Astros starting rotation ranked ninth in baseball by MLB.com

MLB.com has ranked the Houston Astros starting rotation as the ninth-best in the game.

As we prepare for the 2020 season to begin next week, the prognosticators are doing their best prognosticating. Some are better than others, of course, but here’s one that may divide some Houston fans. The Astros starting rotation has been ranked No. 9 in the majors by MLB.com.

The teams ahead of them, in ascending order, are the Mets, Rangers, Yankees, Dodgers, Indians, Reds, Rays and Nationals. The Astros were bound to have some kind of drop after losing Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley in free agency, and that’s reflected here.

The reasoning as to why they’re ranked this low is the relatively advanced age of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, the fact that Lance McCullers Jr. is coming off Tommy John surgery, and the general lack of depth. Some of these are legitimate concerns, but there’s plenty of upside here.

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Should The Astros Be This Low?

Personally, I think the concerns about Verlander and Greinke’s ages are overblown. Yes, Verlander is coming off groin surgery, but he’s looked like an absolute buzzsaw in intrasquad games after revamping his mechanics, and he — not Cole — is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. I’d bet he’s got a few more years left as a legitimate ace.

The last time we saw Greinke, he was baffling the Nationals in Game Seven of the World Series before being removed too early (I’m still not over that). He no longer relies on velocity, so his age isn’t as much of a factor. As long as he locates his pitches, keeps hitters off balance and spins that big looping curveball, he should be fine.

McCullers probably won’t be on an innings limit this year thanks to the shortened season, so that’ll help his case. There’s still the possibility of there being some rust, and he may have some outings where he runs up his pitch count and doesn’t go deep. But I’d still peg him as a quality third starter at this point.

The depth issue is real, though. Jose Urquidy is now on the IL and thus may not be ready for the season, and apparently Austin Pruitt is “ailing” as well. Josh James just returned to the team, and even if he does get a rotation spot, there’s still one more to fill. There aren’t too many experienced candidates, so if injuries or the COVID-19 virus deplete their depth any further, they could be in real trouble.

So in the end, I’d say from an objective standpoint, this ranking is pretty fair. I might argue the Astros have a better rotation than the Mets, but everyone else above them in the ranking probably does have a noticeably better rotation, at least on paper. For this season, at least, depth and the ability to stay on the field will be key for teams, and the Astros don’t have a lot of depth here.

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