Paulino, not Martes, could be the next Astros prospect called up when needed.
The Houston Astros have the best record in baseball now at 25-11 for a 0.694 winning percentage. They are doing so with two pitchers in the rotation who have struggled while the other three have pitched well. Joe Musgrove is the young pitcher still developing while Mike Fiers is the veteran. If a change is needed, there are not too many options in Triple-A.
Fiers has struggled giving up a league-high 14 homers in 30 1/3 innings. Aside from his first year, Fiers has a career high walks per nine innings pitched this year of 3.9. His 5.64 ERA is higher than his career 3.96 ERA. Fiers has bounced back after a rough start in a few games. He has recovered and stayed in. Fiers is a few poor starts away from being the long reliever.
Joe Musgrove might have the upper hand
Musgrove has the potential to be a top-three pitcher for the Astros for years to come. Musgrove was supposed to be a sleeper this year in fantasy baseball. Unfortunately, his walk rate has increased. He is walking 3.1 batters per nine innings pitched, which is way above his MiLB and MLB rate of 1.1 over his career. Despite his struggles this season, Musgrove is a strike thrower who will get outs. The league is adjusting to him. He must make the adjustment to make the next step.
With the game being postponed today, the Astros will now pitch Fiers and Charlie Morton tomorrow versus the Yankees. With a doubleheader, both teams will be able to add a 26th player for one day. It has not been announced who is coming up, but I would suspect it will be Dayan Diaz.
Could it be Martes?
However, another player playing with the Triple-A Grizzlies could be needed soon in the rotation. Not uber-prospect Francis Martes, he is currently struggling with his control. In 16 innings this year, Martes has struck out 17 hitters while walking 15 batters. He is also pitching approximately four innings per game.
This could be by design as the Astros want to save some innings for later in the season. With his struggles with command, he is also throwing more pitches. With his potential impact, they will be cautious with him. When he starts looking more polished, he will be promoted. Now is not the time.
Could it be Paulino?
One player just returned from the DL and was sent to Triple-A to build up his innings. David Paulino is his name, and he could be the answer soon. Not quite the upside of Martes, Paulino made his MLB debut last year when the Astros needed help in September. He’s already made a start following his stint on the DL with a contusion on his arm. He is probably a few starts away from pitching with the Astros.
Last season, Paulino showed some upside last year in seven innings with a 5.14 ERA and two strikeouts. Before his injury, he was looking good this Spring but was unlikely to make the rotation. He had a 3.86 ERA in seven innings this Spring, striking out four hitters. The only thing Paulino has not shown yet is his strikeout ability he demonstrated in the minors.
Paulino’s first outing.
Making his first start of the season Thursday, Paulino pitched three shutout innings for Fresno. Not much has gone right for the Grizzlies pitchers this year, but Paulino seeks to change that. He did walk four hitters, but it was the first live action since spring training. He threw 65 pitches, look for him to try to reach 75 plus next outing and 85 or so the next game.
Once he is stretched out, he could get the call to Houston. Paulino is on the 40-man roster, but I’m not sure who he would replace on the 25-roster. It could take an injury to get him up. This Astros roster is loaded. James Hoyt could have been the guy, but he has been an effective strikeout machine in the bullpen. Brad Peacock could also be stretched out and just swap roles with Fiers.
Paulino will be ready soon if needed. Go Stros!
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and MLB.com***