It was reported yesterday that the Astros would start the season without Lance McCullers Jr. in the rotation, since he’s out with an injury to his throwing arm. The club will still have a strong front four in Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia and José Urquidy, and it was assumed by most observers that Hunter Brown would now step into the fifth slot.
“It’s consensus in the organization that Hunter Brown has a chance to be big-time for us,” general manager Dana Brown told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. “I think he knows it and feels it. When I saw him throw, I was like, ‘This guy has electric stuff.’ The ball is coming out really good. There’s a comfort with Brown that, hey, Brown could take a step and really log some innings this year.”
The general manager didn’t go so far as to crown the young pitcher as winning the job, but it seems like he’s the frontrunner at the moment. That’s fairly logical given the strong season he had last year. He tossed 106 innings in Triple-A, both starting and in multi-inning relief stints, with a 2.55 ERA, 31.5% strikeout rate, 10.6% walk rate and 54.2% ground ball rate. He was also able to make his major league debut, posting a 0.89 ERA in 20 1/3 innings over seven appearances.
Other options on the 40-man include Brandon Bielak, J.P. France and Forrest Whitley. “We’re hoping Whitley takes a jump this year,” Dana Brown said. “It’s time for Whitley.” Whitley, 25, was once one of the most highly-regarded young players in the game, with Baseball America ranking him the #5 prospect in the league in 2019. Unfortunately, he still hasn’t made his major league debut due to various factors, the most prominent being injuries such as 2021 Tommy John surgery. He was able to return to health last year and toss 40 innings in the minors but with a 6.52 ERA in that time. He’ll look to get back on track this season to the form he showed in 2018 when he posted a 3.76 ERA in Double-A at the age of 20. He still has an option remaining and can be kept in the minors until he proves himself ready.
Of course, the Astros could always add a player from outside the organization, but it doesn’t seem like anything is imminent. “I’m not in the panic mode, but I also will keep my eyes open because I’m always looking for depth,” Dana Brown said.
Other notes from the American League West…
- Sticking with the Astros and their rotation depth, Rome asked manager Dusty Baker about the situation today. “You got to ask the powers that be,” Baker said. “I got the power, but not the authority. That was always a consideration for me … we didn’t have a general manager in place in order to make that move.” That last comment is a reference to the fact that the club surprisingly parted ways with now-former general manager James Click in November and operated with that job vacant until Brown was hired in late January. It’s not true that the empty position prevented the club from making any moves whatsoever, as owner Jim Crane took an active role in baseball operations alongside some assistant general managers. Between Click’s dismissal and Brown’s hiring, the club signed José Abreu, re-signed Rafael Montero and Michael Brantley, in addition to various minor league deals and waiver claims. Still, it’s possible that the front office was a bit short-handed while transitioning to a period without Click and assistant GM Scott Powers. It’s not too late to add pitching depth, as the club could still make a trade or reach out to free agents like Chris Archer, Dylan Bundy or Aníbal Sánchez.
- The Athletics will have a tough choice to make at the end of spring since outfielder Cristian Pache is out of options and can’t be sent to the minors without first being exposed to waivers. The prospect hype on him was strong enough that he got to #7 on BA’s top 100 in 2021, though his bat hasn’t developed to match his strong defense. Traded to Oakland in the Matt Olson deal about a year ago, he hit a paltry .166/.218/.241 last season. His 35 wRC+ indicates he was 65% below league average, the lowest such mark in the majors last year among those with at least 250 plate appearances. “For Pache, he’s in a difficult situation,” manager Mark Kotsay tells Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Not only is he competing for a roster spot here, but he’s going to showcase himself for 29 other teams. So it’s an important spring for Pache, no question, from an individual standpoint, for his career going forward.” The club has collected many outfielders in its recent deals and currently has a mix that includes Seth Brown, Ramón Laureano, Esteury Ruiz, JJ Bleday, Conner Capel, Brent Rooker, Cal Stevenson and others. Many of those players can be optioned to the minors but Kawahara suggests that Pache’s lack of options might not be enough to get him a roster spot.
Hunter Brown has better stuff than Verlander, not saying he can replace Verlander right away. But going forward Brown will be the ace of the Astros staff. Wouldn’t be bad to add a depth piece just in case but they have an outstanding 5 right now. McCullers should’ve been moved to the bullpen by now anyways.
With the career Verlander has had your way off base saying Brown has better stuff
Yeah I’m not sure that description fits for anyone since Clemens, at least not for a starter. Maybe deGrom.
RHP Hunter Brown ‘s pitches are extraordinary. Folks like to compare him to Verlander – while his mechanics are almost identical to Verlander’s, his approach is widely different.
Brown likes to fire his FB low in the strike zone whereas Verlander targets the upper part.
Brown’s slider is more like a sinker and has a different vertical break than Verlander’s. Brown’s curveball is now a plus pitch (that pitch kept him from ranking higher on MLB’s top 100).
Hunter is a very good replacement to Verlander. His repertoire is the 2nd best on the staff. Verlander’s would rank 3rd if he was still on the Astros.
Tell us you’ve never watched Hunter Brown pitch without telling us you’ve never watched him pitch. Higher velocity fastball than Verlander, and much nastier breaking stuff than Verlander. Yeah pretty much has better stuff than Verlander like I said smart one.
Please. Stuff includes the ability to use it. Why are Astro fans such a-holes?
As another Hou fan, i would call this a shallow evaluation. Verlander’s 4sfb has been dominant for an extremely long time. Hunter Brown has potential but he is not close to JV at the current time and doesnt come close with any of his pitches, even with his 96mph slider. Hoping and expecting Brown to have a great season. He was going to be in the starting rotation regardless.
I never said Brown has had a better career, reading is fun. Brown is a rookie, lol of course he hasn’t had a better career than Verlander. Just better stuff than Verlander.
Verlander is heading to the HOF. Brown is a rookie. Period.
Then why the hell are you comparing him?
Don’t you know the vast history of high-end pitching prospects never meeting expectations?
The Big Yo
Oh my lord!!! Did I just read that???!! I have better stuff than Verlander ffs doesn’t mean I can go out and paint corners with no tape with the weight of the world on my shoulders every 5 and in playoffs lolz
The Big Yo
Do not sleep on my A’s!!!!! Chapman, Olson, Murphy all my babies but let’s face it all below average hitters. A’s are gonna grind teams down this year. Just pick and prod with annoyance. Big strong boys with a lot of lefties to counteract the shift and a lot of speed. A resurgent Ramon and a resurgent Blackburn. Bring it on and we have nothing to lose. Also glad we didn’t get 2nd pick. Too much pressure
Pache is one of the bigger busts in a while. Can’t believe Oakland got trash prospects for their entire core. Besides Shea Langeliers, who else improved or stayed a good prospect after going to Oakland? The A’s lost every single trade they made in this sell off.
Almost every prospects-for-star trade lately has been a disaster for the team getting the prospect package. Teams know their own prospects so much better now than they used to, especially the high payroll teams that are usually the ones on that side of those deals.
I think the best place for Pache would be the Rockies. There is so much ground to cover there like Oakland but the balls fly there too. He could rack up a ton of defensive runs saved and outs above average playing center field for the Rockies. And unlike in Oakland, Coors Field will actually help his bat a little bit. In Colorado I think Pache would become the best defensive center fielder anyone has seen since Andruw Jones. His bat is the problem but in theory it could get better in that stadium. I would love to see what Pache’s Defensive WAR is with all those balls flying in centerfield at Coors. It wouldn’t surprise me if he broke the single season D-WAR for an outfielder in history playing for that team if he started in center everyday. His hitting does suck though. No better place to improve it than Denver.
Playing in Denver isn’t going to help the fact that he struggles to make contact. I would give it at least a 50/50 split that Pache clears waivers if he doesn’t make the team
Yeah. I just know his bat can’t get any worse there. The main thing I was considering was defensive WAR. He will have a lot of chances to rob hits in that outfield. I don’t know if his bat ever gets there but I can tell you for sure that he might be the best defensive centerfielder in baseball. He’s the Andrelton Simmons of the outfield. That guy makes great plays almost by accident and robs home runs like it’s nothing to him. I just think he will get a lot more opportunities to do that in Coors Field than he will anywhere else.
The Braves definitely traded him at the right time though. When the Olson trade went down that was only a little over a year ago and I think Pache was one of the top 2 prospects in the trade. Him and Langaliers and some people had Pache as the top player. I don’t think he ever hits but I do have to say his defense is insane.
A’s GM is one of the worst in all of baseball. He has dismantled a good team with young players for quantity of bad prospects. Chapman trade will yield NOTHING. Olson only 1 good prospect so far. Murphy who hasn’t even reached arbitration for a few back end rotation starters. Montas was for back end rotation starters. Its like the owner wants nobody to come watch them play.
I’m with ARC, I mean this somewhat tongue in cheek, but it’s like the movie Major League.
The returns on some really good players have been horrendous. It’s like they’re going out of their way to be bad so nobody comes and they move to Miami (I mean Vegas).
FWIW, some of those prospects haven’t even played in an A’s uniform yet (Sean Murphy trade: Muller, Tarnok, Ruiz, etc.). Cusick could be a rotation fixture with some fine tuning. Royber Salinas will be a bullpen piece for years. Even a year out from Olson trade, still too early for most of these guys, though Langeliers should be starter going forward.
I hope it works out for the A’s. Recent evidence suggests it won’t. I do really like Langeliers though.
I never understood how Pache was so highly ranked on prospect lists. At one point, some even had him as a top 10 prospect in baseball. Yes, he had extremely good speed and defense, but his offensive tools were never that impressive to be considered as highly ranked as he was. I guess with his other tools, he could have hit .260 with a dozen home runs and a 100 wRC+ and still would have been very valuable, but still.
Yeah he was the best defensive outfielder in the minors in a decade, arguably. They were comparing him to Andruw Jones. Especially with all the fly ball emphasis these days, that’s hugely valuable.
IIRC, Pache was never nearly as highly touted in terms of power. Lots of flyballs, but good-but-not-great raw power behind it.
They won the Montas trade by a landslide. JP Sears and Waldichuk for Montas who may not even pitch this season? That seems like a win for the A’s.
Maybe. Certainly not yet.
I mean, that’s not a great trade for the A’s either. Just so happened that Montas was or became injured.
Montas was gone after this season regardless so getting to Starters back, even if they are backend of the rotation arms is better than getting nothing out of Montas for most of this season and not even a draft pick because there was zero chance of them extending the Qualifying Offer to him even if he was healthy
Well that suited the A’s needs. But for the Yankees, the trade suited theirs too, health notwithstanding.
I mean at this point isn’t that all the A’s can do? Try to get back what suits there needs and hope for the best.
The A’s have a fair share of enviable starting pitching depth. Paul Blackburn/James Kaprielian/Shintaro Fujinami/Drew Rucinski/Ken Waldichuck/J.P. Sears/Kyle Muller/Freddy Tarnok/Adrian Martinez/Luis Medina/Hogan Harris/Jack Cushing/J.T. Ginn/Ryan Cusick/Gunnar Hoglund all Major League ready or knocking on the door
They can do what they want. I was just responding to the previous fan stating that the trade was a landslide .
I don’t really believe many teams are enviable of that list. The fact is they already had good players , traded many talented guys and STILL do not have a high ranking farm system. Quantity doesn’t always quality, particularly in this case.
True. However this team seems to manage to do well with guys that may not be household names now, or ever. The victory in the Montas trade was trading Montas in the first place, i don’t think we’ve seen a trade won by a “landslide” in years
Maybe in the past, but they don’t really develop guys like they use to.
Not sure what you mean about Montas, I think people forget how legit he was. If anything, they could have gotten more.
Not with a bad shoulder they couldn’t. Montas had already missed a pair of starts with shoulder inflammation in July and came back prior to the deadline and managed 8 innings over his final two starts in Oakland. They got the best that they could for damaged goods and is yet another reason why Cashman should block the A’s number on his cellphone
Just because a pitcher had inflammation doesn’t always mean serious. It’s Cashmans fault for not doing his due diligence. It was a risk that just didn’t work out. But potentially could have been a difference maker.
I wouldn’t block the A’s number since they never ask for much in return. You seem to think much more highly of what the Yankees have given up than I do.
If u can’t make the A’s- pretty safe to say no one is gonna claim ya
The Braves signed Magneuris Sierra this off-season. If Pache is available, I’d rather him than Sierra
Is Sierra gonna make the team? He’s nowhere on the depth chart. Thing with Pache is he has to make the 26 man. Otherwise he’s gone, as he’s out of options. I’m thinking of the Rockies as a good option for the A’s, with that monster outfield and the hitter happy context. They have been looking for a CF all winter, albeit a lefty preferably.
The only way Sierra makes the Braves is if the Outfield is decimated by injuries. Acuna/Harris/Rosario/Ozuna/Luplow/Hilliard/White/Pillar would all have to go down for Sierra to get a chance
Billy Hamilton has more market value than Pache does now, so he’s literally going to have to hit like he’s never hit in his life all spring training long to have any kind of shot at staying in baseball. I don’t even think he realistically has a shot at any foreign leagues
Dude, no. He’ll get snapped up as a defensive sub in a hot second.
That’s not true in the slightest. Pache is like eight years younger than Hamilton and still relatively fresh off being considered one of baseball’s best prospects. 30 out of 30 teams would rather have Pache right now over Hamilton.
Billy can at least steal bases so he has value as a literal 26th man as Pinch Runner/Defensive Replacement. Pache has not shown the ability to run so you are correct in saying Hamilton has value whereas Pache is a glove first/nothing else player
I dunno, Pirates, Tigers, Royals… there’s plenty of teams that are making little to no attempt at doing well this year.
The Pirates definitely are trying to improve. Not saying they’re contenders, but they’ve made an effort.
forrest whitley, haven’t heard that name in a while. hopefully he can make the cut.
Would be nice to see him start playing. I think you could assume someone who was a top 5 prospect at one point could be a depth option at least. Unfortunately last year didn’t help.
Maybe he could wind up as something out of the pen?
deGrom Texas Ranger
They confused the sugar with the salt. The Dusty Baker linked here is the incorrect one. This cake tastes quite salty and gross tbh.
As great as I think Andrew Painter is going to be, Brown would be my #1 pitching prospect in baseball right now. Dude is gonna be a stud for a while.
I think it’s time to put a fork in Whitley. Sure he’s only 25 but there’s nothing about him that makes me think he’ll actually pitch in the majors as an above average pitcher ever. He’s just another Mark Appel
Ray Stohler would have a hard time selling the bloats that are left. Ex-Twins Bundy and Archer deserve better than they got last summer.
Dylan Bundy on a minor league contract may not be a bad move for the Astros
By the end of this article, I felt like I was losing track of how many different Browns were in it (and which Brown was which). I had three on my scorecard… 🙂