Even with the uncertainty around Yordan Alvarez as the start of the season comes roaring down upon us, for the majority of Astro fans, the lineup is not the focus of most of our worries.
Yes, Martin Maldonado and Dustin Garneau are not Willson Contreras or J.T. Realmuto. Yes, Josh Reddick (or Kyle Tucker) are not a defending All-Star like their two OF mates George Springer and Michael Brantley. But a lineup that features Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Brantley, Springer, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel should be plenty solid even if one or two are missing or slumping.
No, the rotation changes have been the more significant concern throughout the off-season, but they may be neck and neck with the worries about the bullpen at this point in the Summer Camp.
The Rotation Concerns.
- After the 2019 season, losing starters Gerrit Cole (who could easily have been the Cy Young Award winner), Wade Miley, who was 11-4 with a 2.99 ERA on August 9th, before limping into a 14-6 record and a 3.98 ERA, and Collin McHugh, who was 58-35 in 6 seasons with 110 starts for the Astros were a red flag.
- Having Jose Urquidy, who was penciled into the 4th spot in the rotation, not appear at Summer Camp through at least the first two weeks due to an unexplained reason (which is interpreted as a COVID related reason).
- Having Josh James, who was penciled into the 5th spot appear late-appearing to camp due to the birth of a daughter. This concern was a bit mitigated by a decent first appearance in an intrasquad game.
- Having both Austin Pruitt and Brad Peacock, who could have been considered for a starting spot struggle with injuries to this point in camp.
The Bullpen Concerns.
- After the 2019 season, losing their most solid reliever in Will Harris and a solid hand in Hector Rondon, who made 130 appearances between them last year.
- Having Joe Smith, who pitched well after coming off of an Achilles injury in 2019, put on the Restricted List as he decides whether to pitch this season.
- Losing Collin McHugh….while he could have been considered for the rotation, he also came out of the bullpen 85 times the last two seasons, so it is a loss there too.
- Both Pruitt and Peacock being injured is a problem for the bullpen also as they would be asked to be multi-inning relievers in a season where that may be a real necessity.
- This far into camp, Roberto Osuna, the Astros closer has not thrown off a mound for non-injury reasons. Ryan Pressly would be expected to pick up the closer’s role, but he is battling a finger blister problem.
Obviously, the Astros have a lot of young arms that might pick up whatever slack there may be in either the rotation or the bullpen including Bryan Abreu, Framber Valdez, Cy Sneed, Cristian Javier, Rogelio Armenteros, Forrest Whitley and others. There is hope that Chris Devenski can bounce back from a tough 2019 and help shore up the ‘pen.
But in a short season, bad (short) starts can put a real strain on a bullpen. Blown leads and saves can be a psychological burden on the whole team.
Which area worries you the most? Or are you concerned at all?