This offseason, much was made of the Nationals’ perceived lack of a lefthanded option in their bullpen with the departures of Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Gonzalez, and Sean Burnett. The lone lefty projected to be in the Nats’ 2013 bullpen, Zach Dukespent most of 2012 in the minors. In his brief stint in the majors he pitched well, with a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings. However, since he has a 4.52 career ERA, it is unlikely that he will maintain this. His relatively low level of repute is reflected in his projections:
February 20, 2013; Viera, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Zach Duke (30) poses for photo day at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
ZiPS: 130 IP*, 62 K, 40 BB, 5.31 ERA, 1.58 WHIP
MLB.com: No projection
CBSSports: 83 IP, 46 K, 25 BB, 5.20 ERA, 1.60 WHIP
ESPN Fantasy: No projection
Averages: 106.2 IP, 54 K, 33 BB, 5.26 ERA, 1.59 WHIP
*ZiPS is a program that simulates a pitcher’s performance based on prior seasons. It has no way of knowing that Duke will be pitching out of the bullpen this season, and instead bases its assumption of the rest of his career, in which he has been a starter. Since it makes this inaccurate assumption, we can consider this stat to be a bit of an outlier.
As you can see, Duke is not the hottest fantasy option around. Only CBS has a real projection for him, and it’s quite sour. Duke will be the long man in the Nationals’ bullpen, much like Gorzelanny was last year, after recording a 3.51 ERA in AAA last year as a starter. CBS is likely near the mark with their innings number, but he has only had an ERA above 5.00 two seasons of his career, and given how well he did in the role last year, it seems unlikely that he would pitch as bad as he ever has relieving for the Nats. I would expect an ERA more around 4.00, but similar strikeout and walk numbers. In fantasy, he has zero value in any league, no matter how deep. For the Nats, he will be one of the weak links in the pen, along with Henry Rodriguez, but hopefully won’t cost the Nats too many games. He’ll be the second option among long relievers to Craig Stammen, who pitches well against lefties, so he won’t putch often if the starters can go deep into games.