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The Fight for the 5th Spot in the Rotation

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Houston Astros Media Availability Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Chandler Rome interviewed Brent Strom in regards to the 5th starter who said it had been narrowed down to 3 potential candidates. So let’s take a quick look at each of the front runners and what they bring to the table.

1.) Framber Valdez

2019 Stats: 4-7, 5.86 ERA, 8.66 K/9, 5.60 BB/9, 1.67 WHIP

2019 Advanced Stats: 4.75 SIERA, 4.31 xFIP,

Last Year’s Scouting Report from our own Jimmy Price:

Still a prospect despite making appearances in Houston last year, Valdez is a lefty who throws a heavy ball, working with a sinking fastball and vertical curveball. He had great success against minor league hitters and held his own in the bigs, but saw his walk rate balloon as more selective big league competition laid off his stuff. Valdez doesn’t have great location, and will need to find a way to drop pitches other than his four seamer for strikes more frequently to find big league success. At 25 years old, it is difficult to forecast a command jump, and his most likely roles look like middle or long relief, where he does project well.

Framber has not had the best run in the MLB yet, but the tools are still there. Here was a quote from Brent Strom:

“I never forget what (Mike) Trout said when he faced Valdez that it was some of the best stuff he’d seen in baseball.”

2.) Josh James

2019 Stats: 5-1, 4.70 ERA, 14.67 K/9, 5.14 BB/9, 1.32 WHIP

2019 Advanced Stats: 3.33 SIERA, 3.77 xFIP, .263 xwOBA

Commentary: James is one of the coolest success stories in the Astros system. As a player, his meteoric rise through the minors has been worthy of a TV movie, finding the secret way to un-tap his velocity by fixing his sleep apnea. (Which he only found out about due to a roommate complaining about his snoring). I did a deeper dive of James’ 2019 and found it to be far better than it appeared at first glance.

James has extremely high up-side due to both his high velocity and high spin rate - leading him to be an ideal candidate for the “Strom Magic Method”. If he is healthy, I can see James emerging as a very strong starter.

3.) Austin Pruitt

2019 Stats: 3-0, 4.40 ERA, 7.47 K/9, 2.30 BB/9, 1.26 WHIP

2019 Advanced: 4.06 SIERA, 3.93 xFIP, .302 xwOBA

Commentary: I’ll start off by admitting I’m higher on Pruitt than most. Why? Well, I did a whole article on it - called Could Austin Pruitt be Strom’s greatest project yet? Basically, it all boils down to spin rate. Which Pruitt has in gobs. The question will be if he can harness it. Pruitt, while possessing an extremely strong spin rate, has a very poor active spin - meaning that he’s not effectively gaining the advantage from his elite spin rate. (And yes, his spin rate is ELITE - top 10 for his Curveball, and 26.2 Bauer Units on the Fastball).

If Strom can convert some of his spin (which is well within the realm of possibility), we could see one of Strom’s greatest works forming in front of us. His upside will be somewhat limited due to velocity, but he is more than capable of surprising quite a few people as a strong starter.

Poll

Who should be the Astros’ 5th Starter?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Framber Valdez
    (69 votes)
  • 57%
    Josh James
    (266 votes)
  • 22%
    Austin Pruitt
    (105 votes)
  • 4%
    Other (Please say who in comments)
    (23 votes)
463 votes total Vote Now