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Fantasy Baseball Advice: Mid-May Starting Pitcher Review

Let’s talk pitching.

Johnny Cueto 2First up, what will the Reds do about their rotation situation when Johnny Cueto returns? Cueto pitched a rehab start in Dayton on Thursday and will soon be returning to Cincinnati. When he went down, Tony Cingrani burst onto the scene. Cingrani has pitched so well, it’s impossible to imagine him being asked to leave the rotation. However, Mike Leake, the obvious odd man out, is making $3 million per season. The loser of this battle gets a one-way ticket to Louisville. My crystal ball says Cingrani stays, and not just because of his numbers-- he’s the only lefty in the Reds’ rotation.

As I typed those last two sentences, Cingrani gave up back-to-back jacks to Jean Segura and Ryan Braun. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Donald Lutz in a 2-2 game after only four innings. Did I jinx the kid? I shook the Magic 8 Ball crystal ball again. It said, “Go with your gut.” My gut says Cingrani.  And in case you’re wondering, Lutz hammered a pitch from Yovanni Gallardo into right field for a base hit, stole second, and then scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fourth. Remember his name in the future. He had a big bat in the minors.

Drew Smyly 3Keep an eye on Drew Smyly in Detroit. He cost me a playoff berth in my Channel 4 News league in the final day of last year’s regular season (left the game early due to a blister on his throwing hand). But I forgive him, kind of. This season, he’s been relegated to bullpen duty, but I expect that to change in the near future. The Tiger rotation is intimidating on the front end, but if fifth starter Rick Porcello doesn’t pick up the pace, look for Smyly to replace him. Porcello has pitched better in his last two outings (quality starts against the Braves and Astros), but he is only three weeks removed from the 0.2 IP/9 ER shellacking he took in Anaheim on April 20. Smyly, meanwhile, has been lights-out in relief (21.2 IP/ 1.25 ERA/ 0.83 WHIP/ 23 K).

Another former starter who may pitch himself back into the rotation is the Orioles’ Brian Matusz. The 2008 first round pick has good stuff but has struggled in the past as a starter. So far this season, he has a limited sample (13 IP/ 13 K/ 3.38 ERA/ 0.75 WHIP), but I have to wonder how long the suddenly competitive Orioles will rely on 36-year-old Freddy Garcia as a back-of-the-rotation Band-Aid. The crystal ball tells me Matusz will be in the rotation sometime this summer. Put him on your radar, especially in deeper leagues.

David Phelps Pitch26-year-old David Phelps is another under-the-radar arm to keep in the back of your mind. With Ivan Nova (DL) scheduled to rejoin the rotation next week, Phelps will likely be moved back to the bullpen. So far, his stats don’t jump off the page (28.2 IP/ 31 K/ 5.02 ERA/ 1.33 Whip). But this kid has major boom in his arm and will be there every time one of the Yankees starters hits the shelf. He’s going to be a stud someday; it just might happen sooner than we think.

The Blue Jays are having all kinds of issues with their rotation, so don’t be surprised to see former starter Brett Cecil called upon in the future. He’ll never be mentioned in the same sentence as Clayton Kershaw or Yu Darvish, but Cecil has the potential to be a useful back-end starter for Toronto. He’s only pitched 19.1 innings so far this season, but his Ks are up and his BBs and hits allowed are down – all good signs for a young (26) hurler.

Ubaldo Jiminez will drive you insane, but he has the potential to reward investors. Since his breakout 2010 season in Colorado (19-8/ 4 CG/ 2 SHO/ 2.88 ERA/ 214 K) he’s been mostly awful, but the 29-year-old obviously has tremendous upside if he can get his head out of the way. His overall stats this season aren’t easy on the eyes (6.37 ERA/ 1.31 WHIP) and he continues to struggle with the gopher ball, but for some reason he’s like the psycho ex-girlfriend you check up on from time to time. In his last two starts for the Indians he has 12 K in 12 IP, and he won both games. If you like crazy chicks, you’ll also like Jiminez. Just remember not to marry him.

Scott Feldman April 25 croppedScott Feldman has put together an impressive run for the Cubs the past few weeks. In his last three starts, including an out-of-nowhere 12 K complete game against the Padres, he’s 3-0 and has allowed only 4 ER in 22.2 IP. In nine major league seasons, he’s never demonstrated dominance, even in his 17-win 2009 season with the Rangers. I streamed him last week due to his two-start status, but have already dumped him for this week in favor of Miami OF Marcell Ozuna. Look for the wheels to soon come off of Feldman's bus.

Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke is making a case to keep a spot in the Pirate rotation. He’s currently 3-1 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. However, in 39.2 IP, he’s fanned only 22 and walked 19. Look for reality to start crashing in Tuesday against the Brewers, whose team speed can quickly turn a walk into the equivalent of a double.

Man-Crush Updates:

I’m wrong a lot, but not when it comes to Paul Goldschmidt. Did anybody see the clinic he held against the Dodgers last week (4 HR/9 RBI in three games)? Goldy is now hitting .308/9 HR/30 RBI/23 R/4 SB and is ranked #6 in the Yahoo game. Wilin Rosario has three hits and very little production in his past six games, but his overall slash of .287/7 HR/19 RBI/15 R/3 SB ranks him fourth at catcher and 80th overall.  I anticipate this 24-year-old becoming a household name in the near future.

Quick Hits:  

In his past ten games, slow-starting 2B Jason Kipnis has shown signs of life (.279/7 R/3 HR/10 RBI/2 SB). In that same stretch, 3B Mike Moustakas has raised his season average from .169 to .225 with 4 HR/ 5 R/ 8 RBI. Nate Schierholtz continues to put up stats for the Cubs (.296/ 4 HR/ 14 R/17 RBI/ 4 SB) and is only 15 % owned in Yahoo leagues. Kelly Johnson, always streaky at the plate, has hit .400 since April 26th. His season slash is now .278/5 HR/18 RBI/15 R/4 SB and he qualifies at 2B and OF. Johnson is only 35% owned in Yahoo leagues.

Shameless Plug: Here's my most recent Yahoo article aimed at Tebow haters. I would greatly appreciate some clicks.


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