Josh James’ spring training debut showed signs of his maturation into a true pitcher. Is he the man for the Houston Astros’ fifth starting spot? Let’s look.
The Houston Astros need for a fifth starting pitcher has been largely overshadowed by Houston’s sign-stealing scandal, which took the MLB by storm over the offseason, but the need is still very prevalent.
Josh James is one of the contenders for the final starting spot in the Houston Astros rotation. James, a 6-foot-three righthander, can light up a radar gun with pitches reaching 100 mph, but his struggle with a command has prevented him from taking the next step as a major league pitcher.
This offseason James focused on improving his control. The Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome reported that James, whose control problems stem from the fact that his delivery is too rotational, spent much of the offseason watching clips of his former teammate Gerrit Cole’s delivery. James complimented Cole for having “no wasted movements” in his delivery and is trying to imitate Cole by working on cutting out all unnecessary movements from his delivery.
James is shifting his focus from relying on his high-velocity fastball to generate swings-and-
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misses to creating early contact, which paired with better command would allow James to go deeper into games and make him a legitimate major league starting pitcher.
James’ offseason work was prevalent in his spring training debut Friday against the Miami Marlins. James threw two innings of scoreless baseball, including three strikeouts. But the most encouraging aspect of James’ outing was his command. Out of the 25 pitches James threw, 20 were strikes and two of his three strikeouts were called third strikes.
While James’s outing was very encouraging for the Houston Astros a big question still remains: Can James maintain this type of command for a longer stretch than just a couple of innings? James has the stuff to be a major league starter, so if he proves his ability to command the strike zone for five or more innings then he would be just the starting pitcher Houston needs.
Only time will reveal how much James’ control has improved, but if he continues to put up outings as he did on Friday then he becomes the clear favorite and most viable option to fill the Houston Astros fifth starting spot.