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Astros spring training roster battles: Fifth starter

Who will win the final rotation spot?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, we looked at what the battle at catcher might look at this spring. Today, we'll look at who might win that elusive fifth starter spot.

Assuming that Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman and Brett Oberholtzer have jobs locked up, that leaves a slew of guys to battle it out for that fifth and final rotation spot. Here are the picks of the TCB staff, complete with their rationale for who will win the job.


Dan Straily: Great K-BB% rate. He's away from the Cubs who apparently misused him by having him throw his two-seamer more and his slider less. A return to the fastball/slider/change-heavy approach from 2013, plus some sequencing tutelage under Brent Strom, plus a return to a rational HR/FB rate for a fly-ball pitcher, and he'll put up an ERA at or under 4.00 in 2015.


For the first couple of months, I think we will see the 5th starter rotated in and out of Fresno in order to carry an additional roster spot. So, there may effectively be two No. 5 starters who will take their turn and return to Fresno. When one of the two separates himself as the best choice, he can cease the movement between AAA and the big league team. My guess is that Straily and Buchanan will have the No. 5 slot revolving door. But this isn't an easy prediction; it's fairly wide open. And some of the candidates may not have options, which could affect the ability to carry out the AAA strategy. I also think there is a decent chance that the younger pitchers don't distinguish themselves in the spring, and Hernandez gets the swing man role in the bullpen, making a few of the early starts in the No. 5 slot.


Dan Straily clearly has the best talent among the candidates, and has significant MLB experience to boot. He needs help, but once he works with Brent Strom for a while, I think he'll break out. Despite using his two-seamer a lot last year, his GB% didn't look good and he allowed a lot of homers. It seems clear that that's not his game. Refocusing on the slider should boost his strike out rate and help him compete. It's possible that he'll need some time in AAA to get everything to click, a la Collin McHugh, but he's the favorite as long as he can make those changes before Opening Day.

Ernie Breakfast

One player who I don't think has been mentioned much in the 5th starter spot is Samuel Deduno. He didn't get a lot of time to pitch here after claiming him off waivers last season. From all accounts he seems to have good stuff, including a good ground ball rate, which the Astros love. The one question about him has always been control, and at 31 I'm not sure that can be taught (or corrected). But I have faith in our coaching staff, and though I don't think they are magicians, I would love to see what Deduno can do after a full spring with their help.


Among the possible choices of Jake Buchanan, Samuel Deduno, Dan Straily and Roberto Hernandez, and a few others, Straily will end up making the most starts in 2015. But to start the season, my guess is Buchanan gets the nod. Straily's 2014 was certainly one to forget, but he has the talent to fit into this rotation. I'd expect Houston to send Straily to Fresno and make sure he's got everything in order before slotting him in the MLB rotation. Remember Collin McHugh appeared in five games (three starts) at AAA last season before having an incredible season at the big league level. The Astros likely knew McHugh had the talent to start over Lucas Harrell, but opted to pump up McHugh's confidence first. Buchanan was serviceable for the Astros last year, and certainly can do the same to start this season.

David Spradley

At first I wanted to say Straily, but actually I'd prefer if he was handled the way Roy Oswalt was, and we let him work out of the bullpen at first to build his confidence. After he gets some quality appearances under his belt then the team could move him into the rotation full time. To start the season I'd go with Jake Buchanan.

Tyler Rosser

I expect Straily to lock down the 5th spot after a month or so at Fresno. In the time prior, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hernandez or Buchanan hold down the 5th spot. Hernandez wasn't that bad last year and should do an excellent job filling the long reliever/swingman role. Brad Peacock seems to be the forgotten man,but I expect once Peacock comes back and is healthy, we might see him and Straily battle it out for the 5th spot.