MLB Handicapping: Starters Who Should be in Minor Leagues
by Trevor Whenham - 4/3/2013
It is very tough for a Major League team to construct a solid five-man rotation. Heck, the Yankees spend more than the GDP of most countries on their payroll each year, and it has been a long time since their rotation has been more than just passable. Even knowing the challenges, though, there are some roster moves at the start of each season that really make you shake your head. Are teams really desperate enough to think that these guys are the best they can do with their rotation? Here are four guys that really caught my eye and who could provide nice opportunities to bet against them:
Erik Bedard, Houston Astros
Given the ridiculous state of the Astros and their microscopic payroll, it’s hardly an accomplishment to be the ace of the staff, never mind the fifth starter. Bedard did manage to secure that fifth spot, though. It seems like four lifetimes ago, but it wasn’t that long ago that Bedard seemed to be on the verge of being elite when he was with Baltimore. After leaving Baltimore in 2007, he spent two injury-plagued seasons in Seattle, missed 2010 entirely because of injury, then split 2011 between Seattle and Boston. Last year he pitched most of a season in Pittsburgh, but he was largely ineffective — 7-14 with a 5.01 ERA. He’s just 23-30 since leaving Baltimore. That’s good enough for a job in Houston, though, as Bedard will be the fifth starter in the rotation. Given Houston’s issues, it’s clear they aren’t going to rely on convention when using their pitchers, though — Bedard went 3.1 innings in relief in the season opener to secure the save. It was his best outing in a while — something positive to start the year for Houston.
Scott Kazmir, Cleveland Indians
It you had told me six or seven years ago that Scott Kazmir would be the best pitcher in the AL in 2013, I would have struggled to argue with you. By the time he was 25 he had been an all-star twice and had once led the league in strikeouts. But then he forgot how to pitch. Arm injuries didn’t help his cause, either. He was traded to the Angels by the Rays during the 2009 season. He was uninspiring the rest of that year and lousy the next year — his 5.94 ERA in 2010 was the highest in the majors among regular starters. In 2011 he was only with the Angels for one start before winding up in the minors where he only got worse, and he was released in June. Last year he hit rock-bottom — he pitched for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. He found his velocity again this winter in Puerto Rico, though, and somehow found his way onto the Indians rotation after winning a surprisingly tough fight for the final spot that included Daisuke Matsuzaka and hot prospect Trevor Bauer. The happy ending could be delayed a bit, though — Kazmir hurt himself playing catch on Monday and is likely to start the season on the DL.
Nick Tepesch, Texas Rangers
Tepesch doesn’t have the rocky past of the first two on this list, but he is nonetheless a shocker to see as a Major League starter. The 25 year old has never pitched above AA, and he spent last year split between the Class A Myrtle Beach Pelicans and the AA Frisco Rough Riders. He has pitched just 90 innings in his career above A ball. He has some game — he combined with one other pitcher for a no-hitter last year in Myrtle Beach. Still, he hardly factored into the Rangers’ immediate plans over the winter. In fact, some were surprised he was even at the Major League camp. Injuries are an obvious factor here — the Rangers have three potential starters on the DL. Still, Tepesch seems like a guy who could be in over his head here.
Jon Garland, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are a bad team, and the fact that Garland is their fifth starter is proof of that. He has over a decade of starting experience, but he has never been overwhelming — his career ERA of 4.32 doesn’t exactly have him on track for Cooperstown. His last couple of years have been such a disaster, though, that I’m sure most people thought he had retired. He signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers in 2010, but he was ineffective early, and then his season ended in June went he went down with a shoulder injury that eventually led to surgery. The Indians signed him to a minor league deal last year, but he never reported for his physical and was cut. He didn’t pitch at all last year. In February he signed another minor league deal with the Mariners and pitched with them in the spring. He was decent, but not good enough to factor in Seattle’s plans. He opted out of that deal on March 22. Colorado is such a mess that they not only picked him up, but they gave him a major league deal and a spot in the starting rotation on the spot. A rusty pitcher with a history of injuries and questionable stuff on a lousy team in a hostile park for pitchers. What could possibly go wrong?
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