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NL FAAB Factor: Injuries Force Cubs to Shuffle the Rotation

Jan Levine

Levine covers baseball, basketball and hockey for RotoWire. In addition to his column writing, he's the master of the MLB and NHL cheatsheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets.

Starting Pitchers:

Casey Coleman/James Russell – With both Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells landing on the DL, the Cubs were forced to make several pitching moves. The first was the call up of Coleman to start Sunday’s game against the Brewers. Coleman, who posted a 1.54 GB:FB ratio last year, figures to stay in the rotation for a couple weeks, but his 27:25 K:FB ratio in 57 innings doesn’t bode extremely well for future success. However, he did go 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in eight starts down the stretch last season and went at least six innings in each of the last seven. The second move was slotting Russell into the Cubs' rotation Tuesday against Houston. Russell showed good command as a reliever last year, posting a 42:11 K:BB ratio in 49 innings, but he gave up a lot of flyballs, 11 of which went over the fence. You may need to monitor where he is pitching – and if the wind is blowing out at Wrigley – before deciding to put him in your lineup or not. Coleman - Mixed: $2; NL: $7; Russell – Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Kevin Correia – Correia held the Cards to five hits over seven scoreless innings en route to his second win of the season Wednesday, posting a 3:2 K:BB ratio. After a breakthrough in 2009, Correia's 2010 season was a disappointment. He posted a 5.40 ERA, 1.490 WHIP and won only 10 games in 26 starts. It wasn't all bad, though; he improved his strikeout and groundball rates for the second year in a row. A walk rate that pushed 4.0 BB/9IP and a bout with the long ball did most of the damage. Correia was expected to be a bounce-back candidate this year, but so far, he has been even better than expected. His numbers may be adversely affected pitching at PNC Park rather than Petco, but he still should be better than last year. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.

Marco Estrada – Estrada could remain in the Brewers' rotation after pitching six innings and earning a win against the Braves on Wednesday. In the outing, Estrada allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out four. The Brewers don't need a fifth starter again until April 16, but he could stick around a bit longer to keep the rest of the rotation on regular rest. Ultimately, Estrada's ceiling isn't very high; and he is probably ticketed for Triple-A Nashville once Zack Greinke returns from the DL. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Jon Garland – Garland suffered a strained left oblique early in spring training that was expected to sideline him 4-to-6 weeks. As long as his rehab assignment Sunday goes well, Garland will likely be activated and start April 15, five weeks after he was injured. Garland is pitching with his third NL West team in three years after spending last season with San Diego and posting career bests in terms of ERA, strikeout rate, groundball rate, and not surprisingly, BABIP. At worst Garland should be an innings-eater who will keep the Dodgers in most games. Mixed: $5; NL: $14.

Jair Jurrjens – Jurrjens, who opened the year on the disabled list due to a strained oblique muscle, felt good after his simulated game Wednesday. His next step will be a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on April 11. As long as Jurrjens has no setbacks, he should be activated and start April 16 against the Mets. He struggled with injuries nearly all of last season, which might have resulted in a slight decline in his velocity and a big drop-off in his groundball rate. As a result, Jurrjens gave up more flyballs than groundballs for the first time in his Braves career. If healthy, look for Jurrjens to post numbers about in the middle of what he produced the last two years. Mixed: $7.

Jeff Karstens – The Pirates placed Ross Ohlendorf on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a right shoulder strain. Daniel McCutchen was recalled Triple-A, but it seems more likely that they'll move someone from the bullpen, perhaps Karstens, into Ohlendorf's rotation spot. Karstens replaced Ohlendorf in Friday’s game and held the Rockies to two hits over 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, so he is lined up to start in Ohlendorf’s spot. Karstens posted decent numbers in 2010, but don’t expect much from the righty. Mixed: No; NL: $2

Mat Latos – In his first full season in the majors, Latos took the National League by storm by racking up 14 wins, 189 strikeouts, a 2.92 ERA, and an outstanding 1.083 WHIP. He kept his walk rate down (2.4 BB/9IP) and used a fastball/slider combination that kept hitters off balance. Latos missed the last week of spring training with a sore shoulder that landed him on the disabled list to start the season, but he will be activated to make his first start of the year Monday against Cincinnati. The biggest concern about Latos this season will be how his body holds up after he increased his innings by more than 60 from 2009 to 2010. That said, given his skill set, there is no reason to expect any sort of drop-off from last season. (FYI since as he should already be owned in all formats).

Greg Reynolds – The Rockies recalled Reynolds, the second overall pick in the 2006 draft, from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Wednesday to take the rotation spot of the injured Ubaldo Jimenez. Reynolds, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008, started Saturday against the Pirates, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out two. Despite the solid start, keep in mind that Reynolds was underwhelming at Double-A last year and hasn't been able to stay healthy recently. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Relief Pitchers:

Mitchell Boggs/Jason MotteRyan Franklin blew his third save of the season Saturday and it’s possible he might lose the closer’s job in St. Louis. Motte is expected to be the closer of the future, but he has also struggled early, which could open the door for Boggs to get some save chances. Boggs’ numbers dramatically improved last season, his first as a reliever after serving as a spot starter the prior two campaigns. Motte was the closer for all of one day in 2009, but he recovered from his Opening Day meltdown to post serviceable numbers as a rookie. In 2010, he took a huge step up, notching a 54:18 K:BB ratio with a 2.24 ERA and 1.127 WHIP in 52.3 innings. Motte struggled this spring and carried those struggles into the season, the big problem being his lack of control. However, if you want to pick up the guy who is more likely to take over for Franklin, lean towards Motte. Boggs - Mixed: $1; NL: $4; Motte – Mixed: $4; NL: $13.

Jose Contreras – I profiled Contreras last week, but with the news that Brad Lidge will now be sidelined longer than originally expected – until the All-Star break - Contreras deserves another mention. Manager Charlie Manuel gave Contreras the first crack at the closer’s duties over Ryan Madson due to his performance this spring. Last season, Contreras rebounded form a rough patch to finish strong. He was successful in relief since he could throw his fastball a bit harder and still employ his starter's arsenal of pitches, including his nasty splitter. Contreras converted his first save chance of the year and should see plenty of chances for a good Phillies’ team. Mixed: $14; NL: $35.

Matt Lindstrom –Lindstrom notched his first save of the year, and first as a Rockie, locking down Colorado’s 6-4 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. Lindstrom got the nod with Huston Street unavailable after throwing 27 pitches Friday. Lindstrom battled back problems and ultimately lost the closer’s job in Houston last year, but he should rack up plenty of holds in front of Street this season. Lindstrom will not receive many save opportunities, but it’s clear he is next in line should anything happen to Street. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Mark Melancon – Melancon, who was traded to the Astros last season in the deal that sent Lance Berkman to the Bronx, pitched well for Houston, posting a 3.12 ERA, 1.154 WHIP and 19:8 K:BB ratio in 17.2 innings. His numbers show he has a live arm and a good bullpen mentality, but control has often been a problem. So far this year, Melancon has posted a 4:0 K:BB ratio in 3.2 innings. If he can continue to limit his walks, he could factor in the closer mix in Houston if Brandon Lyon struggles. Mixed: $2; NL: $6.

Brian Wilson – Wilson, who strained his left oblique in mid-March and landed on the disabled list to start the year, was activated Wednesday. His first two outings left a lot to be desired as he struggled to throw his slider for strikes and blew his first opportunity Friday. Wilson’s struggles have led to speculation that he might have returned from the strain too quickly. Health is the only real concern here – Wilson has plenty of job security at this point. (FYI since as he should already be owned in all formats).


Jonathan Lucroy – Lucroy fractured his right pinkie early in spring training; and though the pin in his finger was removed March 23, he was placed on the DL to start the year. Lucroy has made progress of late, playing in several rehab games over the last few days, and he might be activated as soon as Tuesday. Lucroy started 2010 in Double-A Huntsville but was pushed to the majors in May after Gregg Zaun went down with a season-ending injury. He hit .253/.300/.329 in 75 games for Milwaukee with four home runs. It's doubtful that he'll ever hit for much power, but he's shown good plate discipline in the minors and could approach a .300 batting average during his peak seasons. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Wilson Ramos – Ramos, acquired by Washington last year in the Matt Capps trade, has gotten off to a hot start and may be ready to assume the mantle of the Nationals’ top catcher from Ivan Rodriguez. Ramos went 2-for-3 Saturday and is now 7-for-17 early in the season. Historically better on defense, Ramos could accelerate the timeframe to take over from Pudge. Long term, Ramos will need to show he can hit with Derek Norris looming behind him in the minors. Mixed: $3; NL: $9.

Chris Snyder – Snyder, who missed a good portion of spring training with a back injury, began his rehab assignment with High-A Bradenton on Thursday. It's unclear how many games he will need, but Snyder missed enough time in spring training that it will likely take a couple games to get his timing back at the plate. When he does return, Snyder should see most of the action behind the plate with Ryan Doumit getting some time there as well. Snyder could provide double-digit homers, but be aware that he also projects to be a .230 hitter. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.

First Basemen:

Jason Giambi – With Todd Helton sidelined due to lower back stiffness, Giambi got the start against the Pirates on Friday and blasted a three-run home run. Though Helton also missed Saturday’s game, Ty Wigginton started at first instead. Part of the reason may be that Giambi struggles defensively, but even so, if Helton’s back keeps him out at times throughout the year, look for Giambi to see the occasional start. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Brett Wallace – Wallace went 3-for-4 with his first homer of the season in Houston’s loss to Florida Friday. Wallace struggled upon his arrival in Houston last season with a .222/.296/.319 line and 8:50 BB:K (144 at-bats) over 51 games, and there was some speculation during the spring that he could be sent down with Carlos Lee moving from left field to first base. After a slow start to the spring, Wallace earned himself the starting job and has been in the lineup for all eight of the Astros' games this season, a sign of faith in the young first baseman. A former first-round pick and very accomplished hitter at Arizona State, Wallace appears to be a nice early season waiver-wire target for those in need of corner-infield help. Mixed: $11.

Second Basemen:

Alex Cora – Cora is getting the start at third base Sunday with Ryan Zimmerman out of the lineup due to an abdominal strain. Zimmerman is expected to miss at least a few games, so Cora could get extra at-bats early this week. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Ty Wigginton – Wigginton, who qualified at first, second and third heading into the season, might also see the occasional game in right field. Wigginton should see most of his action backing up Todd Helton and Ian Stewart while possibly getting in the mix at second base if no one takes hold of the job. If Wiggy is able to pick up 400+ at-bats, his multi-position eligibility gives him a lot of value, even in mixed leagues. Mixed: $5.



Third Basemen:

Casey Blake – Blake, who started the year on the disabled list due to a rib injury, was activated Wednesday. Blake, 37, will be given more days off this year in attempt to keep his body healthy and his bat productive. That decision was made in reaction to his walk rate dropping from 11 to nine percent and his contact rate dropping from 76 to 73 percent a year ago, resulting in a subpar .248/.320/.407 batting line. Mixed: $8.

Daniel Descalso – Descalso, who played nine games at third base last season, has appeared in three games at the hot corner so far this year. Descalso is serving as David Freese’s backup and should see a few starts each week at third. Nick Punto will be back in May, so Descalso has a month or two to prove he belongs in the majors. Mixed: No; NL: $2.

Greg Dobbs – Dobbs went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in Florida’s win over the Astros on Saturday. The big game could help Dobbs push Donnie Murphy for playing time if he continues to swing the bat well. Mixed: No; NL: $4.


Jason Bourgeois – Bourgeois got the start in center Thursday for Michael Bourn, who was nursing a sore groin, and batted in the leadoff spot. Even though Bourgeois had a hit and a stolen base, he did strike out three times in the game. Bourgeois brings speed and defense to the table and can serve as a defensive replacement in either outfield corner or at second base, where he made a brief appearance last season. Mixed: No; NL: $3.

Tyler Colvin – Colvin, who started at first base Tuesday in place of Carlos Pena, walked, homered and played solid defense in his place. Colvin started again Wednesday, and while Pena returned Friday, Colvin solidified his status as Pena's primary backup. In addition, Colvin should continue to see a few starts a week in the outfield given his ability to play all three positions. Mixed: $5.

Nyjer Morgan – I profiled Morgan last week, but his hot start to the season warrants a second mention. Morgan is 9-for-19 through nine games and has shown excellent range while playing both right and center field. He should continue to see the majority of the playing time in right while Corey Hart remains sidelined with his oblique injury. Once Hart returns to action, Morgan will share the center field duties with Carlos Gomez; but given Gomez’s inability to show much progress or plate discipline, it would not be surprising to see Morgan get most of the at-bats. Mixed: $10.

Ryan Roberts – Roberts, who hit well in spring training, has played three games so far at third base. Melvin Mora is the starter at third, but manager Kirk Gibson may opt to rest Mora frequently to keep him fresh, opening the door for Roberts. Roberts could also see time at second and in left in his utility role. Mixed: No; NL: $5.

Aaron Rowand/Nate SchierholtzAndres Torres left Saturday's game against the Cardinals with what has been described as a strained Achilles tendon. An MRI has been scheduled and it would not be surprising to see Torres land on the disabled list. If that happens, Rowand would likely get most of the starts in center while Torres is sidelined. Rowand’s numbers declined last year for the third straight season and he finished with a .659 OPS, but he has gotten off to a solid start in 2011 in brief action. Schierholtz also could factor in the mix. Even though he struggles offensively, Schierholtz might be the best outfield defender on the club outside of Torres. If the Giants decide to stick with Brandon Belt at first and play Aubrey Huff in the outfield, their best outfield – until everyone is healthy – probably would be Huff in left, Rowand and center, and Schierholtz in right. Rowand - Mixed: $3; NL: $8; Schierholtz – Mixed: $0; NL: $4