The Astros should get back to “2020 full strength” in the coming days (by which I mean a team lacking its ace, its closer, and its masher). Alex Bregman will be off the IL as soon as this afternoon, Jose Urquidy will start tomorrow, and Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski will rejoin the team by this time next week. Let’s dive into the accompanying roster moves.
Before COVID-19, MLB had agreed to a 26-man roster, with no more than 13 pitchers. With COVID, the league agreed to begin the season with a 30-man roster, which would go down to 28 after two weeks, and 26 after another two weeks. However, due to the health and safety challenges seen in the first few weeks of the season, MLB and the players association have agreed to keep the roster limit at 28 for the remainder of the season.
But the Astros are still limited to 28 with a host of injured players ready to return.
The most obvious substitute for Bregman is Jack Mayfield. With Aledmys Diaz back in the fold, it’s unlikely that Mayfield (182/182/182) stays in Houston. Other candidates are Abraham Toro (158/232/317) and Garrett Stubbs, who’s the only player on the roster that has been in Houston all season with fewer PAs than Super Jack. Stubbs is a catcher though, and that will likely keep him here all season. If Jose Altuve needs to go on the IL, Mayfield will undoubtedly stay.
The pitching side is a little murkier. Urquidy has been stretched out to start, and he almost inevitably replaces Brandon Bielak. But Saturday is a double-header, and the freshest of the four starters is Valdez, who pitched Tuesday, which would slate him for Sunday on normal rest (in case you haven’t noticed, Framber is 10th in MLB in pitcher WAR this season. Give it up for Framber!) So, Bielak, who’s recorded six outs and given up ten runs in his last two outings, watching his ERA balloon from 1.69 to 5.40, will likely take the ball on Saturday.
There’s also a double-header on Tuesday, will will require a bullpen game unless Dusty and company want to bring up a starter from Corpus for a game. I can’t even imagine who that could be at this point. Off days on 9/11 and 9/14 will allow Dusty to reset the rotation, but there’s probably no point in thinking ahead.
After Saturday, I imagine Click will either option Bielak, especially if he has another bad start, or Joe Biagini (WHIP of 3.23, ERA of 20.77 in 4.1 IP) or Luis Garcia, who hasn’t pitched yet (for his sake, I hope he gets into one of the Saturday games). And whoever doesn’t get optioned for Urquidy, will get optioned for Peacock or Devo, whoever comes first. If Bielak gets moved to the pen, Click will choose from Cionel Perez (0.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP in 3 IP), and, I would suspect, Andre Scrubb (0.68 ERA, 5.87 xFIP!). This move, if and when it happens, should trigger a few Chron commenters, as those two have the two lowest ERAs on the staff. Together they’ve walked 16 guys in 16.1 innings, and have only yielded one earned run. That’s small-sample tap dancing of the Fred Astaire variety.
We know that Luhnow and Hinch despised the walk, especially from a reliever. In our shortened season, there are some truly obscene walk rates being posted by Astros relievers (29th in MLB pens with 5.24 bb/9; thank goodness for Seattle). Poor AJ would have perhaps combusted. I’ll venture a guess that whichever of the two can show some control on the road trip will stay on the team. To paraphrase the great Puff Daddy, throw strikes or die!