Joe Musgrove knows a thing or two about adversity. Things haven't been all roses for the burly right-hander so far in his career, but it's all beginning to come together at last.
When the Blue Jays popped him with the 46th-overall pick of the 2011 draft, they had big plans for him. At 6'5" and around 250 pounds, Musgrove had the big, strong body scouts drool over. Enough height to generate some downward plane, fairly smooth mechanics, an a durable frame. For a prep pitcher, he was about as safe as you can get.
But there's no such thing as a safe pitcher, is there? The Astros found that out the very hard way in 2014. Musgrove found it out earlier, practically right out of the gate, as shoulder and other injuries cropped up and dashed any hopes of a quick ascent through the minor leagues. He pitched less than 45 innings combined during 2011 and 2012, and after a deadline deal that sent him to Houston, he didn't do much better in 2013, managing just 32.2 innings in rookie ball. I couldn't tell you an exact percentage, but I'd be willing to bet a large sum that the number of pitchers who accumulate less than 80 innings in their first three seasons of professional ball without ever sniffing even Low-A full-season ball that ever become anything is very, very low.
With 77 innings pitched in 2014, though, things began to turn for Musgrove. He finally started to look like the pitching prospect he was always supposed to be. 2015, as hoped, was the long-awaited breakout; fully healthy for the first time in his career, Musgrove flew through three levels, ending up in AA when it was all said and done, and posting a 2.20 ERA for the Corpus Christi Hooks in eight games with that club.
Along the way, he had made a mockery of the two A-ball levels, posting an unimaginable 33-to-1 strike out to walk ratio in 55.2 innings for Quad Cities and Lancaster. The Astros understandably elected to place him on the 40-man roster at the end of the season, protecting him from the Rule 5 draft in December.
With a plus fastball, two average secondary offerings and plus-plus command of it, Musgrove uses his size and stuff to their full advantage. He will begin the year in the upper levels of the minors, and given the aggressive call-ups of Lance McCullers jr. and Vincent Velasquez in 2015, Musgrove may only need to prove himself for a few months before the Astros feel compelled to find room for him on the Major League roster.