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If the Reds wind up giving Mike Leake a rotation spot, there are major fantasy ramifications—but not for him.
This battle has emerged as one of the biggest controversies of the spring.
Certainly, baseball fans everywhere—not just fantasy owners—are intrigued to see what left-handed flamethrower Aroldis Chapman can do as a starter after serving as a reliever to this point in his major league career.
And yet, Chapman is a known fantasy commodity as a closer, one who was at the very top of the heap in 2012 when he posted a 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 15.3 K/9 and 38 saves, despite not taking over the ninth inning until May.
Is moving him into the rotation, a transition the club had been planning over the winter, really the best approach?
It's a tricky topic, but Reds manager Dusty Baker has all but made it known publicly that he would prefer Chapman to remain his closer, and Chapman himself said he would like to pitch the ninth if given the choice. The other complicating factor here is the club gave Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million deal in the offseason, with the intention of making him the closer.
Leake, meanwhile, hasn't had a particularly good spring, allowing 16 hits in 8.1 innings, but the righty continues to throw strikes (no walks) and has proven he can give Cincy 150-175 quality innings at the back of the five-man. That's something Chapman, who's career-high in innings is 109 split between the minors and majors in 2010, hasn't done—and might not be able to.
Who Fantasy Owners Want to Win: Leake, simply because that would push Chapman back into the closer role, where his value would skyrocket. Plus, Leake would serve as a sometimes-useful streaming starter in deeper leagues.
Who Will Win: The hunch here is that Baker and Chapman will ultimately get their way, so Leake wins the fifth starter's job by default.
Who to Draft: Chapman is worth selecting in the mid-rounds of any league, no matter what role he's used in. Broxton is still worth a gamble in the late rounds of all formats, in case he's given the closer job, and Leake is a fringe option in mixed leagues but a solid late pick in NL-onlies.