Pitchers to watch in spring training 

February, 14, 2011
Although all eyes in Cincinnati Reds camp likely will be on the tall, Cuban lefty who can throw 105 miles per hour -- I admit, I'll be watching as well -- I think we know by now how manager Dusty Baker intends to use Aroldis Chapman. Someday, perhaps even this season if other events dictate panic, Chapman could be in the starting rotation. For now, he seems destined for bullpen duty and the eighth-inning role setting up capable closer Francisco Cordero. Whine about that arrangement all you like, but that's where signs are pointing.

What should be of more immediate interest to fantasy owners in one-year leagues is what happens with much-shorter Arkansas lefty Travis Wood, he of the 17 big league starts. His rookie-year numbers -- 3.51 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and impressive 7.5 K's-per-9 rate -- sure make him look like a future All-Star. Perhaps Wood continues to impress in 2011, but here's the thing: He hasn't won a rotation spot yet, and we might not know for certain where he fits into the Reds' plans until mid-March. Thus, how he performs this spring will affect whether fantasy owners make him a top-50 starter on draft day ... or simply ignore him.

Say what you will about right-hander Homer Bailey, the former "can't-miss" prospect with a career 5.09 ERA in the majors, but he's out of minor league options, so unless he's traded, he'll likely be in the rotation. Bailey still has upside as well; it seems we've been discussing him forever, but he's still only 24, just nine months older than Wood. Bailey struck out 100 hitters in 109 Reds innings in 2010, offering hope to even the most pessimistic fantasy owners. He's making this rotation, even if nobody wants him. That leaves Wood and Mike Leake battling for one spot after Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo. Leake beat out Wood and others for the final spot a year ago despite entirely skipping the minor leagues. Don't assume this situation can't happen again.