Houston Astros' Minor League Tandem Rotation Doing More Harm Than Good

By Josh Sippie
Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Campbell – USA TODAY Sports

Well, this didn’t go as planned. With the huge stockpile of pitching prospects the Houston Astros have accumulated over the last few years, it became apparent that there were not enough rotation spots on all their minor league teams to accommodate so many starters. So the answer was to switch to a tandem-rotation style, where more than one starter would throw each day. It works just like a normal rotation, but the prospects pitch every four days, either starting or being the second starter, and rotating.

The latest casualty of this system is first overall pick Mark Appel, who was supposed to be making a ton of headway towards the majors by now. Instead, he’s posted a 6.23 ERA in 14 innings giving up 17 hits en route to a 1.615 WHIP in Advanced-A ball.

To say this is “unsettling” as GM Jeff Luhnow put it is an understatement. Appel pitched four years at Stanford and that got him used to a seven day system for pitching. Apparently this tandem system isn’t sitting well with him. Converting from college to minor leagues is an easy obstacle for most to overcome, so it must be the tandem system that’s to blame.

Appel is being sent to extended spring training. He also isn’t the first top prospect to struggle with the tandem system, as Mike Foltynewicz had frequent elbow discomfort when engaging in the same system.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but with the track record of Appel and Foltynewicz struggling with this system, it’s only a matter of time before it strikes again. It may be time to bite the bullet and implement a regular 5-man rotation.

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