Five to Stash for 2015: Starting Pitcher
With the season about to be underway it is safe to say that even if you play in the shallowest of dynasty formats most of the big name pitching prospects with a shot to pitch this season are already on rosters. Names like Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Rodon, Jon Gray, Henry Owens, and Matt Wisler all received enough hype and praise last year that they are almost certain to be unavailable. Below are five pitchers I believe will be in their respective rotations this year that may still be available to stash and could pay dividends for your team now and in the future.
Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, Texas Rangers
It seems that the injury bug will not leave this Texas club alone, after plaguing their best hitters last season, Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Martin Perez are all gone from their rotation with injury to start this season. This leaves the Rangers with some undesirable options to use as everyday starters like Ross Detwiler, Nick Martinez, and Colby Lewis. The door has been left wide open for Gonzalez to earn a spot in this rotation by mid-season.
Gonzalez is a very polished young pitcher who owns a career ERA in the minors of 2.93 and an ever improving 1.24 WHIP. Since starting his career with control issues and hittable breaking offerings he has worked hard to remedy these issues posting 1.18 WHIP last season. Gonzalez will begin the season at AAA but should he succeed at the level the club could call on him for the second half. His excellent fastball, slider, and changeup combo give him the look of a solid fantasy #3 starter.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox
The rotation built this offseason by Ben Cherington has left an offensive juggernaut playing with fire on the defensive side of the ball. Aside from Rick Porcello and Wade Miley none of the other starters have been injury free in the last few seasons never mind pitched effectively. I am not banking on Clay Buchholz to make it through an entire season unscathed and neither should you. The name that is heard most when discussing the Red Sox crop of talented lefties is Henry Owens but I believe fellow prospect Eduardo Rodriguez will be the first to receive a call when the need presents itself.
Since coming over from the Orioles in the Andrew Miller trade last year Rodriguez has been dominant pitching 37.1 innings of stellar baseball posting a 0.96 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP. Rodriguez has begun to throw his changeup a bit harder than most, which is where he feels the pitch is most natural for him. With a fastball, slider, and changeup all projecting as plus offerings Rodriguez has plenty of weapons to overwhelm hitters and the control to make it happen. His upside is that of a #2 starter with a fairly high floor of a #4.
Alex Meyer, Minnesota Twins
The Twins are not likely to be a very good baseball team this season and when Phil Hughes is your ace this is something that should be expected. From top to bottom the Twins rotation does not have a single pitcher who could develop into a true top of the rotation arm with enough strikeouts to entice fantasy owners. The player most likely to fulfill this potential is the giant 6’7” righty Meyer.
Being as large as he is control fueled by a consistent release point has been the most difficult part of the game for Meyer to master. Last year in AAA he made an impressive 27 starts over 130.1 innings pitched while striking out a whopping 153 batters. When it comes to pure stuff there are few prospects that can match his electric fastball, devastating slider, and above average changeup but commanding each of them has been a different story. With little left to prove at AAA Meyer should spend the beginning of this season working on limiting free passes but could be striking batters out in Target Field by mid-year. He has the potential to become the first Twins starter since Francisco Liriano in 2010 to break the 200 K mark if he starts every fifth day in 2016.
Aaron Blair, Arizona Diamondbacks
With the recent trade of Trevor Cahill to the Braves complete the Diamondbacks go into 2015 with Archie Bradley slated to be their fifth starter. After struggling with inconsistency and injury last season the mega talented Bradley is no sure thing to succeed but given the state of the rest of their rotation he may be safer than the other undesirable options they are trotting out there. This murky rotation leaves the door wide open for the most polished of Arizona’s young pitching prospects—Aaron Blair.
While the top end stuff is not as good as Braden Shipley and Archie Bradley, Blair does possess three above average pitches in his fastball, curveball, and changeup. Blair was impressively able to post a 1.94 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 46.1 IP at AA last season and has never allowed a HR/9 rate over 0.78. His ability to limit home runs and walks will serve him well in Chase Field which in 2014 was the seventh friendliest ballpark to the long ball. Blair projects as a solid #3 starter down the road with 180 strikeout potential. His first shot should come sometime around mid-year as I expect the attrition to kick in early for this staff.
Nick Kingham, Pittsburgh Pirates
After a really nice 2014 season amassing 159 IP and 119 strikeouts across AA and AAA Kingham has positioned himself to get the first call to the big leagues should anyone get hurt or struggle for this contending Pirates team. The 23-year-old righty Kingham doesn’t have overpowering stuff but he knows how to get outs efficiently and limit runs and free passes. With an excellent defense to back him up in Pittsburgh it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him approach the 3.34 ERA and 1.21 WHIP he put up last season when he finally does make it to the show.
While Kingham does not possess the strikeout upside of fellow pitching prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon he also doesn’t share their youth or injury concerns. Glasnow’s clock will likely be delayed another year since he was pitching in A+ ball to finish last season and Taillon is coming off Tommy John surgery so he should be given some additional time to ramp up. While Kingham isn’t a sexy option, he can likely come up and deliver a Doug Fister like line fairly soon. Between Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, and the ancient A.J. Burnett there he should get an opportunity in short order.