It's been a long wait for Astros fans. They've endured heart-breaking finishes, multiple 100 loss seasons, mediocre management, and all around bad baseball during the Astros prolonged bottom-up rebuild, so its understandable that fans wanted the front-office to go "all-in" this off-season. Luhnow did his part to deliver, but for the most part the major acquisitions were on the offensive side of the ball-club. While the Astros have flirted with the idea of pursuing a top-flight ace, for now Charlie Morton is the Astros lone addition to the starting staff.
Charlie Morton isn't a flashy bonafide name like Chris Archer, Jose Quintana or Sonny Gray, but he may be just what the Astros' rotation needs. And he has already started to show it this spring.
If you are looking for an update from the Astros, Charlie Morton consistently hitting the mid-90's is perhaps the best news out of Spring Training.
For those who don't know, Charlie Morton had been a 92 MPH pitcher his entire career, until recently. In the short span Morton was healthy in 2016, he flaunted an average fastball of 95, easily a career high and an unprecedented jump in the late stages of his career. Though he only made 4 starts before succumbing to a hamstring injury, he boasted an impressive 9.87 K/9, while having a 3.09, 3.01, and 3.56 FIP, xFIP, and SIERA.
Even without a mid-90's fastball, Morton advanced metrics have always graded well. He has had a SIERA under 3.89 in four consecutive seasons, and has consistently had very low walk numbers. The point is, if he has always graded as a solid righty ground-ball pitcher and is just now adding legit strikeout pitch, the Astros may have found themselves a hidden gem in this historically weak free agent pitching class. That is, if he stays healthy.
Which is a big if. Morton has never started 30 seasons in a game, and has had countless injuries, including Tommy John surgery. There is no guarantee Morton stays healthy for a full or even half season, but the Astros are betting on when and if he is healthy, he will be well worth the $14-million, two-year contract he signed him to. And I'm buying it.
If things go smoothly, the Astros will have found a bargain amongst all the bloated contracts in this weak free agency class. No, Charlie Morton is not Chris Archer or Jose Quintana. But Luhnow clearly believes in his upside, and I've grown to trust his judgement. The numbers look good, and I think he'll at least be an upgrade over Doug Fister or Mike Fiers.
He'll be another player to monitor closely over Spring Training. So far he has pitched five scoreless innings, striking out five and surrendering one hit and two walks.