Fifth Starter Battles

By mattmilner

All across baseball there are teams with undecided fifth starters. I’m going to give a rundown of the battles to keep an eye on.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Last year’s NL West champs have a bunch of guys fighting for a spot in the rotation. Eric Stults, Charlie Haeger and Carlos Monasterios all pitched in the spring opener, with James McDonald set to go later in the week. Monasterios is a Rule V pick, so if he doesn’t make the Dodgers big league club, he’ll be returned to Philadelphia which seems extremely likely. James McDonald is the odds on favorite to win the spot like he did last year. He promptly lost that spot last season, but with another year under his belt he may have turned a corner. Other things to keep in mind, here, are that both Stults and Haeger are out of options and would have to clear waivers to be assigned to the minors.

New York Yankees

Joba or Hughes. If you turn on ESPN and happen to catch some kind of baseball coverage, this is probably going to be brought up at least once. This battle is interesting for fantasy teams, because in most leagues, one will have good value and the other won’t have much. Keep an eye on this one.

Chicago Cubs

This battle is for both the fourth and fifth starting spots to start the year, due to Ted Lilly’s shoulder/knee/flu/fever problems early this spring. The candidates are Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, and with a very outside chance, Andrew Cashner. The pitcher that should win this is Gorzelanny. The Cubs will likely need a few starts to fill in for Lilly and Marshall or Silva could probably fill in there. Tom Gorzelanny has the ability to be a good starting pitcher in the major leagues. As long as his velocity and location is sharp, he could even be a fantasy sleeper.

St. Louis Cardinals

Ryan McClellan, Jaime Garcia, and Rich Hill are the major candidates. Hill comes with former success in the bigs with the Cubs. If he can find his control again, he’s an absolutely nasty pitcher who has the potential to be a #3 starter. McClellan will try to make the conversion from relieving to starting this season. There is no clear favorite here since all have major question marks. Jaime Garcia has battled injuries, but was a highly touted minor leaguer. He could surprise some people this year.

Cincinnati Reds

The candidates are Mike Lincoln, Micah Owings, Matt Maloney, Justin Lehr and Travis Wood, as well as Aroldis Chapman who has an uphill battle to break camp with the Reds. You’d have to think Owings has the edge here, due to his past success. His ability to swing the bat doesn’t hurt, either. If Chapman does end up winning the battle, look for him to be a good source of strikeouts for your fantasy team.

Oakland Athletics

All of the candidates here have had major league experience despite all being under 24 years old. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Vin Mazzaro are the candidates. The edge as of now looks to be with Cahill, although in his Cactus League opener, he struggled. As is the A’s M.O., whoever breaks camp with the team likely won’t pitch all season long in an effort to monitor their innings pitched closely. All three of these pitchers will probably see time in the major leagues next season.

There are plenty of other fifth starter battles in the big leagues, but these seem to be the most interesting and have fantasy value in deep leagues. Keep an eye on these six teams as March moves forward.

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