We’re heading into a season the likes of which we’ve never witnessed. Spring Training in July? What does that mean for the pitching component of our game? Will we see six-man rotations? Will starters, at least initially, be looking at shorter stints on the hill? The Tampa Bay Rays model of using an opener could be an everyday occurrence in 2020. If so, numerous relievers could be the beneficiary of this practice and thus should be on our radar as we attempt to mold our pitching heading into this rather unique season.
Kolby Allard, TEX (CBS: 5% rostered): There appears to be no path to a starting gig, at least to start the season, but that doesn’t mean the former Braves top-prospect won’t hold value in middle-relief.
Corbin Burnes, MIL (CBS: 11% rostered): The gopher ball plagued him in 2019, as did the free passes, but he’s definitely trending upwards after a very strong Spring. The 70 strikeouts in 49 IP last season should have your attention.
Darwinzon Hernandez, BOS (CBS: 3% rostered): A starting rotation anchored by Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez is going to be cause for the Boston bullpen to get plenty of work in 2020. The 57 strikeouts in 30 1/3 IP in 2019 was outstanding. The 26 walks, not so much. Hernandez has tested positive for Covid-19 which could delay his start to the 2020 season, but pending a return to health he should get plenty of work as a result of that depleted Boston rotation.
Spencer Howard, PHI (CBS: 18% rostered): Howard’s future is definitely that of a starter, but if he doesn’t break camp owning the fifth starter gig, you know the Phillies will be using him in multiple inning stints.
Pierce Johnson, SDP (CBS: not rostered): The Padres bullpen is both talented and very deep, limiting his opportunities to pitch in the late innings, but the combination of that 95 mph heater and very nasty 84 mph hook could reap dividends for the Padres in the middle innings.
Kwang-hyun Kim, STL (CBS: 7% rostered): It took a long while, but Kim appears to have laid to rest his principle bugaboo, the free pass. He’s currently competing with Carlos Martinez for the fifth starter job, but Martinez’s late arrival to camp could make his desire to start a moot point.
Chad Kuhl, PIT (CBS: 1% rostered): He’s coming off TJS and will be worked back into the Pirates rotation slowly, building up arm strength. It’s the perfect situation for Kuhl to get in 2-to-3 inning stints.
Tyler Mahle, CIN (CBS: 4% rostered): Squeezed out of the rotation, Mahle should still get ample work in this unique season. The 5.14 ERA in 2019 was rather disappointing, but the 129/34 K/BB ratio leaves us with the hope that there could be better days ahead.
Dustin May, LAD (CBS: 42% rostered): Yes, he’s going to get opportunities to start. No, it probably won’t be right out of the gate. Ross Stripling appears to be the front runner for the fifth starter job, but don’t let that dissuade you from rostering Dustin May. Until he assumes his spot in the Dodgers rotation, he’ll find plenty of opportunities to shine working out of the bullpen.
Brendan McKay, TAM (CBS: 36% rostered): The contending Rays have a plethora of solid options to start, but that doesn’t mean that Brendan McKay won’t get in his work. The Rays haven’t been shy about using the “opener” strategy in the past and that won’t change moving forward. McKay would be a perfect fit to work extended innings following the opener.
Sean Newcomb, ATL (CBS: 15% rostered): For the second consecutive year, Newcomb has reduced his walk rates. That great 3.16 ERA posted in 2019 confirms that the one-time starter has now made a successful transformation to the bullpen.
Brad Peacock, HOU (CBS: 6% rostered): We have seen success in both a starting and relief role from Peacock in the past. Toss in the fact that the Houston rotation after Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke has a slew of question marks and Peacock has the potential to fit nicely into the ‘Stros plans for 2020.
Clarke Schmidt, NYY (CBS: 6% rostered): It appears that the wait will be worth it. A strong first full year returning from TJS combined with a solid showing this Spring/Summer and Schmidt could find himself one injury away from a spot in the Yankees rotation. In the meantime, he will be a valuable part of that bullpen pitching multiple innings.
Lewis Thorpe, MIN (CBS: 1% rostered): When the #4/5 guys in your rotation are Homer Bailey and Rich Hill and you’re looking to contend for the AL Central title, the odds that the bullpen will come into play are rather high. The Twins ‘pen is deep enough to sustain going with an opener approach, so the combination of Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak, and Devin Smeltzer are likely to get in plenty of work. We’ll toss our support behind the young Aussie southpaw, Thorpe.
Austin Voth, WAS (CBS: 10% rostered): The one-time soft tosser has found a bit more velocity. He’s now got the four-seamer touching 93 mph, a rather large factor in his 3.30 ERA and a strikeout per inning over 43 2/3 innings in 2019. The Nats are going to win a lot of games in 2020.
Logan Webb, SFG (CBS: 3% rostered): The stellar 2019 Minor League record didn’t translate smoothly with the big league club, but the 23-year-old still has a bright future in San Francisco. The Giants are using the term “bulk-innings” to describe his 2020 role, making Webb an intriguing option in deeper formats.
Shun Yamaguchi, TOR (CBS: 2% rostered): The Jays seem content, at least for now, to be using the former NPB star in a long-relief role. Let’s hope that he can repeat the strong showing demonstrated in 2019 as a Yomiuri Giant.
Alex Young, ARZ (CBS: 7% rostered): One of Merrill Kelly or Alex Young will open the season as the DBacks fifth starter. The other will be pitching in a long-relief role. We’re betting on Kelly winning a spot in the rotation.