Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Position Battles: Part Two

By Mark Hock

Last week I wrote about the players who won their respective position battles during Spring Training. This week we’ll take a look at some of the pitchers were on the bubble and earned a spot in the rotation.

SP Drew Smyly, Detroit Tigers – As Tom Froemming recently wrote, Smyly earned a spot as the Tigers #5 starter. Jacob Turner was widely expected to win a spot but he struggled during the spring thanks to shoulder tendinitis. Smyly doesn’t throw very hard, but he has strong command of four pitches which has allowed him to succeed in the minors.

Smyly has never pitched above AA, so it’s anybody’s guess as to how he does. However, the  Tigers have often brought their pitching prospects to the majors from AA, so if they feel he’s ready then there’s a good chance that Smyly could be a useful starter. In the minors he’s struck out more than a batter an inning while showing pinpoint command.

He likely won’t be a strong source of strikeouts, but he should post high win totals and give you good ratios for ERA and WHIP.

Liam Hendriks, Minnesota Twins Now here’s a guy with a ton of upsisde. Hendriks throws in the low 90’s, and was absolutely dominant in the minors. He posted an average strikeout rate in the majors in his debut last season, and he could be one of the Twins best pitchers by the end of 2012.

Over his minor league career Hendriks struck out over 8 batters per 9 innings, while walking 1.4 per 9. Those are fantastic numbers, and with a guaranteed spot in the rotation it means Hendriks could be in line for a breakout season. Hendriks should contribute across the board, and he’s likely to be available in your league now. So if you need some pitching he’s an excellent player to gamble on.

Kyle Drabek, Toronto Blue Jays – I’m admittedly not a fan of Drabek, but it’s tough to deny his success so far in Spring Training. Drabek was a complete disaster last season, walking more than he struck out in both the majors and almost doing the same in the minors. So the fact that he’s got a 12 to 6 K:BB ratio in Spring Training is a positive sign, as he couldn’t even pull that off in the minor leagues last season. This is one of those rare times where Spring Training numbers ARE meaningful, because Drabek couldn’t get minor league hitters out last season even if his life depended on it.

Drabek’s walk rate is still fairly high, and his season will likely be determined by his control. If he can keep the walks to a reasonable level he should be a decent source of wins, strikeouts and ERA. But if he can’t control the walks, things will get very ugly in a hurry. The Jays need to see a strong season from Drabek or he’ll start getting passed by the next wave of pitching prospects. If you’re desperate for pitching grab him, otherwise put him on the watch list and keep an eye on his performance.

Jeanmar Gomez, Cleveland Indians – He’s struggled in his limited time in the majors, but Gomez is a solid prospect who has earned the #5 spot in the rotation. The 24 year old has put up strong numbers in the minor leagues, and this could be a breakout year for him.

Like Smyly, Gomez won’t blow anybody away with a high strikeout total. But he could be a decent source of ERA and WHIP. He’s not someone I’d draft yet, but keep him on a watch list in case he does break out.

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