With Opening Day only 35 days away, the Astros still have one remaining question: Who will be the fifth starter in the rotation?
The Astros will have a tough time choosing a starter because there are many candidates who can take over in the rotation. Josh James, Framber Valdez, and even top-prospect Forrest Whitley will have a chance to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
James may have the slight edge over the others due to his performance in last year’s postseason. James is a strong throwing right-hander who may be more suitable for a bullpen role. Whitley on the other hand has Astros fans raving about him and his potential. Out of all three the most underrated player is Valdez and he may be the ideal fit to the rotation.
The Case for Valdez
The 25 year-old left-hander came onto the scene last season for the Astros. He appeared in only eight games last season and started five. In that short amount of time he pitched 37 innings and posted a 2.19 ERA and a 70.3% ground ball rate. With Dallas Keuchel gone, Valdez may be the ideal fit to replace him.
Valdez is primarily a roundball pitcher that flashes the same velocity as Keuchel. He has a arsenal of four pitches that include a 93 mph fastball, an 80-82 MPH curveball as well as a 92 MPHsinker that results in a lot of ground ball outs. His sinker is above-average and he produces more ground balls than most MLB pitchers off that pitch. His curveball is also dominate that has a smooth glove-sweeping movement that can make hitters off-balance.
Valdez is a young intriguing prospect, he may not have all the flash such as other prospects but he is more than capable of filling in the back end of the rotation. He showed promise last season in the majors and if he continues the trend in Spring Training he may very well be on Houston’s Opening Day roster.
There are many more candidates that will have their chance in the rotation such as Brad Peacock or even Brady Rodgers however the Astros may look to give the younger guys an opportunity to contribute this season. Josh James may likely find himself in the bullpen and Whitley may need another year to develop but Valdez has proven he can win in the big leagues. Valdez may not be everyone’s first choice but he has made a strong case for himself after last season.