Pitching depth: what separates the Astros from other AL contenders and will make the vaunted Sports Illustrated Springer cover a reality in 2017. Keuchel, McHugh, and McCullers are locks (barring injury). Morton probably gets the nod at spot #4 due to the offseason contract. Fiers will forever carry Houston’s good grace for the first and only no hitter in Minute Maid Park, but will be in competition with young gunslingers Peacock, Musgrove, Devenski, and PCL Pitcher of the year Brady Rogers. Let’s look at how the back end has shaken out during Spring Training so far:
Charlie Morton has impressed in his one start with radar guns clocking his fastball at 94-96 mph. Relative to the rest of the Astros, this makes Morton the fireballer starting pitcher. He should lock in the #4 spot with another good start. Musgrove could knock the inconsistent Fiers out of the rotation if he keeps improving and looks to give the Astros an anchor at the back end. In 2016, Musgrove went 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA.
Which leaves us with the rest. Brady Rodgers has been a ML disappointment. Through one appearance Rodgers has shown he is not ready and is best used as a spot starter when absolutely no one else is available. In 2016 he allowed 14 runs in 8.1 IP. A record he would look to continue if he gets the call up again based off his Spring Training showing thus far. Look for Rodgers to start the season in AAA, or get shipped off for a position player fill in ala Dan Straily for Eric Kratz in 2016.
The 2017 Dan Straily candidate for success with a middling team goes to Brad Peacock. Peacock was a piece of the Chris Carter for Jed Lowrie trade and has sporadically gotten call ups to the Astros to fill in spots. He has mostly performed like a bad #5 starter. It’s wishful that he’ll manage the game long enough to get to a dominant bullpen. Peacock got shelled in Spring Training against the Nationals in his first appearance. Because Peacock is out of options, it’s time for him to make the team or get off the team. Peacock is losing the battle for #5 to either Musgrove or Fiers, and the swingman role to Devenski or Michael Feliz.
Devenski has thus far looked like the swingman role is his best fit.
What to do with an Astros pitching staff that could be phenomenal, with a possible repeat of 2015 for Dallas Keuchel after a down year from fatigue, the constantly injured LMJ, and a solid McHugh who is currently dealing with dead arm, but who has been unable to get any production out of their younger pitching prospects so far in Spring Training and late 2016? Will injuries derail the team’s postseason hopes, leaving spot starter Brady Rodgers to make too many starts for the team, or Devenski to slide out of his comfort zone of long relief? The potential depth is there, but they’ve yet to show any real ML possibility. The Astros could find themselves once again in midseason conversations trying to trade for a SP.