The Houston Astros have been dealt the poor hand with injuries thus far from spring training to the start of the regular season, but with anticipated returns of Framber Valdez and Jake Odorizzi in the coming month, the pitching staff will look different at full strength. As Valdez is expected to be back with the team in June, Odorizzi is close to his first rehab stint with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Both pitchers overcame some sort of odds, while both dodging possible season-ending injuries. As we hope to see Justin Verlander once again in an Astros uniform, we still don’t have a timetable of a possible late season return, but the right-hander is leaning toward a return to baseball this season. Verlander will be an essential return for a deep postseason push, as he could be a possible starter or long reliever.
With players anticipated to have returns this summers, here is what the pitching staff could look like at full strength.
As Blake Taylor’s ankle injury still hasn’t been given a timetable, the left-hander hasn’t had any reports on him since he hit the 10-day injured list on April 17. After the signing of multiple arms to minor league deals in recent days including right-hander Nolan Riggs on May 6, the Astros are adding minor league depth with possible options if talent develops.
Enoli Paredes has made great strides in his rehab stints, while Josh James hasn’t had much chatter like Taylor. Paredes’ return is soon to come this month, but it will require a current player to be optioned like other returns. As many fans are fed up with the disappointing starts from Brooks Raley and Joe Smith, I’m going to keep both in the bullpen since they can’t be optioned; I won’t include 60-day IL arms like Verlander, Pedro Baez and Austin Pruitt.
Lance McCullers Jr.
Framber Valdez (L)
Blake Taylor (L)
Brooks Raley (L)
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This does sound like a tough list, but with all these anticipated arms looking to come back this season, it does leave key arms in the minor leagues. Key contributors in Luis Garcia, Bryan Abreu, Brandon Bielak and Andre Scrubb would be in AAA.
As Verlander and possibly Baez and Pruitt could comeback this season at some point, I wouldn’t count out trades of current roster holders in the near future. Excluding trades, pitchers like Raley and Smith won’t show much value down the stretch at their rate. If the Astros are looking to add a veteran arm, Oliver Perez and Jeremy Jeffress are available.
When fully healthy, the Astros have one of the deepest pool of arms with MLB experience in all of baseball. Without any timetables on Taylor or James, there is more time for Garcia to stay at the big league level as a long reliever and piggy back pitcher.