On the Astros: Jarred Cosart gets his chance

Al Messerschmidt

The excitement for Jarred Cosart has fallen over the past couple years, but tonight he starts MLB journey to prove his critics wrong. Is he ready?

There haven't been too many exciting days for the Houston Astros in the past couple years, but tonight will be one of them. Jarred Cosart will make his MLB debut against the Tampa Bay Rays - a day Astros fans have been savoring long before the announcement was made on Wednesday night.

Cosart may be the most puzzling prospect in the Astros system. The thing that is known for sure about Cosart is that he's got electric stuff ... and that's about it. After being a very highly regarded prospect only a couple years ago, Cosart has fallen in many prospect rankings due to injury problems and inconsistency. He still is a top ten guy in the Astros system, but has been somewhat overshadowed by names like Correa, Springer, Foltynewicz and McCullers.

2013 hasn't exactly cleared the picture of what the 23-year old righty will be. The injury bug has not struck this season (all of 2012 - 20 starts, 2013 so far - 17 starts), and though his consistency has gotten better, Cosart still can still frustrate those who follow him. His standard stat line of 7-4, 3.19 ERA, 93 strikeouts in 93 innings at AAA Oklahoma City is solid, actually great, after throwing 27.2 innings in OKC last season.

But then everything gets out of whack when looking at Cosart's peripherals in 2013. Cosart's struggles with walks have been well-documented. His 12.5 percent walk rate is the highest of his career. Would the Astros like him to walk less guys? I would assume so. Will the walks really hurt him that bad in the majors? Maybe not.

The bad news: There is only one pitcher among qualified inning throwers who has a higher walk rate than Cosart (Jason Marquis). The good news: The names among the top ten highest walk rates so far this year isn't half bad company. In those ten, there are guys having a great season (Jeff Locke, Gio Gonzalez, Justin Masterson), a good season (Marquis, Felix Doubront, Matt Moore), an OK season (Edison Volquez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ryan Dempster) and then one guy with a bad season (Lucas Harrell).

There is much more good news than bad when it comes to Cosart's 2013 campaign. His strikeout rate (23.2 percent) is his highest since starting high-A ball in 2011 and he has only allowed eight home runs in 207.2 innings over the last two seasons. The .276 batting average on balls in play against him this season is much lower than past years, but it could also indicate that Cosart is continuing to develop and miss more barrels.

Assuming Cosart stays up with the big club for an extended period of time, it will be very important to see how he responds to adversity. Some of Cosart's biggest critics don't like his mental makeup, but nobody knows what's going on inside of Cosart's head other than himself.

Expectations can't be too high for Cosart as he has to face the Rays' David Price in his first career start, but with Cosart facing an unfamiliar lineup, he could have decent success. Cosart will certainly be amped for it, and Houston fans can only hope that he will be able to deliver. Astros fans will eat up any good news they can right now as they look forward to a bigger and brighter future.

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