Astros: Did the late season surge of Jose Urquidy earn him a starting role?

Houston Astros, Jose Urquidy (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Houston Astros, Jose Urquidy (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Pitching prospect Jose Urquidy had a solid September and looked great in the playoffs. Is a spot in the Astros starting rotation his to lose?

The Houston Astros starting rotation for the 2020 season is still a big question mark. Sure, the first three spots are secure with Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Lance McCullers Jr. heading up the starting squad. But beyond that, the #4 and #5 spots are still a work in progress. Jose Urquidy had a late-season surge that’s hard to overlook and may have put him in the lead for a starting position.

There is still talk of the Astros making an offseason move to bring in another starting pitcher, but the availability in the free-agent market is dwindling fast. Ten of the top eleven free agents have been taken off the board and there are only six of the top twenty remaining. On top of that, Houston’s current payroll situation puts some constraints on their options.

There seems to be no doubt that one or more of the Astros young pitching prospects are going to play a major role in the scheme of things. Jose Urquidy appears to have put himself in the front of the pack to assume that responsibility, barring any setback this Spring.

Urquidy had an up and down start to his Major League career when he was first called up last July. His first couple of games in the Big Leagues started out a little shakey giving up seven runs on 14 hits in six innings of work. But he did show flashes of his capabilities striking out eight batters in that short span.

Then in the two subsequent games, Urquidy displayed why he had such a bright future, only allowing two earned runs in 13 innings while striking out 15. But in his fifth appearance, it all came apart again going just four innings surrendering six runs and taking the loss. For that month of July, Urquidy had a 5.87 ERA with the opposing team posting an OPS of .810.

After that five-game stint, he was sent back down to the Minors and spent August working on his game in AAA Round Rock. Urquidy got shelled his first game with the Express and then it all seemed to come together. In the next three outings, he allowed just three runs in 16.2 innings for an ERA of 1.62 and earned him a trip back up to Houston.

Urquidy pitched in four games in September, two as a starter and two in long relief roles. His September performances made everyone forget about July. In those four games, he gave up only three runs in 18 innings on the mound for a 1.50 ERA and kept the other teams down to a .474 OPS. That impressed the coaching staff enough to garner Urquidy a spot on the postseason roster.

The 24-year-old didn’t let the pressures of the playoff atmosphere get to him. Urquidy had appearances in all three series, the American League Division and Championship series along with the World Series. In four postseason games, he had a 0.90 ERA surrendering just one run in ten innings. Urquidy even earned himself a win in Game 4 of the WS pitching five scoreless innings in his only postseason start.

Urquidy definitely had an impressive end to the 2019 season and will most likely get a good long look at being one of the Astros starters in 2020. But there are a few other promising prospects that may give him a run for the money. One of those being Forrest Whitley, which I’m sure will do his best to finally break that barrier and make it into the Majors.

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Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training in less than two months and it promises to be intriguing. There will be plenty of youngsters competing to make the 2020 roster and it will be fun to watch how things unfold. But as for now, I think Jose Urquidy is in a great position to take one of those final rotation spots.