 counts with foul ball after foul ball.

Velasquez was really efficient in his first game with the Astros showing Astros fans that he could be part of the Astros rotation. Since then he has had trouble locating his fastball. As you can see from today’s game, he was able to pitch around trouble, but a high pitch count led to an early shower for Velasquez.

Let’s take a look at Velasquez’s stats from Baseball-Reference

The pace of Velasquez’s starts has been really slow with the deep count to the batters. Velasquez has a bright future, but he did skip Triple-A and is learning on the fly in the Astros rotation. The Astros bullpen has been getting overworked in this series, which has not been the case too often this series.

Astros need to make a trade

More from Astros News

As we see Dallas Keuchel struggle recently trying to be perfect with some other pitchers struggling, the Astros could use another top of the rotation pitcher to help stabilize the potentially good rotation. While this post will not look at the “who” the Astros can acquire for the stretch drive this year, the Astros need someone. However, getting an ace will not be easy.

The Astros have built up a minor league full of trade assets, with no room for some if the Astros top prospects on the current major league rosters. Is it going to hurt the farm system by trading for a top of the rotation guy right now versus signing one this offseason? The Detroit Tigers got David Price for almost nothing from the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline one year. Jeff Luhnow will be very busy this July in trade discussions, but will any Astros trade materialize?

Keep checking in with CTH as we approach the MLB trade deadline in July, because after the last two games by the rookies, I think the Astros are in the market for a top pitcher. They need three dominate pitchers for the playoffs, good hunting Jeff.

Next: Inside look as to what Alex Bregman can offer Astros

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