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The Sixth Rotation Spot - Who Do You Want To See?

With the ever-growing likelihood that Brandon Webb is not available to start the 2010 season in the D-Backs rotation, we now are left to browse through the bowels of our major-league-ready starting pitching options to see what we have available. Especially with the plentitude of suck provided by last year's fill-in guys, it's definitely going to be necessary to fully explore the options we have at our disposal to keep us afloat for 2010. So I've decided to put up a piece (mainly for SnakePit polling purposes) briefly detailing what we have at our disposal (assuming we give Billy Buckner the fifth spot, which seems all but certain at this point).

- RHP Kevin Mulvey - Had an awful major-league stint last year between the Twins and D-Backs, with an 8.14 ERA, leading to him being quickly forgotten-about as a strong candidate for a rotation spot as Billy Buckner emerged near the end of last season. However, he has put up solid numbers in the high minors in the last two seasons, and possesses the proper repertoire to start in the majors, with a low-90's two-seam fastball, a slider, a curve, and the rare changeup. Had a good spring training last year with the Twins, and threw two scoreless innings in his one start with the Diamondbacks this spring, allowing just a walk and a hit. One concern is that his ERA dipped slightly from his '08 numbers at Rochester to '09 at Rochester (the Twins' AAA affiliate), so there are questions about whether or not he has much remaining ability to improve despite being one of the younger candidates.

- RHP Rodrigo Lopez - He's had himself a roller-coaster of a major-league career, from being the runner up for the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2002 to being relegated to middle relief in 2004, from TJ Surgery in 2007 to playing A-ball in 2008, and finally from recording his first win in almost two years with the Phillies last year to his new minor-league deal with the Diamondbacks. He's probably a guy I'm not giving enough credit, although his mediocre control in front of top scouts 'Skins and me last Monday wasn't beneficial to his reputation. The bottom line with this guy is that if he can return to his pre-TJ form, he'll be better than our other options, as he posted a 4.42 ERA while pitching at Coors Field in '07. Essentially, control is going to be his make-or-break tool. 4 earned runs in 4 Spring Training innings isn't helping.

- RHP Bryan Augenstein - His major-league stint with the Diamondbacks last year was certainly more impressive than Mulvey's, but he faced struggles and injuries upon being sent to Reno. Is his elbow ok? Has he had enough minor-league seasoning since his last major-league stint to actually perform significantly better? Are we setting this kid up for too much failure and dooming a potentially bright future? All of these questions surround Augenstein and make it appear as if a season at AAA-Reno is a good idea. But there is also the opinion that he pitched better than his numbers suggest in his time in the bigs last season. At the end of the day for Augenstein, though, the 6 earned runs in his 2.2 Spring Training innings will put him in Reno to start 2010.

- RHP Cesar Valdez - Probably would have been called up last year were it not for an untimely injury, and his recovery from that injury has not gone as planned. He struggled after the injury in Reno and the AFL, and has been awful so far in his 2 Spring Training innings. Definitely had his name in the mix pre-AFL, and may have even been a favorite, but appears to have worked his way out of it.

Other guys to note:

- While at the recent Spring Training game, 'Skins asked why we haven't tried to put Esmerling Vasquez back into the rotation post-labrum tear. It's an interesting point to make, especially since we appear to have one too many relief arms for the number of bullpen spots. So while it probably would take some time to get him used to throwing every fifth day, why not try Essy in the Reno rotation so we can then keep Leo Rosales, who continues to impress, on the roster? If he has acclimated himself to the role well at mid-season, perhaps he can be a guy to bring up if the other guys are struggling.

- There are a couple of guys who ended last year in the Mobile rotation who have looked impressive in their first glimpses of Spring Training. Both Barry Enright and Wes Roemer have been spotless in 3 and 3.1 innings, respectively, each giving up just one hit and two walks. Obviously it would be remarkably dumb to put a guy in the fifth spot of the rotation because of three ST innings, but looking to 2011, these might be arms to keep an eye on if Webb bolts in free agency.