New AL Rotation Faces: Pomeranz, Gausman & Tepesch

Over the last week, a trio of interesting pitchers joined their respective American League teams’ starting rotations. While two of the three were likely already owned in AL-Only leagues and almost have to blindly be slotted onto a fantasy team’s active roster, the bigger question is whether these guys are worth considering in shallower formats. Let’s dive in.

Drew Pomeranz

Pomeranz was a former first round pick by the Indians back in 2010 and quickly vaulted into top prospect status. Then his fantasy prospects crumbled when he was dealt as part of a trade deadline deal to the Rockies the following season. He predictably posted poor results over a small sample for the team that year and then did so again in both 2012 and 2013. After the 2013 season, he was traded once again, as he returned to the American League to the Athletics.

After opening the year in the bullpen, the poor results by Dan Straily prompted the team to make a switch and Pomeranz was the newest addition to a starting staff that has seen great turnover since the start of spring training. Pomeranz possesses about average velocity for a southpaw, but even so, throws that fastball quite a lot. He’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, complementing the heater with a curve ball. While his fastball has been above average at generating swings and misses, the curve has not been. Instead, it’s used to induce ground balls. And so far this year, he has posted a ridiculous 100% ground ball rate on the pitch.

His control hasn’t been very good during his time in the Majors, as his strike percentage has consistently sat below the league average. So we’re looking at a two-pitch pitcher with a slight ground ball tilt who seemingly doesn’t have great strikeout potential given his limited repetoire. Given his home park and solid supporting cast, I’d certainly be interested in deep mixed or AL-Only leagues, but I’d pass in a shallower format.

Kevin Gausman

Fantasy owners were shocked and annoyed when the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez because that meant that Gausman was without a rotation spot. Now perhaps earlier than expected, the top prospect was given his first shot yesterday. Unfortunately, his first 2014 impression was not good. Reports said his velocity was good, but command was an issue. He struck out just two of 20 batters faced, which is obviously disappointing given his strong strikeout potential.

But one start aside, Gausman also struggled with his control while at Triple-A this year. This was not something we have been accustomed to seeing, as Gausman was known for his pinpoint control, never posting a walk rate above 6.5% at his various minor league stops. It’s slightly concerning, but the sample size remains small. At this point, it’s unclear whether Miguel Gonzalez has been permanently moved to the bullpen, ceding his spot to Gausman, or if this was a one-shot deal until Gausman gets another opportunity later in the season.

If he does indeed stay in the rotation, he’s worth a gamble in shallower leagues, but I’m a little less excited than I was before the season. He’ll be borderline startable for the time being, but probably deserves a roster spot anyway.

Nick Tepesch

Tepesch opened last season in the Rangers rotation and posted solid skills (3.79 SIERA) before going down with an elbow injury. Now with the rash of Rangers injuries in their rotation, he’s back up to take the spot of Martin Perez, who was just diagnosed with a partially torn UCL, which usually leads to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. That means that if Tepesch performs admirably, he could enjoy an extended stay in the rotation.

Tepesch is one of those guys who are kind of blah, but their boringness leads many to underrate them. He possesses good control, is a slight ground ball pitcher and strikes out hitters at a respectable clip. His fastball is nothing to write home about and none of his secondary offerings were anything special in terms of generating whiffs last year. But, they were all acceptable enough that when packaged together, result an above average pitcher when coupled with his control. There’s no wow factor here, but you don’t need to wow to earn some value in deep leagues. In shallower formats though, I’d prefer a higher upside arm.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

7 Responses to “New AL Rotation Faces: Pomeranz, Gausman & Tepesch”

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  1. Dan Greer says:

    Gausman starting on short rest AND throwing his season-high in pitches in the same outing should be factored in. It was a stinker, for sure, as his fastball command was poor. Then again, there weren’t very many hard-hit balls. A couple of infield hits, bloopers, and walks strung together can make an ugly line.

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    • Emcee Peepants says:

      The O’s seem to have no idea how to handle young prospects (Schoop, Matusz, Arrieta, etc.) but excel and getting the most out of players other teams give up on (Davis, Mclouth, Hardy). This seems to be the case with Gausman as well, starting him on short rest against one of the best teams in baseball.

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  2. Paul says:

    Of Gausman, Tepesch or Danny Duffy….please rate these guys #s 1-3 in terms of overall value for the season. I’ve got all three on my AL only team and can’t decide which to drop and whom to hold. Who has the best chance to contribute for the longest period in the rotation?

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    • baltic fox says:

      As long as Duffy can keep the walks down, I’d hold him. He has great stuff but control has been his problem.

      In the long run, Gausman will probably be a good pitcher. As an Oriole fan, I have to believe. Right now he still doesn’t pound the bottom of the strike zone enough.

      To me, the tie breaker is the home park and the division. It’s a lot easier for Duffy to get away with mistakes in his spacious home park than it is for Gausman. Camden Yards, and the AL East in general, can be unforgiving to pitchers who are still learning to pitch.

      I’ve never seen Tepesch pitch. But I’m sure he can be useful for starts against the Mariners and the Astros. Especially on the road. Drop him and pick him up when the starts are favorable.

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      • Paul says:

        Thanks for the perspective! I’m leery of Gausman’s learning curve, job stability & division, so I’m likely to drop him and keep Duffy/Tepesch as Tepesch should have a longer leash. Gausman can’t be kept in my league, so long-term upside isn’t a factor right now.

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  3. deezy333 says:

    Hey Mike,

    Need you help picking two from this group of schmucks in a shallow format h2h league. Thanks!

    Ubaldo @KC, vCLE, @HOU
    Erlin vCHC, @ARI, vPIT
    Kuechel @LAA, @SEA, vBAL
    Pomeranz @TB, @TOR, vLAA
    Quintana @HOU, @KC, vCLE
    Koehler @SF, vMIL, @WAS
    Skaggs vHOU, @SEA, @OAK
    Elias @MIN, vHOU, vLAA

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  4. Mike says:

    Ubaldo and Quintana, Elias close third

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