Houston Astros Opening Day Starter: Making a Case for All Starters
By Danny Cagen
A look at the Houston Astros pitching staff.
Excitement is filling the air. Spring training is upon us, and the Astros are in full gear, roughly a month away from opening day. While Dallas Keuchel is most probably the Houston Astros Opening day starter. Let’s make a case for the other rotation arms in that opener role.
Dallas Keuchel returning to form
With Keuchel’s 2016 now in the rear view mirror, look for Keuchel to regain his Cy Young status and take command of the American League West once more. With Keuchel rounding out to form, he would be A.J Hinch’s first choice for the Opening Day starter.
Making a case for Lance McCullers
McCullers is one of many young starters primed for a big year. As a prospect, he showcased a 3.67 ERA and threw 320 strikeouts in the minors. In his rookie season, he wowed the Astros with an impressive 3.22 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 81 innings of work.
The question for McCullers is his durability obviously. Joining Keuchel last year, McCullers took a step back with an injury to his elbow that sidelined him for most of the 2016 campaign. The promise is definitely there. The early predictions for this young hurler comparing him to fireballer A.J. Burnett. The sky is the limit and certainly the rotation lead in future years.
Strong and Sturdy Colin McHugh
The case as opening day starter for McCugh is simple: he’s the most durable of the top 3 starters and deserves a shot on that merit alone. Opening the season in Houston, where he had 3.67 ERA in 2016 certainly can give McHugh a few points towards tossing in the first game.
McHugh’s propensity for pitching in high-intensity games are also something he can hang his hat on, as he pitched masterfully in the 2015 playoffs, sporting a 4.50 ERA in 10 innings pitched.
Rounding out the rest of the rotation
One can certainly make a case for Mike Fiers, the latest Houston Astro to throw a no-hitter, as opening day starter. He always pitches well at Minute Maid Park, with a 4.09 ERA in 2016 and can certainly contain himself in high-pressure situations. Not known as a power pitcher, Fiers can definitely finesse his way to a quality start to open the season. Can he be an option to start the 2017 campaign?
Charlie Morton, the sometimes forgotten 2017 Houston Astros free agent signee, can absolutely make his presence felt as evidenced by his 2013 campaign when he rolled out an impressive 3.26 ERA, 85 strikeouts, and a 7-4 record. The door is wide open for Morton to find his place in this rotation.
Joseph Musgrove is another candidate for a breakout season, with his display in 2016, amassing a 4.06 ERA and 55 strikeouts. Filling in for the injured Keuchel and McCullers in 2016, he had a few great performances and can rise to the occasion as needed.
Decision for Hinch
As it stands now, it would appear Keuchel is getting the nod as opening day starter with his accolades as mentioned earlier and track record. As the season rolls out, who will emerge as the pitching stud this team desperately needs to have long playoff aspirations?
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***