On the Mound
Lance McCullers Jr
The Astros rotation in 2020 was good enough to get them to game 7 of the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays, pitching to the tune of a 4.31 ERA during the regular season – 13th in the league. A young core of starters with postseason experience is something that the Astros can hang their hat on in 2021, and with Forrest Whitley lurking on the horizon, there is reason for Houston fans to be optimistic.
Specifically, Framber Valdez was a nice surprise for the Astros in 2020 as he pitched to the tune of a 3.57 ERA over 11 games and 70.2 IP, averaging 9.7 K/9. Valdez, Uruidy, and Javier all have 5 years of control left on their contracts, given them exciting pieces to build around for the future. However, Justin Verlander is 3 months removed from Tommy John surgery, and although it is rumored that he wants to pitch in 2021, it is unlikely that he’ll be anything close to the ace we have come to know over the past 15 years.
Given that the rotation is not losing any major pieces, expect 2021 to look fairly similar to the staff we saw in 2020, but with Lance McCullers, Zack Greinke, and Justin Verlander all in their walk years, the group is most likely going to be broken up very soon.
Player Highlight: Lance McCullers Jr.
2020 Statistics: 3-3 W/L, 55 IP, 56 IP, 3.93 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 1.16 WHIP
2021 Outlook: The 27 year old McCullers has had one of the best curveballs in the league since being called up in 2015, but an injury ridden career has left Houston fans and the front office wanting more from their 6’1 right hander. McCullers has never made more than 22 starts in a season, and has topped out at 128 IP for most innings pitching in 2018. With Justin Verlander expected to be on the shelf for most of, if not all of 2021, the Astros are going to need veteran leadership and an expanded work load from McCullers in his free agent walk year.