- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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This has not been an encouraging weekend for starting pitching, Philip Humber's perfect game notwithstanding.
Rainouts have already washed out two Sunday games, throwing rotations all out of whack, and of the 24 quality starts that were thrown on Saturday, only 10 resulted in wins. But the most frustrating development of all involved injuries: Cliff Lee, Daniel Hudson and Ryan Dempster, who combined have a 2.93 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in nine starts, and who each are owned in at least 90 percent of ESPN leagues, all landed on the 15-day disabled list.
Lee's is the most prominent, and unexpected, loss. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, he is tied for the most shutouts (11), and ranks second in both ERA (2.81) and WHIP (1.09), among pitchers with at least 500 innings pitched during that span. He'll be replaced in the rotation by a pitcher with significantly worse ratios in that time: Kyle Kendrick, who joins the Philadelphia Phillies' starting five beginning with Monday's game at Arizona, has a 4.52 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 111 games (78 starts).
Kendrick's mediocre career ratios, however, shouldn't detract from what might be usefulness in NL-only leagues and perhaps from a matchups perspective in deep mixed formats. In 15 starts last season, for example, he managed a 3.14 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, primarily thanks to increased reliance upon a cutter -- surprise, surprise, another Phillies pitcher throwing a cutter -- which he threw 24 percent of the time. Kendrick has historically been successful against such teams as the Atlanta Braves (1.53 ERA in 8 games, 4 starts from 2010-11), Miami Marlins (3-0, 1.50 ERA in 4 games, 3 starts, in 2011) and New York Mets (3.11 ERA in 16 career games, 11 starts), so finicky fantasy owners might be able to extract some value.
Hudson's injury, meanwhile, presents perhaps the greatest opportunity for replacements, being that the Arizona Diamondbacks boasted Keith Law's Nos. 21 (Trevor Bauer) and 25 (Tyler Skaggs) prospects overall entering the season.
Wade Miley, who began the season as a left-handed long reliever for the team, will most likely assume Hudson's open rotation spot Monday versus the Phillies, coincidentally squaring off against the aforementioned Kendrick. A finesse pitcher with a lifetime 3.69 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in the minors, Miley has a good enough slider to use against left-handed hitters and good enough changeup to survive versus right-handers, but due to a lack of overpowering stuff he's -- at best -- a matchups candidate himself, and probably a weaker choice than Kendrick.
But the Diamondbacks now have some options, looking ahead. With struggling Josh Collmenter and soft-tossing Miley now in their rotation, Bauer or Skaggs might be a factor sooner than later. Bauer has a 0.40 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 2.00 strikeouts-per-walk ratio in four starts for Double-A Mobile, while Skaggs has a 3.63 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.00 K's-per-walk ratio and is 2-of-3 in quality starts, also for Mobile. Bauer most recently pitched on Saturday, Skaggs on Friday, so don't discount the possibility that the Diamondbacks, using Thursday's off day, could shuffle their rotation such that either pitcher could join the big league rotation as early as next weekend.
Bauer is the one fantasy owners should closely watch. The team's first-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft, the 21-year-old right-hander made a compelling case for a rotation spot during spring training, and based upon rest and off days, it's conceivable that the Diamondbacks could start Miley on Monday, use everyone else on four days' rest (accounting for the Thursday off day), start Bauer in the minors on Thursday, then have Bauer ready to assume the fifth spot in the rotation the next time it'd come up, on May 1 at Washington.
We're rapidly reaching the point at which fantasy owners, even those in ESPN standard leagues, might want to stash Bauer, being that he'd almost assuredly go to the team with the No. 1 waiver position once he's officially promoted.
As with the Phillies, the Chicago Cubs will turn to a familiar name in their quest to replace Dempster in their rotation in the short term: Randy Wells was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to make Sunday's start.
Wells, unfortunately, has afforded little room for optimism statistically, posting a 9.42 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in three starts for Iowa, after making only three appearances, albeit totaling 7⅓ scoreless innings, during spring training. He had ERAs of 4.26 and 4.99 and WHIPs of 1.40 and 1.39 as a starter the past two seasons, and his value might be limited to mere matchups appeal in deep NL-only formats, such as in assignments versus the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Boston Red Sox acquire Marlon Byrd
The Red Sox officially acquired struggling outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Cubs on Saturday, giving them depth while they bridge the gap until injured starters Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury return. Byrd, an .070/.149/.070 hitter in 47 plate appearances for the Cubs, should be third in line for at-bats among Red Sox active outfielders -- Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney ahead of him, Darnell McDonald and Jason Repko behind him -- but that means an occasional matchups-friendly start for him, if you play in an AL-only league. Don't open up the FAAB wallet. The Cubs, meanwhile, should give call-up Tony Campana a healthy number of at-bats in Byrd's absence to bridge their own gap until top prospect Brett Jackson is ready. Campana has enough speed to warrant deep NL-only consideration.
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