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Five for Friday: Young Starting Pitchers

Finding reliable pitching for your fantasy team is always a challenge. As a result, it always helps to monitor a few extra arms for when the inevitable injuries strike. Below, we've listed five young starters (rookies or sophomores) that could provide short- or long-term fixes to your rotation in 2010.

Brian Matusz (38% owned): One of the top college pitchers when he was drafted by the Orioles in 2008, Matusz flew through the minors and reached the Majors in his first full pro season in '09. The southpaw has an advanced feel for pitching, as well as a four-pitch mix. In eight big league starts, he showed good control with a walk rate of 2.82 BB/9 and he also has strikeout potential after posting a rate of 7.88 K/9. On the downside, wins could be hard to come by in Baltimore and he needs to make improvements in his ground-ball rate (31.2%).

Wade Davis (19%): Despite an off spring, Davis beat out Andy Sonnanstine for the final spot in the Rays rotation. The right-hander posted a 3.72 ERA in six big league starts in '09; his 2.90 FIP suggests that he was even better than a first glance at his stats would suggest. Davis also showed a strikeout ability with a rate of 8.92 K/9. Playing for the Rays should also afford him plenty of wins. Davis relies heavily on his fastball/curveball combination and an improvement in either his slider or change-up could help him take that next step forward.

Jonathon Niese (3%): Just 23, Niese is poised to step into the back of the Mets rotation. The southpaw's strikeout rates have suffered a bit at triple-A, as well as the Majors, so he may not be a big strikeout guy (6.31 K/9 in five MLB starts in '09). Niese probably won't win a lot of games playing for the Mets, either, unless the team surprises a lot of people. With that said, starting pitching depth is not a strength of the organization so this pitching prospect should have plenty of opportunity to prove himself in 2010.

David Hernandez (0%): Nobody is jumping on the Hernandez train just yet. It's probably because of the fact that he posted a 5.42 ERA and a W-L record of 4-10 in 20 MLB games (19 starts) in his rookie season of '09. In fact, his 6.61 FIP suggests that the Baltimore defense actually helped him out a fair bit. In fairness, though, a lot of pitchers struggle with their first taste of big league action. Hernandez has looked great this spring and he also has a habit of posting excellent strikeout numbers in the minor leagues (12.40 K/9 in 11 triple-A starts in '09). Add in the fact that he's durable and has the chance to provide innings, and you have yourself a sleeper.

Travis Wood (0%): This young pitcher has benefited from Aroldis Chapman's back injury, which has prevented the Cuban from breaking camp with the big league club. Wood also appears poised to beat out '09 No. 1 draft pick Mike Leake for the final rotation spot (in part because Wood is on the 40-man roster and Leake is not). Just 23, Wood took a big step forward in '09 due to an improvement in his control. The southpaw also showed his durability by pitching 167.2 innings between double-A and triple-A. 

Honorable Mention - Neftali Feliz (81%): A lot of fantasy owners have already jumped on Feliz this season so you'll be lucky to find him available in your league. Feliz has made the 25-man Opening Day roster but he'll start the season in the bullpen. However, his long-term position should be at the top of the Rangers' starting rotation.

*Ownership numbers from Yahoo Fantasy Baseball

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