A look at the Astros rotation battles this Spring if they exist

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Collin McHugh
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Collin McHugh /

A lot of starters battling for the next man up in the Astros rotation.

The Astros have officially begun Grapefruit League  baseball after beating the Nationals yesterday. Even though it was the first spring game, its hard to get too excited by the results. However, it did kick off the battle for the five-man rotation.

That was said tongue and cheek. The rotation is pretty much set in permanent marker. While the order may not be set in stone, five pitchers have a stronghold of the rotation. This is a battle for the next man up if the situation calls for it.

Hunter Atkins laid out the Astros starters for the first turn of the rotation. Yesterday, Rogelio Armenteros got the battle off to a great start pitching two shutout innings. Armenteros is not a flamethrower, but he throws strikes. The Cuban right-hander had a 10.6 K/9 rate and 2.04 ERA last season between Corpus and Fresno. He’s an intriguing player to watch.

This weekend.

Collin McHugh will get the start today, which is a good sign. Last spring, he didn’t pitch as he was dealing with dead arm symptoms. He didn’t return until after the All-Star break, but his role was different. McHugh is technically battling Charlie Morton for the fifth starter, but he should make the 25-man roster. Look for him to serve as long-reliever and spot starter.

Gerrit Cole will make his Astros debut tomorrow versus the Cardinals. With his time with the Pirates, Cole will be familiar with the hitters. On most teams, he would be the ace. On this team, he is the Astros third starter. It would not be surprising to see Cole pitch better with Justin Verlander and Brett Strom tutelage.

Next week.

In split squad action on Monday, Verlander and Francis Martes are scheduled to start. Verlander doesn’t have to earn a spot on the team, his talent and salary will. The only question is will he be the opening day starter? Martes still has a bright future in a crowded rotation, which probably pencils him at Triple-A. If he can harness his control, he will be a fixture in the rotation or prominent role in the bullpen.

Brad Peacock will get the start Tuesday. Things are different for Peacock who was out of options last year. No one could have predicted that Peacock would have made the opening day roster, much less contribute at a high level. Peacock will probably end up as a multiple-inning high leverage reliever for the Astros.

Lance McCullers will make his debut Wednesday, hoping to stay healthy all year. McCullers has the stuff to be the ace. Hopefully, he can be the better version of Steve Avery with the 90’s Braves. This rotation compares well with that rotation, but do they have three HOF starters?

The final starter is Mr. November, that would be Morton who shutout the Dodgers for four innings in Game 7. He should be the favorite for the fifth starter with his breaking pitches and velocity from last year. Even his Game 3 start versus the Yankees in ALCS was not as bad as the stats say.

What about DK?

Dallas Keuchel is not scheduled to start yet. He feels healthy and ready to co-lead the rotation this season. Keuchel is in his walk year for the Astros, so you can expect him to give his best like always.

Let’s take a look at the depth of the rotation before today’s game versus the Braves.

1) Keuchel

2) Verlander

3) Cole

4) McCullers

5) Morton

6) McHugh

7) Peacock

8) Martes

9) Armenteros

10) Mike Hauschild

11) Trent Thornton

Next: Astros: Can A.J. Reed be the X Factor for the 2018 season?

While they can’t go with a nine-man rotation all Spring, you will see them start doing tandem starts. Armenteros will most likely follow McCullers on Wednesday. This depth is needed for a World Series contender, which is why they won’t trade McHugh. Can’t wait to watch some baseball today.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference.***