The Astros might not make any further pitching additions before the season starts.
Things sure have changed for the Astros in the past couple of weeks. We were just drifting along through the offseason, and then got collectively whomped by the commissioner’s report on the sign stealing scandal. Owner Jim Crane is still searching for a new manager and GM as a result.
With all that’s happened, we’ve kind of lost sight of the fact that the club was still in a position to add another pitcher or two to the mix. At this point, however, with everything else going on, the club might instead just head to Spring Training with the guys currently on the roster.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as there is no shortage of candidates. Crane probably isn’t too focused on adding pitching at this point, anyway, as there are bigger fish to fry. Bringing back Collin McHugh to join the mix couldn’t hurt, but it may well be that the team is done adding pieces.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how the pitching staff currently stands.
Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are the headliners, with Lance McCullers Jr. and Jose Urquidy likely occupying the next two spots. The fifth spot is totally up for grabs, though, and veteran Brad Peacock could have an inside track.
Other candidates include holdovers Rogelio Armenteros, Josh James and Framber Valdez. Youngsters Cristian Javier and Kent Emanuel will get their shots, and guys like Bryan Abreu and Cy Sneed could get looks as well.
The other main candidate will be former GM Jeff Luhnow’s final acquisition, Austin Pruitt. McCullers is highly unlikely to throw 200 innings this season coming off Tommy John surgery, however, so there are likely more than just 33 or so starts up for grabs from the fifth spot. These guys will also be jockeying for position as the next man up.
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A host of non-roster invitees, headlined by top prospect Forrest Whitley, will be in camp as well, though they are unlikely to make the Opening Day roster. Still, with a bevy of candidates, you’d think the Astros will be able to find a serviceable fifth starter out of this mix.
The only guarantees are at the back end. Roberto Osuna will presumably retain closing duties, with Ryan Pressly and Joe Smith setting him up. Beyond that, the bullpen could be comprised of any combination of several pitchers. I’m assuming the club will use an eight-man bullpen, which leaves five spots up for grabs.
Pruitt, Peacock and James are likely to make the roster in one form or another, so a couple of them could be multi-inning relievers. That could leave three middle relief spots if one of those three makes the rotation, and there’s no shortage of candidates.
Abreu could be ticketed for one of those after his strong September. Holdovers Chris Devenski and Joe Biagini will have their opportunities, but both struggled last season and shouldn’t simply be guaranteed spots at this point. They’ll need to earn them.
Valdez, Blake Taylor and Cionel Perez will compete to see if they can persuade the Astros to carry a left-hander. Other players on the 40-man roster will be given looks but will need to really impress in Spring Training to get serious consideration.
So even if Crane is done adding to the roster, the Astros have plenty of candidates to fill out the pitching staff. Time will tell if they can find guys to take the open spots and run with them.