Pitchers often enter spring training ahead of hitters in terms of being ready to start the season. Hitters just take a little while to get used to facing live pitching and establishing their timing at the plate. While Rhett Kouba doesn't have the overpowering stuff that one normally associates with being a top pitching prospect, he does have a lot going for him that could prime him for a big spring training in 2024.
Kouba features a fastball that generally sits in the low 90's that hitters have trouble picking up out of his hand. His changeup is at least a plus offering as it tunnels well with his fastball and gives him a weapon against hitters from both sides of the plate and his slider gives righty hitters fits. Most importantly, he commands all of his pitches exceedingly well and uses that command to pound the strike zone.
Especially early on while hitters are still getting their feet under them, pitchers like Kouba who throw a lot of strikes can look particularly good in spring training. It is tough enough to go from the offseason to facing guys who are actively trying to get them to miss. In the case of Kouba, he isn't likely to give hitter free passes by missing his spots, so hitters are going to have to be dialed in pretty quickly to do any damage against him.
Is Kouba likely to make the club out of spring? No, he isn't. The Astros already don't have a lot of space for another rotation arm and even if they go with a young guy out of spring, prospects like Spencer Arrighetti and Colton Gordon probably have a leg up due to their upside and the fact that they are also close to big league ready. With a strong spring, Kouba could still force himself into the conversation as a mid-season call-up if one of Houston's starters falters or gets hurt.