Pitchers Who Need Replacement Innings

A few days back, I determined the replacement levels for hitters who will miss some time this upcoming season. Today, the pitchers take center stage.

It’s tough to give any pitcher a full season of innings with almost half of them heading to the IL. Today’s focus is to find those pitchers who won’t see a full workload for one reason or another. Workload limits. Injuries. Time in minors. Since the missed time is known, an owner can the fill in the rest of the season with a replacement pitcher. It’s time to dive in.

Injured or coming off Tommy Surgery

Note: The standard minimum return time from Tommy John surgery is now 14 months. No one in years has come back in 12. I’m skipping any pitcher who had a mid-season or later surgery since they may just be back for a few September starts. I’m not going to worry about September starts in Spring Training.

Brandon Morrow
Out until: ~May 1st

While it may be a mistake, I’m fading Morrow hard. He’s an injury-prone pitcher who is starting the season hurt. And for a closer, he’s good (~2.00 ERA the past three seasons) but not great (9.1 K/9 in 2018). I could see Pedro Stroop take the job and run with it over the first month. When Morrow returns, he may never get another Save. He’s a late round DL stash for now.

Danny Salazar
Out until: All-Star Game

I can’t quit Salazar. He’s just too talented but I am sure his days of being a starter are over. He’s coming back to a thin bullpen and he could put up some decent ratios. Considering his return time and role, he’s someone I’m not going roster unless in a 50-team draft-and-hold.

Dinelson Lamet
Out until: June to July

Lamet was turning heads in 2017 with his high strikeout numbers (11 K/9) while his wildness led to walk (4.3 BB/9) and a high ERA (4.57). Well, he should be back by mid-season and into a weak rotation.

He’s probably worth stashing in some IL slots but with the mid-season return, he may end up being dropped before he becomes useful.

Taijuan Walker
Out until: June to July

Walker has never lived up to his prospect expectations, but he’s been good enough to break the Diamondbacks rotation. He’s worth an IL stash to see if an owner can wait around until to mid-season to maybe see some return.

Jharel Cotton
Out until: May to June

Cotton had a ton of helium after five great starts in 2016 (2.15 ERA). He came out in 2017 and just stunk up the place (3.7 BB/9, 2.0 HR/9, 5.58 ERA). And before last season started, his elbow needed to go under the knife.

He’s a total gamble but in leagues which allow teams to fill up DL slots, he’s a fine stash option.

Jose De Leon
Out until: May to June

De Leon was posting strikeout rates north of 10 K/9 all through the minors but his stuff never translated to the majors. In 2017, he struggled with command. I expect him to be demoted to the minors once able to pitch so there is no reason to own him but he could be a decent late season sleeper.


I can’t believe I have a whole section on one team. The Dodgers have a roster of good but fragile pitchers including Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. With these four, their likely replacements, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias, will be moving to and from the rotation and the minors as the team see fit.

These six will need to fill about 130 starts (huge assumption Buehler and others can handle the other 32) with each one averaging 21.5. I’m sure Urias will be on the low end and here is how I’d divide up the starts.

Name: Projected starts
Kershaw: 27
Hill: 23
Maeda: 23
Ryu: 23
Urias: 15

Pick your poison moving those starts around.

With a 32-game start estimate for a year, it’s tough to determine how much replacement value to add. The problem is that in some instances when one the pitcher goes down and returns will not be known. I’d only add in 50% replacement level on the missed starts

Name: Replacement starts
Kershaw: 2.5
Hill: 4.5
Maeda: 4.5
Ryu: 4.5
Stripling: 6
Urias: 8.5


Note: I’m not a fan of projecting rookie pitchers. With injuries and changes in talent, plans can quickly change. Here are few starters I feel somewhat certain will be called up.

Jesus Luzardo
Promotion guess: May 1st
Major league innings: 140

With a thin starting staff, the Athletics are likely to promote Luzardo early this season. There is even talk of him breaking camp with the team but I see him heading to AAA to let the A’s gain an extra year of his service.

One issue with Luzardo is the number of innings he’ll throw between the minors and majors. Last season, he pitched 109 innings in 23 starts (4.7 IP start). While he could be helpful, going fewer than five innings per start is really going to tax a bullpen.

I see him up by May but limited in innings per start as he ramps up his workload.

Josh James and Forest Whitley
Promotion date: ???
Major league innings: 175 total

The Astros have four rotation spots taken with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh, and Wade Miley. Now, Miley and McHugh could struggle and get moved to the bullpen but both should be good to go to start the season. So, James slots into the 5th spot to begin with and Whitley waits for someone to get hurt or suck. The problem was that until Lance McCullers went on the IL at the end of last season, no spots opened up.

I sort of like the idea of pairing Whitley and Miley together in deeper leagues. Miley gets the starts until Whitely arrives for whatever reason.

Justus Sheffield
Promotion guess: mid-May
Major league innings: 100

The centrepiece return of the Paxton trade with the Yankees seems to slot in as the 6th starter. He just needs one starter to falter and he’ll be in the rotation if he stays healthy.

It’s tough to get an idea on his talent as his minor results have bounced all over the place. A person can get a good idea of the results seen by his Steamer projected 8.0 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. He has struck out a few batters, but he has problems with walks. I think I’ll pass to start the season but if he shows any signs of command, I’ll be all in.

Chris Paddack and Logan Allen
Promotion guess: ???
Major league innings: ???

I’m having a tough time figuring out the Padres plan. Are they going to be aggressive promoting guys when ready or just take their time like the Cardinals?

Either one could get promoted right away or just toil away. I just don’t see a reason to roster them in a redraft league unless the bench size if over 10. Owners need to focus on pitchers with a better path to playing time.

Mitch Keller
Promotion guess: mid-April to early June
Major league innings: 100

Keller falls in a category with Sheffield where they should be pushing for a major league spot but one as to open up first. I’m thinking the Pirates will start the season with Chris Archer, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams and Jordan Lyles in the rotation. I have no faith in Williams and Lyles keeping their jobs but they’ll get a chance. The problem with Keller is that Nick Kingham is also looking to join the MLB staff.

I see Keller getting his major league innings. It just matters on how long it takes for the other dominoes to fall.

Brent Honeywell
Promotion guess: ???
Major league innings: 40

Honeywell gets the bonus plan of being a rookie and coming back for Tommy John surgery in June or July. I’m putting myself in the Rays shoes. If they are in contention, they may limit his innings in the hope he can pitch in the playoffs. If they aren’t competing, he may get shut down early.
While I like the talent, I’m not sure how the Rays will handle him and will guess on the low side.

Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta
Promotion guess: Soon
Major league innings: 200

The top seven starters on the Brewers are average or worse. It not a strong group with the three above pitchers fighting for one spot after Jhoulys Chacin, Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, and Jimmy Nelson. In all fairness, I’m tempted to deal with them like the Dodgers and give each one 23 starts (162/7) with four starts of replacement value.


Alex Reyes
Major league innings: 100

Reyes falls into a group with Stripling where he’ll start some but the amount is just not known. Reyes is going to have an innings limit and the ones in the bullpen will be wasted for fantasy purposes. There is just so much to go wrong here, I’m probably not going to pay up for him.

Stephen Strasburg

Last seasons inning totals:
Average: 145

Well, 145 is my innings projection which works out to about 24 starts. Our projections say 29, I’ll go under.

Yu Darvish

Last seasons inning totals
Average: 96
Removing the zero: 117

I think I’ll go with history and max him out at 120

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Do you have a favorite among that Brewers group? Recommend any for an NL Only flyer?


How about Matt Strahm as another Padres option?


Perhaps I am putting too much weight on postseason results but Woodruff looked so nasty the entire postseason I am willing to take a flyer on him. And considering he is being drafted next to free there is really no risk in riding with him.