Shuffle Up: The Tony Cingrani Problem

Alright, gamers, settle in and let's get to work. Of all the baseball shuffles, this is the one that really matters: the starting pitcher shuffle. The fickle men of the mound are sure to define our season, for good or for bad.

We're trying to gauge everyone's 5x5 value going forward - everything to this point is merely an audition. We're only playing for 2013 here, and we're assuming a mixed-league environment. Don't worry about what the prices mean in a vacuum - they're only tools to compare the players with one another. Players at the same price tag are considered even.

I'll add comments as the night goes along, and I reserve the right to make rank changes over that time frame. Your intelligent and respectful input is most welcome, of course; win the debate, win the rank. Just remember the golden rule of roto: no one gains 15-20 percent of bonus value simply from being on your roster. (And for the pessimists in the crowd, the opposite is true: someone's not an instant stiff the moment you believe in him.)

I'm also moving forward with ranks of injured players; they're outside the shuffle proper but listed at the bottom. I'm not going to debate the worth of an injured player to you. Some leagues have DL spots and some don't. There's an extra level of variability that makes their pricing almost pointless to do. But I get asked about them in every shuffle, so I'm including these courtesy ranks. If you think I'm being too conservative in my price (that's my general MO with injured players), no worries. Add some extra bucks on your personal sheet. No one will be offended.

Enough premable ... let's amble to the mound.

$32 Clayton Kershaw
$30 Justin Verlander
$29 Felix Hernandez
$28 Stephen Strasburg
$27 Yu Darvish
$27 Adam Wainwright
$25 Cliff Lee
$25 Cole Hamels
$24 David Price
$24 Madison Bumgarner
$22 Matt Cain
$22 Chris Sale
$22 Jordan Zimmermann
$22 Matt Harvey

It's all about the home runs with Cain; the other numbers are in place. He's been on the road for four of his six starts. AT&T Park is a good thing for what ails you, most of the time. … Everyone sees the obvious upside with Strasburg, but is it possible we've (collectively) overrated him? He's never worked more than seven innings in a start, for one thing, or gone past 160 innings. Would you take Darvish or Wainwright over him right now? I don't see an obvious answer to Strasburg.

$21 CC Sabathia
$21 Gio Gonzalez
$21 Mat Latos
$21 Max Scherzer
$20 Matt Moore
$19 Jon Lester
$18 James Shields
$18 Jeff Samardzija
$17 Yovani Gallardo
$17 Anibal Sanchez
$17 Clay Buchholz

Gallardo's messy first month was tied to a notable velocity dip, though he has a history of slow starts. So long as you have at least two pitchers better than Gallardo, you should be fine. … Lester's fastball location has been excellent, perhaps tied to the return of John Farrell. … Samardzija could be this year's Ryan Dempster, the reliable righty who gets screwed by the supporting cast in Chicago, But then you see those 47 strikeouts in 37.2 innings and shrug - he'll be plenty valuable no matter where the win column ends up. … Moore has been a magician with runners on base (hello, 100 percent strand rate) and his peripherally-suggested ERAs are all over 3. You love the bat-missing stuff, but you'd love to see him get his control (4.2 BB/9) back in line. A .149 BABIP is also screaming for a major correction. I realize outlier ratios come with outlier luck stats, but this looks like a good time to explore a sell-high. Your mileage may vary.

$16 Kris Medlen
$16 Jake Peavy
$16 R.A. Dickey
$16 Doug Fister
$16 Hiroki Kuroda
$15 Ian Kennedy
$15 Homer Bailey
$15 Lance Lynn
$14 Hisashi Iwakuma
$14 Shelby Miller
$13 A.J. Burnett
$13 Hyun-Jin Ryu
$13 Tony Cingrani
$13 Jaime Garcia

Cingrani is probably the most volatile player to rank in this exercise; he could easily be a $20-plus commodity for the season, or down in the minors by the middle of this month. Dusty Baker, for reasons no one can fully understand, has always had a soft spot in his managerial heart for Mike Leake. The Reds might feel they're doing a favor to Cingrani by not putting too much pressure on him (thus justifying a future option), but when you strike out 28 (and walk just four) in your first three MLB starts, how can you lose a rotation spot?

Cingrani obviously relies on his fastball primarily; most of his strikeouts come from hiding the ball and putting his heater where he wants it. Being left-handed helps, obviously. His slider has been a plus pitch thus far but he rarely throws it, and the change shows up even less. You'd like to see any starter have 2-3 reliable pitches, and teams should be better prepared for Cingrani on the second and third time around the league. But at the end of the day, I want to chase someone with Cingrani's silly strikeout potential. I think he'll be in Cincinnati for most, if not all, of the season.

The case for Iwakuma is simple: control, ground balls, big ballpark. And it's not like he's a zero in the strikeout category: he's whiffed a batter per inning this year, against a scant five walks. The strikeouts will probably regress a bit, but this is a very safe option for the middle of your rotation.

$12 Ryan Dempster
$12 Mike Minor
$12 Alex Cobb
$11 Alexi Ogando
$11 Derek Holland
$10 Brandon Morrow
$10 Kyle Lohse
$10 Tim Hudson
$10 Wade Miley
$10 Ervin Santana
$10 Jeremy Hellickson
$10 Patrick Corbin
$10 Paul Maholm
$9 Tim Lincecum
$9 Roy Halladay
$9 C.J. Wilson
$9 Jonathon Niese
$9 Andy Pettitte
$9 Trevor Cahill
$9 Tommy Milone
$8 Justin Masterson
$8 Barry Zito
$8 Jason Hammel
$8 Carlos Villanueva
$8 Andrew Cashner
$8 Dan Haren
$7 Ryan Vogelsong
$7 Wandy Rodriguez
$7 Ross Detwiler
$7 Marco Estrada
$6 Bartolo Colon
$6 Kyle Kendrick
$6 Jeremy Guthrie
$5 Josh Beckett
$5 Travis Wood
$5 Justin Grimm
$5 Edwin Jackson
$4 Daniel Straily
$4 Phil Hughes
$4 A.J. Griffin
$4 Jose Fernandez
$4 Shaun Marcum
$4 Jose Quintana
$4 Julio Teheran
$4 Felix Doubront
$4 Kevin Slowey
$3 Jarrod Parker
$3 Wei-Yin Chen
$3 James McDonald
$3 Drew Smyly
$3 John Lackey
$3 Trevor Bauer
$3 Hector Santiago
$2 Brandon McCarthy
$2 Tommy Hanson
$2 Jake Westbrook
$2 Jason Vargas
$2 J.A. Happ
$2 Jorge De La Rosa
$2 Wade Davis
$2 Nick Tepesch
$2 Ricky Nolasco
$2 Ted Lilly
$2 Garrett Richards
$2 Mike Fiers
$1 Bronson Arroyo
$1 Mark Buehrle
$1 Chris Tillman
$1 Kevin Correia
$1 Bud Norris
$1 Miguel Gonzalez
$1 Zach McAllister
$1 Scott Diamond
$1 Lucas Harrell
$1 Jonathan Pettibone
$1 Joe Blanton
$1 Dillon Gee
$1 Edinson Volquez
$1 Josh Collmenter
$1 Rick Porcello
$1 Ubaldo Jimenez
$0 Eric Stults
$0 Clayton Richard
$0 Mike Leake

Provisional, unofficial rank of the injured:
$18 Johnny Cueto
$16 Zack Greinke
$15 Jered Weaver
$14 Josh Johnson
$14 Matt Garza
$13 Brandon Beachy
$8 Brett Anderson
$6 Michael Pineda
$6 Colby Lewis
$5 Jhoulys Chacin
$5 Cory Luebke
$5 Matt Harrison
$3 Ricky Romero
$1 Francisco Liriano

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