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April 8, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Value Picks in the Rotation

by Bill Baer

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All it took was a week-and-a-half of baseball for injuries to open up multiple rotation spots across the league. Just because one of your pitchers went down doesn't mean you want to pick up his personal replacement, though: sometimes, it's best to just leave things as they are, or seek help elsewhere, as many of the names below will show you.

Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves

Mike Minor will return to Triple-A Gwinnett when Jurrjens returns from the 15-day disabled list, with the latter making his first start on April 16. Jurrjens has mixed league appeal, but only in very deep formats. Despite his success with the Braves in 2008 and '09, he is about average through and through: his SIERA over the last three years has been 4.16, 4.38, and 4.38.

Minor's struggles against the Brewers did not help his cause for future consideration in the Braves' rotation, especially since Brandon Beachy performed very well by comparison. As long as Beachy does not implode and the rest of the Braves' rotation stays healthy, Minor will remain in Gwinnett.

Beachy is worth a look in deep mixed leagues. His high strikeout rate in the minors is not expected to translate to the majors, but he should still be above the league average in that category anyway. Along with helping with strikeouts, his good control will help with WHIP as well.

Brad Bergesen, Baltimore Orioles

Bergesen should return to the bullpen assuming Jeremy Guthrie is healthy and ready to make his start Sunday against the Texas Rangers. Bergesen is a mediocre fantasy asset, much like Reynolds, given his high propensity for contact. Even if he is asked to make another start for Guthrie, he is not worth the spot start in your league.

Guthrie's success in three out of the last four seasons has run counter to what DIPS metrics would have you believe. He averages between five and six strikeouts per nine innings—but does have good control—and seems to induce weak contact (.269 career BABIP). With 820 Major League innings under his belt and a gap of more than a half-run between his ERA and DIPS metrics, take the more optimistic approach with Guthrie—he is relevant in mixed leagues for sure, but he just will not help out much with strikeouts.

Greg Reynolds, Colorado Rockies

Reynolds will be filling in for Ubaldo Jimenez—who was placed on the 15-day disabled list thanks to issues with his cuticle—on Saturday. Reynolds posted unimpressive numbers in the minors, including a below-average strikeout rate. He does have good control, but his inability to miss bats will not play well at Coors Field (despite his ground ball tendency). Avoid him in all formats.

Casey Coleman and James Russell, Chicago Cubs

Both Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner were placed on the 15-day disabled list, with forearm and rotator cuff injuries, respectively. Casey Coleman will be asked to take one spot, while James Russell should get the other.

Coleman is another uninspiring option in the same vein as Reynolds and Bergesen. He averaged just over five strikeouts per nine innings in the minors, but he does induce a good amount of ground balls. I am very skeptical of his ability to succeed for any prolonged period of time in the majors, so I would avoid him in all formats.

Russell struggled last year pitching out of the bullpen, but SIERA put him at 3.87, more than a full run lower than his ERA. Russell posted a 7.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9—certainly respectable rates, but they should drop a bit with the transfer to the rotation. He will have to ration his exertion on his pitches, and will have to go through lineups more than once as well. He is good for a spot start in your NL-only league, though, as his spot in the rotation is temporary, make sure you don't mind losing what you drop.

Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers

Ogando threw six shut-out innings in his Major League debut on Tuesday. He was moved to the rotation to fill in for Tommy Hunter, but Rangers president Nolan Ryan still sees Ogando serving as a set-up man in the long-term. Hunter is expected to miss at least the month of April, so at least for now Ogando should get some more starts.

Although the sample sizes are relatively small, Ogando put up some very impressive numbers in the minors. Overall, in 111 2/3 innings spread out over four seasons, his K/9 sat at 12.6 and his BB/9 at 1.9 (though he pitched mostly as a reliever). Last year, between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City, his K/9 and BB/9 were 12.3 and 3.2, respectively.

Ogando developed a blister during his start, but was deemed fit to finish, which indicates that it is not a big deal. On Wednesday, Marc Normandin questioned Ogando's ability to pitch deep into games during the early part of the season. That is certainly a huge piece of information to consider, but he should be worth a look in AL-only leagues regardless.

Bill Baer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bill's other articles. You can contact Bill by clicking here

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