Houston Astros MLB Draft: Team needs to restock pitching depth

Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Houston Astros recent promotions of top prospects Francis Martes and David Paulino, the Astros pitching depth is being depleted. While their draft strategy is best player available, they definitely need to put a focus primarily on acquiring pitching this Monday.

Houston Astros number three prospect David Paulino has made two starts on the season and Francis Martes has been called up in the wake of ace Dallas Keuchel landing on the disabled list yet again.

These injuries are coming at an inopportune time as the Astros will most likely be needing to make a trade for another arm in the near future. The more disabled list trips our starters make, the more leverage the opposing club will have in trade talks due to our need. And, most likely, a club trading a starter will want pitching prospects in return.

The problem is that pitching is the weakest aspect of the Astros farm system, Of our top 10 prospects, four are pitchers, which is right around league average. However two of them, as previously mentioned, have now made their way to the big leagues.

The other two in our top 10, Forest Whitley and Franklin Perez, are both 19 year olds who are not due to arrive in the big leagues for at least two more years. And that’s if they stay healthy. Which as we’re seeing this season, is not easy for pitchers to do.

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Then behind those two how many pitching prospects do the Astros have in the top 20 you ask? Number 16 prospect Cionel Perez who is 21 years old and is 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA in single-A Quad Cities. Not exactly ready for a call-up either.

And prospect number 20 on the Astros pipelineis Jandel Gustave who we know is strictly a reliever.

The Astros shouldn’t reach for pitching if there’s clearly a better position player available. Let’s not make a Mark Appel over Kris Bryant mistake again for sure. But if it’s a coin flip or even only slightly in favor of a position player, I’d still draft the slightly less talented pitcher just because our farm system is hurting for pitching.

And to give you perspective based on how the rest of the league is with how MLB.com ranks their top 30 prospects, there are only two teams with less pitching prospects in their top 20 than the Astros.  The Washington Nationals with four and the New York Mets with five.

And 18 out of 30 teams have pitchers make up half or more of their top 20 prospects.

Pitching is volatile. Health will always be a concern and consistency is harder to maintain when you play once ever five days. A couple bad starts can inflate your numbers and maybe hurt your confidence along the way.

The Astros so far haven’t been haunted by any of the pitching prospects they’ve traded away in terms of performance. Just to list them off:

  • In the trade for Scott Kazmir with the Oakland A’s, Daniel Mengden has a career 6.86 ERA, and is 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA this season.
  • In the trade for Brian McCann with the New York Yankees, Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman are the number 10 and number 25 prospects in the Yankees system respectively, with Abreu struggling class A+. This trade obviously is fairly new with room for regret.
  • In the trade for Ken Giles with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Phillies have not had success with Vincent Velasquez since his no-hitter had Astro fans shaking their heads last year. And Mark Appel has dropped all the way down to number 19 on the Phillies top 30 prospect list, struggling to the tune of  5.65 ERA in triple-A this season. Thomas Eshelman isn’t even ranked on the Phillies top 30 prospect list
  • The Carlos GomezMike Fiers trade is the closest thing we have to feeling a punch in the gut in terms of prospects lost as Josh Hader is ranked by MLB.com as the top left handed pitching prospect in all of baseball. But the other pitcher we sent over, Adrian Houser, pitched two games in relief in 2015 and nothing in the majors since then.

Next: Three reasons why Derek Fisher is the perfect trade piece

The only thing the Astros can regret in these trades so far is how thin it left their pitching in the minor leagues. They should utilize those extra picks they get from the St. Louis Cardinals due to the hacking scandal to restock that department, potentially targeting college pitchers in specific to have them be closer to major league ready. Because the way things are going, we may need help sooner rather than later.