Spring Battles: Winners and Losers so Far

Only a couple weeks left until opening day and teams are starting to make major roster moves and set opening day lineups and rotations.  Here are the fantasy winners and losers so far.
 
Yankee’s fifth Starter
Winner: Phil Hughes
After a back and forth battle for the Yankees final rotation spot, manager Joe Girardi finally announced that Phil Hughes would start the season in the rotation. 
 

Hughes, who had always posted good strikeout rates in the minors, posted a 10 K/9 last season.  However, that was mostly a result of pitching out of the pen.  In 2008 Hughes made eight starts for the Yankees and posted about 6 K/9. 

 
The bottom line is that Hughes certainly has the potential to be a valuable starter and should post above league average strikeout numbers.  As long as he can bring the command he showed in the minors, there is a chance we could see a sub 4.00 ERA in 2010. 
 
Remember though, Hughes only threw 105.1 combined innings last season.  There is a very good chance he is limited to under 150 innings this season.
 
Loser: Joba Chamberlain
After struggling with a starting gig last season, Joba didn’t show enough this spring to earn the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation.  He’ll move back to the role that made him a household name in the first place as the setup man for Mariano Rivera.  
 
This move may actually improve Joba’s fantasy value.  As a setup man Joba can throw with maximum effort, something he didn’t do in the rotation.  As a reliever Joba has the potential to rack up some strikeouts and even get a few cheap saves.  Rivera only threw 66 innings last season and at age 40 he’ll need some rest once again this season. 
 
Rays fifth starter
Winner: Wade Davis
Davis had a great showing in his late season call-up last season.  In 36.1 innings he posted almost 9 K/9.  Be aware, however, that his walk rates increased as he moved up each minor league level.  As long as walks don’t become a problem, he should be an above average Major League starter this season.  Don’t be afraid to use a late round pick on his upside.
 
Loser: Andy Sonnenstine
A couple of years ago Andy Sonnenstine looked like he would be a workhorse in the Rays rotation for years to come.  Last season a .336 BABIP against helped push him back to triple-A.  Sonnanstine has shown great command in the past, but he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts or ground balls, which has led to some high BABIP against totals over his career. 
 
Mets fifth starter
Winner: Jonathon Niese
Niese has put up some nice ground ball rates in the minors and generated 48 percent ground balls in his six starts with the Mets last season.  His strikeout rates will probably be league average or just slightly above, so his potential is ultimately limited in 12-team mixed leagues.  Still, he could be a useful streaming option or a nice late round value in NL-only leagues.
 
Loser: Fernando Nieve
Nieve will move to the bullpen now and make little or no fantasy impact unless he gets a spot start here and there.
 
Nationals starting shortstop
(likely) Winner: Ian Desmond
Last season between double-A, triple-A and the majors Desmond stole 22 bases and hit 11 home runs in only 118 games combined.  While he’ll likely go through the ups and downs of a rookie, his potential for 10-15 home runs and 20-plus steals makes him a nice sleeper at a thin position.
 
Loser: Christian Guzman
Injuries have just about sapped all of Guzman’s stolen base potential as he hasn’t stolen more than ten since 2004.  He would only really contribute to deep leagues if he plays everyday and hits for a very high average.  Neither of which looks to happen in 2010.
 
Cardinals fifth starter
Winner: Jamie Garcia
Garcia missed most of 2009 due to elbow surgery, but he is obviously good to go heading into the 2010 season.  He won’t blow anyone away with his fastball, but he features a plus curve.  He has a career ground ball rate close to 60 percent in the minors.  If that translates to over 50 percent at the major league level, he could be a bit of a sleeper for some quality innings.  Keep him on your radar.
 
Losers: Rich Hill and Kyle McClellan
Rich Hill still has a nasty curve, but his command issues continue to haunt him.  Until he can figure things out he won’t contribute much to fantasy teams.  While McClellan posted a decent ERA out of the pen last season, he only had a 1.5 K/BB rate, which doesn’t give him much upside as a starter.