MLB Rotations: Sorting the Starting Five: March 27
James Grande breaks down starting rotation battles and gives his thoughts on who the favorites to win the job are.
With the MLB season beginning tomorrow, well sort of starting tomorrow, this is the last edition of this article. Rotations are all but set barring any crazy injuries of course. There have obviously been some surprises in terms of who won jobs and who didn’t, so let me take you through all of them!
An Unknown in San Diego
It’s not that Chris Paddack is really that unknown as he came into the year a consensus top-70 prospect in the game, but he has thrown just 37.2 innings above the Single-A level. That being said, he had one hell of a spring racking up a 20:2 K:BB ratio over 12.2 innings. San Diego is letting it all hang loose so to speak starting both Paddack and Fernando Tatis Jr. in the big leagues after making a huge splash signing Manny Machado .
In 37 minor league games, Paddack notched an 11.7 K/9 to go along with a 1.0 BB/9 flashing not only his swing and miss stuff, but his impeccable control. Paddack is going to start the year as the team's third starter. There’s really nothing more valuable than the strikeout in fantasy and if his 11-plus K/9 plays in the majors, he’s quite the good add for the latter part of your pitching staff.
John Gant Even Win a Rotation Spot
See what I did there? John Gant came into camp with the job, but Dakota Hudson took it from right underneath his feet. Gant didn’t have a bad spring training posting a 3.86 ERA, but he doesn’t possess anything that will wow you. His 3.61 ERA as a starter was very respectable, but the 2.70 ERA out of the bullpen was even better.
All that was nice from Gant, but Dakota Hudson -- as previously mentioned -- stole the show this spring and there isn’t much more than that. He made six appearances (four as a starter) and threw 21.2 sparkling innings posting a 1.25 ERA. He struck out 20 opponents which led to a 8.3 K/9. The strikeouts aren’t likely going to be sustainable, but he’s had a LOT of success at basically every stop he’s made. Before being called up last year, Hudson went 13-3 with a 2.74 ERA at Triple-A, allowing just ONE home run over 111.2 innings. In the 26 appearances he made with St. Louis, he posted a 2.63 ERA and didn’t allow ANY homers. Hudson puts the ground in groundball pitcher as he induced his opponents into a 60.8-percent GB rate last year. He features a 97 MPH sinking fastball which is what he gets his opponents to just hammer into the ground. Hudson is a really strong back of the rotation pitcher for your fantasy roster.
The Tigers Got Their Guy
That guy is Spencer Turnbull . Turnbull’s real opportunity opened up when Michael Fulmer went down for the year. The team was already considering stretching their rotation out and using six arms, but the Fulmer injury crushed that. Turnbull had an excellent spring posting a 1.80 ERA over 15 innings. He posted a very impressive 15:2 K:BB ratio to boot. Turnbull has a chance at being a pretty decent strikeout pitcher at the major league level as he’s notched an 8.5 K/9 throughout his minor league and brief major league career as well.
Turnbull beat former top prospect Daniel Norris for the final rotation spot, but Norris too made the big-league roster, he’ll just be pitching out of the bullpen. Norris didn’t do himself any good this spring allowing 11 earned runs across 14.2 innings, but maybe a light at the end of the tunnel was the fact he was hitting 94 on the radar gun in his last spring outing. Last year at the major league level, he averaged 90.7 MPH on his fastball. Norris is definitely the first option for Detroit if they ever need a spot start or if someone goes down with an injury. Keep an eye out for him on your waiver wire.
Braves Flashing Depth to Start The Year
Two injuries to the starting staff for Atlanta? No problem. The Braves will slot two rookies in Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright into the rotation to start the second and third games of the year while Max Fried is their fifth starter and is scheduled for the sixth contest. Mike Foltynewicz has only thrown two spring innings but has a rehab outing coming this Friday in which he’s expected to toss 50 pitches. He’s still on track for a mid-April return, but that allows one of these young guys an opportunity at multiple starts. As for the other injured Braves starter, Kevin Gausman has a sore shoulder, but the team said he could be back in time for the second turn in the rotation.
Once the Braves rotation is back up to speed and everyone is healthy, it seems as if only one of them will remain with the big-league club. Max Fried is likely the favorite and don’t read into him being the current “fifth” starter because he’s lined up to start the sixth game of the year. They simply want to use their righties in the first series of the year and the lefties against the Cubs in series number two. Fried had the most impressive camp of the three pitching to a 2.08 ERA and striking out 18 opponents in 17.1 innings. He does, however, need to work on his control because he walked six batters in spring which played out to a 3.1 BB/9, which won’t stick in the bigs.
Wilson and Wright are both top-100 prospects, however, and if they pitch well enough in their peer’s absence, maybe they could steal the job away from Fried. Wright has more experience at higher levels as Wilson has pitched just 22 innings above Double-A. Wright appeared in four outings last September for the Braves. Fried has the most fantasy appeal as of now of all three of them. Wilson and Wright, however, could be streaming options considering one or both could see multiple starts considering where they’re being slotted in the rotation.
The Brew-Crew Going Young
The Brewers announced their rotation a few days ago and four of the five starters were 26 or younger. Chase Anderson and Jimmy Nelson are two notable names that did NOT make the cut. Anderson will start the year in the bullpen and Nelson, on the injured list.
After Jhoulys Chacín , Freddy Peralta , Brandon Woodruff , Corbin Burnes and Zach Davies round of the rotation. Chacin is the most known of the group and is starting opening day. Peralta is taking the ball for Game 2, which if you remember him from last year, shouldn’t surprise you given the arm talent he is. In 78.1 major league innings in 2017, Peralta bolstered an elite 29.9-percent K-rate. He needs to cut down the 41.4-percent hard hit rate he allowed last year to really shine, but he’s someone I’d be interested in for my fantasy teams because of his ability to miss bats.
We knew basically all spring that Brandon Woodruff was going to make the rotation, so this isn’t a shocking development. He just cemented it even further by dominating this spring posting a 2.55 ERA across five starts while striking out 26 batters in just 17.2 innings. The strikeouts are seemingly a thing considering his 10 K/9 last year at the big-league level across 42.1 innings, including four starts. Woodruff, like Peralta before him, is firmly in play as a back end of the rotation pitcher for our fantasy squads.
Corbin Burnes might be the most exciting prospect of them all. We saw him pitch exclusively out of the Milwaukee pen last year and have very solid success notching a 2.61 ERA across 38 innings. The most impressive part of Burnes’ arsenal is his ability to generate swings and misses. He had a 15.2-percent swinging strike rate last year which, in comparison to his teammate, is just under four percentage points higher than Freddy Peralta (10.8) and Peralta is the guy posting a near 30-percent K-rate. Does that not just excite the crap out of you for the untapped potential of Burnes?
Finally, Zach Davies rounds of the staff and he’s easily the least exciting one of them all and somebody we can avoid completely. Who’s to say he even keeps his job once Jimmy Nelson is healthy enough to return to the Brewers? Don’t waste a roster spot on Davies.
Injuries Sure Up Oakland Rotation
It was kind of a given that Frankie Montas and Aaron Brooks would win the final two rotation spots for Oakland once Jesús Luzardo was shut down for at least a month with a shoulder injury, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Brooks is a 28-year old journeyman who doesn’t hold much fantasy appeal other than an occasional stream. He did, however, look great in his last spring training game hurling five-plus innings while allowing just one run and that run was scored once he exited the game.
Montas, however, does hold some fantasy value for us. Montas is still just 22-years old and if you can believe it, he was once a top-100 prospect prior to the 2015 and ‘16 seasons, meaning when he was legitimately a teenager. He’s pitched fabulously this spring allowing just ONE earned run over 16 innings. He struck out a better per inning as well and definitely worked on his control posting a 2.8 BB/9. That’s an improvement on the 3.7 mark he’s posted throughout his career in the minors and majors combined.
Toronto Blue Jays
Thanks to a couple of injuries to Ryan Borucki and Clay Buchholz , the Blue Jays have named Trent Thornton one of the five starting pitchers in their rotation to start the year. The 25-year old Thornton made 22 starts at Triple-A last season posting a 4.42 ERA across 124.1 innings. He did have a strong K/9 or 8.8 and showed good control to boot walking only 2.2 batters per nine innings. The Jays didn’t comment whether or not Thornton would return to the pen when guys like Borucki and Buchholz returned, so he’ll need to really impress the team if he wants to stay around and pitch every fifth day. I’d take a wait and see approach of Thornton before jumping the gun and even using him as a streamer.
The Angels Make a Trade, Add a Starter
The Angels were primed to enter the year with Trevor Cahill , Matt Harvey , Tyler Skaggs , Félix Peña and Jamie Barria until they made a deal with the Giants to acquire Chris Stratton . Manager Brad Ausmus has already come out and said Stratton will be immediately plugged into the rotation in place of Barria.
Stratton has made 36 starts over the past two seasons, 26 last year, but hasn’t had a ton of success. It also doesn’t help that he’s leaving the premier pitchers park in all of baseball to pitch in LA. According to the Fantasy Alarm Ballpark page from the 2018 campaign, Angels Stadium ranked 17th in runs but they really struggled with home runs ranking sixth in the league. The reason I bring that up is because Stratton allowed 19 homers over 145 innings last season, which doesn’t bode well for him going forward. He doesn’t have much, if any, fantasy appeal heading into the year.