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Last year, the Cincinnati Reds had two young pitchers that burst onto the scene.
One of them was Mike Leake, who skipped the minor leagues and started in the majors instantly. He stole a spot in the Reds’ rotation and ran away with it. He took the fantasy world by storm by going 5-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his first 11 starts. After that, he cooled off and his ERA climbed to 4.62 through his last 13 starts. The Reds took notice and shut him down after a start on August 24th, taking the cautious route not to overwork the young arm.
Travis Wood had a similar story, though he didn’t acquire a spot in the rotation to start the season, he was called up and started on July 1st and took advantage of the opportunity. In his first 9 starts, he compiled an impressive record of 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA. However, just like Leake, he cooled off down the stretch, but still finished with passable stats of a 5-4 record with a 3.51 ERA.
The question remains, will they have enough fantasy value to draft this year? The biggest obstacle for them to achieve an improvement on last season weighs on the pitching rotation race this year.
Current ‘locks’ for starting spots are Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. That leaves Wood, Leake and another young arm, Homer Bailey the favorites to battle out the final two spots with Dontrelle Willis as a long shot. Lucky for them, Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman is going to reside in the bullpen for 2011.
Both of the players have a decent shot at winning a rotation spot, but are either of them fantasy worthy this year?
Leake is likely going to have his innings capped for this year, so he seems unlikely to put up his numbers for a whole year again. The former first round pick is just one year removed from college, so it only makes sense.
I also don’t expect him to win a rotation spot this year, so some time in AAA might help him straighten things out as hitters figured him out down the stretch. I would expect around 15 starts this year filling in for starting pitchers who land on the DL at times this year.
Wood, on the other hand, will likely not have his innings capped, so if he gains posession of one of the two final spots, he could have a decent season. I don’t think a 3.50 ERA season is out of the question. You can probably expect around 180 strikeouts, and after posting a 1.08 whip last year, a repeat of that figure is highly unlikely, but 1.25 WHIP is in the realm of possibility.
I think Leake has more upside, but is probably a year away from making a true impact in fantasy, and probably in the real thing. Wood will probably win a starting gig, and is worth a flier in the late rounds of 10 team standard leagues. In deep keeper leagues, it probably wouldn’t hurt to grab Leake late.
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