In our what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, overreaction is the norm. That’s why the giant thud you heard this morning was the sound of fantasy owners dropping Joe Musgrove. After three promising outings to begin his major-league career, the Astros RHP has posted back-to-back clunkers. He was hit hard in Baltimore on August 18 (5.1 IP, 11 H. 8 ER, 1 BB, 2 K) and again last night in Pittsburgh (4 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 2 K). In the process, he has raised doubts about whether or not he can be trusted during the season’s stretch run.
Musgrove’s profile and past performance, however, suggest that fantasy owners who give up on him after two bad starts likely are making a mistake. One of Houston’s top prospects, Musgrove features three above-average pitches--fastball, slider, and curve--and his calling card is his elite, 70-grade control. In 2016, through 113 combined major- and minor-league innings, he has walked only 13 batters. Even when he’s getting knocked around, as he was during his last two outings, he does not issue free passes. That’s a sign of a pitcher who stays aggressive and whose struggles stem from throwing strikes that are too good.
Likewise, those first three major-league starts against Toronto (4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K), Texas (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K), and Toronto again (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) are a far better reflection of Musgrove’s talent and past performance than are the two most recent starts. In the minors he showed long stretches of dominance, including a six-start run to begin the season in which he allowed only 1 earned run and no walks against 30 strikeouts. His career minor-league ERA of 2.83 and BB:K ratio of 41:320 in 337.1 IP suggest that he should have at least a solid career as a major-league starter.
In Triple-A earlier this season, Musgrove allowed six earned runs in back-to-back games against El Paso and Tacoma. He walked only one batter in each of those games. In three of his next four games he turned in quality starts and over those four games posted a combined 2:29 BB:K ratio. In short, Musgrove does not appear susceptible to prolonged slumps.
Finally, Musgrove already has earned the confidence of his manager, A.J. Hinch. After the game in Pittsburgh, Hinch, noting Musgrove’s competitive nature and quality repertoire, promised that his young pitcher would see the ball again in five days. That puts him on track for a home start against Oakland early next week.
If you play in a keeper league, now might be a good time to trade for Musgrove, particularly if the cost has gone down in the last week. Pitching for the talent-rich Astros, he should offer well-above-average value in the coming years. Even if you play in a re-draft league, you might want to consider acquiring him however you can. The last two starts notwithstanding, there’s a good chance he finishes 2016 on a high note, and he could help you in every major category except saves.