For the Astros’ rotation, the future is not now. Not today anyway. Not April 1. Perhaps later this year. Perhaps 2015.
Unfortunately for the team in 2014, the organization is still building a bridge over troubled water.
Perhaps the good news is that the shore — read: the promised land — is coming into sight.
Until then, Bo Porter‘s mound lineup may rotate quite a bit. None of the five pitchers who started the most games for Houston in 2013 are projected to be in the rotation on opening day 2014. Since 2011, 20 different pitchers have started games. For only the second time since 1995, the opening day starter is likely to be a player not drafted by the Astros.
Let that sink in.
In recent years, the pitching staff has been a mix of scrubs, rehab candidates, over-the-hill retreads with a mix of youngsters. Now, for the first time in recent memory, the list of rotation candidates is top heavy with younger challengers.
LOOKING BACK TO 2013.
Forget last year. In fact, forget the past few years. Astros’ starting pitchers have been at or near the bottom of the league every season since 2010. So there’s nothing much to write about, much less write home about. The good news again is that the only way to go is…up.
In 2013, Astros’ starters walked more hitters and struck out fewer batters than any group of starters in the American League. That translated into a 1.47 WHIP. Comparatively, Detroit starters led the league with a 1.21 figure.
Ten different pitchers started games for the Astros. All in all, that’s not a bad number considering seven of those pitchers spent some time at AAA Oklahoma City, one was traded in mid-season and all but two of the ten made at least two appearances out of the bullpen.
Amazing when you think about it.
Starters didn’t go deep into games before handing things over to the worst bullpen in the league that blew 29 save opportunities. As a result, Houston starters won fewer games (37) than any team in the majors.
So can we not dwell on the past?
LOOKING AT 2014.
Each of us could project the starting rotation for 2014 and there would likely be multiple combinations. (Exercise to follow.) The Astros aren’t fully settled either as they show eight pitchers on the rotation’s depth chart.
You’d think with newcomers Scott Feldman and Jerome Williams joining Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock that the rotation was set and all others would be battling for the opening day spot at OKC.
Unfortunately, reasonable minds could have an honest debate whether the projected 2014 starters will collectively be better than 2013. If Feldman and Williams are healthy and the youngsters pitch well, it’ll be hands down better. But there are some big “ifs” there.
Remember that bridge over troubled water, and the season could depend largely on which Feldman and Williams show up in Houston in a couple of months.
More than Feldman and Williams, though, most eyes will focus on Oberholtzer, Cosart and Peacock. If there’s any chance the future is now, those three will lead the charge. But with a combined 34 major league starts between them, it’s not fair to put the monkey on their back in ’14. What are the odds anyway that all three will rise to the top this year?
Ah, yes, the promised land. While it’s not now, the promise should bring a smile to your face. Pitching is arguably the deepest position in the organization. Of course, the way prospects flame out or get hurt, organizations can never have enough pitchers.
It’s why six of the top ten Astros’ prospects on Baseball America’s list are pitchers. It’s why approximately half of Jonathan Mayo’s top 20 organizational prospects are pitchers. And it’s one of the primary reasons the Astros’ minor league system is near the top of virtually every ranking.
It’s where Jeff Luhnow is hanging his hat, and it’s where you should hang yours. Pitching. Pitching. And more pitching.
While it may not be likely, it’s possible that Asher Wojciechowski, Michael Foltynewicz, Jake Buchanan and even Mark Appel spend some time in Houston in 2014. Either as the result of injury or poor performance above them, or because they bust through the ceiling presently holding them back.
The future is not now. But it could be riding in soon on that proverbial white horse.
Make no mistake, however. George Springer, Jonathan Singleton and Carlos Correa will be welcomed additions soon. But it’s the pitching that will help separate the Astros from the pack before the end of the decade.
And, now, for your exercises for the day:
- Name the starting rotation that breaks camp with the Astros. (Count the number of different rotations in the comments.)
- How many different pitchers will start at least one game in 2014?
- Starter most likely to flame out or bomb? (Use the depth chart for your list of choices).
- Young pitcher most likely to hit it big in 2014? Oberholtzer, Wojciechowski, Foltynewicz, Cosart, Peacock or someone else?
- Pitcher(s) most likely to end up in Houston in 2014: Folty, Wojoalphabet, Appel or Buchanan?