The Houston Astros are gearing up to welcome back injured right-handers Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia to their pitching rotation in 2024. However, with both players not expected to make a return in time for Opening Day next season, rookie right-handers J.P.
France and Hunter Brown are presented with potential opportunities to secure spots in the rotation during spring training. The Astros are set to have Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and Jose Urquidy firmly placed in the rotation, leaving room for either France or Brown to step up, and possibly both if a six-man rotation is employed at the season’s start.
Alternative Rotation Paths
Chandler Rome from The Athletic has provided insights, suggesting that there are alternative paths for France and Brown in the next season. The Astros could significantly benefit from bringing in a seasoned starter, adding “stability” and experience to a rotation that experienced inconsistency in their performances throughout 2023.
Furthermore, right-hander Spencer Arrighetti, the club's number three prospect and top pitching prospect according to MLB Pipeline, could be a viable addition to the Astros’ rotation at the beginning of the next season.
Arrighetti showed promise in 2023, recording a 4.40 ERA across 124 2/3 innings, split between Double- and Triple-A during his age-23 season. With the array of potential changes and additions to the rotation, it is anticipated that both Brown and France may find themselves in varied roles beyond the starting rotation at different points in the 2024 season.
Rome speculates that France could potentially serve in a flexible swing role, moving in and out of the rotation as needed. On the contrary, Brown appears to have a more secure opportunity at a rotation spot, although his struggles later in the season, marked by a 6.72 ERA over his final 18 appearances, underline the necessity for further development.
Brown has shown potential, but he has work ahead to solidify himself as a reliable mid-rotation arm for the Astros. This dynamic scenario presents the Astros with several decisions to make as they approach the 2024 season, ensuring an interesting and pivotal period for the team’s pitching lineup.