The room is there to accommodate both pitchers – if the organization wants to admit its mistakes and place both disappointing starters – Carlos Silva and Miguel Batista – in the bullpen. The oft-injured Erik Bedard is also not a good bet to spend a full season in the rotation after having his frayed labrum repaired in September. The only real locks in the rotation, at this point, are Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn.
Morrow certainly has more upside – and fantasy potential – than Heilman. The 24-year-old hurler, who has spent the majority of the past two seasons in the bullpen, was hard to hit in 2008 and allowed just 40 hits in 64.2 innings. Batters made contact against Morrow 72.7% of the time (compared to King Felix, for example, at 80.8%).
He also has very good stuff – with a fastball that sits around 95 mph, as well as splitter and a slider. Unfortunately, his repertoire is fastball-heavy at this point and he will have to sharpen up the command and control of his secondary pitches to succeed as a starter.
Morrow’s overall control – or lack thereof – could be his undoing as a starter. His walk rate was a startling 7.11 BB/9 in 2007 but it improved to 4.73 in 2008, which is still far too high.
Heilman certainly cannot compete with Morrow’s raw stuff, but the right-hander has a history of solid command and control. That deserted him in 2008, though, and he posted an out-of-character walk rate of 5.45 BB/9. He was also more hittable in 2008 than in previous seasons and allowed 75 hits in 76 innings. At 30 years of age, Heilman should be peaking as a pitcher, so his 2008 season is a little disturbing. He is also moving to league that produces more offence, which could further muddy his numbers in 2009.
By moving both Morrow and Heilman to the rotation, it would severely damage the Seattle bullpen, which lacks proven, veteran relievers. He may not like it, but remaining in the bullpen will probably benefit both Heilman (Can he hold up health-wise as a starter? Probably not.) and the Mariners. It should also help fantasy owners because the right-hander would not be a top-tiered pitching option and, as a late-inning reliever, he would likely help preserve some of Morrow’s wins.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.