Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

2014 Rotation Rankings 1-30


The ace on the best rotation in the game.  Photo:

The ace on the best rotation in the game. Photo:

Last year, with my excitement over Washington’s Dan Haren signing and my supposition that Washington had the best rotation in the game, I ranked all 30 team’s rotations ahead of the 2013 season.  Then, after the season was done, I revisited these pre-season rankings with a post-mortem to see how close (or, more appropriately, how far off) my rankings turned out to be.

Here’s the 2014 version of this same post: Pre-season rankings of the MLB’s rotations; 1 through 30.  Warning; this is another huge post.  I guess I’m just verbose.  At this point midway through Spring Training there’s just a couple of possible FAs left that could have altered these rankings (Ervin Santana being the important name unsigned right now), so I thought it was time to publish.

The top teams are easy to guess; once you get into the 20s, it becomes pretty difficult to distinguish between these teams.  Nonetheless, here we go (I heavily depended on and for this post, along with ESPN’s transaction list per team and Baseball Prospectus’ injury reports for individual players).

  1. St. Louis: Wainwright, Miller, Wacha, Lynn and Kelly (or perhaps Carlos Martinez)  They let Westbrook walk in FA (and he remains unsigned) and former staff ace Chris Carpenter retired after not being able to make it back at all for 2013.  Jamie Garcia is hurting and may start the season on the D/L, but honestly its hard to see how he fits into this rotation as it projects right now.  Maybe Lance Lynn is really a long-man based on his peripherals; if so the rotation only looks better if you replace him with Martinez.  Spot-starters Tyler Lyons and John Gast from last season sit in AAA waiting their turn.   If they really had a spate of injuries, half the guys in their bullpen probably could swing over and start (Trevor Rosenthal had always been a starter until reaching the majors, even though he’s slated to be their closer).  The Cardinals remain an embarassment of riches; they may not have two Cy Young winners on the staff but their depth and their potential puts them slightly above Detroit and Washington for me.
  2. Detroit: Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, Smyly, Porcello.  As is well known in DC, the Tigers are rolling the dice that traded-away Doug Fister can be replaced like for like with Drew Smyly.  The pedigree of the rest of the squad speaks for it self; 2 guys with Cy Youngs, a rejuvinated Anibal Sanchez and an underrated Rick Porcello in the 5th spot.   Past that, there’s not much starting experience with MLB experience on the projected 25-man (Jose Alvarez being about it), and there’s not much in the high-minors to count on either.  Detroit’s rotation was head-and-shoulders the best in the league by any metric last year, and that was with a down year from ace Verlander.  Smyly looked good in relief appearances last year and was decent enough in 18 starts in 2012.  Even if Scherzer steps back a bit, I still think this is nearly the best rotation in the game top to bottom.
  3. Washington: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Fister, Detwiler (with JordanRoark and Ohlendorf ready to fill-in).  The Nats wave good-bye to the ineffective Dan Haren and replace him with Doug Fister, who they “stole” from the Tigers and who may very well be the best 4th starter in the game.  Fister quietly is one of the best pitchers in the game (he sits 13th in fWAR among all pitchers in the game in the last four seasons … ) and does not come with any question as to his ability (14-9, 3.67 ERA in the AL last year).   He does suddenly though have a question about his health, currently being shelved with “elbow inflammation.”  Unlike in 2012, the Nats this year have plans A, B and C already in place were they to lose a starter to injury.   Most pundits feel that the strength of this group with the addition of Fister makes the Nats one of the best and I agree; not quite #1 but close to it.
  4. Tampa Bay: Price, Moore, Cobb, Archer, Odorizzi.   The Rays let Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona) and injured starter Jeff Niemann walk in FA, counting on internal depth to get them by in 2014.  And they’ll need it:  Hellickson had elbow surgery in January and won’t be back until June 1 at the earliest, pushing #1 prospect Jake Odorizzi potentially into the opening day rotation.   They signed Erik Bedard for depth, and he’ll likely go to AAA with top-end prospects Alex Colome, Mike Montgomery, Enny Romero and ex-Nat Nathan Karns.   However their best “move” this off-season may have been keeping David Price; with Price at the top this is one heck of a rotation.   I did a couple of pieces last year questioning whether Durham’s (Tampa’s AAA team) rotation was better than Houston’s (preseason and then mid-season posts)… I may do it again this year.  Tampa enters 2014 with a very good rotation and a ton of depth.  The rest of the AL east is shuddering.
  5. Cincinnati: Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Leake, Cingrani (with Jeff Francis and Chien-Ming Wang providing some AAA cover).  The Reds let Bronson Arroyo walk and are replacing him like-for-like with uber-lefty Cingrani.  Cingrani more than ably filled in for Cueto last year, who had 3 different D/L trips, and if all these guys are healthy Cincy is improved over last year’s excellent rotation.  But can Cueto stay healthy?  The Reds’ next big SP prospect is scheduled to be in AA or AAA (Robert Stephenson) but he’s only 21 and needs more seasoning.  Cincinnati better hope for another year of stability, else they’ll see just how big an ERA Francis or Wang can put up in their tiny litle ballpark.
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers: Kershaw, GreinkeRyuHaren, Maholm.   The team let Ricky Nolasco and Chris Capuano leave via FA, replaced them with Haren and Maholm, who were not exactly world beaters based on their performances last year … but their numbers should improve thanks to the cavernous Dodger stadium.  The Dodgers also allowed Edinson Volquez to leave, having picked him up off of release waivers to provide some September 2013 cover.  Meanwhile there’s still a slew of starters on the staff who are in various state of recovery from injury (Beckett and Billingsley the two most important).  And they have several guys in AAA who could help or did help in 2013 (Stephen Fife, Mike Magill and Seth Rosin, along with prospects Zach Lee and Ross Stripling, though he’s just blown his UCL)  So,  there’s plenty of arms to throw against the wall and see who sticks if Haren and Maholm falter.  But looking at the projected starting 5 right now … I’m not sure why some pundits are calling this the best rotation in the game.  One through Three they’re as good as it gets, and if Beckett and Billingsly were listed as #4 and #5 instead of Haren and Maholm they’d be pushing towards the top of this list.  Its good, but not better than the teams above them here.
  7. Boston: Lester, Buchholz, Lackey, Doubront, and Peavy (possibly Capuano?) Ryan Dempster suddenly decided he didn’t want a $13M payday and quit the season, leaving an interesting void in the rotation that looks like it will be filled with the inconsistent Dubront.   Is Buchholz ready to go 200 innings?  If not, there’s more than a few intriguing names slated for their AAA team (Workman, De La Rosa and Ranaudo) that could fill in.  How good is Lester going to be this year?  Is Lackey going to be the same contributor he was last year?  They could have a pretty good 1-2 punch at the top.  Based on how these guys all over-achieved in 2013, i’m putting them top 10 to start.
  8. Seattle: Hernandez, Iwakuma, Baker, Walker, Paxton.    The Mariners are going with a youth movement this year, replacing ineffective veteran starters from last year (Saunders, Harang, Bonderman) with the fruits of their farm system.  Ready or not, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are the Mariners’ top to pitching prospects and they’re going to play a big part on the season.  Fellow youngsters Maurer and Ramirez will join local product Danny Hultzen in AAA and hope to improve on their 2013 dress rehearsal numbers.  Iwakuma strained a tendon in his pitching hand early in ST, but I’m not putting him on the D/L yet; were he to go, this rotation’s rank would take a huge hit.  As it is, i’m going slightly higher than they probably should be thanks to the scouting reports on these guys.
  9. AtlantaMedlen, Minor, Teheran, Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy (#1 starter prospect David Hale ready to back-fill).  They also have Freddie Garcia in camp as an NRI and he could make for a good AAA insurance policy to go along with MLFA signing Gavin Floyd.  From last season they lost Hudson and Maholm to FA.  Depending an awful lot on the kids (Teheran and Wood are both just 22), and while most would argue that Wood for Hudson is an improvement, Hudson was more than just a veteran staff member here.  He was their Ace, their opening day starter, their bulldog.  I think his loss is significant, and if one of these guys gets hurt (Beachy hasn’t been healthy for a while and Wood’s mechanics make Chris Sale‘s look clean) they could be pressed quickly.  One late-breaking news item that knocked Atlanta down a peg or two: Medlen left his last ST start with a strained forearm; if he can’t start the season that’s a huge hit.  Buster Olney posted today about Atlanta’s sudden pitching issues and surmises they may be on the market sooner rather than later.
  10. New York Yankees: Sabathia, Kuroda, Tanaka, Nova, Phelps.  Ah the Yankees, home of the most expensive “#3 starter” in the world.   They lose Andy Pettitte to his 2nd retirement and Phil Hughes to FA.   They have a couple of interesting names in AAA (Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos) who have been kicking around prospect circles for ages; they also have one Vidal Nuno, who had a cup of coffee last year.  That’s it for the $250M payroll Yankees in terms of rotation depth.  If 39-yr old Kuroda gets hurt, if Tanaka can’t make the transition to the US, if Phelps continues to pitch at a 5.00 ERA pace … there’s not a lot of safety net here.  Still, the scouting reports i’m reading on Tanaka make him sound like a power-sinker baller like Dan Haren in his prime, but with more velocity.  And they’re saying he’s the 2nd best japanese pitching prospect ever behind Yu Darvish … heady praise considering his pedigree.  Combine all this with Sabathia’s off-season workout routine and this rotation may be better than even I suspect.
  11. Pittsburgh:  Liriano, Cole, Morton, Rodriguez, Volquez with Locke as swingman.  Pittsburgh faces some transition this year, having seen staff veteran A.J. Burnett leave for more money across the state in Philadelphia.  They also said good-bye to ineffective veterans Jonathan Sanchez and James McDonald, who both decamped to the Cubs.  To replace Burnett’s innings, they’ve picked up Edinson Volquez, last year’s opening day starter in San Diego but who was flat out released by August.   They do have a slew of arms in AAA that made spot-starts for them last year … and they have a very important name in Jamison Taillon who should be ready by mid-season.  Now, adding Taillon to this group DOES make up for the loss of Burnett; the real question comes down to whether Liriano can repeat his season and stay healthy, and if Cole can continue to grow.   I like this rotation and its potential if the can bridge the gap from opening day to Taillon’s debut.  (Intersting side-note: the Pirates also have one Andy Oliver in their camp; his name came up recently with the Wetzler/Phillies debacle because Oliver was similarly banned by the NCAA.  Unfortunately Oliver looks like he could be a 4-A guy, but still is sticking as a lefty starter).
  12. Miami: FernandezEovaldi, Turner, Alvarez, Koehler.  The Marlins inevitably traded 2013 opening day starter Nolasco, but otherwise enter the 2014 season with pretty much the same crew that they ended last season with … and they’re not half bad.  Koehler is the veteran at age 27; the rest of this projected rotation are (respectively) 21, 24, 22 and 23.   The youngsters all put up sub 3.50 ERAs last season, with Fernandez putting up near Cy Young numbers while winning the Rookie of the Year.  If Koehler can’t cut it, there’s a slew of arms at AAA who featured briefly last year who are all equally young and on the 40-man for easy call-up/sending-down.  This team may struggle to score runs, but their rotation looks solid.
  13. Texas: Darvish, Ogando, Perez, HansonLewis (Joe Saunders for depth).  No team has been hurt more by off-season injuries than Texas.  They’ve lost one starter (Derek Holland) for half the season thanks to knee surgery (he apparently tripped over his dog), and now have a second starter (Matt Harrison) struggling with the same back issues that cost him all of 2013.   I wonder if the team is now regretting letting Matt Garza take off in free agency…  Now instead of having Holland and Harrison lining up 2-3 they’re going to depend on free agent signing Tommy Hanson (who even the pitching starved Angels didn’t want) and hip-surgery survivor Colby Lewis in the 4th and 5th spot.   They did add veteran lefty (and DC Native) Joe Saunders mid-spring to give some 5th starter depth, but that doens’t help them much.  They flipped Justin Grimm to acquire Garza last year, they flipped Josh Lindbloom to the A’s, and outrighted a couple others who gave them spot starts (Ross Wolf, Travis Blackley).  Their AAA team is a mess of MLFAs (including former near-perfect game pitcher Armando Galarraga), so there’s not much help there.  I sense some possible trouble for this rotation this year.
  14. Philadelphia: Hamels, Lee, Burnett, Kendrick, Hernandez. (Pettibone possible replacement).  Former Ace Roy Halladay retired this off-season (as a Toronto Blue Jay), and the team let John Lannan and his 5.33 ERA walk.  In their places they are going to rely on A.J. Burnett and  Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona).   I don’t mind the Burnett signing but the Hernandez signing seems iffy to me; he was pretty bad in Tampa; what makes anyone think he’ll succeed in a hitter’s paradise like CBP?   I’d almost rather go with Jonathan Pettibone who gave them 18 decent starts as a 22-yr old last year.    There’s a couple guys at AAA that could feature, including decent prospect Jessie Biddle.  But things could get ugly fast for this team; Cole Hamels is reportedly fighting tendinitis already and Kendrick isn’t much more than a #4/#5 starter.  If one of these older guys goes down with an injury, the Phillies are plunging towards 90 losses fast.  Well lets be honest; they’re likely already heading there regardless, given how quickly their offense is aging.
  15. Oakland: Griffen, Parker, Straily, Kazmir, Gray, pushing Tommy Milone to the pen or to AAA.  Mr. Wheel-and-deal Billy Beane is at it again.  Changes from last year’s rotation:   Traded Brett Anderson for some depth in Drew Pomeranz, let the ageless Bartolo Colon and his “exercise regiment” walk as well.   He also signed Scott Kazmir for 2014 as his next reclamation project (though to be fair Kazmir was just fine for Cleveland last year).  He also signed Phil Humber for AAA depth.   His starters for the most part were solid and healthy last year and should be again this year.  Sonny Gray was a revalation last October and could quickly become this team’s Ace.  Otherwise this is a solid bunch; not world-beaters but good solid innings-eaters.  I’d like to rank these guys higher, but the closer I look at them individually the more I see that they’re mostly #3 starters who play in a massive park.  Well, Gray could be special … but the rest do enough to get by.
  16. San Francisco: Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Hudson with Yusmeiro Petit as swingman). Pretty easy off-season for the Giants: cut ties with Barry Zito and sign up Tim Hudson in an excellent, shrewd signing to replace him.  They had a slew of other guys put up spot starts here and there (including Chad Gaudin, who was just released by the Phillies after failing his physical; odd), but the heavy lifting for this team was done by thjis core group.   Hudson is pretty clearly an improvement over Zito, so this rotation should be improved.  But by how much?  Vogelsong missed a ton of time after getting hit by a pitch, and struggled otherwise; was it because he had a broken hand?  And if one of these guys goes down with injury or underperformance (ahem, looking at you Mr. Lincecum), there’s practically nothing at the AAA level right now to call up.  Meanwhile what happened to Matt Cain last year?  A 4.00 era?  An 83 ERA+?   Its hard to know what to expect out of this group but GM Brian Sabean is staying the course, clearly expecting some returning to form out of his high priced starters.
  17. Arizona: Miley, Corbin, McCarthy, Cahill, ArroyoDelgado.   Traded Kennedy for a loogy and a AA closer (in yet another example of Arizona getting 50 cents on the dollar for a player whose “makeup” they had issues with…) and traded Skaggs to get Trumbo.   One of the kids (likely Delgado) will be sent back to AAA and/or be sent to the pen with the Arroyo signing (which made some pundits shake their heads; why bring a homer-prone fly ball pitcher to a hitter’s park?).  #1 prospect Archie Bradley may be young but he’ll be ready mid-season, as will Daniel Hudson, coming off TJ surgery.   The Skaggs for Trumbo trade also caused curious reactions, but the presence of Bradley made Skaggs somewhat expendable, I guess.  There’s depth here but no ace.  As with Oakland, I’d like to rank this group higher but just can’t.
  18. Kansas City: Shields, Guthrie, Vargas, Duffy, Chen with Wade Davis back as a swing man and a couple other prospects that could pitch in  They let Ervin Santana walk, where he still sits un-signed as of this writing, and released Luis Mendoza.  They signed Jason Vargas to a surprising deal (4yrs/$30M) and he should slot in as the third starter.  Duffy looked good in small sample sizes last year.  I’m not convinced that Vargas is an improvement over Santana at this point and feel like this rotation could take a step back.  Not good when GM Dayton Moore very much faces a “win now” mandate.  On the bright side, if someone falters the Royals have their two best prospects in Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer waiting in AAA.  Zimmer in particular would have been MLB ready had it not been for a shoulder issue last summer; he would make a great 2nd half call-up.
  19. Chicago White Sox: Sale, Danks, QuintanaPaulino, and Erik Johnson (Rienzo).  They flipped Peavy to Boston mid-2013, traded Santiago to the Angels and likely are  moving Axelrod to the bullpen.  They’re rolling the dice on FA signing Paulino, who looked great for KC in 2012 before getting TJ surgery.  Waiting in the wings is Rienzo, who got some work last year, and not much else on the farm.  If #1 prospect Johnson can’t help, this team looks like it’ll be just as bad in 2014 as they were in 2013.
  20. Toronto: DickeyMorrowBuehrle, Happ, Drabek (with Rogers as 6th man).  The stink of the 2013 season remains; what else can Toronto do?  They gave up on Josh  Johnson but are set to head into 2014 with 5 guys, none of which posted an ERA below 4.15 or an ERA+ above 100 last year.   They’ve got a couple of interesting names in AAA (including Ricky Romero and Toronto’s best prospect in Marcus Strohman, possibly another youngster in Hutchinson) but who will make way?  Perhaps JA Happ, who has never impressed after one breakout season in Philadelphia and who apparently is struggling with back issues this spring.  Kyle Drabek was famously the lynchpin prospect in the Roy Halladay trade four years ago, but has never really lived up to his reputation and missed a ton of last year recovering from his SECOND Tommy John surgery.  These are good pitchers (especially Cy Young winner Dickey); will they continue to underperform?
  21. Cleveland: Masterson, McAllister, Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar.  Ace and surprising career revivalist Ubaldo Jimenez left via FA.  So did another surprising come-back candidate in Scott Kazmir.  They’re rolling the dice with NRIs Shawn Marcum (who was an ugly 1-10 for the Mets last year), Aaron Harang, Carrasco (who was awful last year), and with the very promising Danny Salazar in an open competition this spring (we’re projecting Carrasco and Salazar are the winners here).  They also still have the engimatic Trevor Bauer toiling away stubbornly in AAA, refusing to change his approach.  I think Cleveland is taking a signficant step back this year.
  22. Milwaukee: LohseGallardo, Estrada, Peralta, Garza.  The first four names on this list were all solid rotation members last year; then Milwaukee seemed to hold an open casting call for its 5th starter all year; 8 different guys gave them starts.  Hopefully Matt Garza brings some stability there so the Brewers head into the season knowing who is taking the ball every day.  Now, some of the cattle call weren’t half bad: ex-Nat Tom Gorzelanny gave them great innings and is projected as a swing man.  There’s a whole slew of guys in AAA who have had a taste now of the majors, and are ready to provide cover if needed.   Still, this isn’t exactly a murder’s rowe of hurlers, even with Garza added into the mix.  Still, I could have them ranked slightly lower than they belong; I would not argue with some thinking they belonged higher.
  23. Los Angeles Angels: Weaver, Wilson, Richards, Skaggs, Santiago (with Blanton and his 2-14 record last season now titled the “long man”).  The Angels recognized how bad their pitching was in 2013 and acquired reinforcements.  They traded for Skaggs and Santiago.  The let Hanson walk, let Williams walk and let Vargas walk.  Unfortunately … that’s about all they have in terms of depth.  Richards may be their #3 starter right now, but he only posted a 91 ERA+ last year.  Tyler Skaggs is a kid and posted a 5+ ERA in Arizona.  Hector Santiago may be the true #3 out of this group, and if someone gets hurt there’s very little in AAA to help out.  Meanwhile Weaver and Wilson aren’t the studs they used to be; both took steps back last year.  This is already a thin staff; they better hope nobody gets hurt.
  24. New York Mets: ColonWheelerNiese, Gee, Mejia (Carlos Torres as swingman).  No team takes a tumble down the rankings from last year’s end-of-season group like the Mets, thanks to Matt Harvey‘s injury.   The Mets also let Shawn Marcum walk after he went 1-10 for them.  Also gone is veteran Aaron Harang.  Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a few starts for them last year and has signed back on as a MLFA/NRI, but seems like a long shot to make the team, but could join an illustrious list of veteran FA signees in AAA (Jeremy Hefner and ex-Nat John Lannan are also projected in AAA, if they stay with the team).  Unfortunately, replacing the best arm in the game with Bartolo Colon does not inspire confidence.  The Mets basically put their rebuilding plans on hold for a year thanks to the Harvey injury, but when he comes back they’ll have a formidable 1-2-3-4 with Harvey, Wheeler, Mejia and #1 prospect Noah Snydergaard, currently in AA and projected by 2015.   The Mets will rise again … just not in 2014.
  25. Baltimore: JimenezChen, Tillman, Gonzalez, Norris with prospects Gausman and Britton at fighting for the 5th spot.   Let Hammel and Feldman leave via FA, sold Garcia to the Braves and traded Arrieta to get Feldman.   New IFA Suk-min Yoon is a relative unknown; he could be a starter, a swingman or a reliever at this point.  Lots of turnover here.  #1 starter prospect Dylan Bundy is still recovering from TJ and won’t start throwing again til July; he’s going to be no help this year.
  26. Chicago Cubs: Samardzija, Wood,  JacksonHammel, McDonald  Sold off Garza and Feldman last season for prospects, let Baker leave via FA.  Rolling the dice with who they have in-house and holding on for another year with some low-end FA signings in Hammel and McDonald (as well as Jonathan Sanchez).  They also have Jake Arrieta in camp (but he’s already hurt).  Basically Theo Epstein signed half the retread reclamation veteran pitchers on the market hoping for one or two to stick.  They do have the likes of Rusin in the minors and a couple other possible prospects to give the team starts if needed.  But this looks like a weaker bunch, especially after 1-2.
  27. San Diego: Kennedy, Cashner, Johnson, Stults, Ross.  The Padres flat out released Edinson Volquez, their 2013 opening day starter, a sign of things to come.   They also parted ways with veterans Clayton Richards and Jason Marquis (the latter of which underwent TJ surgery and now is in a pretty bad spot for a pitcher; rehabbing without a team).   That’s 3/5ths of last year’s rotation out the door.  In comes Kennedy (acquired in trade mid-last season), Andrew Cashner (acquired in trade the year prior) and found-gold pitcher Eric Stults.  They’re rolling the dice on Josh Johnson‘s health; if he’s healthy he’ll be a stud in San Diego’s ball-park.  Otherwise there’s not a ton of depth here; they’ve lost Cory Luebke for the 2nd year in a row to TJ surgery, and their AAA staff isn’t anything special.  I see continuing struggles if Johnson and Kennedy aren’t world-beaters right out of the gate.
  28. Colorado: ChatwoodDe La Rosa, Chacin, Anderson, Morales with Nicaso and Lyles in AAA.  Francis left via free agency, Oswalt retired, they released Garland who never re-signed anywhere and still sits unsigned into 2014, they acquired Brett Anderson from Oakland for dimming prospect Drew Pomeranz and they acquired Franklin Morales from Boston in December.  Their top 3 guys shouldn’t be too bad, but Chacin has had some early injury issues in Feb 2014.  Anderson hadn’t been healthy in years.  All their prospects who gave them spot-starts last year were awful; it could get ugly in Colorado if one of these starters gets hurt.  Nicaso and Lyles won’t be much help.
  29. Houston: Feldman, Oberholtzer, Cosart, Williams, Peacock with Harrell, Keuchel, and Paul Clemens (who went to Robinson HS in Fairfax) as depth.  From last year Houston flipped Norris to Baltimore, traded Lyles to Colorado, and let Bedard and Humber go to FA.  For 2014 they signed Scott Feldman (to a 3yr/$30M deal ??) and Jerome Williams (a former Nat who was out of the game for four years before coming back with the Angels) as stop-gap innings eaters.  They’re still going to be depending heavily on youngsters Brett Oberholzer (who they got in the Michael Bourn trade a couple years back) and ace-in-the-making Jarred Cosart (who posted a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts last fall) to lead the line.  Unfortunately, while Cosart looks promising and former Nat Brad Peacock looked pretty good in Aug and Sept of last year, their secondary arms were all awful last year and the two stop-gap FAs are both #5 starters at best.  Houston easily looks destined for another 100 loss season or worse.  Almost all of their big-time prospects are in AA right now; this could be a pretty good team in two years.
  30. Minnesota: Nolasco, Hughes, Correia, Pelfrey, Worley (Diamond  as swing man?) New signing Nolasco raised eyebrows, especially for this franchise.  4yrs/$48M, and they picked up Yankees cast-off Phil Hughes as well.  Otherwise the performances of Pelfrey (5.19 ERA) and Worley (7.21 ERA) last year leave something to be desired.  Perhaps Scott  Diamond takes some starts.  Their most effective starter last year (Samuel Denudo) had off-season surgery and may start in the minors.  This is an ugly looking group, even with Nolasco at the head.  They need former Nat Alex Meyer sooner rather than later.


Several leading baseball columnists have posted their own top 10 rankings in early 2014; Buster Olney‘s being done before the Masahiro Tanaka signing and David Schoenfield‘s just afterwards.   SportsonEarth’s Jonathan Bernhardt contributed his list as well.   Matthew Pouliet‘s Rotoworld player projection-based ranking is here and it looks pretty good.   Their top 10s, for comparison purposes to mine, were as follows:

  • NationalsarmRace:
  • Olney: Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Texas, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Tampa (HM: Miami and Boston).
  • Schoenfield: Detroit, Washington, St. Louis, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Texas.
  • Bernhardt: Los Angeles, Washington, Boston, Cincinnati, Seattle, Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, New York, Pittsburgh
  • Pouliet: Detroit, Washington, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Oakland.

So, what do you think?  Do I have some teams too high, some too low?  Discuss in the comments.

Written by Todd Boss

March 10th, 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in Majors Pitching

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8 Responses to '2014 Rotation Rankings 1-30'

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  1. Good post, Todd. I didn’t disagree with much, just a few quibbles, or maybe preferences. I always find it hard to actually name a team (or player) to a specific spot, as opposed to tiers like you did in the GM post, but here goes. Originally I disagreed with STL at the top, but then reading your explanation, seems like you put a very high value on depth, and it is hard to argue with that. I think that would swap DET and WAS, though, with that kind of emphasis, since I think DET would struggle with their 6 and 7th starters, whereas we have some quality guys. If you knew everyone’s top 5 SPs would make all their starts, I’d reorder your top 3 as WAS, DET, STL (and I say this as someone who said DET was better last year, so I don’t think that I am too bad of a homer.) But I think that your top 4 teams are correctly in their own class. Pretty big gap to the #5 team, imo.

    I would have had ATL as the 5th, but for Medlen’s news. Now, I just don’t know where to put them, since that could be a huge loss if he is out for a long time. Sort of begs a similar question for us too, with Fister, although the loss wouldn’t be as big. As for the others, I am not as high on SEA or NYY as you, but conversely like the NYM and CLE better than you do. Probably MIL too.


    10 Mar 14 at 1:32 pm

  2. Stl: I’m totally sold on Miller and Wacha, and their depth is fantastic, but yes I could have over-ranked them.

    Det: They were SO far ahead of anyone else last year (they had like 10 more war as a rotation than the next best group) that it was kind of tough to not rank them #1. I couldn’t argue with someone saying that it went Det-Stl 1-2.

    Wash: I’m bullish on the Nats of course … and its tough to rank your own team that you spend so much time analyzing and over-analyzing. But under the theory that Det was so good last year and i like Stl’s arms so much … that ended up with Wash #3.

    Sea: yeah … that was one I wasn’t entirely sold on my own explanation. If Walker is the stud we think he is and Felix has a bounce back year … yeah that’s a good rotation.

    Yankees: like ’em or not … they still won 86 games last year. I had a hard time putting them much lower. Think i had them 15 last year and they outperformed my prediction.

    Mil is a good one to debate, definitely. Suddenly the’ve got two good veteran arms so they’r enot going to be awful.

    Mets: i dunno. When Harvey went down i just don’t see anyone on that rotation that “scares” me. Cleveland too; it could just be that I just don’t know those guys as well as I should.

    Todd Boss

    10 Mar 14 at 2:39 pm

  3. On the Mets, Dillon Gee scares the Nats. He was so much better against the Nats than against everyone else last year it was just stupid.

    John C.

    10 Mar 14 at 3:28 pm

  4. Gee: 2013 split against hte Nats: 4-2, 2.72 ERA in 6 starts. Yeah i’d say.

    Todd Boss

    10 Mar 14 at 3:35 pm

  5. For the Mets, while I don’t like Colon, he has had two productive years, so it is hard for me to assume that he just sucks this year. Then Wheeler, who could be a 2/3 type, Gee who as you guys have said has killed the Nats (and so maybe I have overstated his value) is a solid 4/5. Neise, if he stays healthy, has been productive. Then they have Syndergaard and Montero ready to help, plus they play half their games at Citi, which helps a lot. They are probably a year away from being really good – when Harvey comes back and the young guys mature a bit – but I could see them finish ten spots higher than where you had them this year.

    As for CLE, I don’t love them and maybe 21 is right, but Masterson, Salazar and Kluber seem like a solid top 3. If they get lucky on one of the others, they could hang in there.


    10 Mar 14 at 5:40 pm

  6. I think i’m down on the Mets b/c: a) I just don’t trust the Colon will continue to be awesome as an overweight 40-yr old. b) I had Wheeler in fantasy last year thinking he was the next coming of Kershaw and he was … well, mediocre frankly. Unfair sure considering he was a rookie coming up. But he was no Fernandez or Harvey or Miller or Wacha, rookies last year who were by and large dazzling. Niese is hurt, Gee is just an average MLB starter overall, and then they’re depending on complete unknowns. That’s about the #24 rotation for me 🙂 However I will say this: when I did my quantitative rankings of starters, the Mets were much, much higher. Like 12th, which I thought was crazy. So i dunno. Maybe i’m completely over-rating the Miami rotation (12th) and completely underrating the Mets (24th) and they should have been switched in their entirety.

    But yeah, a year from now with Harvey back leading the line (look up his stats: before he got hurt not only did he have the highest velocity on his fastball but he was also either leading the league or near to it in terms of K/BB ratio. Which is unbelievable. You just don’t see control artists with 96mph fastballs on average), with Wheeler as a 2/3 ceiling and Snydergaard and then maybe augment with a couple other guys in the mix (Mejia was pretty good in SSS last fall, and Torres doesn’t look too bad) they might be pretty tough.

    Todd Boss

    11 Mar 14 at 8:52 am

  7. I was surprised to see the Marlins ranked so high!


    11 Mar 14 at 9:26 am

  8. Yeah fair enough; Olney ranked them 11th or 12th too. I may be vastly over-rating their kids … but if you look at what they did last year as a group ( by and large they were pretty good. And young. They’re ranked that highly on potential.

    Todd Boss

    11 Mar 14 at 10:21 am

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