Samuel Deduno - SP, MIN
Last year Deduno was the best starter in a very bad rotation, posting a 3.83 ERA over 18 starts. His 67/41 K/BB ratio in 108 innings was certainly nothing special, and he didn't have much of a track record (he didn't get an extended look in the majors until he was 28) but with his quirky and unpredictable fastball, he kept hitters off-balance, holding them to a 714 OPS while allowing only seven homers.
Deduno's performance declined late in the season, and we soon found out why: he was shut down in mid-September and underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery. This put his readiness for the start of the 2014 campaign in question.
However, Deduno showed no ill effects in camp this year. In fact, he was the most effective of all the starter candidates, putting up a 1.76 ERA, 17/7 K/BB ratio and 0.98 WHIP in 15 1/3 innings. Nevertheless, he found himself the odd man out of the rotation because the Twins wanted to give Kyle Gibson a chance and needed to make room for all their veteran free agent signings.
One of those signings, Mike Pelfrey, was a complete and total disaster during the first month, so the Twins have finally made the move to swap him out of the rotation for Deduno, who has performed extremely well in a mop-up relief role, posting a 2.89 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. If he pitches like he did last year and stays healthy, he should be able to keep his starting job the rest of the way.
Although Deduno has the stuff to miss bats and has averaged nearly a K per inning as a reliever so far, he hasn't shown that he can whiff hitters at an above-average rate as an MLB starter. In 33 starts for the Twins between 2012 and 2013, he fanned only 124 hitters in 187 innings -- a mediocre 6.0 K/9 rate.
Perhaps his increase in strikeouts as a long reliever this year is an indicator that he's figured out a few new things, but it's fair to expect a decrease with the move to the rotation. Still, he has proven to be extremely tough to hit everywhere he's been, and is a good bet for overall success based on the last three years.
Jake Arrieta - SP, CHC
Arrieta was always viewed as a high-upside arm in the Orioles organization, but he never could pull it together at the big-league level despite numerous opportunities. In 69 appearances (63 starts) with Baltimore from 2010 through 2013, the right-hander went 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.
Last year, he received a change of scenery when he was dealt to the Cubs midseason in return for Scott Feldman. The switch to the National League paid immediate dividends as Arrieta went 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA in nine starts for his new club.
He opened this season on the disabled list due to a shoulder injury, but was activated last week and looked excellent in his first start, holding the Cardinals scoreless on four hits over 5 1/3 innings while striking out seven and walking two.
Arrieta's repertoire -- highlighted by a mid-90s fastball and hammer curve -- has always been his biggest asset, but commanding his pitches has been a challenge. He averaged 3.8 BB/9 in the minors and has averaged 4.0 in the majors, leading to a bloated 1.42 WHIP despite the fact that he's generally been pretty good at limiting hits.
In that respect, his outing over the weekend was pretty encouraging. He threw nearly 70 percent of his pitches for strikes and issued only two free passes. If he can continue to demonstrate improved control, we like his chances of being a solid fantasy contributor. He's always got the potential for a high strikeout total and the NL Central is a much better fit for him than the AL East, where he was very frequently pitched in hitter-friendly parks that matched up poorly with his fly ball tendencies.