Entering the season, the Houston Astros rotation looks to be their strongest asset and should be relied on heavily during the 2011 season. Brett Myers pitched like an ace, Wandy pitched much better the second half of the year and young pitchers J.A. Happ and Bud Norris at times showed why the Astros are so high on them. However that last spot is still up for grabs in the early going of Spring Training.
There were five candidates for that spot including Nelson Figueroa, who pitched well at the end of the last season, free agent signee Ryan Rowland-Smith, rookie phenom Jordan Lyles, and two Rule 5 draft picks Anuery Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton. Below I will break down their chances to secure that final spot in the rotation.
Jordan Lyles: I think many people in the organization would love to see Lyles be ready to take over that fifth spot in the rotation but they also know that at 20 years of age if he is brought up too soon it could set him back and could severly hurt his chances. I see Jordan pitching at the major league level at some point in 2011 but he will benefit much more starting out in the minor leagues.
Anuery Rodriguez: He was picked up in the Rule 5 draft from Tampa Bay and pitched well for the Triple A club of the Rays last year. He had a 3.80 ERA and had 94 strikeouts in a 113.1 innings of work. If the Astros believe Rodriguez is the answer, he will have to stay at the major league level for the whole season or he heads back to the Rays.
Lance Pendleton:Pendleton is a long shot to get the spot as he is not quite ready for the major league level as he spent the majority of his time at the Double A level in the New York Yankees organization. I don’t see Pendleton making the 25 man roster so he will most likely head back to the Yankees.
Ryan Rowland-Smith: Rowland-Smith was a free agent signing this off-season who is coming off a bad season with the Seattle Mariners. He was 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA for the Mariners who were not one of the better teams in the majors. A change of scenery may help Rowland-Smith and it will be interesting to see how he performs in Spring Training but I see him starting the season in the bullpen.
Nelson Figueroa: I see Figueroa winning the competition for the final spot in the rotation. He pitched well at the end of last season with an ERA of 3.23 over the final ten starts. At 36 years of age, Figueroa is not the long term answer for the Astros but he should be able to provide the team with good starts until Jordan Lyles is ready to take over.