The Milwaukee Brewers are expecting more out of their team this season, and that includes their starting rotation. Looking from top to bottom, I have to admit I am targeting all these starting pitchers in my drafts; where they are drafted depends on league depth.
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.
Yovani Gallardo is pointed to as why teams do not embrace the World Baseball Classic. While he was once again a steady force in the Milwaukee rotation, he was not exactly ace material until he went on the DL in August. After his "rest period," he had a 291 ERA and pitched nearly an inning more per start in his last 8 games. His strikeout rate took a significant dip, dropping from 8.99 in 2011 and 9.00 in 2012 to 7.17 last season. Fortunately, he maintained his extreme groundball tendencies to keep his homerun rate below one per nine innings. A rested Gallardo will again serve as the ace of the Brewers' staff, and if you can deal with the reduced strikeout tendency, he could be a decent SP4 for your team.
The Brewers signed Kyle Lohse as a free agent after he left St. Louis, expecting him to settle in as a consistent number two starter, and he did not disappoint. A 3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a 1.63 BB/9 ratio made his a valuable member of the rotation. He does not possess great strikeout ability, and has only moderate groundball inducing skills, and thus relies on his control to get him out of jams. If his control fails him, expect a bump in ERA, and target him only at the end of your drafts.
Matt Garza was signed as a free agent this winter, and figures to slot in as the third member of the Brewer rotation. With a 93 MPH fastball, he can rack up a decent number of whiffs, and his control keeps runners off the bases. He has not been impressive so far this spring, but his rotation spot is not in peril. He would be a decent middle round starting pitcher to target, working on the assumption he can continue to miss bats and limit the free passes.
Although his first full season in the Brewers' rotation was far from a success-4.37 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and only 129 strikeouts over 183.1 innings in 2013-he is back as a member of the starting staff in 2014. Wily Peralta does induce a ton of groundballs, which helps him overcome his less than stellar strikeout rate, but he needs to improve his control if he wishes to succeed as part of the back end of the Milwaukee rotation. You need to be desperate to draft him without a better indication of an ability to limit base runners.
Marco Estrada, just like Gallardo, was a different pitcher after a stint on the DL, posting a 2.15 ERA in his final nine starts. Coincidentally, he also participated in the WBC last season, so maybe there is something to this dislike of the tournament by MLB front offices. Estrada racks up strikeouts at a nice pace, 8.30 K/9 last season, which was down from the 9.30 he posted in 2012, but still tasty. Limiting walks also keeps his value high, and of all the Brewer starters, I would recommend taking him over the other members of the rotation, despite what Garza's ADP indicates.
With the rotation set, you should not worry about the other potential starting pitchers. Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg and Will Smith are simply injury fill-ins, or spot starter options, and with their projected stats, not at all worthy of a roster slot.
The Brewer rotation showcases 3 pitchers that can provide some strikeout potential for your fantasy teams, and Gallardo, Garza and Estrada should all be on your draft radar. Lohse and Peralta, not at all pitchers I am going to target this March, except in drafts with deep pitching rotation slots or lots of bench spots.
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.