It’s Monday morning and what else do I have to do, but wonder about the Houston Astros 2012 starting lineup? Well, plenty, but it seems like a good use of my time at the moment. I mean, we’re days away from the Home Opener and these are pressing issues in my little brain.
Every time I think I have the starting rotation solidified in my head, someone has a shaky start or a flat out bad one, calling into question everything I thought I knew to be true. So let’s take a look at who the contenders likely still are what this Houston chick thinks the rotation could look like.
Wandy Rodriguez – RHP – Wandy’s a definite and is likely to be the start of the rotation. He’s been nothing short of consistent for this club in recent years. His W/L record, like anyone pitching for Houston lately is not impressive, but he’s had little defensive and run support to back him up. He’ll likely be the Opening Day pitcher (despite the fact that I think Bud Norris deserves a shot) and there’s plenty of reasons to state emphatically that he deserves it. His ST hasn’t been ideal, but Wandy typically turns it on when he needs to and will be a reliable top of the rotation guy for 2012.
Bud Norris - RHP – Studly Cuddly Budly is the guy that the Astros are hoping to build their pitching around in the future, and he’s taken that seriously so far in ST. He’s 2-1 with a 5.00 ERA thus far, walking a few more than he’d probably like, but still managing to strike out 5 in 9 innings pitched. Bud’s made no secret of his desire to go deeper into games this season and is working up to being a 200 inning pitcher. I look for Bud to be the number 2 guy in the rotation this year.
JA Happ – LHP – Happ struggled at times last season, spending a little time in AAA getting the Burt Hooten treatment in OKC. He came back at the end of the season to wow us all with vast improvements. I’m not sure that what we’ve seen of him in ST this year has been as good as he was at the end of 2011, but it’s vastly better than he was at the start of 2011. I’ll take it. He’s 1-1 with a 6.59 ERA in Spring Training and despite walking 7 in 13.2 innings, I believe his control is better that it was in 2011. He’ll be a middle of the rotation starter and I look for him to regain his late-2011 stride when the season starts.
Kyle Weiland – RHP- In my humble opinion, Weiland has earned a spot in the starting rotation. With a 2-0 record for Spring Training and a mere 2.25 ERA he’s shown he’s got the stuff to lead this team from the mound. He had a few issues with command in one of his starts, but he still managed to pull out decants outings in those situations. In my mind, he’s the 4th piece of the rotation puzzle.
So who is the 5th starter? It comes down to Livan Hernandez, Jordan Lyles and Zach Duke.
Livan Hernandez - RHP – The “old man” of the contenders, Livan Hernandez has made a name for himself in the MLB for being able to go the distance in games. His ability to eat innings alone makes him an attractive pitcher. He’s 4-4 with a 4.38 ERA in Spring Training and I believe he’ll be the 5th guy in the Astros rotation. His pitching thus far in camp has been consistent with what he’s done historically in the majors and there’s a lot to be said for consistency in the rotation, especially where the Astros are concerned.
Jordan Lyles – RHP – I’ve made no secret of the fact that despite his incredible maturity, I think Lyles needs a bit more time down in the minors. Despite the fact that I think he’ll start the season in AAA, I’d take him over Zach Duke at this point. For one, he’s a future star for the Astros if he’s properly mentored and developed, but also his command seems to be a bit better. He’ll likely start in the minors, but I also think we’re likely to see him pitch at Minute Maid Park sometime this season.
Zach Duke – LHP – Duke has struggled in Spring Training, going 4-3 with an 11.30 ERA. In 14 innings he’s walked 6 while striking out 8. But that ERA shows just how hittable he is. I think with some time in AAA, he could prove to be a great back up for when someone in the rotation is injured or traded. Is it possible he could spend some time in the bullpen? Absolutely.
Like any of my predictions (or guesses) it remains to be seen what the front office and Brad Mills will do prior to Opening Day. Regardless of their choices, what we are seeing in the options of pitchers is far better than what we have seen. There is hope and potential in this crop and I’m banking on the organization to be forward thinking as they make these decisions.
Terri Schlather (AGirlintheSouth) is the tortured Senior Houston Astros Writer for Aerys Sports. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her ridiculous ramblings on sports, vodka and the weeone on twitter @agirlinthesouth.