Looking at the Houston Astros farm System.
Another right-handed starter on the fast track to the major leagues, Joseph Musgrove, was called up to Triple-A Fresno about a week ago. He made his Triple-A debut that night and was impressive. As the 8th best prospect in the Astros system, Musgrove’s promotion is imminent. If he continues to impress at Fresno, he should be in a major league uniform in no time.
Drafted in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2011, Musgrove was a part of the deadline deal that sent J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, and David Carpenter to Toronto. Musgrove was the centerpiece of the deal as the Astros received a fourth outfielder in Ben Francisco, a right-handed reliever who was about to retire in Francisco Cordero, and right-handed starting pitcher Asher Wojciechowski, who is currently struggling at Triple-A Fresno (he was recently DFA).
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Musgrove struggled in his first year or so in the Astros system. The turning point for him was in 2014 at Low-A Tri-Cities where he went 7-1 with an ERA of 2.81 in 13 starts. Since 2014, Musgrove has kept his ERA under 3.00 and his WHIP under 1.00.
What explains the problem the hitters have against Musgrove? Part of it is his control. In 2015, Musgrove walked only eight batters in his 100.2 innings pitched. This amounts to only averaging 0.7 walks per nine innings pitched.
As he has developed in the Astros system, Musgrove has also developed a tendency for strikeouts. In 2015, Musgrove struck out on average 8.9 batters per nine innings.
Musgrove has continued these numbers into 2016. Before his promotion to Triple-A Fresno, Musgrove went 2-1 with a 0.34 ERA, striking out 30 batters in 26.1 innings. In those 26.1 innings pitched, Musgrove gave up only two runs, one earned, on 19 hits.
Musgrove started his career at Triple-A Fresno with a start against the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. In his five innings pitched, Musgrove gave up two runs, one earned, on five hits, striking out 5 and walking 2 in a no decision.
So why will Musgrove be in an Astros uniform sooner than later? Not only does he have impeccable control, but Musgrove is also a winner. In his six seasons in the minor league organizations of the Blue Jays and the Astros, Musgrove has a career record of 23 wins and only eight losses. This includes a superb 2015 campaign where he recorded 12 wins to only one loss in his 19 games, which included 14 starts.
With the starting rotation full at the major league level, it is unclear what Musgrove’s role would be if he does get called up shortly. However, if Musgrove continues to pitch well at Fresno, he will force the Astros hand eventually and join prospective starters such as Chris Devenski and Michael Feliz as young prospects in the major league bullpen.
Musgrove gets another chance to show the Fresno Grizzlies what he can do against the Memphis Redbirds, the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals tonight.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference, Fan Graphs, and MILB***