Houston Astros 2019 Season Preview: Starting Rotation

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HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 18: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros pitches in the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 18, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

There are only two weeks left to go until pitchers and catchers report for spring training for the Houston Astros on Feb. 13. The position with the most interesting turn over has been the starting rotation this off-season for the Astros. With that, we take a look at the starting rotation for the Houston Astros.

Early outlook

For the Houston Astros, this starting rotation has been the main subject of talking points for the back-to-back AL West division winners. With the departure of Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, as well as the loss of Lance McCullers Jr. for all of 2019 due to Tommy John Surgery, this Astros rotation has some big holes to fill.

It is expected that Collin McHugh will fill in a spot in the starting rotation, to go along with headliners in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. With that, it leaves two open spots in the starting rotation for the Astros to try and fill.

Those two open spots in the starting rotation is what seems like five pitcher battle. Those pitchers include, Forrest Whitley, Brad Peacock, Josh James, Corbin Martin and Framber Valdez.

Dallas Keuchel Returns?

With rumors of Keuchel possibly coming back to the Astros in 2019, this would take away one of the two spots open in the Starting Rotation. If Keuchel returns, then Corbin Martin will start the year in AA Chorpus Christi. It would also decide Whitley’s chances, as he would start the regular season in AAA Round Rock. That leaves Peacock, James and Valdez fighting for one spot.

Out of the three remaining, Peacock has the most experience with seven years under his belt- six of which are with Houston. In 2017, Peacock asserted himself as a crucial arm on this roster. Posting a record of 13-2, Peacock threw an ERA of 3.00 in 21 starts- the lowest of any season in his career in which he appeared in a minimum of 10 games. In those 132.0 innings pitched, Peacock stuck out a season high 161 batters and gave up a 0.7 home runs per nine innings (HR9). If experience is what the Astros are looking for, Peacock is the clear favorite to win the final spot in the rotation.

Keuchel doesn’t return?

If Keuchel does not return, then the door opens up for both Martin and Whitley. Martin is a huge long shot to make the opening day roster in 2019. It would be more likely that he makes the opening day roster in 2020. Martin will most likely make his MLB debut during the September call-ups in 2019.

In this scenario, Whitley would have an outside shot of making the Opening Day roster. If he can perform well, he might get a shot to start in the bullpen. Starting the season in the rotation is not a real possibility for this opening day. Just like Martin, he would be a better contender for the opening day starting rotation in 2020.

It would also give more of an opportunity to a player like James who really turned heads with his performance in the 2018 regular season. A 2-0 record with an ERA of 2.35, the rookie pitcher impressed enough to make the postseason roster. His October took a 180 degree turn as he went 0-1 with an ERA of 7.71 in two appearances during the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. This spring will be necessary for James to prove that he can rebound from an awful postseason run. If he can prove that, James will make the 25-man roster.

Opening Day Roster Prediction

The Houston Astros’ starting rotation will be dependent on whether or not Keuchel returns to the team in 2019. If Keuchel returns, the starting rotation will consist of Verlander, Cole, Keuchel, McHugh and Peacock. If Keuchel does not return, the starting rotation will consist of Verlander, Cole, McHugh, James and Peacock.

No matter the scenario with Keuchel, Valdez will be in the bullpen as a long reliever. He would be placed in the starting rotation if an injury occurred to fill a spot, while the Astros call up a reliever during that remaining time or even call up an outfielder in Kyle Tucker.

Other Astros Roster Opening Day prediction:

Starters:

-OF George Springer, Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley

-INF Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Aledmys Diaz, Robinson Chirinos and Tyler White

Main Photo:

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My writing experience includes being a former Sports Writer & Sports Editor at the Baylor Lariat & The Houstonian, being a former Rockets editor and Houston Sports writer for Houston Preeminence and the Founder of HSB Sports, Box Score Sports & Behind the Mic Podcasts. My broadcasting experience includes former Sports Commentator for Baylor Lariat Radio & Texas Sports Radio Network, as well as currently working for Texan Live, 90.5 KSHU FM, Bearkat Sports Network & East Houston United. I have always loved sports, but baseball has been my favorite sport my entire life. The Astros are my hometown team and have been my favorite since I starting going to games in 2000 when I was just four years old. My goal is to one day be a play-by-play commentator for the Houston Astros.

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