This is the first of the analysis of the American League East pitching rotations, and we start off with a staff that has severe questions, both in real life and for fantasy purposes. An injury to Dylan Bundy that will keep him out until mid-July at best and rumored negotiations with Ervin Santana muddy the waters in trying to figure out this rotation for the season, but we do have a pretty good idea who will open the season as the starting rotation.
Starting Pitching Rotation Analysis
Potential Rotation Alternatives
ADP designated by * indicates no reported ADP as of date of publication. Projections are based on a compilation of several sources (ZiPS, Oliver, Steamer, RotoChamp), given equal weight.
The Orioles possess a strong offensive lineup, but their pitching is not quite what I would classify as a top-notch staff. The signing of Ubaldo Jimenez generated praise, but my opinion is that he settled for the long-term security without considering what his new home park means for his pitching line. Camden Yards is one of my favorite parks, but it does not exactly play as a pitcher’s friend. Still, I could see Jimenez as being a worthwhile late middle round pick, as his peripherals should play out just fine, and his strikeout numbers make him a desirable SP4.
Miguel Gonzalez could certainly slide in as the Orioles’ number two starter, or his performance could relegate him to the back of the rotation. His home/away splits last year were oddly reversed from what one would expect, pitching to a .58 difference in ERA (3.48 at home vs 4.06 on the road) and a full .1 improvement in WHIP at home over his road numbers (1.17 to 1.27). He is not someone to avoid when he samples home cooking.
Chris Tillman is one of the youngsters that excites the fans in Charm City, and he could be named as the Opening Day starter. I am not excited about his FIP from 2013 (4.58 vs an ERA of 3.71), though, as it demonstrates that he was tapped for too many long balls (33) and benefitted from a 80.5% strand rate to keep his ERA below 4.00. With a fastball topping out in the low 90 MPH range, he needs to rely on his control to be successful.
Bud Norris can provide his owners with strikeouts, netting 57 in 50.2 innings after the trade by the Astros, but he also allows a ton of line drives that push up his BABIP (.338 in 2013). His fastball hovers around 92-93 MPH, and he needs to induce groundballs given his propensity to grant free passes to hitters facing him. His peripherals project out to make him a waiver wire pickup, to cover injury or for streaming purposes. Also, should the Orioles land Ervin Santana, then Norris would prolly be the first casualty to lose his slot in the rotation.
Wei-Yin Chen projects out as a decent MLB starting pitcher, but I am not comfortable relying upon him as part of my fantasy team’s starting pitching staff. His WHIP is a tad high for my tastes, and I try to avoid a pitcher with an ERA that exceeds 4.00, not to mention 4.23. He gives up too many fly balls to make me comfortable starting him at home, although his 2013 splits show a preference for pitching in Baltimore as opposed to on the road, which admittedly was a reverse of his 2012 trends.
Zach Britton could follow Tillman into the Baltimore rotation as another young pitcher out of minor league options. His disastrous drop in K/9 ratio in 2013 (4.05!) and a BB/9 rate nearly equal to that (3.83!!) however means that even if he elicits a good ratio of groundballs to flyballs, he is going to have an unacceptably high ERA and WHIP. You would do well to let someone else take him on draft day and suffer the consequences.
Kevin Gausman can certainly bring the heat, with a fastball in the mid-90s, and has been producing excellent K/9 (9.25), and K/BB (3.77) ratios. His homerun ratio (18.6% HR/FB) is not so stellar, and in Baltimore, that can produce disaster. If he does not make the roster out of spring, expect a trip to back to Triple-A Norfolk to work on keeping the ball in the park.
If you are targeting any Oriole starters for your team, I would suggest you look solely to Jimenez and if the team can come to terms with Ervin Santana, then he immediately becomes a possible rotation piece. Other than that, though, you would do well to use the balance of the Orioles’ starters as streaming options when the matchup is appropriate.
If you disagree with my assessments, or just want to discuss starting pitching,I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy comments and am more than willing to engage in discussion about fantasy baseball, so feel free to write.