Maybe some pitchers just aren’t meant to last.
When Lance McCullers is on the mound, he’s one of the most unique pitchers in baseball, a curveball-twirling dynamo who racks up groundballs and strikeouts at a borderline elite rate. However, he struggled with shoulder and elbow injuries in 2016, while back issues sidelined him for stretches in 2017. Now, he’s likely headed back to the DL this week, after exiting Sunday’s start with elbow discomfort.
He was sent back to Houston to be evaluated, and he told reporters after the game he was dealing with “some abnormal soreness and stiffness” in his forearm. Without speculating on the extent of the injury, it’s still safe to say this isn’t good news for McCullers’ Fantasy owners.
The Astros aren’t lacking for options to replace McCullers, though at this point we can’t do much more than speculate as to what they may choose to do. One obvious option would be Brad Peacock, who moved to the bullpen and has a 2.93 ERA this season in that role; he had a 3.22 ERA with 10.9 K/9 in 21 starts last season. However, he hasn’t thrown more than 30 pitches in an outing since July 6 and would certainly need some time to get stretched out if moved into the rotation. He’s worth a speculative add in deeper leagues.
An even more interesting possibility would be the promotion of top prospect Forrest Whitley, but he hasn’t pitched since July 5 due to an oblique strain. They almost certainly wouldn’t call him up straight off the minor-league DL, so we would only see him in the event of a season-ending injury for McCullers, I would bet. He’s worth stashing in deep, deep leagues, but we need to see him on the mound again before he is considered a possibility.
Maybe the Astros will give Collin McHugh another look. He has thrived in a move to the bullpen, sporting a 1.01 ERA and seeing his velocity spike in that role; however, like Peacock, he would likely need to be stretched out before such a move is made. Given the gains he has made as a reliever, McHugh would be an interesting option to start, and would be worth adding if he got the chance.