Ball Street: The Roto Exchange – Rotation Building Edition

The roster moves are still in flux as we enter Opening Day and the first weekend of the season.  Of course, for our readers it’s not just about who wins what MLB position, but who is the most impacted in terms of fantasy value.  This issue was bound to focus on rotations because those #4 and #5 starters often don’t win the role until the very end of spring training.  Let’s see who’s going to be valuable at the beginning of 2014.

Stocks on the Rise

Drew Hutchison – Hutchison has won a spot in the Toronto rotation.  He was a solid prospect on most lists before he went down with TJS.  Though it’s just spring training stats, he’s done very well in March, which is what you want to see out of someone who spent most of 2013 rehabbing.  Also, the fact that he’s slotted as the #2 SP for the first week could lead to two starts right off the bat.  You may want to grab him before he proves to everyone that he’s more than just a weak 2-start option.

Michael Pineda – Another former prospect who’s making his way back to relevance after missing extended time — that’s the theme of the back-of-rotation arms this preseason.  Pineda has earned the fifth starter slot in New York. Like Hutchison, he showed very strong skills in the small sample size that is spring training.  There’s some sleeper value here, as long as you don’t expect 180+ IP and a lot of quality starts, because he may not go deep into games at first.

Robbie Ross – I’ve liked Ross for some time, and he’s proven to be a decent value for leagues who use true middle relievers.  Now, with another strong ST performance, I strongly suggest you grab him before its’ too late.  He’s been the best Texas pitcher this March, and now Texas has released Hanson and pegged Ross as a starter.  He has flashed a strong ground ball rate in the past and improved his K/9 in 2013, though it was out of the bullpen.  Even so, he has the upside to stick in the rotation all year.

Marcell Ozuna – Ozuna seems likely to win the starting CF gig in Miami.  That’s not the most exciting news in the world, but Ozuna has good speed and enough power to reach double digits in both.  His BA may be a concern, as with many young hitters, but in leagues that use 5 starting OF, he’s a nice end-game or waiver wire grab.

 Kolten Wong – As I’ve said many times in this article and elsewhere, spring training stats don’t matter.  But I do pay extra attention to young players who are being handed a starting role, and I want to make sure they’re doing well in March to at least give me a little confidence going into April.  Wong isn’t getting talked about much in the MLB news feeds on most sites, but he’s putting up a solid spring (.391, 2 HR, 2 SB), which is what you want to see from rookies.

Stocks on the Decline

Alex Colome – Anyone who gets suspended is going to take a hit in perceived value as well as real value.  However, that may make Colome a nice target for teams looking for minors SP who are nearly MLB ready.  Colome might’ve been at the back of the Rays’ rotation this year, but with the suspension it’s likely he’ll sit in the minors at least until the All-Star break, if not all season.

Neftali Feliz – Not only did Joakim Soria pitch well this spring to take the closer role, but Feliz’s velocity hasn’t returned to his formerly elite levels. Feliz was optioned to the minors to work on his arm strength.  What’s more concerning is that his velocity was high in winter league, but it’s already dropped in March.  Even if he makes it back to the Texas bullpen this summer, I don’t think they’re going to trust him with the closer role barring injuries to Soria and at least one other viable option.

Lonnie Chisenhall – I have to admit, I really didn’t think the Indians would declare Carlos Santana the full-time starter at 3B.  I still had hopes that Chisenhall would be a nice end-game sleeper in deep leagues, because I haven’t given up hope on his potential.  But now Santana has been declared the starter at 3B, which leaves Chisenhall to back him up, as well as play DH and who knows, maybe some 1B or OF.  The fact that he made the roster and wasn’t sent down to the minors indicates to me that (A) Cleveland may not be fully confident in Santana’s defensive abilities at 3B, and (B) Chisenhall should get enough playing time to warrant stashing on my deep rosters a bit longer.

Jackie Bradley – There’s no final decision on Boston’s CF job as of this article’s writing, but it doesn’t look good for Bradley.  Sizemore is playing well, and he’s a veteran presence. Spring stats don’t necessarily matter when it comes to projecting full-season skills, but Bradley’s been awful in the spring (.173 BA, 0 SB), so it’s more likely he gets sent down for more seasoning.  If Victorino isn’t ready for Opening Day, Bradley can replace him temporarily, but Bradley’s not someone I’d target in trade or late drafts when looking at 2014 production.

Joe Kelly – This seems counter-intuitive, because Kelly recently won the fifth starting spot in the Cardinals rotation.  However, he didn’t pitch great in spring training (most BB on the team, 6.28 ERA), and what’s more, his skills have never been amazing, especially his K/9 when you consider his hard-throwing ability.  I worry that a full season in the rotation (at least, an expected one for now) will reveal his weaknesses.  His K/9 took a 2.0 drop when he moved to the rotation in 2013, and his BB/9 rose by 0.7.  He had a very lucky strand rate and a slightly lucky BABIP.  His saving grace is his ground ball tendencies, which will help mitigate the potential damage if he keeps it up in 2014.  Even so, he profiles much better as a swing man or long reliever, not a full-time starter.  Saint Louis wants to see what he can do, but you shouldn’t take that gamble yourself.

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Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.