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Mound Musings: A Stroll Around 30 Rotations

David Regan

David Regan is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, including the 2015 Baseball Article of the Year.

NL West

The big question in Arizona's rotation is Trevor Bauer's ETA. Bauer has an 11.2 K/9IP, but his control is a questionable (4.8 BB/9IP). I like him quite a bit, but with Wade Miley sporting a 2.41 ERA, Bauer may have to wait for an injury. Then the Dbacks have Tyler Skaggs (10.2 K/9IP, 2.3 BB/9IP in Double-A) who's also nearly ready and has a ceiling approaching Bauer's. An embarrassment of riches.

With Juan Nicasio and Alex White getting roughed up by the Astros recently, the only interesting name in Colorado is Christian Friedrich. Friedrich is coming off a rough couple years at the Double-A level, but he opened strong in Triple-A this year and now has a 26:7 K:BB in 23 innings for the Rockies. One bad start has skewed his ERA (5.09), but if I had to invest in one Colorado starter, it would be Friedrich considering Drew Pomeranz doesn't appear quite ready to return to the big leagues.

Los Angeles:
After surrendering a first-inning two-run homer to Ryan Braun, the Dodgers' Nate Eovaldi settled down and tossed six scoreless innings in his 2012 debut this week. He should get another start or two while Ted Lilly (shoulder) is out, but he likely will shuttle back and forth between LA and Albuquerque quite a bit this summer. Longer term, I can see Eovaldi as the centerpiece of a deal for a hitter or elite starting pitcher should one or both be available this July. Remember, the Dodgers have Rubby De La Rosa (Tommy John) returning in July or August.

San Francisco:
The new excuse out of San Francisco for Tim Lincecum's 6.41 ERA and reduced velocity: a blister. I remain skeptical that the issues aren't deeper than that, but I suppose that's enough for me to stick with him (on my bench) in shallower formats. ... Barry Zito is doing a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark this year, but his peripherals remain about the same as last year. He's a risky plan from start to start.

San Diego:
That they felt the need to sign Jason Marquis pretty much says it all about the Padres pitching staff. The Padres rank a mere 10th in the NL in team ERA despite their home park, and there's really nothing interesting from a fantasy perspective to see here with Cory Luebke (Tommy John) and Tim Stauffer (elbow) sidelined. Even top prospect Casey Kelly is sidelined with a sore elbow.

NL Central

With a 3.09 ERA and 9.1 K/9IP in 10 starts, Jeff Samardzija has been a revelation. Samardzija, though, is on pace to record close to 200 innings after tossing 88 last year, so watch for signs of a second-half fade. ... I fully expect Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster to be traded in July, hopefully for young pitching, as other than potentially Trey McNutt, the system is pretty barren on the pitching side.

Aroldis Chapman is probably not going to top Orel Hershiser's 59 consecutive scoreless innings, but he's at 26 with no signs of slowing. Don't expect a move to the rotation this year, but the topic will certainly be revisited in the offseason. ... 10 of the 11 home runs Mat Latos has allowed have come at home, so I'm pretty sure he's missing Petco Park right about now. ... Non-pitching note: Reds prospect Billy Hamilton has a .389 OBP and 54 stolen bases in 48 games at High-A Bakersfield. He might be the best fantasy prospect in the game who's still in the minors.

Bud Norris has a 62:22 K:BB in 62 innings, so I like him over Wandy Rodriguez to be the Astros' best pitcher the rest of the way. ... There isn't much help on the way, as Houston's top pitching prospect is probably Jarred Cosart, and he has a 1.73 WHIP in Double-A. ... Lucas Harrell has a 3.73 ERA, but getting excited about a guy with a 28:24 K:BB in 58 innings is a challenge.

For the Brewers, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum have performed as expected. Yovani Gallardo has been a slight disappointment, while Randy Wolf has been even worse, and the No. 5 slot has been a revolving door. Regarding that slot, Michael Fiers had a solid first start for the Brewers, limiting the Dodgers to one run over seven solid innings. Fiers' minor league track record is fairly unimpressive, so use him carefully. Down on the farm, take a look at Tyler Thornburg as a possible summer call-up.

Pirates starters have a surprising 3.62 ERA, with James McDonald (2.20 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) leading the way and making a pitch for his first All-Star nod. At some point expect to see Brad Lincoln replace Charlie Morton (4.65 ERA) in the rotation. Of course, what forward-thinking fantasy owners really want to know is when we can expect to see Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in the big leagues. Both are high first-round picks (Cole No. 1 overall) and both are having great success this year. Still, that success is happening at the High-A level, so don't expect to see them until at least mid-2013.

St. Louis:
In St. Louis, the big story is Lance Lynn (8-1, 2.54 ERA), but recently Adam Wainwright has turned things around and is pitching like it was 2010 again. ... Chris Carpenter (shoulder) doesn't have a definitive timetable for his return, but don't expect him back before July. In the meantime, Jake Westbrook is probably the best candidate to be sent to the bullpen, as he's been scuffling lately and the other starters have not.

NL East

Atlanta :
The Braves, as usual, have a pretty deep rotation, but it's not without issues. Mike Minor has a 6.98 ERA, Jair Jurrjens was so bad they sent him to Triple-A, and Randall Delgado has been hit or miss. One intriguing option being discussed/rumored is moving Kris Medlen to the rotation. On that note, Medlen was recently optioned to Triple-A to stretch him out, with the possibility he could rejoin the team in a few weeks as a starter. Watch how he does in the minors, as he could be the team's No. 4 starter sometime in late June.

It could be good or bad if your projected No. 1 starter has the worst ERA in the rotation as long as it's still a solid ERA. That's probably not the case here, though there is some optimism that Josh Johnson's 4.87 mark will improve. He has an 8.2 K/9IP and 2.7 BB/9IP over his last seven starts, and for the year, Johnson's BABIP sits at .368, a mark that we have to think will come down. He's a solid option to target.

New York:
The more starts Johan Santana makes, the more optimistic I get that he can be both successful and pitch 180-200 innings. ... The Mets are going to call up Matt Harvey at some point this summer. He's probably a No. 3 starter long-term. ... Zack Wheeler (1.97 ERA in Double-A) probably has more long-term upside, but he just turned 21 on Wednesday and is probably looking at a 2012 cup of coffee at best.

Yes, I'm worried about Roy Halladay's shoulder, very worried. We could learn more by the time this piece is published, but this doesn't sound good. Halladay has topped 220 innings each of the last six seasons. ... I'm worried too about Vance Worley's elbow. This could dog him all year. ... Given that the Phillies' top pitching prospects - Trevor May (Double-A) and Jesse Biddle (High-A) - aren't ready for the big leagues, the Phillies are in trouble.

The Nationals have four starters with ERAs of 3.17 or better, with Ross Detwiler clocking in at a solid 3.73 rate out of the five-hole. Detwiler, though, has struggled recently to the point where he's being replaced by Chien-Ming Wang, so we could still see the Nationals pursue a starter from outside the organization. ... There's not much to say here about the top four starters, as all have been great, with Gio Gonzalez (not Stephen Strasburg) being the best of the bunch with a 7-1 record and 2.04 ERA to go with an 11.5 K/9IP. Down on the farm, there isn't really anything of interest at the upper levels.

AL West

Los Angeles:
After allowing 10 home runs in just 30.2 innings to go 0-5 with a 6.16 ERA in April, Ervin Santana has a 2.91 ERA in May and has allowed just three homers in 34 innings. He should be a good bet to continue to drive down his ERA the rest of the way. ... If you're looking for wins, Garrett Richards will replace the injured Jered Weaver (back) for the next couple weeks. Richards, though, has been fairly unimpressive in Triple-A - 7.7 K/9IP, 4.7 BB/9IP.

I'm a big Jarrod Parker fan, but he's going to need to cut the walks to take the next step in his progression. Parker has a 2.88 ERA, but given his 6.4 K/9IP and 4.7 BB/9IP, that number is bound to rise. ... Brandon McCarthy returns from his latest shoulder injury this week and should be a solid play. ... Tom Milone has been solid, but don't expect him to be much more than a borderline No. 4. ... Down on the farm, Brad Peacock is a starter to jump on in deeper formats once he's promoted. Peacock has a 51:18 K:BB in 55 innings.

I'm not ready to panic over Felix Hernandez's velocity, as he's still maintaining his strikeout and walk rates at their normal levels. Still, it's something worth monitoring. ... Kevin Millwood has allowed two runs in his last 27 innings, so he's secure for a while. ... Hector Noesi is probably the most vulnerable Seattle starter given his 5.2 K/9IP and .222 BABIP. ... Down on the farm, the Mariners have an impressive trio of top pitching prospects, but it's clear that Danny Hultzen is the closest to a call-up. Hultzen has a 1.59 ERA and 9.8 K/9IP at the Double-A level.

Roy Oswalt will surely bump Scott Feldman to the bullpen circa mid-June. Things will get interesting once Neftali Feliz (elbow) returns near the All-Star break. If Matt Harrison is pitching well at the time, expect Feliz to be part of the Texas bullpen, though he did fare pretty well as a starter (3.16 ERA in 42.1 innings).

AL Central

Chris Sale is clearly the White Sox's best starter right now. He's allowed just two runs over his last three starts to go with 28 strikeouts. ... Jose Quintana has a chance to remain in the rotation (at the expense of Phil Humber?) , but he likely only has one more start to make an impression before John Danks (shoulder) returns from the DL.

With a 2.7 K/9IP, it's pretty clear Derek Lowe is at the peak of his value. Expect further regression as the year progresses. ... With a 5.79 ERA and 1.79 WHIP, Ubaldo Jimenez has been a colossal bust, both for the Indians and for fantasy owners hoping to grab an ace at a discount. His velocity is down a full four mph from its peak, and he's well behind the field in getting hitters to swing and miss (5.9% of pitches versus a league average of 8.8%). He belongs in the National League.

Through 11 starts this year, Justin Verlander is 5-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 82 strikeouts. Through the same number of starts in his MVP year, Verlander sat at 4-3 with a 3.42 ERA and 73 strikeouts. Back-to-back MVPs from a pitcher? It's possible, but probably only if Josh Hamilton gets hurt. ... Casey Crosby gets the call over Jacob Turner to replace Doug Fister (lat injury). Crosby is a former top prospect whose career went sideways a bit recently due to elbow issues, but he did have a 10.2 K/9IP in Triple-A. He also had a 4.7 BB/9IP, so don't expect smooth sailing.

Kansas City:
It's tempting to look at Felipe Paulino's 95-plus mph fastball and 2.03 ERA in five starts and get excited. That said, we've seen Paulino have these sort of runs before, but we've yet to see him do it consistently over an extended period. I don't see that changing. ... Down on the farm, Jake Odorizzi is close, if not ready, to compete at the big league level. Odorizzi has a 60:14 K:BB in 54.2 innings and is among baseball's top pitching prospects. No truth to the rumor that the Royals have proactively scheduled him for Tommy John surgery (see: John Lamb and Danny Duffy). ... Re: Luke Hochevar. I think I praised him earlier this year as a potential sleeper, but with a 6.19 ERA, I'm looking to retract that position.

Francisco Liriano returned to the rotation Wednesday with six shutout innings that included nine strikeouts. It was the A's, however, so don't put too much stock into this one. Liriano was clocked in the 91-92 mph range generally, topping out at 94. The strikeouts and low walks total (two) are encouraging, but let's see him against a team like Detroit first.

AL East

Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen have been nice surprises, but these are the types of pitchers you want in your 3 and 4 holes, not fronting your rotation. ... Brian Matusz has the most upside of the bunch, but he's had his struggles at times this year and can't be relied on consistently. ... Jake Arrieta has a 5.37 ERA, but the O's can take solace in his solid 58:19 K:BB in 65.1 innings. Arrieta, though, has been hit hard each of his last two starts, so he's far from a reliable option himself. ... Down on the farm, Dylan Bundy is already baseball's top pitching prospect after putting up unreal numbers (30 innings, no runs, five hits, two walks, 40 strikeouts) at the Low-A level, but there's zero chance the Orioles push him to the big leagues this year; 2013 - maybe. ... All in all, the 29-21 Orioles are going to fade quickly unless they can find some pitching.

Dan Bard had a 9.1 K/9IP and 3.0 BB/9IP as a reliever last year, but those marks have dropped to 5.4 and 5.2 this year as a starter. If the Red Sox had a viable Plan B, I would expect Bard to return to the bullpen, but that doesn't appear to be an option until at least the time Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow) returns (approximately June 25). Prospect-wise, Matt Barnes is the guy with the most upside, but he's only in High-A.

New York:
Ivan Nova's ERA sits at an ugly 5.46, but it's encouraging to see his 56:17 K:BB in 56 innings. An improvement in his .367 BABIP would seem to be in the cards, and that will help drive that ERA back down. ... Down on the farm, Manny Banuelos has been shut down with a sore elbow and Dellin Betances has walked over eight batters (8.2) per nine innings, so he's a mess. That would seem to leave Freddy Garcia next in line to start.

Tampa Bay:
I fully expect Matt Moore to go on a huge hot streak. Moore fanned 10 White Sox in his last start, so perhaps the streak has already started. Hopefully you've kept the faith. ... Alex Cobb was roughed up a bit Wednesday, so it's prudent to look to who would potentially replace him. The Rays appear committed to keeping Wade Davis in the bullpen this year, so it would probably be Chris Archer. Archer offers intriguing strikeout potential (10.7 K/9IP in Triple-A), but he's also struggled mightily with his control in recent years (5.4 BB/9IP this season).

The Blue Jays have a pretty solid 1-2 punch with Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, but from there it gets a bit sketchy. ... Henderson Alvarez has a 3.56 ERA, but he misses very few bats (2.6 K/9IP), and those type of pitchers are vulnerable to a string of ugly outings at a moment's notice. ... Kyle Drabek has potential, but he's also walked batters at a 6.0 clip per nine innings while allowing nine homers in 10 games, so he's clearly got work to do. ... The Jays' best pitching prospects are down at the A-ball levels, so don't expect much in the way of "interesting" reinforcements this year. I do like Drew Hutchison despite his recent scuffles, as Hutchison posted an eye-popping 171:35 K:BB in 149.1 minor league innings last year.

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

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