Barry Laminack: Looking ahead to the Astros' future pitching rotations

Justin Verlander wil be a staple for the next couple years. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Last week I took a look at the various options that the Astros had when deciding how to bolster their starting rotation.

Of course they ignored my advice (thank goodness) and went out and traded (Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran and Jason Martin) for Gerrit Cole.

The Cole trade makes the bullpen better

The trade for Gerrit Cole gives the Astros one of the best rotations in baseball, and they did so without having to give up their prized prospects Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley. The Cole trade was also a shrewd move because along with strengthening the rotation, it also added significant depth to the bullpen (a bullpen that faded down the stretch and in the playoffs).

With Cole set to join the rotation, and the other four spots presumably being filled with the likes of Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers and Morton, this trade left no space for McHugh and Peacock in the rotation (barring injury or if Hinch decides to utilize a six-man rotation for some reason), so they will both be moved to the bullpen.

Future rotations

I made this handy chart to show what the rotations could look like from 2018 to 2021. Each spot that has an R or B is a year that the Astros have the player under contract and are thus guaranteed to have the player here and pitching (unless traded or hurt). 

It's worth noting that all of the slots for Forrest Whitley are my projections and not based on any current contract (or inside source). 

Astors Rotation NOTE: R = Rotation Spot, B = Bullpen Spot


As you can see, 2018 is solid with McHugh and Peacock both sliding to the bullpen. Fans can look forward to a dominant five-man rotation of:

Verlander, Keuchel, Cole, McCullers and Morton.


In 2019 both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton will be free agents.

Keuchel will command in the neighborhood of $23-$25 million/per year on the open market, a price range the Astros probably won't be able to afford because of the Justin Verlander contract.

Morton will require far less per year, but Peacock could provide just as much (if not greater) value in the rotation, and for a much cheaper price tag; so Morton is probably gone as well. 

(I also predict 2019 will be the year that Forrest Whitley earns a spot on the team, but more on this later).

So unless the Astros decide to re-sign either of their pending free agents, and assuming they don't go out and get a free agent arm, the 2019 rotation is still a very respectable one consisting of:

Verlander, Cole, McCullers, Peacock and McHugh. 


By the time 2020 rolls around things will start to look drastically different for the Astros. Cole will probably bolt for free agency, and McHugh will have the opportunity to do so as well. It wouldn't surprise me if the Astros let McHugh walk and save the money they would spend on him to resign Brad Peacock in 2021; unless of course they can get McHugh on the cheap. 

Verlander will be 37 years old, and now that he has a ring, will no doubt be ready to retire. Peacock will be in entering his final year of arbitration.

I predict this will also be the year that the coveted Whitley finally cracks the rotation for this team, but again, we'll discuss this in a bit.

So if my psychic skills are right, the 2020 Astros rotation could be:

Verlander, McCullers, Peacock, Whitley, and TBD.


The only player currently on this team that occupies (or in the case of Peacock and McHugh, is worthy of occupying) a spot in the rotation that is guaranteed to be in the rotation four years from now in 2021 is Lance McCullers.

Everyone else COULD be gone.

But again, if my psychic skills are on point, and the moves I predict in 2020 happen, then the 2021 rotation should be:

McCullers, Whitley, Peacock, TBD, and TBD.

The wild card

The wild card in all of this, besides the Astros potentially resigning any of their pending free agents in a given year, is Whitley.

Depending on when Whitley comes up will determine how soon he can carve out a spot for himself in the rotation. My estimation is that he'll be up in 2019 at some point (perhaps as soon as early May) and pitch out of the bullpen. Then, with a year in the majors under his belt, he should fight for and probably win a spot in the rotation in 2020. 

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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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