They say the game of baseball is all about pitching and defense. Enter your favorite “Rah roh George!” or “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” line here. There isn’t a marked difference from last April to this April. Still, though the edge may go to the 2014 rotation, it’s not a slam dunk.
The primary difference is that this rotation may get a chance to gel together. Last year’s opening day starter Bud Norris was on the trade block starting in spring training. Most of this year’s rotation should avoid the trade talk for the duration of the season as long as they perform.
You can read other Astros’ comparisons today:
We rated the rotation in the order Bo Porter set up his rotation in 2013 and how he’s lined them up to start this season.
- 2013: Norris.
- 2014: Scott Feldman.
You can argue this one all day and all night. And you wouldn’t be wrong. In other words, somewhat of a tossup, but I’ll give Feldman the edge because of maturity. Bud might still be in Houston if not for attitude. Edge: Feldman.
Do you even have to ask? The Astros are better in the #2 slot in 2014. No brainer, hands down. Cosart has better stuff, more upside and — injuries aside — will last longer in the rotation this season. Edge: Cosart. By. A. Mile.
Humber actually had a solid spring, but ended up spending more time in Oklahoma City than Houston. Because of his youth, not to mention his southpawness, Oberholtzer can step up big if he can connect his 2013 season with strong innings early on this season. Edge: Oberholtzer, if only because of his strong 2013 season.
- 2013: Brad Peacock.
- 2014: Lucas Harrell.
Harrell was bumped down in the rotation (#2 to #4) this season and Peacock is in the bullpen. Honestly, come the break, Harrell could be gone or in the bullpen and Peacock could be back in the rotation. Both have flashes, but neither will provide the consistency the Astros need. Edge: Pick ’em.
Some would call Keuchel a young man’s version of Bedard. Soft-throwing. Finesse. Crafty. Both pitched in relief and as a starter. In all likelihood, Keuchel will do so again. You could argue that Keuchel should win this battle because of his youth and the fact he’s my sleeper. He’s another pitcher who has the potential of going wire to wire on the roster. Edge: Pick ’em.
And, then, there’s the bullpen.
Bo Porter trotted out 26 different players to pitch last season. Of those 26, Norris was the only one who did not pitch in relief. That was out of necessity.
As long as injuries don’t take their toll, the bullpen — at least on paper — should be improved considerably. Even though Jesse Crain may not return for several weeks, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Josh Fields and other should bring some stability to the late game for Houston.
Come on, tell me you’d rather have these guys (from 2013) carrying gas cans to the mound: Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno, Rhiner Cruz and friends. Instead of Qualls, Albers, Fields, Kevin Chapman and Peacock.
Edge: 2014 pen. No argument. Without a doubt.
Now, here’s the ace up the sleeve or you could even call these guys a secret weapon of sorts. There are actually 3-4 players in the upper minors who could make a big splash by either late May or June. In fact, any one of them could be game changers and become the Roy Oswalt of 2001.
- Working his way back from Tommy John surgery last April. Most people forget he was tabbed as the fifth starter before he was injured. The 25-year-old is a former first rounder who possible top-of-the-rotation stuff. He could start in Houston’s bullpen sooner than later.
- The product of the J.A. Happ trade likely would have been on the roster albeit for that back strain. The Astros won’t rush him back, and he’ll need time to get into pitching shape. But he should be part of the mid-season cavalry for the pitching corps.
- Some believe he could actually be the best pitching prospect in the organization, and he’s pitched only 103 innings above A ball. Seasoning and getting control of that fastball is all that separates him from a call to Houston. Realistically, he could be a 2015 addition, but don’t count out 2014. Some people will scoff at the fact I can see him as a future closer, but I’m not alone in that mindset.
How do you rank ’em?