Kenny Van Doren, Site Expert
This will be another unorthodox year for the Astros pitching staff, as there won’t be a recent dominant ace like Verlander, Keuchel or Cole on the roster. One thing holds true; there is a Cy Young winner in the rotation, but I am not rolling with Zack Greinke for Opening Day.
Lance McCuller Jr. is another right-hander in contention, but I feel as if you need to earn this job. The one-time All-Star does hold a special role and former dominance on the staff, but inconsistency and injury have left him in the dust of being my choice.
Looking at the other options, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier are both young talents, but this isn’t their stage to shine. You want to make a statement moving forward with your choice of your ace, and for me, I am going with Framber Valdez. The left-hander pitched in his third MLB season in 2020 and solidified a spot on the rotation moving forward.
In 70.2 inning, the left-hander posted a 3.57 ERA, lowest of all three possible choices mentioned, and fanned 76 batters. While relying on three pitches before his fastball, Valdez is a threat to hitter with wicked off speed and movement.
While not having the most experience on staff, Valdez has the poise and confidence to succeed as the ace of a staff. Also, naming him the Opening Day starter can also trigger better outcome from other pitchers such as McCullers Jr., who could see himself as the best pitcher on the staff. Spring Training will be the overall test to see who will hit the bump on April 1, but looking to the future, Valdez has the moxie and pitches to be an All-Star starter for Houston.