Options For A Royal Rotation

ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 14: Bruce Chen #52 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Texas Rangers on May 14, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)

As you’ve likely heard, Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy has booked an appointment with Dr. Lewis Yocum for a second opinion on his ailing elbow. There’s nothing optimistic here; second opinions usually don’t overturn the first opinion. Especially in the case of the elbow.

As Marc Normandin noted yesterday, Duffy had struggled with his command this season (likely related to his elbow issues) and in a little over a full major league season under his belt, has yet to really offer much in the way of fantasy value. Now that he’s on the shelf for the next 12 months, he leaves a void in the Kansas City rotation. Now, this rotation wasn’t setting the baseball world afire with Duffy throwing every five days, and it’s not like they’re going to get better. However, if you have a hole in your fantasy rotation due to the exit of Duffy, is there anyone on the Royals staff you can look at to fill the void?

Possibilities after the jump...

Bruce Chen

Chen drained the high octane Texas Ranger attack on Monday, limiting the lineup to five hits, two walks and one run in six plus innings. Chen has reinvented himself with the Royals where he now possesses "crafty left-hander" status. His fastball struggles to reach 90 mph, but his command, pitch selection and array of arm slots seem to keep big league hitters off balance. He’s living around the plate and his 1.7 BB/9 is by far the best walk rate of his career.

Chen’s .276 BABIP is right around his career rate and his xFIP is 3.80 (compared to a 4.34 ERA) so unless he completely loses his command, he now represents a safe bet to continue pitching at his current level.

Strange as this may sound, Chen represents a solid play if you have a hole to fill in your fantasy rotation.

Felipe Paulino

Paulino missed the first month of the season with forearm tightness, so we don’t have a full compliment of starts, but

In just over 11 innings, Paulino has 12 strikeouts against three walks. Naturally, there will be some changes in the rates in the starts to come, but Paulino has always been a strikeout pitcher. With the Royals last summer, he whiffed 8.6 SO/9 and stranded 71% of all baserunners. While he finished with a 4.11 ERA, his xFIP of 3.74 suggested there was some room for improvement.

It has been just two starts, but Paulino’s rates are already in line with what he posted in 2011 for the Royals. He’s striking out around a quarter of all batter, has a .323 BABIP and is getting a ground ball in about 44 percent of all balls in play.

Paulino’s ability to miss bats (he has a 76 percent career contact rate against) makes him attractive. The strikeouts add to his luster. It’s likely he’s flown under the radar due to his early season injury… and the fact he pitches for the Royals. He’s worth a look.

Luke Hochevar

Hochevar is the Sybil of his generation of starting pitchers… Capable of shutting down a lineup for seven or eight solid innings, but just as likely to cough up seven runs in the first.

Hochevar had a strong second half in 2011, one where I thought he was ready to make the leap to solid, middle of the rotation starter. This year, I’ve thrown my hands in the air and walked away. His command has disappeared. His current 3.4 BB/9 is the worst of his career. His .351 BABIP is certainly elevated, but it was built on the strength of a line drive rate around 24 percent. When he is around the strike zone, hitters are squaring up on Hochevar and making him pay. In his seven starts in 2012, he’s fooling no one.

The ying and yang of his starts are so extreme, it can absolutely crush your team if you’re in a head to head league. And in a straight points league, the bad starts outweigh the good by a margin of around 2.5 to 1. There’s no reason to have him on your roster.

Jonathan Sanchez

I bring him up only for comic relief. Currently on the DL with forearm tightness, Sanchez has had a difficult time switching leagues. His 7.8 BB/9 is staggering in it’s awfulness. His 6.4 SO/9 is the lowest of his career. It’s not a surprise he’s sporting a 6.75 ERA and 1.86 WHIP. His xFIP of 6.00 is dreadful.

I feel like I don't need to tell you this, but just in case... Avoid at all costs.

Luis Mendoza

The Royals were taken with Mendoza’s solid showing in Triple-A last summer and decided he earned another shot at the big leagues. Never a strikeout pitcher, Mendoza has been erratic in his command. His 5.7 BB/9 and 4.1 SO/9 translate to a 0.72 SO/BB ratio.

My golden rule of fantasy is to never even look at pitchers with a sub 1 SO/BB ratio. It’s a good rule.

If I were to rank the Royals starting pitchers in order of desirability, I’d go Paulino, Chen and then everyone else. Paulino is a solid choice in deeper leagues and Chen is a stealth pick who can nicely fill out your rotation. If you’re considering anyone else from the Royals rotation, you should start looking at mock fantasy football drafts.

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