PLAYING TIME: Rangers, Yankees rework rotations

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Rangers sign Darvish

On January 18, the Rangers signed Japanese starting pitcher Yu Darvish (RHP, TEX). In 2011, Darvish posted a 1.44 ERA with 10.7 Dom and 1.4 Ctl in 232 innings. His ERA has remained below 2.00 each season since 2007. He utilizes five pitches effectively, giving the Rangers hope for a stronger skills transfer from Japan to MLB than Japanese pitchers in the past. The Rangers plan to use Darvish as a starter from Opening Day.

Darvish’s presence in the starting rotation will create competition between Alexi Ogando (RHP, TEX) and Matt Harrison (LHP, TEX) for the fifth starting spot. As a starter in 2011, Ogando benefitted from 28% H% and 8% hr/f despite giving up 40% FB%. Dom and Cmd ratios are solid enough to give him considerable value out of the bullpen, if that’s where he ends up. If the Rangers restrict Neftali Feliz' (RHP, TEX) innings transitioning back to a starter, Oganda could see several spot starts.

Harrison is the favorite to stay in the rotation with Darvish, Colby Lewis (RHP, TEX), Derek Holland (LHP, TEX) and Feliz. Harrison put up solid numbers in 2011, his age 26 season. He posted career bests in Ctl/Dom/Cmd, had a 3.49 xERA during 2H, while allowing 0.5 hr/9. That bodes very well pitching in Rangers ballpark. Fantasy owners can have confidence for a continued upward trajectory from his BPV of 60 in 2011.

Martinez out with injury

Victor Martinez (DH, DET) is likely to miss the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL. Who will get his ABs? If the Tigers fill the DH spot from within, Delmon Young (LF, DET) will see the majority of ABs. Young had a much better second half of 2011 after battling injuries early in the year. His PX spiked from 50 in the 1H to 109 in the 2H. He was aided by 14% hr/f, but still posted an xPX of 103. Batting eye, bb%, and G/L/F for a power hitter still a cause for concern. Young has yet to display an ability to improve these skills.

Ryan Raburn (OF, DET), Andy Dirks (OF, DET), and Don Kelly (OF, DET) will benefit from more ABs if Young moves to DH. Raburn has the strongest skill set and potential BPV improvement.

The Tigers may also have interest in any number of free agents including Johnny Damon (DH), Vladimir Guerrero (DH), Raul Ibanez (LF) or Carlos Pena (1B).

Yankees bolster rotation with Pineda and Kuroda

The New York Yankees significantly upgraded their rotation on January 13 by trading for Michael Pineda (RHP, NYY) and signing free agent Hiroki Kuroda (RHP, NYY). Pineda and Kuroda will join C.C. Sabathia (LHP, NYY) and Ivan Nova in the Yankees rotation, leaving Phil Hughes (RHP, NYY), A.J. Burnett (RHP, NYY), Freddy Garcia (RHP, NYY) to battle for the fifth rotation spot.

Kuroda has a career GB% of 49%. His Dom remained above 6.0 and Cmd above 3.0 during the 2009-2011 seasons. Matching or exceeding his career marks in GB%/Dom/Cmd will be key to success in Yankee Stadium; a ballpark that increases LHBs home run rate by 43% and RHBs home run rate by 17%.

Pineda has Cy Young Award potential upside, but at only 23 years old will most likely have a 180-200 IP limit for 2012. Pineda posted a 5.35 second half ERA compared to 3.16 xERA. The difference was a spike in hr/f from 6% to 14% and a strand rate of 58%. His Dom and Cmd actually slightly improved from 1H to 2H. If Pineda’s hr/f regresses to 10% and Dom/Cmd rates match 2011 levels, he will provide excellent fantasy value as a second or third starter. With a bit more seasoning, he’s an ace in the making.

Burnett posted a 5.15 ERA against a 3.69 xERA in 2011. The second half of ‘11 saw an even wider gap between ERA and xERA (6.56/3.46) in spite of a 9.5 Dom and 52% GB%. He was hurt by 23% hr/f, 64% S%, and 4.1 Ctl.

Hughes only started 14 games in ‘11 for the Yankees. At 26 years old, there is still time for skill development, but health issues combined with decline in Dom, Cmd, GB%, and xERA are cause for concern. A spot in the Yankee bullpen seems the most likely scenario for Hughes to start the season.

Even though Garcia posted decent counting stats in 2011, don’t overestimate his value for 2012. He continues to lose velocity on his pitches, and was aided in ‘11 by a 76% S% and an 8% hr/f. Burnett is the favorite for the fifth rotation spot, but none of three should provide BPV much greater than 50-60.

AL Short Takes

The Oakland A's signed Bartolo Colon (RHP, OAK) on January 15. Colon was signed to help a rotation that lost Gio Gonzalez (LHP, WAS) and Trevor Cahill (RHP, ARI) via trades during the offseason. Colon had vastly different 1H/2H splits in ERA (3.10/4.81) and PQS-DOM/DIS% (80/10, 31/38) in ‘11, but should remain a serviceable fantasy option ...

Seth Smith (OF, OAK) was traded to the A's January 16. Smith will join Josh Reddick (OF, OAK) and Coco Crisp (CF, OAK) in the Oakland outfield. From 2009-2011, Smith's Spd was 105 or better, PX 133 or greater, and he hit at least 15 HRs each year while averaging 390 ABs. With 500-550 ABs, Smith could become a 20 HR/10 SB player ...

Vicente Padilla (RHP, BOS) signed a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox. He will likely compete for the fifth rotation spot with Aaron Cook (RHP, BOS) and Carlos Silva (RHP, BOS). Padilla was limited to nine IP during 2011 due to a neck injury. He's an injury risk before (averaged 108 IP/season from ’07-’11) and is even more so now. His ‘10 Dom of 8.0 and career RH/LH splits make him a great candidate for a relief role against RHs if he doesn’t make the starting rotation ...

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Ludwick to Reds

Ryan Ludwick (OF, CIN) signed with the Cincinnati Reds on January 16. Ludwick’s bb%, ct%, and G/L/F were very consistent during the 2008-2011 seasons. He should benefit greatly from moving to a venue that increases right-handed batter HRs by 32% after splitting time between PNC (-16%) and PETCO Park (neutral) in 2011. His xPX remained solid from 2009-2011 (126/126/124) but hr/f dipped from 12% to 7% over the same period. Consistent BPIs, ballpark factors, and a regression to the mean in hr/f suggest power numbers will rebound. Ludwick’s xBA has ranged from .222-.297 since 2007, and Spd dropped from 108 to 67 between ’10 and ’11. At age 33, there are no strong indicators of a future BA or SB spike.

The Ludwick signing could create an OF time-share with Chris Heisey (LF, CIN). Heisey showed excellent power in his first two major league seasons of ’10 and ’11 with a PX of 127/157 during that time. Heisey’s ct% (70/72), bb% (7/6) and Eye (0.25/0.24) need improvement before he can expect to receive every day playing time. Ludwick provides the Reds insurance after two injury-shortened seasons for Heisey, and competition for playing time when Heisey is healthy.

NL Short Takes

The Astros signed Jack Cust (OF, HOU) to a one-year contract with a club option for 2013. Cust was a consistent 25+ HR hitter as recently as 2009, but has since seen a sharp drop in production caused by decline in hr/f, a subpar ct%, and an increase in GB%. The Astros are counting on Cust as a pinch hitter and backup corner outfielder in 2012 and potential DH for 2013, but at this point he does not project above a replacement level player ...

Allen Craig (OF, STL) said in an interview last week said his return from knee surgery could be bumped up from May/June to as early as Opening Day. With Craig’s 2011 OPS of .850, virtually even RHP/LHP splits, and 145 PX, the Cardinals are counting on Craig to be an impact bat in 2012. It is yet to be determined how new manager Mike Matheny will distribute ABs if Craig, Jon Jay (OF, STL), Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman (RF/1B, STL) are all healthy. Craig could see playing time in RF, CF, or 1B ...


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.