MLB Rotations: Sorting the Starting Five: March 14
James Grande breaks down starting rotation battles and gives his thoughts on who the favorites to win the job are.
When this article drops on Thursday morning, we’ll officially be two weeks away from opening day..HOW?! Since we’re two weeks away from real baseball being played -- the earliest start in MLB history by the way -- we still need to figure out what’s going in rotations across baseball. We had 10 situations being monitored last week, so let's hop in and see what’s going on with those 10 and if there are any more that we need to pay attention too.
New York Yankees
So shortly after the debut article dropped, manager Aaron Boone came out and said he envisions Domingo Germán and Jonathan Loaisiga as the two final starters of the rotation to start the year. German has done nothing but impress to start this spring and has done what his M.O. is and that’s strike everyone out. He’s punched out 12 opponents over 7.2 innings, which is what truly makes him valuable for seasonal formats early on. The best part about German’s spring success is the fact that he has not only struck out 12, but his K:BB ratio is 12:1. In 28 career games he has a 3.9 BB/9, so the improvement he is showing is great news moving forward.
Loaisiga, unlike German, is not pitching well this spring, which has led some people to believe maybe Luis Cessa should win the job. If you want to compare their springs and use that as metric on who will win the job, Cessa is in the lead despite Loaisiga being Boone’s preferred option. That said, Loaisiga has given up 10 earned runs over nine innings while Cessa has only allowed one earned and has a 10:0 K:BB over nine innings. We have two weeks to go and Loaisiga is slightly ahead despite pitching poorly, but we need to continue to monitor what happens. I’d have more interest in Loaisiga than Cessa despite his struggle; he just possesses more upside, especially in the strikeout department.
There is a battle a brewin’ in Mo-Town as both Daniel Norris and Matt Moore are pitching fairly well as they battle for the final spot. Norris particularly was impressive his last time out throwing three scoreless innings against the defending champion Red Sox. The home run ball is the only thing really hurting Norris right now as all three earned runs he’s allowed are via a solo home run.
Moore has shown a little more consistency in the big leagues, at least earlier in his career he did, but that’s not saying much when talking about his last couple of seasons. Moore has a 3.97 ERA over 11.1 innings and four appearances. Moore is in the lead, but Norris is making his manager and coaching staff think about going a different route.
Houston, Problem Solved
At one point, before spring training began, this was a three horse race and there was no clear leader. All that has changed just two weeks prior to Opening Day as Brad Peacock has emerged as the favorite. He’s thrown eight scoreless innings with a K:BB ratio of 5:1. We’ve seen Peacock be fairly dominant as a starter previously as he notched a 29.1-percent K-rate across 111.2 innings in 2017. Peacock is a legitimate SP3 option if he flashes the ability to give the Astros length. The best part about Peacock is not only the ability to strike people out, but that he’ll be both SP and RP eligible.
Frambar Valdez, who was at one point in this race, pitched himself right out of it allowing six earned over 9.1 innings thus far in spring. He could make the team out of camp in the bullpen, but five walks in the 9.1 innings he’s pitched is less than ideal for anyone, but especially pitchers throwing just an inning or two per appearance.
Battle North of the Border
I’m not sure how much of a battle it is because the Blue Jays are taking a way bigger look at Ryan Borucki than they are with Clayton Richard . Richard has only made two appearances this spring while Borucki has thrown in four games and has thrown 12 innings compared to 4.2 for Richard. The Blue Jays have a lot more to invest in with Borucki than they do with Richard.
We hit on the fact neither guy is much of a strikeout artist and neither has much fantasy value no matter who ends up winning the job in the last piece and that hasn’t suddenly changed. I have little to no interest in the winner or the loser of this job.
Possibly the most interesting battle of them all is the one going down in Atlanta. They have three, count them three, top prospects battling for the final rotation spot and all three have shown they deserve the job. Ultimately, two of them could make it out of camp with Mike Foltynewicz possibly missing a couple of starts, but who’s the one that stays when Folty returns?
Wright checks into this year as the 30th ranked prospect according to Major League Baseball. In eight spring innings he’s notched a 2.25 ERA and 11:1 K:BB ratio and is averaging 12.4 K/9. He’s been more of an eight strikeout type of pitcher throughout his minor league career, so I’m not sure how sustainable the mark he has now is. He is a four-pitch pitcher with a fastball that averages around 94 MPH, so he does have room to improve in the strikeout department.
Max Fried is another Braves arm in the top-100 prospects and another pitcher having a nice spring. I brought up why I thought Fried would be the favorite and my opinion hasn’t really changed that much. He has the most MLB experience from last year plus we should factor in his confidence being able to make the postseason roster and appear in FOUR games last season. He’s striking out over a better per inning thus far in spring. With the Braves last season, Fried had an elite K-rate of 31-percent.
Finally there’s Touki Toussaint who’s behind the pack based on his performance thus far. But, of course because why make things easy, Toussaint’s last outing was a three-inning shutout out of the bullpen. Across 136.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A Toussaint had a 10.8 K/9 last year. He has tremendous strikeout upside if he comes from behind and wins the job.
All three are worth adds dependent on the league you play in. All three are dynasty options and whichever one wins the job can be added in all formats. Wright because of how well he’s pitched and his current prospect status would be the one I’d keep my eye on the most if he doesn’t win the job.
Los Angeles Dodgers
There’s nothing really new going on with the Dodgers as Ross Stripling is clearly the guy with Clayton Kershaw out for a period of time. Stripling threw 3.2 innings on Wednesday allowing no earned runs lowering his spring ERA to 2.08 over 8.2 IP. Stripling was an All-Star just a year ago and has had plenty of success during stretches of his three-year major league career. You want to own him in all formats heading into the season.
Angels Shut Down Andrew Heaney
With Andrew Heaney complaining about elbow discomfort, the Angels have shut him down for the time being and because it’s too early in the process to know much of anything, there is no timetable for his return. He only threw 1.2 innings this spring which means they’re going to have to dip into the rest of their roster to find a replacement to open the season with. We do know Matt Harvey , Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Cahill definitely will pitch every fifth day, but there are definitely some questions as to what happens with the final two spots.
Jamie Barria and Felix Pena seem the two candidates most likely to win the jobs, but Dillon Peters could pitch his way into a job or at least force the Angels to think about it. Barria has a clear advantage as he started 26 games for the Halos just last season. Barria had a 3.41 ERA across 129.1 innings, but the 4.99 xFIP to go along with his ERA suggests some regression. Barria isn’t exactly a strikeout artist either posting a 6.82 K/9 in ‘18. I wouldn’t mind using Barria as a streaming option to begin the year if he does in fact win a job.
The 29-year old Pena also started 15 games for Los Angeles last year and has begun his spring on a roll, punching out 11 batters across 8.2 innings while allowing just two earned runs. Peters has been just as good if not better, but he’s just not as big of a strikeout threat. He’s thrown 10 innings allowing just one earned. Neither are appealing out of simply streaming them for a start in a good matchup.
The Royals are most likely going to leave Danny Duffy in extended spring training to build up arm strength after being shut down due to elbow tightness. There hasn’t been an official word on how long he’ll miss, but it’s most likely a couple of starts. The title being “Royal-ly Fudged” is because...brace yourselves...Homer Bailey is in contention for the fifth and final rotation spot.
Now, the thing about Bailey is he has an opt-out clause if he’s not going to make the rotation, which is obviously a possibility given the fact he’s allowed eight hits and four earned over just 3.1 innings. Heath Fillmyer is the other option and he has experience doing so as he made 13 starts for the Blue Shirts last year. Unfortunately, Duffy’s injury does nothing for us from a fantasy perspective because nobody would even consider even streaming Bailey if he earned a few starts and nobody is interested in Fillmyer and his 6.2 K/9 either.