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April 15, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Value Picks in the Rotation

by Bill Baer

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We, the fantasy baseball experts at Baseball Prospectus, will be keeping a rolling list with what we consider to be value picks in most leagues throughout the season. This week, we will be starting with a clean slate of starting pitchers.

The Returning Champions

N/A, come back next week!

The Challengers

Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians (16 percent ESPN / 29 percent Yahoo!)

I have a feeling that, if I do this column for many more years, Masterson will be on and off the Value Picks list several hundred times. That happened last year a few times, but in the end, he vastly under-performed given his strikeout, walk, and batted ball rates.

Masterson makes his third start today against the Baltimore Orioles. Over his previous two, Masterson has struck out nine and walked three in 13 1/3 innings, inducing ground balls at a 63 percent clip en route to a 1.35 ERA—I expect a higher strikeout rate going forward.

If his control truly has improved, he is a great value in AL-only and deep mixed leagues. For now, he is a slightly above-average arm, as his ownership rates suggest.

Chris Young, New York Mets (16 percent ESPN / 33 percent Yahoo!)

Young was originally slated to start on Friday, but was bumped back to Sunday due to right biceps tendinitis. The very injury-prone right-hander has looked good in two starts, as his ERA sits at 1.46. He has been missing bats but his control is nothing to write home about, as per usual. His extreme fly ball tendency fits well at home at Citi Field, though.

With the amount of swapping you will likely be doing with these pitchers over the course of a season, it is worth taking a shot with Young despite his propensity to land on the disabled list. Right now, he is a good fit for NL-only leagues, but if he can go on a run of consistent health, he can become a good play in mixed leagues as well.

Esmil Rogers, Colorado Rockies (12 percent ESPN / 10 percent Yahoo!)

Rogers is starting to appear on more and more people's fantasy baseball radars, but he is still a relative unknown. He is comparable to teammate Jhoulys Chacin, as both posted similar numbers going through the Rockies' minor league system. Rogers has slightly better control, while Chacin is a bit better at missing bats.

Rogers has not pitched as well as his 2.77 ERA would indicate, but remains a great value in NL-only leagues. With progress, he can become relevant in mixed leagues as well.

Going Home with a Parting Gift

Greg Reynolds, Colorado Rockies(0 percent ESPN / 0 percent Yahoo!)

Reynolds pitched admirably while filling in for the Rockies, posting a 3.27 ERA in two spot starts. However, he struck out only three and walked four in 11 innings. More importantly, though, Ubaldo Jimenez will be returning to the Rockies on April 18, pushing Reynolds out of the rotation.

Reynolds' performance will likely earn him another look should other Rockies pitchers succumb to injury. Depending on the teams he pitches against and where he is pitching, he may be worth a spot start later on in NL-only leagues.

Brad Bergesen, Baltimore Orioles(0 percent ESPN / 0 percent Yahoo!)

Bergesen will make another start on Sunday against the Cleveland Indians, but for fantasy purposes, he should be avoided in all but extremely deep AL-only leagues. His time in the Orioles' starting rotation is limited.

Casey Coleman, Chicago Cubs (0 percent ESPN / 0 percent Yahoo!)

Coleman was unimpressive against the Milwaukee Brewers, allowing four runs in five innings on Sunday. His time in the Cubs' rotation may be fleeting, depending on how much progress Randy Wells makes in recovering from a right forearm strain. Last week, I described Coleman as a hurler in the same vein as Bergesen—essentially a replacement-level pitcher. Given that his next start comes against the hot Colorado Rockies, I would look for better options before Troy Tulowitzki makes you regret a mistake.

James Russell, Chicago Cubs (0 percent ESPN / 0 percent Yahoo!)

The Cubs were not at all impressed by Russell's effort on Tuesday, when he allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings to the Houston Astros. In a scramble for rotation depth, the Cubs signed veterans Doug Davis and Ramon Ortiz, and assigned them both to Triple-A. MLB.com's Richard Dean hints that Jeff Samardzija could get a spot start, but there has been nothing official yet. Russell, however, will not be getting any more starts barring any further injuries to Cubs pitchers.

They are just too popular...

Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves (50 percent ESPN / 35 percent Yahoo!)

Jurrjens is scheduled to make his first start tomorrow against the New York Mets. As mentioned last week, Jurrjens is best in NL-only formats, as he is about average all the way around, but does have some limited play in deep mixed leagues. The reports about his recovery from an oblique injury have all been positive, and fantasy players have taken note as he is taken in 35 percent of Yahoo! leagues and half of ESPN leagues.

Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers (35 percent ESPN / 40 percent Yahoo!)

Two Major League starts, and two problems with blisters. Ogando initially dealt with a blister problem in his first start, but Ron Washington felt he was fit to finish his six-inning effort against the Seattle Mariners. Ogando tossed seven shut-out frames against the Detroit Tigers on Monday while the blister problem reemerged. However, reports from the Rangers indicate that he is in line to make his next start.

If he is scheduled to start, I see no reason not to play him. He should be a target in all mixed leagues at this point. Plus, he'll be plenty effective until he needs to be removed for a blister a third time.

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

Related Content:  ESPN New York,  Esmil Rogers,  Espn

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