While pondering what Stephen Strasburg allowing five runs in 1.2 innings in a rehab start Wednesday means for his 2011 future, let's look around the league at 30 rotations, six pitching prospects, and three bullpen situations ...
Arizona – Lefty Wade Miley got the call this week to replace the injured Jason Marquis (leg). As someone who lives in Reno and saw Miley pitch, he's worth a look. In 54.1 innings at Triple-A, Miley had a 3.64 ERA with an impressive 56:16 K:BB in 54.1 innings. He's also proven to have the ability to keep the ball in the park, which will serve him well in Chase Field.
Atlanta – When everyone is healthy, this is a pitching staff that goes eight deep, with Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado representing positions 6-8. Must be nice.
Baltimore – The big news was the return of Brian Matusz, who proceeded to lay a six-run egg against the light-hitting A's. Maybe he needs to hit the weight room or improve his mechanics, as his velocity while increased from earlier in the year, is still down from what we saw in 2009-2010.
Boston – I don't see Clay Buchholz (back) returning this year, making me wonder if the Red Sox turn back to Kyle Weiland (9.2 Triple-A K/9) despite his brief big-league struggles.
Chicago Cubs – Two legitimate starters in Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza and then a bunch of questions with nothing really ready in the upper minors. It's not a good time to be a Cubs fan (insert 1908-related joke here).
Chicago White Sox – Zach Stewart over Philip Humber? Judging by recent starts by each, it's a resounding "yes," but Humber probably gets a little more rope.
Cincinnati – Dontrelle Willis' sore forearm was likely to blame for his poor outing against the Padres, but let's see another start from him before projecting the rest of 2011. Travis Wood awaits should Willis' struggles continue.
Cleveland – Carlos Carrasco should be back in late August from an elbow injury. Meanwhile, the Indians five-hole will tread water with the uninspiring Jeanmar Gomez.
Colorado – Kevin Millwood has looked semi-competent in his first two starts of the year, and he's actually showing decent (upper-80s) velocity for him. Maybe an NL-only look is in order for the desperate.
Detroit – Look up "weak link" in the dictionary and you might see a picture of Brad Penny. Jacob Turner and Andrew Oliver are candidates to replace Penny and his 4.99 ERA.
Florida – Still seems odd to see Clay Hensley in the rotation, and after six starts, Hensley has a 4.99 ERA. Brad Hand, though, remains Plan B, so Hensley should continue to get more looks.
Houston – Jordan Lyles is fading, and with the Astros looking to limit his innings, expect Lyles to be shut down near Labor Day. With Henry Sosa inspiring little confidence in the five-hole, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a guy like Aneury Rodriguez get another look in the rotation, though Rodriguez inspires little confidence.
Kansas City – Felipe Paulino's control has wavered lately, but, with Danny Duffy, he's among the few K.C. starters who inspire confidence. Paulino has a 3.76 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and solid 75:28 K:BB in 83.2 innings. He's also averaging a tick north of 95 mph with his fastball and bears watching in keeper leagues, though his control is still an issue.
LA Angels – Tyler Chatwood has a 4.35 ERA, but that's only going up given a 4.7 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. With Joel Pineiro struggling and Garrett Richards on the DL, the Angels are going to regret not upgrading the back-end of the rotation last month. Jerome Williams was recalled to work in relief, but his 60:15 K:BB in 73.2 innings in the tough Pacific Coast League makes him at least interesting for AL-only leaguers.
LA Dodgers – Nathan Eovaldi has recorded a 2.12 ERA in three starts, though his 12:9 K:BB in 17 innings certainly could improve. Still, Eovaldi throws in the mid-90s, and considering he has a grand total of 19 minor league starts above A-ball, he's looks like he's working toward locking up a 2012 rotation spot. Oh, and Clayton Kershaw? Still the man.
Milwaukee – I just watched Zack Greinke dominate the Dodgers, and while that's not exactly something worth bragging about these days, Greinke is pitching like his former Cy Young self lately, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his last eight starts. Not much else to say about this rotation other than I hope Chris Narveson (hand) learns how to use scissors.
Minnesota – Pretty sure we won't see Scott Baker (elbow) again this year, so that should give Kevin Slowey an opportunity to prove he can be an effective starter this year and, more important, next year. Slowey is a non-tender candidate this winter, but he still sports a 6.9 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 for his career. Maybe a change of scenery is in order, but I still think he can be an effective starter. A pairing with Dave Duncan in St. Louis anybody?
NY Mets – The only pitcher I really am optimistic about long term is Jonathon Niese. Niese has a 4.05 ERA and 132:43 K:BB in 153.1 innings, and he generates groundballs at a decent rate of 52 percent of batted balls. Dillon Gee and R.A. Dickey, and actually the rest of the rotation, have the stuff to pitch well for periods, but that stuff is the stuff of Nos. 4 and 5 starters. At least Mets fans have Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey to look forward to.
NY Yankees – Oh, the drama ... A.J. Burnett may be the most ridiculed Yankees pitcher since Jeff Weaver and the late Hideki Irabu, but Burnett remains in the rotation thanks to his ridiculous contract. I like a rumored Burnett/Carlos Zambrano swap; not for the Yankees necessarily, but more for the entertainment value. Hey, at least Burnett is only signed through 2013. As for the rest of the group, it's really an uninspiring lot, though Bartolo Colon appears to be back on track after a hamstring injury.
Oakland – Rich Harden has a 49:20 K:BB in 46 innings for the A's this year, so as long as he's healthy, just avoid using him against the Rangers and you're good. Tyson Ross is another name to keep in mind, as he could return to the A's in the near future.
Philadelphia – I'm not too worried about Cole Hamels' shoulder, nor am I worried about anything related to the Phillies rotation.
Pittsburgh – It's likely that James McDonald winds up having the best career of the current five Pirates starters, and with McDonald adding a slider recently, it will be interesting to see how he finishes. McDonald has allowed a whopping 20 homers in 133 innings and the 1.50 WHIP isn't ideal, but McDonald sits in the 91-94 range with his fastball, so if the slider proves to be a solid secondary offering, results could soon follow the stuff.
San Diego – Corey Luebke has been outstanding, posting a 2.99 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. He's exhibited good control in the minors, though the strikeout rate hasn't been quite at this level. Still, a solid option in a pitcher's park.
San Francisco – We'll hit on the Giants below when we talk about prospect Eric Surkamp.
Seattle – Michael Pineda's slide over the last month is well documented, so what about Blake Beavan? Beavan has been marginally effective, though his 3.4 K/9 is hardly inspiring.
St. Louis – Edwin Jackson has a 1.70 WHIP in four starts since joining the Cardinals, and the Cardinals need him to step up if they are going to compete for a playoff slot. He has the talent to do so, and the 2.1 HR/9 will certainly come down along with his ERA.
Tampa Bay – The rich will get richer once Matt Moore comes aboard (see below), though there doesn't appear to be a slot opening up any time soon.
Texas – Another deep and talented rotation, with more help on the way in the forms of Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez.
Toronto – Henderson Alvarez is an interesting prospect, topping out at 97 mph in his last start and posting a 1.7 BB/9 in the minors this year. At 21, he still needs polish, but I'll be watching him.
Washington – Kudos to the Nats on a great draft. In addition to Anthony Rendon and Brian Goodwin on the position player side, Washington added Alex Meyer and Matt Purke to Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Brad Peacock and the underrated Tom Milone (131:13 K:BB in 129.2 innings in Triple-A). Good times are a-coming.
We've already seen a number of impressive young arms make their big league debut this year. Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, and going back a bit, Michael Pineda and Jeremy Hellickson. There are still, however, a nice crop of young arms, some of whom could make an impact this year:
Matt Moore, Rays – Even better in Triple-A: 0.88 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 49:7 K:BB in 30.2 innings. He's baseball's top pitching prospect, but will need an injury to get the call this year.
Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks – Yes, he was just drafted this year, but Bauer is a college guy who is advanced enough to make a quick impact. Double-A debut was impressive with five shutout innings and eight strikeouts. If he is used this year, it could very well be as a reliever.
Brad Peacock, Nationals – Rough patch recently, but a nice nine-strikeout performance in his last start has him back on the Nats radar. For the year, Peacock has a stellar 161:39 K:BB in 129.2 innings and could be Jordan Zimmermann's (innings limit) replacement sometime in the next couple weeks.
Eric Surkamp, Giants – Jonathan Sanchez's ankle may turn out to be a non-issue, but regardless, the Giants are reeling and could turn to Surkamp. The 24 year-old has a 2.14 ERA and 161:41 K:BB in 134.1 innings at Double-A.
Martin Perez, Rangers – Doubtful we'll see the 20-year-old until next year, but he could be called upon if there's an injury.
Jacob Turner, Tigers – Turner already made his debut, and I was pretty impressed with both his stuff and his poise. Turner is better than Brad Penny right now, and the sooner the Tigers recognize that, the better it will be for their results.
It's Bobby Parnell time
With the news this week that the Mets are going to transition to Parnell as their closer now that Jason Isringhausen has reached 300 career saves, Parnell already should have been grabbed in all formats. Actually we've been talking about this possibility for some time, so he already should have been rostered in deeper leagues. Parnell has struggled, however:
This season: 4.31 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 0-for-2 in save opportunities
Since July 6: 7.62 ERA
There are, however, things to like:
Velocity is off the charts: 97 mph average fastball
A lot of groundballs – 1.62 GB/FB ratio
Unlucky?: .406 BABIP
Misses bats: 11.1 K/9
Perhaps Parnell will thrive under pressure and flourish in the role, though he could just as easily flame out. My instinct is to look at the "things to like" list, project a strong finish and then watch him evolve into a top-10 closer next year.
New closer in Canada
Jon Rauch was probably on the verge of losing his job anyway, but his bout with appendicitis and placement on the DL makes way for Frank Francisco to return to the closer role. Since the last time he was demoted from the ninth, Francisco has allowed just one run in 12.1 innings with a nice 11:1 ERA. He profiles as a successful closer:
94 mph average fastball
Experience – had 25 saves for the Rangers just two years ago
Number of metal folding chairs thrown into the stands since 2004: 0
Francisco should already be owned outside of very shallow leagues, but he should be a solid source of saves. Expect him to pitch well enough to keep this job even when Rauch is ready to return.
Oh the horror! (a.k.a. The Kevin Gregg Story)
Gregg has flirted with danger all year, but his Aug. 14 outing against Detroit was just too much – six batters faced, four hits, two walks, four runs and no outs recorded. The outing took Gregg's ERA from 3.40 to 4.20 and his WHIP from 1.44 to 1.58. Jim Johnson came on and recorded his second save. Johnson has a 2.97 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and respectable 48:14 K:BB in 66.2 innings and could get a look in the closer role. Johnson has had limited big-league success, but he throws in the mid-90s and has shown improved control this year, so success is certainly within reach.
There's also Mike Gonzalez, owner of 56 career saves. Gonzalez missed most of 2010 with a shoulder injury and his 2011 numbers aren't impressive – 4.79 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 4.0 BB/9. That said, Gonzalez in his last 7.1 innings: four hits, no runs, 7:1 K:BB. His velocity is good (92-plus mph average fastball), and with the control seemingly improved recently, don't discount Gonzalez getting a save here and there. I'd still put him just behind Johnson in the pecking order, however.
Regan, a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.
Follow @vtadave on Twitter.