The Astros lost some talent in their rotation over the offseason, but the defending AL Champions have the arms to compensate for the losses. And one Astros pitcher, RHP Josh James, has some serious helium. Let’s take a look at the young right-hander.
Josh James in 2019
James, a starter by trade, may have spent 2019 in the bullpen, but the 26-year old made an impact to say the least. James struck out 100 batters over 61.1 IP, with 51 of those K’s coming courtesy of the four-seam fastball. The righty’s four-seamer had a mean velocity of 97.1 MPH, which put him in the 97th percentile (via Baseball Savant) when it came to fastball velocity. James’ slider, meanwhile, is a dangerous weapon for the righty, as the pitch has a lot of life and movement to it, and hitters struggled quite a bit against the breaking ball. The 26-year old’s slider had a Whiff% rate of 56.3%, and batters only hit .164 off the pitch.
James was a great weapon for the Astros in their bullpen last season, but as we mentioned earlier, the Florida native is a starter by trade. The Astros lost RHP Gerrit Cole to the Yankees in the offseason, and Wade Miley and Aaron Sanchez both will not return to Houston in 2020. This opens up an opportunity for James to enter the rotation in 2020, and there’s a solid chance he cracks the Astros’ starting five.
Astros Starting Pitching Options for 2020
Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, provided they’re healthy, are the two aces at the top of the rotation for the Astros. After those two, though, things get a bit complicated. Lance McCullers Jr. spent all of last season on the IL, and he should be ready for Opening Day. That leaves two spots open, and there’s quite a few names that could fill them. Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez and prospect Forrest Whitley are just a few names that are in play for the Astros rotation.
But here’s why James is ahead of most, if not all, of these names. Simply put, he has the arsenal to be an effective starter. James may not be able to operate consistently in the upper-90’s with his fastball as a starter, but the pitch should still be an effective weapon for him later in starts. James also has two other offerings, the slider that I mentioned previously, as well as a change, that can beat hitters at the MLB level.
Now there is the walk concern with James. Both in the Majors and the Minors, James has traditionally had above-average walk totals, which does hurt his stock a bit. However, James makes a lot of sense as an internal option for the Astros. The 26-year old, unlike some of the prospects Houston has competing for those spots, has MLB experience, and considering that he’s armed with a powerful arsenal, you need to consider him for your fantasy team.
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