Houston Astros: Who could be next year’s Charlie Morton?

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Charlie Morton
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Charlie Morton /
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Houston Astros
CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 09: Tyler Chatwood /

Houston Astros pitcher Charlie Morton didn’t necessarily steal the show last season, but he recorded one of the best seasons in his career. There are some that could register a similar 2018.

A multitude of players deserved this year’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland earned the honors at the Players Choice Awards after enjoying two stellar campaigns to remind baseball fans of their relevance. Houston Astros pitcher Charlie Morton wasn’t deemed a finalist in the category.

But fans and analysts can argue that he was more valuable to the Houston Astros than Holland and Moustakas were to their respective clubs. Now Morton and his accomplishments from 2017 are a beacon for what some pitchers hope to accomplish in the upcoming season.

He pitched just 17 1/3 innings for the Phillies in 2016 before he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Houston gave him a chance, needing another starter to eat up innings.

Morton quickly became much more than an innings eater. He turned into a consistent starter for the World Series winners and ultimately posted a strong bounce-back season. The right-handed veteran logged 146 2/3 innings, sporting a 3.62 ERA and leading the team in wins. 

The most surprising note from Morton’s season was his prominent strikeout numbers. He gave fans a preview while in Philadelphia, racking up 19 strikeouts in four starts. Yet it became a reality once he made his way to Minute Maid Park. His 163 strikeouts led the Astros while his 10.00 K/9 was a career-high.

Simply put, Morton looked like an entirely new pitcher last year. And, the Houston Astros signed him for a bargain – a two-year, $14 million deal. General manager Jeff Luhnow can argue that Morton was the steal of the offseason.

Which, if any, pitcher from this year’s free agent class will record a similar achievement?

MLB analyst Mike Petriello already made a case for Tyler Chatwood, predicting that he will pan out well for anyone willing to sign him – for several reasons. Chatwood was dominant on the road, but struggled at Coors Field, like most other pitchers.

Morton relied on his fastball/curveball combo to notch his strikeouts. Opposing hitters hit a pathetic .109 average against his curveball and .189 against his fastball. Chatwood’s curveball was devastatingly dominant, as players hit just .079 against it. Overall, the 27-year-old’s off-speed stuff is above-average.

But his fastball and command, in general, could leave teams worried. Still, his stats on the road are promising enough to make him a worthy consideration for their pitching staff.

Who else is on the list?