As Spring Training heats up, the Houston Astros appear to be faced with the question of who will be their fifth starting pitcher.
Behind Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, and Doug Fister, the Houston Astros should turn to the guy that threw the first no-hitter for the organization since the combined effort in 2003 against the New York Yankees. The Astros should move on to the “other guy” they received alongside Carlos Gomez in the pennant race trade with Milwaukee. You know, the guy that pitched in 62.1 innings, posted a 3.32 ERA and a lowly 1.06 WHIP, and held opposing hitters to a .197 batting average as a member of the Astros.
The fifth starter in the Astros€™ rotation should easily be Mike Fiers.
Let€’s first analyze his competition. You have the names of Scott Feldman, Brad Peacock, Dan Straily, and Wandy Rodriguez. The veteran Feldman returns this year after having 2015 cut short with a shoulder injury. Before that, Feldman was having another serviceable year. He has, for two years in a row, provided the Astros with a reliable veteran arm and leadership. He is definitely a guy you want on your roster, especially with some of the young arms Houston has, but his role this season should be of a spot starter/long relief. He inevitably will gain more starts as injuries occur.
Peacock is also coming back from injuries; however he has yet to establish himself as a legitimate MLB starting pitcher. He consistently has given up too many home runs and walks, and should begin the season in AAA, and be in line to gain starts due to injuries like Feldman. Straily is in danger of not making the club and being released as he is out of options. Straily has not produced quality pitching since 2013 in the spacious O.co Coliseum in Oakland and is not trending back to that form.
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This leaves us with the homecoming king Wandy Rodriguez. Rodriguez comes into camp trying to make the same club he had so many successful seasons with during his younger years. Since being traded by Houston to Pittsburgh back in 2012, his performance and upside have definitely declined. He did post a 6-4 record with a 4.90 ERA with the rival Texas Rangers last season, which could be useful for another club this year, but not the 2016 Astros.
Already this spring, albeit a small sample, Fiers has thrown five scoreless innings and appears to have the mindset of making the starting rotation. The Astros are an exciting young club to watch, and while Feldman will continue his role of mentoring and providing quality innings, the youthful Fiers presents A.J. Hinch with the best option for the last spot in the Astros starting rotation. He may prove to be more inconsistent than a veteran, but he deserves the shot to prove his worth and hopefully create more Minute Maid magic in 2016.
**Statistics provided by MLB.com**