February 4th, 2014

There Are Some Starting Pitching Woes-American League

With pitchers and catchers reporting to a couple of camps this week, there is still some unfinished business to be conducted.

Roster development takes the entire winter and spring. In some cases, major moves are yet to come. In others, maybe a nip here and a tuck there. But most team will make adjustments to the roster we see entering Spring Training.
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But when it’s all said and done, in my opinion, starting pitching and then relief pitching will be the great separator in the American League. Today I look at the starters.

Given the injury to Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays have to find a starter for his role. Granted, they may not need him right out of the gate, but they’ll need that 5th starter at some point prior to Hellickson’s return. Jake Odorizzi may fit that role. I really like Alex Colome and Enny Romero. Both may be late 2014 additions. For me, Alex Cobb is the stud of the staff. I like David Price, but I really think Cobb is a huge winner.

I’m still thinking Ubaldo Jimenez signs with the Blue Jays. I just don’t know what’s taking so long. They may get Bronson Arroyo or Ervin Santana as well. They can certainly use the pitching depth. Huge questions abound with the entire staff as now constituted. I’m not convinced about Kyle Drabek. Or even J A Happ. And Mark Buehrle has lots of pitches on that arm. And on and on. R. A. Dickey? Who knows?

No matter how I look at it, the Yankees still come up a pitcher short. Problem solved if Michael Pineda is healthy. If so, they can afford a hiccup from one of their starters. I just don’t have the confidence that Sabathia, Tanaka, Nova, Kuroda and Phelps is a Championship rotation. If One of them leaks, and watch out. Kelly Johnson at third base isn’t very exciting either. Or Brian Roberts at second. The more I think about it, I think the Yankees have some holes to fill. But starting pitching has to be reinforced first.

The situation with Justin Masterson and the Indians is a concern. They are world’s
apart in the arbitration process. It seems like this will be Masterson’s last year in Cleveland. If that’s true, then they will have lost Kazmir, Jimenez and Masterson over a two-year period. The development of Danny Salazar is crucial. But Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer have to perform as expected. Lots of pitching questions for the Tribe. Mickey Callaway does a great job as pitching coach. He’s very underrated. Bauer? New delivery? That’s good, because he has to deliver.

Think of what the Rangers are facing with their rotation. Coming back from injury candidates include Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis. Is the shoulder of Alexi Ogando healthy? And now they lose Derek Holland. So where do they get a starter? I’m thinking Robbie Ross. They can use one of the free agent pitchers. Starting pitching depth is not a Rangers strength. They’ll hit. But the starters are a concern.

The Mariners could have two rookies in their rotation. I’m on board with Taijuan Walker. I like what he brings. I’m much more concerned about James Paxton. Much more. And isn’t Scott Baker a huge question mark? I still like Erasmo Ramirez as a starter. They can certainly use more pitching-at one point a prospect strength. The injury to Danny Hultzen hurt badly.

I’d like to see Yordano Ventura grab one of the rotation spots in Kansas City. I’ve seen his fastball in action. There are times it’s straight as a string, but he has a fabulous arm. I think he’ll get a long look this spring and be promoted at some time during the season. If the Royals pitchers falter, the next waive includes Ventura and ultimately Kyle Zimmer, Chris Dwyer and John Lamb. Each is loaded with questions, but there is some depth.

I still scratch my head about the Tigers giving up Doug Fister. It isn’t as if they are deep in starters. Yes, Drew Smyly takes Fister’s role. But starter #6? If there is any vulnerability with the Tigers, starting pitching depth is first on my list.

The additions of Jerome Williams and Scott Feldman could help stabilize the Astros until pitchers like Mark Appel arrive. While the Astros have made strides in the offensive part of the game, pitching has to be the next priority. Appel will really help.

Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes may both find the going a bit easier in the spacious, pitcher-friendly Target Field in Minnesota. But I’m not betting the ranch on the Twins rotation. Home runs may not fly out of the park, but the gaps offer plenty of extra base hits. Nolasco and Hughes are similar. Each can be very good or very bad. Little in between. Both benefit from the park factor.

Parker, Kazmir, Gray, Griffin and Straily. That’s certainly a very solid rotation that can carry the Athletics a long, long way. And more great arms wait in the wings. The Athletics are one of the few teams with enough depth to get through a season without missing much of a beat. They may not have much power on the club, but they can pitch. It’ll keep them in games, just as in the past two seasons.

Chris Sale is an absolute stud. He anchors a White Sox pitching staff that will have three lefties with John Danks and Jose Quintana hanging around. I expect some nice results from big right-hander Erik Johnson. It’s that 5th starter’s role that could be a black hole.
Remember that Andre Rienzo got a couple starts last year. He can help. But again, as Yogi would say, there might not be deep depth.

The Red Sox are pretty well settled. If any of their starters don’t’ perform, they can turn to great arms like Ruby de La Rosa and Allen Webster to name a couple. But they need good performances from Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster to make everything work. Can they both perform?

Two huge questions complete the Angels rotation behind Weaver, Wilson and Richards. Can Tyler Skaggs equal his press clippings? For me, he has to pitch inside and use his curveball more often. It’s a darn good pitch. He seems to lack confidence. The upside is there. Can he deliver? Hector Santiago is another question mark. He has a good arm and I think will find success in Anaheim. But beyond that five, they sure need some help. The free agent market is calling. Ubaldo? Arroyo? A return of Santana? That’s more doubtful. But they need another arm.

As always, thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com. And I hope you’ll listen to Short Hops where Derek Van Riper and I talk baseball every week. You can find us on iTunes. It’s free. And please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.