by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There was a time that the Astros’ Joe Musgrove was viewed as an upside starting pitcher, but he struggled out of the gate in ’17 and was ultimately transitioned to the bullpen. Now the question is if he’s found his niche, and if that’s the case can he hold fantasy appeal?
First, let’s take a look at the splits from last season:
There was a lot of poor luck behind the numbers as a starter, with a .338 BABIP and 67.6% strand rate. Of course he also had a lot of luck while coming out of the bullpen, with a .250 BABIP and 91.6% strand rate. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, regardless of the role, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Musgrove has generally generated enough groundballs, with a 1.46 GO/AO coming up through the minors. That means his 1.85 HR/9, which plagued him as a starter, would be expected to significantly improve (0.57 as a reliever).
Right off the bat, improved luck plus fewer home runs? Things are already trending in the right direction, and through his struggles he was showing solid control. So the question now lies in the strikeout rate, and if there’s upside in that department as well.
Musgrove made 14 of his 15 starts in the first half, and made no appearances out of the bullpen, and posted a 10.9% SwStr% and 33.2% O-Swing%. That would tend to indicate that an improvement would be possible, regardless of the role (he posted a 13.5% SwStr% in the second half). As a starting pitcher he may never be a 10+ K/9 pitcher, but getting into the 8.5+ range is not a stretch.
We’ll have to wait and see what role the Astros decide to utilize Musgrove in, and even though they lost Luke Gregerson this offseason they’ve made a pair of acquisitions to give them solid depth in the bullpen:
- Ken Giles
- Hector Rondon
- Joe Smith
- Will Harris
- Chris Devenski
The rotation is a bit of a different story, with Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton and Colin McHugh likely sharing two spots. Throw in the consistent injury questions hovering over Lance McCullers and you would think the team would see more value in transitioning him back to a starter. If they do he’ll be an intriguing deep league flier as he still has all the makings of a successful option. If they don’t? He’ll likely be buried in the bullpen and hold little appeal.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com
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