Astros: What if Joe Musgrove begins season in Triple-A?

Sep 25, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Joe Musgrove (59) pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Joe Musgrove (59) pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Can we see a scenario where Joe Musgrove is not in the Astros rotation?

First of all Astros fans, I do not support this message. Joe Musgrove should be in the starting rotation to start the season. He has shown enough to warrant a permanent hold on the spot in the rotation. The White Sox reportedly asked for him in a Jose Quintana trade along with Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker. Musgrove could be a big part of the Astros future, so why would he not be on the opening day roster?

Brian McTaggart wrote an article predicting the 25-man roster come opening day. He predicted the Stros would carry thirteen hitters and twelve pitchers, with Tyler White being the last hitter. White could earn his way on the team, but McTaggart had Musgrove not even on the 25-man roster.

Here is what McTaggart said about the rotation, “The health of Keuchel and McCullers and will be the key, but McHugh, Fiers, and Morton provided experienced depth. Don’t count out Joe Musgrove.”

We talked about the rotation on last night’s Talking Stros.

Hinch on the rotation?

Part of the perks of being a season ticket holder is that you get to attend something called the Hinch town hall meeting. Aside from Hinch and the host Steve Sparks joking with each other, Hinch answered questions from fans. Any quotes below are from that meeting. You can also listen to last night’s Talking Stros to hear more.

Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers may be the last two starters to appear in a spring game, but they will be the top two pitchers in the rotation. If healthy, manager A.J. Hinch said, these guys would be great. Collin McHugh, who we are still waiting to hear about the arbitration hearing, will be the third pitcher. Hinch described him as being solid and reliable, despite the bad start last year.

Then, Hinch began to list off the starters competing for the last two spots. He mentioned that “Charlie Morton does things differently throwing in the mid-nineties with a good sinker.” Hinch said that Morton could be a good pitcher, but he also has to prove his health. He also listed Mike Fiers, Musgrove, Martes, David Paulino, and Brady Rodgers. Devenski will get stretched out, but may not make the rotation.

A look at Musgrove.

Back to Musgrove, I get why McTaggart thinks the Astros will start off with the veteran guys in the rotation. They may want to see what Fiers or Morton can offer before they decide who to put as the Scott Feldman type long reliever. Despite Musgrove’s debut where he struck out eight batters in 4 1/3 innings out of the bullpen, he’s a starter. If he’s not in the rotation, he will be in Triple-A.

Another reason the Astros could choose to start him in Triple-A is to save some innings for later in the season. Musgrove topped 100 innings in 2015 when he won the Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. Last year, he pitched 147 1/3 innings between the minors and majors. They typically like to build the innings threshold as the player progresses.

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When Musgrove came on Talking Stros, he did not say the Astros have mentioned limiting innings. Stephen Strasburg was shut down one season before the playoffs by the Nationals. This ended up being a mistake by the Nationals, a mistake the Astros are trying to avoid. By limiting innings early and throughout the season, the team will gain more down the stretch.

Excellent debut season.

Last year, Musgrove went 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 62 innings with the Stros. Musgrove is projected by Fangraphs ZiPs to make 21 starts with a 4.29 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 128 innings. Control is Musgrove’s things. They project him to have only 21 walks in 24 appearances.

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If Musgrove doesn’t make the opening day roster, it doesn’t mean he won’t be there soon. Musgrove may have to outpitch his competition to make the roster at the start of the year. He knows how to pitch and has a tall frame. Look for him to become a mainstay in the rotation for years to come. Musgrove is no longer a rookie. He is a major league pitcher.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference and projections from Fangraphs***