Hot take: Astros pitcher Lance McCullers is good at baseball. Actually, really good.
Out of all the Astros starters in 2016, Lance McCullers is probably the most dynamic. His recent dismantling of the Los Angeles Angels offense, despite their struggles, was impressive. The fact that he struck out Mike Trout, the consensus best player in baseball, three times speak to his skill level.
In other words, McCullers was just flat-out dominant Friday night.
Sure, the 22-year old did miss the first six or so weeks of the season due to arm issue, but he has been the pitcher that the Astros rotation has sorely needed at times. When McCullers is on top of his game, he elevates the Astros rotation to heights we haven’t seen since the mid-2000’s.
And sure, you still have Dallas Keuchel just won the AL Cy Young last season, and Collin McHugh is a dependable middle rotation arm. But the upside with McCullers is undeniable. That is why the Astros spent a high draft pick back in 2012 and allocated the over-slot bonus money to convince him to sign with the team. In other words, the Astros have always thought highly of McCullers.
And why should that change?
Oh, it shouldn’t. Especially when the trade deadline finally rolls around.
This upcoming trade deadline will be interesting for the Astros. The team has been linked to Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox and Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays. Both are really good at baseball. They would certainly elevate the status of the Astros. Just don’t give Sale any throwback uniforms without his prior approval. As the White Sox learned yesterday, that could be bad news.
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But if the White Sox or Rays are truly interested in trading their respective ace pitcher and McCullers name is brought up as part of the package in any hypothetical discussions with the Astros, I would be inclined to quickly say no.
In just 12 starts this season, McCullers has pitched 70.1 innings and posted a 3.33 ERA/2.74 FIP. His 2.1 WAR already surpasses rotation mainstays in Keuchel and McHugh. For comparison sake, Keuchel has pitched in 126.2 innings and 108 innings for McHugh entering Saturday night.
I would also like to throw in this tidbit about McCullers’ 2016 season from Daren Willman, the Director of Baseball Research and Development for MLB.com.
McCullers is clearly a pitcher on the upswing in the grand scheme of things in baseball. When healthy, there is no reason not to think that he can help headline a playoff contending starting rotation for the foreseeable future. But the only way that happens is if the Astros keep him around. For all of our sakes, I hope they do. Oh goodness, I hope they do.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**