Tony Cingrani and Jose Fernandez have grabbed the imagination of the fantasy baseball world. Two elite prospects who are now ready to make their mark, there has been a borderline hysteria to add each to fantasy squads across the land. Is spending a good deal of your free agent resources to add either arm a good move? We'll investigate the outlook of both rookies. We'll then move on to the ever changing role of the bullpen. Three teams in particular – the Cardinals, Cubs & Red Sox – are spinning their wheels once again trying to figure out who the best man is to hand the ball to in order to get the last three outs of the game.
The Tony Cingrani Era
Johnny Cueto has a lat issue that will force him to the disabled list, and we know that lat issues can take up to six weeks to heal (the Reds aren't saying they believe the injury to Cueto will take anywhere near that long to heal, and they haven't actually placed him on the disabled list though that is being viewed as a formality at this point). The injury leaves a void in the Reds' rotation and it sure seems likely that Tony Cingrani will be called up to take the open spot by the horns. Given how he has performed on the young season, that's a great thing.
The young lefty was a 3rd round selection after a strong career at Rice University. Cingrani began mowing down professional hitters in 2011 at the rookie ball level (he had an amazing 14.0 K/9 mark over over 51.1 innings). He then made 25 starts, and 26 appearances, at High-A and Double-A ball in 2012 going 10-4 with a 1.73 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 10.6 K/9. He almost made the club out of camp this season, but the Reds wanted him to start in the minors versus working out of the pen in the big leagues. With the injury to Cueto, that has changed. Cingrani is certainly rolling right now, just take a look at his sick minor league numbers this season and he's worth breaking the bank on if you are in an NL-only league that he somehow wasn't rostered in (14.1 innings pitched have led to a 0.00 ERA, 0.35 WHIP, 26 Ks and two walks. Yes, those are real numbers. Yes, that is insanely good). In a 15 team mixed league, a heavy bid was called for. Heck, even in a 12 team league a decent sized FAAB bid makes a lot of sense. A few points though. (1) When Cueto is healthy he obviously returns to the starting rotation. The Reds have Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey locked into starting roles. That leaves the 4th spot in the rotation to 200 inning horse, can't believe I just called him that, Bronson Arroyo. The 5th spot then comes down to boring but stable Mike Leake and Cingrani when everyone is healthy. (2) There is always the 'how will he perform in the big leagues?' question with a youngster. If Cingrani pitches with 75 percent of the success he had in the minors he will force the Reds hand. If, however, he struggles a bit will the Reds turn to 200-inning stand by Arroyo or the solid if unspectacular Leake who they know can get batters out? Just something to think about.
The Cost of Doing Business
Jose Fernandez is an elite talent. Scouts universally gush when his name comes up and the term you hear all the time is “future ace.” No one doubts that if the Marlins youngster is able to stay healthy that he won't be a top of the rotation starter for a decade. So far his big league outings have completely supported that position as the 20 year old has made two starts with a 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 10.64 K/9. You can't pitch a heck of a lot better than that. You certainly can't be expected to pitch like that when you are 20 years old (or any age for that matter), especially when you have thrown all of 11 innings in your life above High-A ball as Fernandez has done. Talent is talent, but there should be some concerns. (1) He isn't even able to drink yet. That means, despite his immense talents, that he hasn't learned, at least not fully, how to “pitch.” (2) He has made two starts above A-Ball. (3) He will be limited to 150-170 innings this season the Marlins have already announced (he threw 134 innings in '12). (4) The Marlins stink. How many victories can he reasonably expect to pick up this year? Note that despite his utterly dominating work through two outings that he is 0-0.
All of that didn't stop folks from spending like crazy on him this weekend in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC). Here are some of the costs that he went for in a few leagues ($1,000 budget): 355, 374, 407, 473, 572 and 633. When asked I told people that I would spend about $250 if I was bidding. The reason? Well I listed some concerns above, there is also the practical aspect to consider. It doesn't make sense to me to spend 40 or more percent of your budget on a guy who is going to throw 160 innings, does it? Additionally, I'd rather take a shot on bunch of guys through the year for $15-$20 then one huge ticket item. Maybe I added Chris Getz for $8. Then I added on top of that Chris Johnson for $12. On the hill I could have added Jake Westbrook for $9, Travis Wood for $12 and Barry Zito for $17. I've just added a ton of depth for a fraction of the cost. I'm not saying that Fernandez isn't the most talented player out of that group, there is no question he is, it's just that I'm putting all my eggs in the basket of a 20 year old who has no experience, has an innings pitched limit, and one who is on an awful team is a pretty big risk in my eyes.
BULLPEN RUSSIAN ROULETTE CONTINUES
Oh those flippin' bullpens...
Jason Motte: Injured
Mitchell Boggs: Terrible
Trevor Rosenthal: Ineffective at times
Edward Mujica: Best option right now?
"Right now, Mujica’s making good pitches and getting the big outs when we need them," manager Mike Matheny said. Oh boy is right.
Motte seems at least a 50/50 bet to eventually have Tommy John surgery.
Boggs, as I've been warning everyone for two weeks, just isn't that good of an arm, but he's been even worse than my muted hopes for him suggested. In seven outings Boggs has an 11.37 ERA, has walked six batters in 6.1 innings, and has a 2.05 WHIP. He's a disaster right now.
In his young career Rosenthal has an elite 10.27 K/9 mark. He has an elite 4.38 K/BB ratio. His 53 percent ground ball rate is on the cusp of elite. His HR/9 is better than league average. And he throws 98 mph. Unfortunately the results haven't always been there this season as he has a 4.50 ERA and two blown saves. He's a better option than Boggs, but can he be fully trusted right now?
Mujica has worked in five games this season and allowed three hits an a walk while striking out five. He's basically the one reliever Matheny can turn to and have little concern that a big inning is going to happen. He's not quite as highly skilled as Rosenthal, but he's a very impressive hurler for one main reason – he just doesn't beat himself. For his career Mujica has walked just 1.52 batters per nine innings leading to an elite 4.83 K/BB ratio over 321 games. We weren't talking about him at all two weeks ago, but it sounds like he might just be in the lead right now for 9th inning work in St. Louis.
Carlos Marmol is 1-for-2 in saves, has walked four batters in 5.2 innings, and is the proud owner of a 7.94 ERA and 2.12 WHIP. He was removed from the closer's role.
Kyuji Fujikawa was inserted into the role. He's now hurt, has been placed on the DL with a forearm strain, and he has been worse than Marmol (12.46 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, .381 BAA).
The Cubs have stated that they aren't comfortable with Marmol closing right now, so it's Shawn Camp and James Russell time it would appear.
Camp came into the game Sunday against the Giants. He blew the save in the 9th inning. He then lost the game in the 10th inning. Through five outings he has a 12.46 ERA and 2.54 WHIP. U G L Y.
So that would seem to leave the 9th inning right now to – James Russell. The lefty has a 0.00 ERA and 0.25 WHIP but he is ill suited for the 9th inning. He's struck out less than seven batters per nine innings in his career, that's less than the big league average. He's also pretty incapable of generating ground balls with a 36 percent career mark leading to three straight years of less than a 1.00 GB/FB ratio. That inevitably leads to homers. Honestly, it's a bit surprising his career HR/9 mark isn't higher than 1.33. You don't want a soft tossing, homer prone lefty working the 9th inning, do you? The Cubs seemingly have no other choice at the moment, but don't go all in with Russell as it would be a minor miracle if he was able to take the job, run with it, and have a ton of success.
Red Sox Bullpen
Joel Hanrahan is dealing with a leg injury (a right hamstring strain) and the Red Sox believe that is the reason for his early season struggles (his ERA is 11.57, his WHIP 2.36 and his K/BB ratio 0.80). While those numbers are hideous they covered all of 4.2 innings. Hanrahan, who has saved 76 games the past two seasons, is still viewed as the Red Sox closer. However, the team will shut him down for a few days to allow his leg to heal with the hope being that will be enough and he won't need any time on the disabled list.
In his stead the Sox will turn to Andrew Bailey. An elite arm in his own right, Bailey is always hurt. The last time he threw 50 innings was his rookie season of 2009 with innings pitched totals of 49, 41.2 and 15.1 the past three years. The skills are impressive – just look at his 2.42 ERA, 1.02 WHIP. 9.06 K/9 and 3.31 K/BB ratio for his career – but you simply cannot trust him to stay healthy. Combine that with the Sox stated faith in Hanrahan and the success that he's had the past two years, and it would be wise to avoid breaking the bank to add Bailey. Andrew is still someone that you should pick up just in case things break his way – just don't go bonkers to do so.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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