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Mound Musings: Examining 30 No. 5 Starters

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

As we await Stephen Strasburg's debut, consider the eerie comparisons to the out-of-baseball Mark Prior and ponder Jim Joyce's place in baseball history, we'll look at 30 starters from 30 teams this week. These are guy presumably acting as the organization's No. 5 starter, and when you're a No. 5, your job security is less than that of a No. 4. Knowing who is next in line in the event of an injury or blow-up goes a long way in keeping ahead of one's fantasy competition.

That said. Here are the 30 of choice:

SOLID

Kris Medlen, Atlanta – Jair Jurrjens is rehabbing a hamstring injury that is expected to keep him out until the latter part of June, thus opening up the rotation for both Medlen and Kenshin Kawakami. Both are competing to remain in the rotation following Jurrjens' return, but it's really no competition whatsoever. I don't frequently (ever?) cite W/L record, but Bobby Cox can't like the fact Kawakami is 0-7 with a 4.66 ERA. Medlen: 2-1, 2.85 ERA, and a 32:9 K:BB in 41 innings.

Randy Wells, Chicago Cubs – Putting Wells as the most vulnerable Cub starter could be a mistake, but that 5/28 outing (0 IP, 5 ER) outing was ugly and Carlos Silva has a 3.12 ERA and struck out 11 last time out. The Cubs appear set in the rotation, but if they need another guy, top prospect Andrew Cashner could be the guy.

Homer Bailey, Cincinnati – Bailey is set to return from a shoulder injury sometime the week of June 7, bumping Sam LeCure back to Triple-A. LeCure posted a QS in his first start for the Reds, but the next time a starter is needed, the Reds could easily turn to Travis Wood (60:17 K:BB in 62.1 Triple-A innings) or Aroldis Chapman.

Wade Davis, Tampa Bay – Davis is a very good No. 5 starter, but a 5.8 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9, not so good. The choice when the Rays need another starter is quite easy. That would be the AL's #1 pitching prospect, Jeremy Hellickson (2.49 ERA, 67:12 K:BB in 65 innings). Hellickson has allowed more than three runs just once in 11 starts this year and is ready now.

Wade LeBlanc, San Diego – Like most of the San Diego rotation, LeBlanc has been solid (3.67 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 3.9 K/9), but he is probably the most vulnerable of the five to being replaced at some point. With Chris Young (shoulder) shut down indefinitely, the Padres could turn to 22 year-old Simon Castro (2.44 ERA in 10 games at Double-A), one of baseball's better pitching prospects.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston – Clay Buchholz is 7-3 with a 2.73 ERA, and finally seems to have established himself. Once Josh Beckett (back) returns in a week or two, Tim Wakefield will be bumped from the rotation, but then who is the most vulnerable Boston starter? Dice-K? A 5.49 ERA and 4.6 BB/9 says yes. A $102 million contract says no. If a “seventh starter” is ever needed, it would probably be Michael Bowden.

Nick Blackburn, Minnesota – Blackburn will probably rebound from Monday's shelling at the hands of the Mariners (?), but I still look at the 2.7 K/9 and shudder. Should the Twins need another starter, the Twins could choose to return Brian Duensing (1.69 ERA out of the bullpen) to the rotation, call up Jeff Manship (39:13 K:BB in 45.1 innings), or less likely, reach down to Double-A for their top pitching prospect, Kyle Gibson. Gibson has a 1.69 ERA and 63:17 K:BB in 69.2 innings between High-A and Double-A.

Javier Vazquez, NY Yankees – Should the Yankees decide to cut bait and deal Vazquez and his 6.06 ERA for pennies on the dollar, who would take over the fifth slot in the Bronx? Most likely not someone currently on the roster, but the most likely in-house candidate could be 22 year-old Zach McAllister (3.90 ERA, 5.9K/9, 1.8 BB/9).

Jason Hammel, Colorado – With a 3.62 ERA and 8.7 K/9, Jhoulys Chacin appears to have the No. 4 slot locked up, and with a healthy Jeff Francis, an overpaid Aaron Cook, and a fairly solid guy at the top, the rotation is pretty set for manager Jim Tracy. Hammel has been pitching well lately, but he still sports a 6.09 ERA and could be vulnerable at some point. With Jorge De La Rosa (finger) not due back any time soon, the Rockies don't have many other options. Esmil Rogers – pass. Prospect-wise, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek are two of the better ones in the game, but both are 1-2 years away from being viable options.

SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

Kyle Davies, Kansas City – This could just as easily be Luke Hochevar or Brian Bannister, but those two seem to have a bit more job security especially considering Davies' last two starts – 11 ER in nine innings. Davies is a former top prospect in the Braves organization, so I'm not ready to give up just yet. Davies though doesn't have a lot of job security, so if the Royals need another starter, we're probably looking at Bruce Chen, the likely fill-in for Gil Meche. Otherwise, the options are less than desirable, as the Royals top prospects (Mike Montgomery, Aaron Crow) aren't ready.

Felipe Paulino, Astros – A 4.40 ERA, an 8.2 K/9, and a fastball only exceeded in average velocity by Ubaldo Jimenez. That translates to: an 0-7 record. Paulino tossed eight shutout innings in his last start, but continues to be dogged by a lack of command (5.2 BB/9). I think he deserves quite a bit of rope, but should Houston disagree (yes, Ed Wade and I don't always see eye-to-eye), the Astros could always keep Brian Moehler around when Bud Norris (biceps) returns. Top prospect Jordan Lyles is faring well (2.84 ERA, 4:1 K:BB) in Double-A, but he's just 19 and Houston probably prefers to not rush him.

Ian Snell, Seattle – There are few bigger surprises in the game than Doug Fister (2.45 ERA) and Jason Vargas (2.92 ERA), leaving Snell as the most vulnerable Seattle starter. His 4.58 ERA and 1.71 WHIP could have the Mariners looking elsewhere soon. The best-case scenario for Erik Bedard (shoulder) appears to be sometime in July. It's difficult to see the "hyphen" Ryan Rowland-Smith (7.24 ERA) returning from the rotation, so figure the Mariners turn to Garrett Olson (3.66 ERA, 9.6 K/9 for Triple-A Tacoma).

Scott Kazmir, LA Angels – Kazmir has a 6.34 ERA, and as good as he was for the Angels last year, the injury speculation may have legs. Lower velocity and worsening command…not good. Should Kazmir need a DL stint, the Angels would probably choose between Trevor Bell and Sean O'Sullivan, as Trevor Reckling (6.28 ERA) is clearly not ready.

Freddy Garcia, Chicago White Sox – Gavin Floyd and Jake Peavy have ERAs worse than Garcia's 5.26, but my money is on Garcia failing before those guys. Dan Hudson has had a couple really bad starts this year in Triple-A, thus spiking his ERA to 4.56, but bottom line, Hudson has a very impressive 62:16 K:BB in 53.1 innings and may be an upgrade over Garcia right now. He'll be up sometime this summer.

Trevor Cahill, Oakland – Cahill has a 3.02 ERA despite a mediocre 20:14 K:BB in 41.2 innings. Cahill has good stuff, but a pitcher can only succeed for so long missing this few bats. Vincent Mazzaro is probably next in line should the A's need another starter.

Chris Capuano, Milwaukee – September 2007 was the last time we say Capuano (Tommy John surgery) in the majors. A 1.80 ERA in four Triple-A starts this year gets him the shot with the big club, with Manny Parra banished to the bullpen. Doug Davis (chest) is about three weeks away, so in the meantime, Capuano competes with Dave Bush and Chris Narveson for two rotation slots. Capuano is a good story and I'd certainly roll the dice there.

Adam Ottavino, St. Louis – Kyle Lohse (forearm) is out indefinitely and Brad Penny (back) is probably out at least another week. That leaves P.J. Walters and Adam Ottavino likely competing for one slot. Walters was shelled in his first start while Ottavino was slightly less awful. He's also a former first-round pick with an 8.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in Triple-A this season.

VULNERABLE

Luis Atilano, Washington – While Stephen Strasburg might act as the team's No. 5 starter to limit the future Hall-of-Famer/curer of cancer's innings load, it is Atilano that is the most vulnerable from being bumped once Strasburg is in the rotation – 4.70 ERA, 16:21 K:BB. Currently rehabbing injuries: Scott Olsen (shoulder – mid-to-late June), Chien-ming Wang (foot – early July), Jason Marquis (elbow – early July), and Jordan Zimmerman (elbow-Aug/Sept). Craig Stammen (5.88 ERA) likely loses his spot as well in the next month or so.

Nate Robertson, Florida – The Marlins don't have a Mike Stanton type prospect on the pitching side, so if a Robertson (4.30 ERA, 5.1 K/9, 4.3 BB/9) replacement is needed, it's probably going to be Rick VandenHurk, I guy I have a hard time recommending at this point.

R.A. Dickey, NY Mets – Good luck figuring this mess out. The Mets essentially have Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey (he himself a question mark coming into this season) and a bunch of candidates for the 3-5 slots. Jonathon Niese returns from a hamstring injury this Saturday, so that helps. He has some upside if he was dropped in deeper / keeper leagues. Dickey is fine as long as the knuckler is knuckling, but the 35 year-old has bounced around so much that it's tough to rely on his contributing. I like Jenrry Mejia long term assuming the Mets make the right decision to stretch him out in Triple-A, but just do yourself a favor and avoid the 4 and 5 slots.

Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia – J.A. Happ (forearm) likely bumps Kendrick from the rotation in about two weeks. Kendrick's 3.7 K/9 just doesn't cut it. The Phillies have no one interesting in the minors that are close to having fantasy relevance. Phillippe Aumont has a 6.85 ERA in Double-A and Trevor May a 4.98 mark in High-A.

Dana Eveland, Pittsburgh – Placeholder for Brad Lincoln. Move along. Actually a solid start or two by Eveland could have Lincoln replacing Brian Burres (5.62 ERA, 1.70 WHIP) in a week or two.

Dontrelle Willis, Arizona – Willis may get just one or two starts to convince the Dbacks to carry him over Kris Benson (shoulder – due back in about a week) on the 25-man roster. The move to the NL will help Willis, but is it enough to overcome a 6.0 BB/9? Doubtful. $1 NL-only bids please.

Todd Wellemeyer, San Francisco – Madison Bumgarner has a 1.29 ERA and 37:17 K:BB in his last nine starts (55.2 innings). We'd love to see more strikeouts, but that's something that could come in time. Look for the Giants to cut bait on Wellemeyer in the next couple weeks and recall Bumgarner.

Carlos Monasterios, LA Dodgers – John Ely has made the back end of the LA rotation less of a black hole, but there are still issues in the five hole. Vicente Padilla (forearm) is still a couple weeks out, so Monasterios will likely fill in until Padilla returns. At some point Scott Elbert could be an option, but he has a 5.40 ERA for Triple-A Albuquerque. Monasterios appears to offer little upside despite the 2.20 ERA, as you won't have an ERA that low for long with a 4.3 K/9 and .248 BABIP.

Bradley Bergensen, Baltimore – Perhaps after Wednesday, the Orioles will finally come to the conclusion that Bergensen is not a major league starter. Six runs in 2.1 innings against the Yankees leaves Bergensen with a 6.75 ERA. Meanwhile in Triple-A, Jake Arrietta has a 1.77 ERA and has allowed two runs in his last 22 innings with a 23:6 K:BB. Arrietta may be recalled by the time you read this.

Brian Tallet, Toronto – There's really no reason to think that Tallet (4.63 ERA) will have any sort of success, so who's next in line? That would be Jesse Litsch, who is set to return on June 8 from Tommy John surgery. Pardon me if I watch Stephen Strasburg that day instead, but Litsch is worth a couple bucks in AL-only leagues.

Mitch Talbot, Cleveland – Talbot's 3.78 ERA ranks second among the team's five starters, so we could easily consider David Huff or Justin Masterson the No. 5 starter. Talbot though has a so-so minor league track record and for the Indians this year, his peripherals are mediocre at best – 3.7 K/9, 3.2 BB/9. That tells me a big ERA correction is coming, and if it does, the Indians really have no desirable major league talent in the upper minors. Justin Germano might be next in line.

Armando Galarraga, Detroit – So I had this name on here before Thursday's start. Much will be written about this one, so we won't go into how bad a call that was or whether Jim Joyce even realized the magnitude of the moment. Regardless, Galarraga's job status gets significantly more secure after this one. The Detroit “sixth starter” probably comes from a less-than-desirable group of Triple-A starters – Enrique Gonzalez, Alfredo Figaro, and Phil Dumatrait.

Tommy Hunter, Texas – Hunter is filling in for the injured Derek Holland (shoulder), and his stay in the rotation appears to be short-lived. Once Holland returns, the Rangers will have Hunter and Matt Harrison on the outside looking in. Guillermo Moscoso (2.95 ERA, 33:16 K:BB in 36.2 innings at Triple-A) could also be an option at some point.

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