Theo Epstein and company had a clear goal in mind entering the offseason, improving a starting rotation that posted a 4.52 ERA in 2012. After adding four pitchers who could potentially fill rotation spots in 2013, they clearly have given themselves options. Are they better, however? Lets take a look at the pitchers vying for rotation spots and their potential fantasy appeal:
A holdover from the past two seasons and the likely ace of the staff. His 2012 did end after 103.2 innings due to elbow issues, but at this point expectations are that he will be ready for Spring Training. He has proven capable of generating strikeouts (K/9 of 8.95 and 8.33) with good control (BB/9 of 2.86 and 2.78) while pitching in th NL. As long as he keeps the ball in the ballpark, there is no reason to think that he won’t be a must own option in all formats.
After breaking out in 2012, he’s not in jeopardy of being returned to the bullpen. A 3.81 ERA and 1.22 WHIP have a habit of doing that. However, I wouldn’t go into the season assuming he’s a lock to replicate those numbers. Control has always been one of hs issues, yet he posted a 2.89 BB/9 last season. Could he have simply figured it out? Could having to harness his stuff to go deep into games have helped with his control? Absolutely, but it is no guarantee. Throw in a 22.3% line drive rate (only two months under 23.8%) and there are reasons to be skeptical. He’s worth owning due to his upside, but I definitely wouldn’t overspend to get him due to the risk of a regression.
We always talk about Jackson’s potential, but sooner or later he needs to actually post numbers. He has made at least 31 starts each of the past six seasons, but only twice has posted an ERA under 4.00 (and never under 3.60). When looking at the numbers, you would expect better results (solid control, for instance), but the BABIP always appears inflated. He has been over .300 in four of the past six seasons, including posting marks of .313 and .330 in 2010 and 2011. So are the skills just not there? He’s still only 29-years old, so there is time, but the consistent elevated numbers have got to make us skeptical. Think of him as more of a low-end flier with upside.
I have always been a fan of Baker, thanks to his control. You couple that with a move to the NL (and chance for more strikeouts) and he really could deliver a solid season. Yes, a 20.9% career line drive rate is a concern and we don’t know exactly what to expect as he returns from Tommy John surgery. That said, his potential to deliver a strong WHIP (under 1.20 in three of the previous four seasons) make him well wort stashing in deeper formats.
He has always been a swing man, operating both as a starting pitcher or reliever. He could open the year in the rotation, but depending on how he is pitching cede his spot once Baker returns. That said, home runs have been a constant issue (1.31 HR/9), and that’s a scary thought when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley. I could see him getting off to a fast start, something I would want to take advantage of, but be ready to sell high come May or June.
He posted a 4.27 ERA in 2012, yet that came courtesy of an extremely lucky .244 BABIP (especially when you factor in a 21.8% line drive rate). There is room for growth in the strikeout department (8.07 K/9 at Triple-A), and he does have good control, so there is some hope. However, he’s going to be more of a streaming option.
While he could make some spot starts, he appears destined to be a long man out of the bullpen at this point. As if a 4.81 career ERA wasn’t enough, he should be ignored in all formats.
What are your thoughts of the Cubs’ rotation? Which pitchers are you targeting? Who are you avoiding?
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Make sure to check out all of our extremely early 2013 rankings: