Rookie Report (Mar. 23)
Zach Duke, Pittsburgh: The Pirates hardly have a rotation chock full of talent, so Duke becomes an intriguing fantasy sleeper based upon the likelihood he'll figure into the No. 5 starter mix at some point this year, if not at the beginning of the regular season. He has pitched respectably so far this spring, with a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings, and boasts a 2.21 ERA, 1.057 WHIP and .219 opponents' batting average in 63 career minor-league starts. Duke has drawn comparisons ranging from Tom Glavine to Barry Zito, but before we get too excited about his potential, keep in mind he has just nine starts' experience in Double-A ball. Yes, a guy who boasts a 90-mph fastball and sweeping curveball and whose career per-nine-inning ratios are 2.42 walks, 7.79 strikeouts and 0.36 homers allowed is certainly worth a reserve pick in NL-only leagues, but an extra year in Triple-A ball would help his development. He'll be a keeper for a long time to come, so long as the Pirates don't push him too hard; lest we remind you what happened with another one of their left-handed prospects, Sean Burnett, who succumbed to Tommy John surgery.
Angel Guzman, Chicago Cubs: Injuries to Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and even closer Joe Borowski have the Cubs shuffling their pitching staff, perhaps creating a spot for Guzman to begin the regular season. Guzman was once hailed as every bit as talented as Prior, Wood and Carlos Zambrano, but shoulder surgery cut short his 2003 season and he never quite fully recovered last year. Judging by his 10.01 strikeouts per nine, Guzman obviously regained the zip on his pitches, but it's obvious from the 4.72 ERA and .255 opponents' average in his 11 starts that he wasn't really back to full form; entering the year his ERA as a pro was 2.66. Like Duke, Guzman would be best served with a full year in Triple-A ball as he continues his rehabilitation. He's still worth your attention if he breaks camp with the team, but expect some rocky outings if he's asked to both adjust to the majors and regain full health in the same season.
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