Another team suffering from rotation depletion, the Rangers can at least expect Matt Harrison back early in the season, while Derek Holland has been placed on the 60-day DL which will keep him out until June or longer. Any hope with regard to rest of the Rangers' patchwork starting pitching staff? Read on for the analysis.
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.
On Sunday morning, I heard a disturbing report that Yu Darvish was being shut down. Fortunately, it was "just" a case of neck stiffness. Any time you hear neck or back problems with a ballplayer, you worry, and this is no exception, with rumors of surgery surfacing, As of Wednesday, an examination showed no structural damage to his neck, but he will miss his Opening Day start. What you can expect is an excellent strikeout rate, with superb peripherals. If you want him, this latest news may make him a tad more affordable, but he will not automatically become a bargain. If you want his 11.18 career K/9 ratio on your squad, be prepared to draft him in the first two rounds.
Martin Perez was able to parlay his improving performance in 2013 into a four year contract with a three year club option, although he is not an overwhelming pitcher if you look at any of his stats. He does possess a 93 MPH fastball, but his strikeout numbers are below average, and his K/BB at 2.68 in 2013 in the majors is only average. Keeping the ball on the ground will offset his undesirable 1.1 HR/9 rate, and make him more productive, and I expect to see continued improvement, just not a huge leap in skills in 2014. Target him late as he could be a sleeper who surprises.
Tanner Scheppers is now the number three starter in Texas, with the injuries to Harrison and Holland opening up a spot for the former reliever. He could find himself back in the bullpen later this season, His fastball has been sitting in the mid-90s this spring, which should translate into more strikeouts with him taking a regular rotation role. Don't expect his 1.88 ERA to translate precisely from the pen to the rotation, but also do not expect it to blow up either, and his WHIP should take a bump up as well, but nothing unacceptable from a SP4/5.
It seemed more likely that Robbie Ross would be a bullpen resident than a member of the Texas rotation. He was a starter in him minor league days, however, and the Scheppers move to the rotation shows that the Rangers are willing to move pitchers around. He has been rewarded with a rotation spot after a good spring. He had a nice upward bounce in his strikeout rate in 2013, going from 6.51 in 2012 to 8.37 in 2013, but he will need to demonstrate a better ability to get lefties out than he showed in 2013 to be an effective starter. After making the rotation, he gains some real value as a potential source of strikeouts and good peripherals.
There is very little to recommend Joe Saunders to fantasy players. He pitches a lot of innings, but the results are of little use to his owners, as he struggles with his control and does not miss many bats. Instead, he relies on pitching to contact and keeping the ball on the ground. That might work at the MLB level for a back end starter, but it is disaster for a fantasy team. Stay far away from Joe Saunders, on draft day and beyond.
Once upon a time, Colby Lewis was a sought after starting pitcher by fantasy players. Unfortunately for him, 2013 saw him suffer a torn flexor tendon, and then a rehab setback and hip resurfacing surgery in August. It is possible he could finally be fully back, but I am taking more of a wait and see approach before I would even put him on my radar. His fastball velocity has taken a hit with his health problems, dropping into only the mid-80s which does not bode well for a return to strikeout dominance (to be fair, his career K/9 is only 7.62, a decent but average number).
The question for Tommy Hanson is whether he is damaged goods, with both the Braves and Angels cutting him loose the past two seasons. 2013 saw him hit the DL with a forearm strain, and that could account for his sub-par strikeout rate and worsening control: 6.90 K/9 and 3.70 BB/9 in 2013, both career worsts. If you want to gamble, go to the track, don't draft Tommy Hanson …that's my advice.
Matt Harrison should be back early in April, as he continues to work his pitch count up in exhibition games. He has produced decent peripherals, not great ones, but he also keeps the ball on the ground and with the Rangers' infield, that plays well for him. He could be a good late round choice in a deeper mixed league, and certainly is a viable choice in an AL-only league, if he does not experience any setback in his recovery from his back and shoulder woes.
Derek Holland seems to think he can be back pitching in June, which strikes me as overly optimistic. I wouldn't expect him back on the mound until after the All Star break, so leave him to reside on the wire, or if you have enough DL spots, pick him up or slot him there after your draft.
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.