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Relievers Becoming Starters in 2013

Position changes impact player value all the time. Even if we know a guy is going to start the year at a new position, sometimes your fantasy platform won’t list him at that position until he’s played the requisite number of games. That can seriously affect how you draft, especially in roto leagues where it’s more difficult to sit around and wait for a player to gain eligibility.

Relievers-turned-starters are sometimes the most frustrating example of this as most fantasy leagues require at least five games started for a pitcher to gain starting pitcher eligibility. While any reliever can start games now and then, here are the most notable relievers becoming starters in 2013.

Relievers Becoming Starters in 2013

Aroldis Chapman, CIN

Chapman’s flame-throwing approach will be challenged with the added stress of pitching extra innings. I’ve gone into great length about Chapman as a starter, so I won’t rehash all of that here (though I would definitely give that piece a read because it’s very thorough).┬áIn short, Chapman’s lack of a true third pitch has me concerned. While he’ll almost certainly be among the game’s elites in terms of strikeout rate, I question whether he can get through a major league lineup with a great fastball, tough slider, and so-so something else. A change-up will probably be his third pitch, but how good will it be?

The good news is the Reds have a lights-out bullpen and can afford to give Chapman a long look in the rotation. After signing Jonathan Broxton to a big contract, they feel they have their closer. Just don’t expect a lot of innings out of Chapman. I project around 150 with 150-170 strikeouts, an ERA around 3.50, and a WHIP in the low 1.20s. Those are very good numbers overall, but the ratios do lose their value if done over just 150 innings.

Wade Davis, KC

Davis was awesome out of Tampa’s bullpen last year. His 11.13 K/9 was more than double what he did as a starter in 2011 (5.14 K/9). His fastball averaged 93.5 mph, up two mph from 2011 and better than anything he’d averaged as a major league pitcher. Now a member of KC’s revamped rotation, the velocity will definitely decline. Will that mean he becomes a terrible strikeout pitcher again? I have a hard time imagining one or two ticks on the radar gun translates to a drop of five or six K/9, so I say no.

I project Davis around 7.50 K/9 this year, and if he can toss 180-190 innings (he threw 184 in 2011), that should mean between 150 and 160 strikeouts on the year. Davis has never had elite control — he’s consistently been around the mid-to-low 3.00s BB/9 — but thankfully Kauffman Stadium is a tough park for hitters because Davis has always had a strong fly ball tendency. At best he’ll probably have an ERA in the very high 3.00s, but more realistically he’s probably in the 4.20-4.40 range with a WHIP around 1.35.

Alexi Ogando, TEX

Ogando pitched exclusively as a reliever in 2010, started 29 games in 2011, moved back to the bullpen in 2012, and now the Rangers want him to join the rotation again in 2013. Hopefully he can handle the back and forth better than Joba Chamberlain did. Out of the bullpen Ogando has the ability to strike out around a batter per inning, but in the only year he started his K/9 was 6.71. That seems like a floor estimate for 2013, and I expect him to be north of 7.00 K/9, though probably not higher than 8.00.

I don’t think he has the makings of a 180- or 200-inning workhorse, but something around 170 is doable. With FIPs of 3.65 and 3.73 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, Ogando can probably challenge for an ERA around 3.50, but I wouldn’t expect anything better than that. Fly ball pitchers don’t play well in Texas, so there’s the serious chance that Ogando regresses to something north of 4.00. I’m not saying that will definitely happen, but some bad fly ball luck could push him that way.

Brett Myers, CLE

Myers appeared in 70 games last year, and every single one of them came out of the bullpen. Myers was a 200-inning starter in both 2010 and 2011, though, so obviously starting games (and racking up innings) isn’t anything new to him.

Myers even has a $8 MM option for 2014 that automatically vests if he can top 200 innings this year (and pass a physical at year’s end), so there’s plenty of incentive for Myers to stay healthy and effective all year. I think there’s a good chance Myers approaches or exceeds that 200-inning mark, and he’ll probably do it with numbers that come close to what he did in 2011. That should mean 10-12 wins, a low-4.00s ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 150-160 strikeouts.


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Updated: February 15, 2013 — 5:30 am
  • Judy Laukhart

    champan was a starter maybe he can do it again lets see

    • Bryan Curley

      His transition is one of the most fascinating stories this spring…I’m excited to see how well his game translates. Thanks for reading.

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