With both Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley slated to hit free agency this winter and Lance McCullers Jr. still on the mend from 2018 Tommy John surgery, it’s readily apparent that the Astros are going to have some offseason pitching needs. As such, it’s of some note that president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow told The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan (subscription required) this week that the organization views young right-hander Jose Urquidy as a likely member of its 2020 rotation.
“Urquidy’s going to be likely in our rotation next year,” Luhnow said in discussing the 24-year-old’s chances of making the postseason roster. “…He’s done an unbelievable job. He’s a talented pitcher who knows how to pitch in high-pressure situations. If he’s the right guy to make our roster in the DS or the CS or the WS, he’ll make it ,and hopefully he’s going to get some big outs for us in the postseason.”
It’s a strong vote of confidence in Urquidy, who made his MLB debut earlier this season and has appeared in eight games as a big leaguer. Through 35 frames with the Astros, Urquidy has pitched to a 4.63 ERA, although the rest of his numbers are more intriguing. Through six starts and a pair of relief appearances, he’s sporting a terrific 38-to-6 K/BB ratio and has generated a healthy 12.1 percent swinging-strike rate. Urquidy is currently carrying a 3.79 FIP, 3.80 SIERA and 4.18 xFIP, suggesting that his ERA could be a bit over-inflated.
It’s notable, too, that Urquidy has already set a new career-high with 138 innings in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. Given that he’s still likely to pitch another game before Sunday’s regular-season finale and could clearly log some postseason innings, it seems likely that he’ll be free of any workload restrictions next year.
Looking ahead to the 2020 rotation, if Urquidy is indeed penciled into that mix, he’ll join veteran workhorses Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke as well as a returning McCullers (assuming no hiccups in his rehab). Other options within the organization include left-hander Framber Valdez, right-hander Rogelio Armenteros and top prospect Forrest Whitley, though Whitley may require some further minor league time after injuries limited him to 55 1/3 innings in 2019. Right-hander Aaron Sanchez, acquired at the trade deadline, would surely have been a favorite for a starting job next year had he not recently undergone shoulder surgery. That operation has not only clouded his availability for Opening Day 2020 but may lead to him being non-tendered.
Earmarking a starting spot for Urquidy, ostensibly, would leave the Astros with only one vacancy in their rotation this winter. Trade scenarios that arise and/or free-agent prices could potentially impact any tentative alignments being currently contemplated by the organization, but Urquidy seems to have put himself in a strong position heading into 2020.