#6 Hunter Brown/Lance McCullers Jr.
Right now, the Lance McCullers Jr. contract extension is one of the worst moves of the Astros Golden Era. He's getting $17 million a year to rehab.
Houston needs LMJ to pitch. When he does, he remains a great arm. McCullers is 49-32 in his career with a 3.48 ERA. But after injuring himself in the 2021 postseason, McCullers has made eight regular season starts and three playoff starts over the last two seasons.
He likely won't be ready for the start of the season after surgery ended his 2023 campaign before it started, but if Hunter Brown can hold down the fort until LMJ is back, Houston all of the sudden has a lethal rotation.
Brown can begin the year as a starter, and he'd likely get off to a similar start as he did in 2023. Brown was great as a rookie in the first half, posting every fifth day and recording a 4.12 ERA. As the year went on, fatigue caught up and Brown regressed mightily, posting a 6.57 second half ERA.
Brown needs to keep his workload down to preserve his young and dynamic right arm, and McCullers needs to find a way to stay healthy. Houston could implement a tandem system for the two as they have done with many of their minor league arms working their way up.
Brown would get the vital continued development to begin the season as McCullers rehabs, but once Lance is good to go, both arms would be kept fresh.
A six-man rotation as deep as this would again leave Houston as the class of the American League.