A few days ago I put up a piece on Adam Wilk as a candidate for the 5th rotation spot, a possibility which no doubt made some of you cringe. One of our commenters suggested that after such a downer, we put together a rundown of the fifth starter situations prior to Spring Training for our competitors in the AL Central, since if a situation is grim for all it can’t be especially grim for anyone in particular.
Cleveland: Now that
Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez Heredia is out of the picture, the Indians 5th starter spot is up in the air. It could be David Huff or Jeanmar Gomez, who have been largely ineffective in the bigs for them over the past couple of years or Scott McAllister who was great in AAA last year, but it will probably be Twins reject and recent signee Kevin Slowey.
Chicago: Provided Jake Peavy is healthy, the 5th starter for the White Sox will be flamethrower Chris Sale stepping in to fill Buerhle’s shoes. [With Gavin Floyd, Philip Humber and John Danks filling out the rotation.] The Pale Hose had one of the deepest rotations in the game last year, and the year before that and things have not changed, despite losing both Buerhle and Edwin Jackson. Sale will probably be good enough to be #2 on most other staffs, especially in this division. If, on the other hand, Peavy isn’t healthy, the White Sox still have a number of ‘acceptable’ options like 2011 spot starters Dylan Axelrod and Zach Stewart (with RotoChamp ERA forecasts of 3.80 and 4.05 respectively) as well as minor-league signee Scott Olsen.
Kansas City: It’s difficult to say, of all the pitchers who will or might make the Royals rotation in 2011, which one will qualify as #5. Bruce Chen and Jonathan Sanchez are locks to make the rotation, so by that measure they probably aren’t #5. Felipe Paulino and Luke Hochevar were effective at times (and ineffective in others) last year, but they’ll likely be returning to the rotation. The #5 slot would then (though either Hochevar or Paulino could probably lose their spot during spring training) be a contest between Danny Duffy and a horde of youngsters with less talent that also flopped in 2011 (like Vin Mazzaro or Sean O’Sullivan) with Duffy the very heavy favorite despite his 5.64 ERA in 20 starts for the Royals last year.
Minnesota: In a somewhat confusing use of $3 million, the Twins signed Jason Marquis to be their 4th or 5th starter this year. Since that sort of a contract makes him a mortal lock to start the season in the rotation, I’d say that the 5th spot (and the hot seat) now belongs to Nick Blackburn – who may have to fight it out in Spring Training with Brian Duensing, who failed in his transition from ‘pen to rotation last year due to some very troubling L-R splits. His peripherals were all right, so maybe he’ll turn things around. If Blackburn flops and Duensing goes back to the ‘pen, the fifth spot might fall to Anthony Swarzak – but my money is on Blackburn.
Sadly, this review does nothing to improve my confidence. Things still look relatively grim for the Tigers compared to other teams in the central. The Twinks will be running one of two guys out there that made a lot of starts for them last year and has been almost average over the past few years on the whole. The Royals will be giving one of their top pitching prospects a second shot and hoping he makes strides in his sophomore season. The White Sox will be moving a potential top-of-the-rotation starter from the bullpen to the 5 spot now that they finally have room for him. The Indians – even after losing Heredia for months at the least – will probably be starting a veteran that I hope Adam Wilk could mature into, providing none of their prospects simply demands to make the team with him performance in March. Thankfully, these teams all stink in their own special ways but the 5th rotation spot is probably not going to be a source of advantage for the Tigers.