The Houston Astros roster bubble is about set to burst in the coming days as Opening Day rapidly approaches.
In Kissimmee, the Houston Astros have some tough decisions to make as Spring Training inches closer to an end in the coming days. One such player that is on the bubble is none other than right-hander Dan Straily, the other half of the Dexter Fowler trade from over a year ago.
When acquired, Straily was considered a reclamation project of sorts for the Astros. After all, the 27-year old pitcher has struggled to vary degrees on the major league level since he found his first success for the Oakland Athletics back during the 2013 season where he went 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA/4.05 FIP in 27 starts. Not great numbers, but encouraging for a young pitcher who did finish fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting that year. Now flash forward to 2016 and it appears that Straily has one last shot to prove himself to the Astros, his third professional team.
Don’t forget that Straily is completely out of options, so he either has to make the Astros 25-man roster, or he may find himself pitching for another team courtesy of the waiver system. Unfortunately, the odds of Straily making the club is lower due to the competition he is facing from two other pitchers in the Astros camp: Wandy Rodriguez and Michael Feliz. All three are competing for the job as the team’s long reliever out of the bullpen. And with the rotation already solidified, the bullpen does appear to be the most realistic position for the three pitchers.
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However, Straily may have just made the Astros decision a little harder as camp starts to wind down this upcoming week. After announcing that Collin McHugh was being skipped his scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves, the team decided to tab Straily as the starter for this past Friday’s game. An impromptu audition of sorts if you will; Straily’s last stand. And by golly, did he impress! (Well, as much you could for Spring Training). Four innings pitched of no-hit ball while walking one and striking out four.
In some ways, that one spring start sort exemplifies the improvement Straily has strived for since the end of last season. He reportedly hired a personal trainer to help prepare for 2016. His fastball velocity has been reported to reach the low-to-mid nineties in camp this spring after suffering a drop to the high eighties last year. These are encouraging signs despite Straily allowing 15 hits and eight runs in just 12 innings this spring. (Hint: Spring Training statistics are not completely trustworthy.)
Straily, like Rodriguez and Feliz, will likely learn his fate sometime this upcoming week as the Opening Day roster is completely assembled. The question is whether the Astros will continue to believe in Straily’s past results and if that level of success can be replicated. And the fact that he is out of options may entice the team to keep him if they feel like they will lose him to another team via waivers. Needless to say, this competition for the bullpen remains one to watch as the upcoming week unfolds.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference**