Martin injury adds to rough season for Astros top pitching prospects

HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 12: Corbin Martin #29 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on May 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 12: Corbin Martin #29 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on May 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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News of Astros prospect Corbin Martin‘s potential elbow injury is yet another blow for the team’s top pitching prospects.

Prior to the season, fans were expecting the Astros to get boosts from their top pitching prospects at some point this summer. Unfortunately, things are looking rather bleak on that front in the wake of news that Corbin Martin could have a serious elbow injury.

Until now, Martin was actually having the best season of the team’s top three pitching prospects. He was lights-out in Round Rock before making his major league debut on May 12 in an impressive performance. But he failed to go beyond four innings in any of his next four starts and continued to struggle following his demotion back to Triple-A.

Martin has already been placed on the IL as the Astros await the results of medical evaluations. If the worst-case scenario comes to fruition and Martin has to undergo Tommy John surgery, he would miss the rest of the season and a good chunk of 2020 as well.

Whitley, Bukauskas Faring No Better

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The team’s No. 1-ranked prospect overall, Forrest Whitley was expected to be the rotation’s savior. Fans envisioned him joining the rotation in June and forming a Big Three with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole to lead the Astros to the promised land.

Whitley never got it going at Round Rock, however, posting a ghastly 12.21 ERA in eight appearances before being shut down with shoulder fatigue. The latest news has him potentially rejoining a minor league affiliate following the All-Star break, though it’s unclear which affiliate that would be.

J.B. Bukauskas, the team’s third-ranked pitching prospect and fifth-ranked overall, hasn’t been able to figure things out at Double-A this year. In 14 appearances (10 starts), he has an 0-3 record with an unsightly 5.97 ERA. He’s striking out batters at a good rate, but is also issuing far too many walks.

Could Force Astros To Make Move

With little coming up in the way of impact reinforcements, the Astros may end up needing to bolster the pitching staff before the trade deadline. They may have been counting on some combination of Martin, Whitley and Bukauskas to provide a shot in the arm, but the chances of that seem to be remote at this point.

Verlander, Cole, Wade Miley and Brad Peacock are a solid playoff rotation, but if Peacock stays in the rotation, the bullpen could be thin. There’s no telling what the team will get out of Collin McHugh, while Josh James and Chris Devenski have been inconsistent. They could use another arm to help Hector Rondon bridge the gap to Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna.

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The Astros could also acquire another starter, pushing Peacock to the playoff bullpen. Having a multi-inning weapon like Peacock in October would be a great advantage at A.J. Hinch’s disposal. Either way, with the top prospects not looking ready to contribute, Jeff Luhnow may need to use some of that minor league depth in a July trade.

***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and MiLB.com***

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