The Astros may have won the World Series in 2017, but the talk this offseason was about their cheating scandal to get to that point. Dusty Baker takes over as manager, but all the players were given immunity for their involvement, so the team will still be a threat to compete.
After losing in the World Series to the Nationals, the Astros will try to fight their way back this season. Even after losing Gerrit Cole in free agency, Houston has a strong chance to win the AL West. A lot of that is due to their pitching rotation.
Here is a look at what the Houston Astros’ pitching rotation could look like if the season isn’t cancelled due to COVID-19.
Verlander may be getting up there in age, but he was crafty enough to win 21 games and have 223 innings pitched in 2019. To go with that, Verlander had an ERA of just 2.58, which was a key factor in him winning the 2019 AL Cy Young Award.
His playoff performance was not great, as he won one game in six starts. He gave up 17 earned runs in those starts in just 34.4 innings pitched.
While the postseason may not have gone Verlander’s way, there is no doubt he will be leading the rotation this season. The fewer games played this season could help him leave some gas in the tank for the postseason.
2) Zack Greinke
After acquiring him from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline, Greinke pitched extremely well for the Astros. He went 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA. Adding that to his 10-4 record with the Diamondbacks in 2019, Greinke had a great 2019 season overall.
His postseason starts were also pretty shaky. He went 0-2 in five starts. Greinke got better as the playoffs went on with a 2.45 ERA in the World Series, but it was to no avail.
Like Verlander, the shortened season may do wonders for Greinke, as it helps him not wear down near the end of the season. Either way, Greinke will be a big part of the Astros rotation and he could be key in them reaching the playoffs again.
McCullers has had a solid start to his young career. In four seasons, he has posted a 29-22 record and a 3.67 ERA. He reached his highest win total in 2018, which was 10. McCullers also had a nice 3.86 ERA in a career-high 128.1 innings pitched.
He had Tommy John surgery and missed the entirety of the 2019 season. The biggest question will be how much of a load he can handle this season, but the extra time before the season starts should help. He is tested in the postseason, as he had a 1-0 record and 2.53 ERA from 2015-2018.
There will be some doubts surrounding McCullers due to his injury, but he is a solid number three starter.
4) Jose Urquidy
After starting the season in Double-A, Urquidy made his way up to the MLB level. He had a 2-1 record with a 2.95 ERA in seven games started. His play earned him a spot on the Astros’ postseason roster.
Due to their many talented starters last season, Urquidy got just one start in the 2019 postseason. Overall he went 1-0 with 0.9 ERA in four games. With Cole gone to New York, Urquidy can expect to see his postseason role expand in 2020.
Urquidy is untested in a 162-game season, but with the shortened season, he should be able to find some relative success. He has not shown up to summer camp yet and was recently placed on the 10-day injured list due to a health issue. When he shows up, he should be the fourth starter if he is in game-shape.
5) Josh James
James has been called up and received playing time over the last two seasons. In his short time in the majors, he has a 7-1 record with a 4.06 ERA. He has only pitched in 84.2 innings, but there is enough there for the Astros to make James the fifth starter.
He has been in the postseason with the team, although it hasn’t been great. James does boast a 2-0 record, but it comes with a 6.35 ERA. With more experience in the big leagues, James should be more trusted in the playoffs.
James also did not show up to summer camp yet, due to personal reasons, but is expected this week. If he is up to form, he is a solid candidate to be the fifth starter over Framber Valdez and Austin Pruitt. If he isn’t ready to play, expect Pruitt to take his spot in the rotation.
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