Astros: The young arms may be the key to a successful season
The Astros chances of competing for another championship series in 2020 could come down to the success of their younger arms in the pitching staff.
A World Series trophy for the Astros this year may be more important than ever after the controversies of the offseason. These players have a chip on their shoulders and want nothing more than to show the world that talent, and only talent, is what makes this team successful.
I don’t think anyone here has any doubt that this team still has one of the best lineups in baseball. Players and fans around the league may have their doubts and anticipate a possible drop off in performance without any “unfair advantages”. But the bats won’t be the problem this season. The success of a younger and less experienced group of pitchers will a big question this year and could make or break this team.
Yes, the Astros have Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Lance McCullers Jr. heading up the starting rotation. But beyond that, they could be looking at the #4 and #5 spots manned by pitchers with less than two years experience under their belt. The way pitching coach Brent Strom talked yesterday, it sounded like Jose Urquidy may already have one spot locked up and the fifth starter is really the only real competition left.
Brad Peacock has essentially been taken out of the equation due to the reoccurrence of the nerve pain in his neck. That pretty much leaves Austin Pruitt, Josh James, and Framber Valdez battling it out for the final slot in the rotation, with Pruitt is the only pitcher with any real experience as a starter in the big leagues.
"Strom addressing the 5th starter, “Pruitt, James and I think [Framber] Valdez is still a legitimate guy. I think you can probably count [Brad] Peacock out of the race. I think he’s more valuable to us in the bullpen, so those are the three guys I think that are vying for that fifth spot. James has been very impressive.” via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com."
We now need to take into consideration that McCullers is coming back from a season off following Tommy John surgery. He will most assuredly be on a strict inning count to limit time on the mound throughout the year to avoid burning out at the end. Plus, if you have Urquidy, James and/or Valdez as starters at the beginning of the season, there is also the fact that none of them are used to pitching the number of innings as an experienced starter and will also have to be stretched out.
This all puts an extra burden on the bullpen to take up some of the slack and eat up some innings to enable the coaching staff to properly pace the starting pitchers. There is a good chance that half of that bullpen will also be occupied by prospects and relatively inexperienced relievers. Pitchers like Cy Sneed, Bryan Abreu, and Cionel Perez, just to name a few, have a decent chance at making the opening day roster.
So, all in all, the 2020 version of the Houston Astros pitching staff could be stacked with young arms. Many of these pitchers have shown great potential and could prove to be talented enough to take on their respective roles successfully. But bringing home another championship to Houston could very well rely upon this group of youngsters and that’s a big responsibility to put on their shoulders.