Houston Astros: Lance McCullers Jr.’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ case

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Last week I honed in on Houston Astros’ Carlos Correa and his AL ROY candidacy. While Correa could and should be considered the favorite from this Astros team, Lance McCullers has been just as impressive. Not bad for your first two picks from back in 2012, eh?

Back to McCullers. While his numbers could be seen as equally impressive, he is likely to be shut down at the end of the season as Stephen Strasburg was a couple of years back. There has been some recent talk of the Astros going to a six-man rotation in September to save some innings for McCullers in the playoffs.

Nonetheless, McCullers has been outstanding.

Why he was called up:

McCullers was absolutely dominating in AA, and that is no exaggeration. A 3-1 record with a microscopic ERA (.62) and a 13.34K/9 clip definitely can catch attention, especially after one such Scott Feldman went down. While his numbers aren’t AS ridiculous in the MLB, as expected, he has done an outstanding job with the jump from AA.

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Posting a 4-2 record with a 2.16 ERA with 61 strikeouts in your first 58 1/3 innings isn’t too shabby for someone who couldn’t legally drink alcohol nine months ago, right?

To put this into perspective:

I saw a tweet from @AstrosFuture on Twitter (give him a follow, it’s worth the click) that compared McCuller’s first nine career starts with the “almighty” Jose Fernandez. Everyone knows about the crazy success Fernandez had prior to his surgery. But does everyone know this?

“First nine career starts:

Jose Fernandez: 3.31 ERA, 49 IP, 39 H, 18 BB, 46 K

Lance McCullers Jr: 2.19 ERA, 53 1/3 IP, 36 H, 18 BB, 58 K.”

That is unbelievable, and the kid is only 21, and to think he might not have even reached his prime yet. Once he begins to lower his pitch count by being more consistent in the zone, watch out America. McCuller’s flaming heater and dirty off-speed has catapulted him right into the middle of the Rookie of the Year conversation.

Let’s look at where he stands among AL rookie starting pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched:

Comparing

ERA – 1st (2.16)

Wins – 3rd (4)

Strikeouts per 9 IP – 1st (9.45)

HR Allowed – 1st (2)

No matter which way you turn it, McCullers is a stud in the making. With McHugh struggling this season, I credit McCullers as one of the spark plugs to keep this team headed in the right direction. Once again, Carlos Correa is my favorite to win this award by season’s end, but there is no doubt about it that his fellow 2012 draftee will make it interesting.

Here is an interview of McCullers with CTH’s editor Eric Huysman: Keeping Up with the Astros Prospects: Lance McCullers

Next: Why the Houston Astros should NOT trade for Scott Kazmir

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