Adam Wainwright acknowledged in January that he had trouble opening cans of soda and jars of pickles at the end of last year’s postseason run due to growing discomfort in his pitching elbow. And he suffered an abdominal strain in late February while trying to put a 45-pound weight back on a rack at the Cardinals’ spring training complex. Three weeks ago, you couldn’t find a soul who would be willing to provide an optimistic outlook for the 33-year-old right-hander’s 2015 fantasy production. And yet …
Wainwright delivered a spring-high 93 pitches over 6 2/3 solid innings Tuesday afternoon against the Marlins and was officially named the Cardinals’ Opening Night starter after the outing by manager Mike Matheny. He’s had no problems with his elbow this spring and the abdominal injury only slightly altered his throwing program. The lanky veteran will be on the bump this Sunday evening when the Major League Baseball season opens with a single game between the Cardinals and Cubs at mid-renovation Wrigley Field.
Wainwright has logged more innings than any other pitcher in baseball (postseason appearances included) since returning from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in 2012 and it’s still safe to wonder whether he might be breaking down -- just look at his K/9, which was 8.3 in 2012, 8.2 in 2013, and then fell to 7.1 last season. But wondering if he might be breaking down is different than betting on it.
Despite the falling strikeout rate, Wainwright registered a career-best 2.38 ERA in 32 starts last season. And he will be a lock for a high win total if he stays healthy this year because the Cardinals are fielding yet another talented, well-rounded team. In our 2015 Rotoworld Online Draft Guide, he's the 11th-ranked starting pitcher.
Wainwright was the 14th starter off the board in a standard 12-team mock draft I conducted last week.
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Gregerson Gets Nod For ‘Stros
Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced Tuesday evening that Luke Gregerson will open the 2015 regular season as the team’s ninth-inning man, confirming what had been suspected since the 30-year-old right-hander signed a three-year, $18.5 million free agent contract with Houston in early December.
Gregerson posted an exceptional 2.12 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 59/15 K/BB ratio in 72 1/3 innings last season as a setup man for the A’s and he’s been even sharper this spring in Grapefruit League play, yielding just one run and fanning four batters in 5 2/3 frames.
Gregerson’s current average draft position on Yahoo is 223.5, which seems a little late for the closer of a rapidly-improving Astros team. Unreliable fantasy options like Joe Nathan and Jenrry Mejia are coming off the board before him.
Rays Taking Flier On Erasmo
Erasmo Ramirez was out of minor league options and out of the mix for an Opening Day roster spot in Seattle, so the Mariners decided to begin shopping him this week and found a taker late Tuesday night in the Tampa Bay Rays. In return, the M’s received 25-year-old left-hander Mike Montgomery, a one-time prospect who posted an uninspiring 4.29 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 98/48 K/BB ratio across 126 innings last season at Triple-A.
Ramirez doesn’t have very good major league numbers -- and he was especially bad last season -- but the 24-year-old from Nicaragua has flashed potential at various minor league stops and might figure something out with this change of major league scenery.
Alex Cobb (forearm), Matt Moore (elbow), Drew Smyly (shoulder), and Alex Colome (pneumonia) are all slated to begin the 2015 season on the disabled list, so Ramirez figures to serve as the Rays’ fifth starter for much of April. If he pitches well, the trial period could run longer than that. Give him a look in deep mixed fantasy leagues. There may be something there.
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Hutch To Handle Jays’ Opener
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons announced Tuesday that 24-year-old right-hander Drew Hutchison will be the club’s Opening Day starter next Monday at Yankee Stadium. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle obviously have much more experience than Hutchison, but the Jays are going to have to lean on their young pitchers this year and this decision is designed to function as a kind of injection of confidence.
“You want to be the Opening Day starter, everybody does,” Hutchison told MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm after getting the good news. “I think everybody wants to do that, growing up that's what you want to do. There's a lot of responsibility with that. Obviously you're excited, but I'm looking forward to that start and I'm looking forward to the season."
Hutchison posted an ugly 4.48 ERA in 2014, but it came with a cool 1.26 WHIP and 9/0 K/9. He should be ready to take a step forward in 2015. Hutchison’s current average draft position on Yahoo is 254.5.