Last year I wrote an article very similar to this one. While mid-January was probably a tad premature then, and late-January is a little premature now, I figured that consistency is more important than waiting on my hands for another move. There are rumors of adding an additional pitcher, but I believe that there are plenty candidates in-house for AJ Hinch to choose from during Spring Training.
The first three spots in the rotation are all but set in stone. Dallas Keuchel had a tremendous season in 2014 and looks to build off that confidence as the Astros Ace in 2015. Collin McHugh fulfilled the role of a spot starter well as he proved himself a quality major league pitcher. I’m sure that Bo Porter telling him that he belonged helped him build confidence. McHugh worked his way through fingernail issues in the midseason in route to a dominant finish in August and September. Scott Feldman, brought in on a 3-year deal, figures to be a viable #3 starter in a team that is beginning to transition into their highly regarded pool of starting pitching prospects.
Last season saw right-handed pitching prospects Nick Tropeano and Mike Foltynewicz make their big league debuts. Jake Buchanan, Rudy Owens, Brad Peacock, Sam Deduno, and Jarred Cosart also made appearances as starters. Cosart, to the disappointment of many Houston fans, was traded at the deadline last season while Jeff Luhnow has flipped Tropeano and Folty this offseason. Fans should be happy with the progress made in trading these three players. While they are all projected to have success in the majors, Luhnow trades players because there are better fits for the club.
The 40-man roster includes a few options for the final two rotation spots. Brett Oberholtzer is, arguably, the closest thing of the lot to being proven. Through 215 1/3 innings at the major league level, Obie has compiled a 3.85 ERA to go along with a favorable FIP of 3.59. I believe that he will fill the fourth rotation spot.
The fifth spot, however, is a little tricky. Luis Cruz was added to the 40-man prior to the 2014 season to avoid risking him to the Rule 5 Draft. The same concept was used with both Michael Feliz and Vincent Velasquez. Cruz has reached AAA albeit pitching to a 5.92 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. Feliz finished 2014 as a member of the Midwest League Quad Cities River Bandits (low-A) while Velasquez struggled to stay healthy with the Lancaster Jethawks in high-A ball.
More from Astros News
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
The competition is essentially brought down to five right handed pitchers.
– This candidate intrigues me. He was acquired recently in the Fowler to Cubs trade. Some people may believe that he and Oberholtzer are proven to be quality MLB arms. However, he struggled with both Oakland and the Cubs in 2014 posting a 6.50 ERA. FIP (4.38) suggests that he was unlucky; HR/9, BB/9, and H/9 ratios were well above his first 180 big league innings. Another 26-year-old with likely the best chance to win the final rotation spot. It may be worth noting that Roster Resource has him slotted in the 5th spot.
Aug 16, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Dan Straily (19) pitches during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Peacock finished the 2014 season on a good stretch. However, he is currently rehabbing from surgery and is unlikely to be ready by Opening Day. I can understand why the Astros are considering adding another arm to add to the mix. With Mark Appel lurking in the minor leagues, the Astros do need to secure a couple insurance policies for the fifth rotation spot. The in-house options may not be too deep, but a few innings can be given to Straily and Wojciechowski. Eventually Peacock will return. And soon after? — #HappyAppelDay.