Everyone knows the old adage that you can never have too much starting pitching, but sometimes it can be a little frustrating for fantasy owners when a team actually puts this to the test. Just ask anyone who’s still holding onto Drew Smyly or Tony Cingrani (at least until this most recent injury to Johnny Cueto). And in Atlanta, the Braves are shaping up to have six perfectly good options for a rotation that only holds five people, unless they do something stupid like a six-man rotation. So let’s take a quick look at the pitchers most affected by this. Since there’s about a zero percent chance of Mike Minor, Tim Hudson or Paul Maholm being pushed aside, we’re going to skip over them for now. And it’s really a shame as Hudson and Maholm have the lowest upside of any pitcher in their rotation for fantasy.
The return of the Braves best starter during the first two months of the 2012 season is the impetus for the number crunch among their starting pitchers. But even though Beachy had a 2.00 ERA in 81 innings last year, he was actually significantly worse in 2012 than 2011 from an underlying skills perspective. In fact, Beachy had an xFIP nearly a run higher in 2012 (4.14 vs 3.16). At this point, it’s difficult to tell which the “real” Beachy is, but it’s not really necessary. Even if he’s the 2012 version who regresses to his underlying numbers, that’s still a plenty valuable pitcher for fantasy.
From a pure odds perspective, Beachy is the least likely of the Braves’ Six to crack the rotation when everyone is healthy–but that is partially due to the team not wanting to shake things up when they’re in first place and the odds of him having a setback. In the long-term however, Beachy will be a key member of this rotation. Both Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson are free agents after the 2013 season, and it’s very tough to envision the Braves re-signing both of them at this point. In 2014, Beachy should be a top-50 starter with relative ease, and has the upside for more.
The biggest surprise of the 2013 season in Atlanta (on the positive side–I’m looking at you B.J. Upton) has been the emergence of Julio Teheran as a legitimate major league starter. It’s amazing that Teheran has gone from top prospect to bust to post-hype sleeper to major league success in his brief professional career, and still won’t turn 23 until NEXT January. To put that in additional perspective, he’s younger than both of the big rumored major league debuts coming later this week: Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler.
His turnaround is led by a change in repertoire. Throughout his minor league career, the big knock on Teheran was his lack of a consistent breaking ball, but he appears to have found that in 2013. After never throwing a single slider in the major leagues, he’s throwing it 21% of the time in 2013, including a season-high 41 times in his latest outing last week versus the Pirates. For the season, he’s allowing a .167 average on his slider with a 14.4% overall whiff rate. So while Teheran may never become the ace that he was pegged as when he was 18 years old, his improvement this year makes me more confident in him become a solid mid-rotation starter in the long-term. And while the odds of him getting bounced in favor of Beachy were highest heading into the season, it’s tough to see the Braves taking him out of the rotation now–when he’s really getting his feet underneath him.
At the outset of 2013, it was seen as nearly impossible that Medlen would be the man to the bullpen when everyone was healthy, but we’re staring down a distinct possibility that it could happen. Medlen has two things going in his “favor” here, and the first is that he has the bullpen experience. This is very important for a contending team like the Braves who have seen a rash of injuries to their bullpen. It makes sense logically that Medlen’s experience here could be a huge factor here as the Braves look to build a more sturdy bridge to Craig Kimbrel. The second thing is that by most metrics, Medlen has been the Braves worst pitchers so far this season. Sure, he has a shiny 2.87 ERA, which is good for second best of the group, but digging deeper, his troubles get unearthed. Of all Braves starters, Medlen has the worst walk rate, K/BB rate, FIP, xFIP, WHIP, WAR and win total (for good measure). He should still be a part of the Braves’ long-term plans in the rotation (even though he’ll likely never be as good as he was in the second half of 2012 again), but if you own him, you should be aware that there could be a detour in that plan.
- There was a brief period in the first half of May where Josh Donaldson looked to be coming back down to Earth, slighty. However, for all of the non-believers out there in this guy’s talent, he’s been the #1 fantasy third baseman over the last two weeks–ahead of Miguel Cabrera, among others. I still don’t think he’s a .320+ hitter, but a .290 hitter with 25 bombs? Sure. He’s essentially been the hitter that we all thought Allen Craig would be.
- As of this moment, the number one starting pitcher according to the ESPN Player Rater is Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright. It’s no secret that I was a huge supporter of Wainwright’s coming into the season, from here to here, because from a skills perspective he was the same guy he’d been prior to Tommy John surgery. He’s clearly fully back to where he was, and is a true ace going forward.
- Remember when Wilin Rosario was hitting .350 with 7 HR and 3 SB at the end of April? Well, since then he’s hit .170/.215/.277 with three homers in 112 at bats. So maybe he hasn’t turned into mid-90’s Pudge, but he’s still the player we thought he could be. He can still hit .260 or so with 25 home runs, and that is a top-10 catcher–especially if he can throw in a few steals now and again.
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