Spring training is here! You know what that means: It's time for nonstop fan and pundit speculation on which players and teams are going to make a mark on the league this year. Count me in.
There are a bevvy of young hitters poised to become stars in 2017. The pitching outlook is a bit less exciting, but not dreary: There are plenty of awesome pitchers and staffs in the league to look forward to watching this season. I mean, there always are--this is the big leagues we're talking about and for baseball geeks MLB is always an awesome spectacle.
On a more somber tangent: As devout fans, we're going to watch MLB regardless, but it can’t be overstated how sorely Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura will be missed. Each brought passion, electricity, and flair to a league that takes itself too seriously most of the time. Both contrasted the damaging assertion that ballplayers need to be stoic, stony-eyed androids. Their losses will make watching baseball in 2017 much less exciting than had they not been summoned to play celestial ball.
Despite all of that graveness, hope is an ever-present theme in baseball. There are loads of young starters who will get their first chance at extended action in 2017--it will be a delight to see to what extent they can impact their teams. It’ll also be interesting to see how new acquisitions adapt to their new teams; and if older aces can maintain their sharpness as age wears on them. Without further ado, let’s rank those rotations!
30 30. Minnesota Twins
Projected Rotation: Ervin Santana, Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios, Phil Hughes/Tyler Duffey
The Twins have a potent battery of young hitters poised to break out in 2017, but their starting pitching outlook remains bleak.
Last season, Minnesota owned the worst staff ERA in MLB—5.08. Touted prospect Jose Berrios’s growing pains sullied the Twins’ 2016 campaign: His 8.02 ERA and 1.869 were dismal. His numbers should improve this season provided he can hone his command and elude more bats.
Ervin Santana and Hector Santiago are tenured veterans who are expected to shoulder loads of quality innings for the club, but neither can be considered close to an elite, top-end hurler. They will yield many more runs than the league-average 1-2 will.
The Twins lack depth, firepower, and consistency at SP. An ideal scenario for 2017: Santana and Santiago remain healthy and keep their ERAs around 4.00 while Berrios sheds his woe and begins to emerge as a bona fide ace.
29 29. Cincinnati Reds
Projected Rotation: Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan, Robert Stephenson, Scott Feldman
DeSclafani, Finnegan, and Stephenson are half-decent starting pitchers in their twenties, but none of them project to be an ace capable of putting the Reds’ staff over the hump of mediocrity.
Cincy’s 4.91 staff ERA was second-worst in the NL in 2016. Some of the blame can be pinned on their porous bullpen, but their starters, sans DeSclafani and Finnegan, weren’t good.
Bailey is in decline and has been hobbled by injuries (his ERA ballooned over 6.00 in limited action last season). Feldman is a run-of-the-mill stopgap. With youth there’s always hope: Finnegan and Stephenson may prove to be better than anticipated. The overall projection for Cincinnati’s pitching is grim, though.
28 28. Los Angeles Angels
Projected Rotation: Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Shoemaker, Alex Meyer/Andrew Heaney
The Angels won’t field the most foreboding staff in 2017, but there’s seeming upside here if Richards and Skaggs can contribute 150-plus innings and pitch to their respective potentials.
Halo starters clocked in a 4.28 ERA in 2016--11th in the American League. Skaggs and Richards only stacked up 16 starts between them due to fussing injuries. Assuming Skaggs and Richards can stay healthy, which is far from assured, then the Angels rotation could be more commanding in 2017.
Richards has pitched like an ace when he’s 100%; while Skaggs, Shoemaker and Heaney have all proven to be effective in bursts. Consistency will be paramount. There’s at least a particle of hope that this can be a tenable rotation in Anaheim.
27 27. Colorado Rockies
Projected Rotation: Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson, Jeff Hoffman/Chris Rusin
Inexperience and the volatility of Coors Field make Colorado’s staff vulnerable, but they do have youth and upside.
Gray’s ERA approached 5.00 during his 2016 rookie year, but he set a Colorado rookie record for strikeouts. His stuff is electric--2017 could be a breakout year.
Chatwood and Anderson both posted sub-4.00 ERAs last season. It’ll be important for them to parlay their success from last year over the full course of 2017.
The Rockies have never been reputed for their pitching acumen and there are few reasons to think that things will change in 2017. Their staff lacks depth and starpower. However, a few gems may sparkle amid the muck, particularly Gray if he potentiate his tertiary pitches.
26 26. San Diego Padres
Projected Rotation: Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill, Christian Friedrich, Luis Perdomo
No member of San Diego’s staff is projected to post a sub-4.00 ERA in 2017. The Padres will march into 2017 with a cast of stale, veteran arms.
San Diego pitchers posted a middling 4.43 ERA last season and they haven’t made any improvements. In fact, they lost a major cog this offseason: Tyson Ross. Even with Ross, they couldn’t muster an above-average ERA despite playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in MLB.
While The Padres have a slew of exciting young position players poised to break out in 2017, their starting pitching situation looks gruesome. Don’t expect a top-15 staff from San Diego in 2017--their position players will be more worthy of scoping.
25 25. Milwaukee Brewers
Projected Rotation: Matt Garza, Junior Guerra, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Willy Peralta; Jimmy Nelson/Tommy Milone
The Brew Crew have decent SP depth. The problem is that there are no standouts--just a crew of relatively solid pitchers. The team lacks true aces.
Garza is declining rapidly. Guerra and Davies were good enough last year, but Guerra is 31 and Davies lacks velocity (granted, Davies is 24 and has time to tune his pitches).
Guerra has a diverse arsenal of whirling pitches, but it’s a remote possibility that he’ll repeat his 2.81 ERA, 9-3 campaign from 2016. If he does replicate last season's magic, Guerra will probably get traded mid-season for younger pieces to fit Milwaukee's retooling process.
Again, decent depth here: Nelson and Milone are serviceable veterans that will fill in for underperformers and injured pitchers. There’s just not much luster on Milwaukee’s staff.
24 24. Chicago White Sox
Projected Rotation: Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, James Shields, Miguel Gonzalez, Derek Holland/Lucas Gioloto
If the White Sox were just okay when Chris Sale was on their team, it leads me to reckon that they won’t be too menacing on the mound without him.
Quintana is a high-quality, underrated starter: Each of the last three seasons, he’s pitched at least 200 innings with a sub-3.40 ERA. Gioloto is a prized, unproven arm who could crackle out of the gate. Everything else is pretty dubious.
Shields, Holland, and Gonzalez have all declined or were never outstanding. There’s some hope for Rodon, who’s only 24, to step up his game and support Quintana, but he hasn’t shown the spark yet.
23 23. Oakland Athletics
Projected Rotation: Sonny Gray, Sean Manaea, Kendall Graveman, Andrew Triggins, Jharel Cotton
Outside of Gray, who is likely to show that his ghastly 2016 was anomalous, the Athletics offer a stable of young, not-quite blue chip starters. Maybe they could all “get there” and form a solid unit despite none of its members having a treasured pedigree. Probably not, though.
Cotton was a breath of fresh air in limited exposure last season, but it’s improbable that he can sustain that level of excellence through the course of a whole season. Manaea and Graveman are fairly young and decent too. Again, it just seems as if they lack the potential to break out much further. Graveman is prone to control problems and Manaea has merely decent stuff.
There’s certainly potential for Oakland’s rotation to be okay. There’s probably not potential for it to be great in 2017, however.
22 22. Baltimore Orioles
Projected Rotation: Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez
No one stands out in Baltimore’s rotation as a guaranteed front-end workhorse. Tillman and Gausman have been nothing more than pretty good, and Miley and Jimenez have been less than that in recent years. Gausman does boast a 94-plus fastball and has sky-high potential, though.
Bundy is a wildcard for the Orioles. Injuries barred him from pitching routinely in MLB until last season, and the 23-year-old pitched decently. He ended 2016 with a 4.02 ERA and a 10-6 record.
Given Baltimore’s offensive potency, their rotation need only be decent for the team to contend. Being decent is certainly within their expected range for 2017.
21 21. Kansas City Royals
Projected Rotation: Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Nate Karns, Brian Flynn, Jason Vargas/Mike Minor/Chris Young
The tragic death of Yordano Ventura not only dampens Kansas City’s future outlook, but it leaves their rotation looking lackluster right now.
Picking up Karns bolsters the group somewhat, but the Royals lack an ace or even a potential ace, outside of maybe Danny Duffy. Duffy, granted, has been very good: His 3.51 ERA and 12-3 record in 2016 kept the Royals out of the cellar. Other than Duffy, there’s not a young fireballer to be excited about or any topflight veterans to complement the staff. Kennedy, Young, and Vargas have seen their pitching primes already.
20 20. Atlanta Braves
Projected Rotation: Julio Teheran, Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, Mike Foltynewicz, R.A. Dickey
Teheran, despite some lapses, has shown that he’s a worthy ace. Atlanta’s rotation takes a nosedive after him, though.
Colon enjoyed a fun rebirth during his stint in New York, but it’s hard to believe that big Bart will maintain his proficiency in the face of his Jurassic age and droopy frame. Maybe he’ll pan out, but he’s certainly not a reliable #2 in 2017--at least that’s our bet.
Garcia is due to find his old touch after languishing in St. Louis for the past few seasons, so that’s a possible bright spot. Dickey and Colon, though, are too old and unpredictable to be reliable pillars for Atlanta’s 2017 rotation. We’ll see if they defy the odds.
19 19. Miami Marlins
Projected Rotation: Wei-Yin Chen, Tom Koehler, Edinson Volquez, Dan Straily, Adam Conley/Jeff Locke
Baseball lost one of its most beaming, likable personalities when Jose Fernandez perished last September. Furthermore, Miami lost its perennial ace and rotational linchpin.
It’s kind of a motley crew now, but not a horrid one. Chen should rebound after experiencing environment-change struggles last year. There’s decent depth beneath Chen, but no one stands out as a potential breakout performer. Most of Miami’s starters have shown themselves to be barely above-average options. They’re still relatively young and could breakout into studs, who knows? It doesn’t appear to be in the cards for Miami to boast a scary rotation anytime soon, though. The Marlins were banking on Fernandez to carry the brunt of quality innings on his shoulders.
18 18. Pittsburgh Pirates
Projected Rotation: Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Ivan Nova, Juan Nicasio
Despite cooling off in 2016, Cole has already flexed his ability to lead a staff. Expect a better season from Pittsburgh’s ace. Blue chip prospects Taillon and Glasnow have immense potential--if they break out in 2017 then the Pirates will certainly have a better staff than its ranking here would suggest. It may be too soon, however, to expect Taillon and Glasnow to erupt this season.
The prized duo was decent last season, especially Taillon, but neither has established prolonged MLB consistency yet. Glasnow breezed through his minor league career; posting the second-lowest BAA for a SP in the minors in the past 20 years. Pittsburgh could feasibly surprise many by boasting a young, potent staff in 2017.
17 17. New York Yankees
Projected Rotation: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell/Adam Warren
Tanaka is a legit ace and Sabathia rebounded well last season, but New York’s rotation doesn’t look too threatening heading into 2017. They placed middle of the pack in the AL last season with a staff ERA of 4.16.
Pineda should improve upon his 2016 campaign; in which his ERA was nearly 5.00 and he won only 6 games. His stuff is there: the 28-year-old struck out over 200 batters last year. Pineda is a tweak or two away from becoming a pitcher that doesn't make fans nervous when he takes the mound.
Green and Mitchell were promising last season. They’re both young (mid-twenties) and average 94-plus mph on fastballs. The Yankees’ don’t have the most star-studded staff, but breakout potential is there. Tanaka and Sabathia figure to be good, go-to options.
16 16. Philadelphia Phillies
Projected Rotation: Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, Clay Buccholz, Jeremy Hellickson, Vincent Velasquez; Zach Elfin/Jake Thompson
Eickhoff emerged as an auspicious starter for Philly last year. Nola, Velasquez, and Elfin will be joining Eickhoff in Philadelphia’s rotation as young starters with glittering potential. Nola is projected to be more consistent in 2017, and Velasquez glimmered like an ace in the early months of 2016 before injuries and fatigue impeded his hype train.
Buccholz and Hellickson are fitful: It’s difficult to predict whether or not they will rise to the challenge of bolstering the Phillies’ rotation. Year to year, they both seem to oscillate between high-quality performances and consistently bad outings.
Numerous faint possibilities must come true if Philly’s rotation is to lift its team to vie for October. It may take another year or two for their rotation to assume gilt-edged form.
15 15. Houston Astros
Projected Rotation: Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, Charlie Morton/Chad Devenski
Houston will embark on their 2017 campaign with a decent, deep staff.
Keuchel failed to showcase his ace pitchcraft in 2016 after being the crux of the Astros’ rotation for two years. Perhaps he can recover a semblance of his former glory in 2017--it’s not as if he’s hamstrung by age yet.
McCullers, though he’s been hindered by injuries, is just 23; and he’s a career 3.22 ERA pitcher. McHugh and Fiers are fine mid-rotation laborers, while Morton is a quality insurance plan. Devenski showed towering potential in 2016: Last season his brilliant 0.91 WHIP and 2.16 ERA though 108 innings helped keep the Astros in contention.
Houston’s bid for a playoff spot may depend on Keuchel’s resurgence, McCuller’s health, and Devenski’s ability to pitch inspired baseball for a prolonged stretch. There’s good depth and great upside in Houston’s staff.
14 14. Arizona Diamondbacks
Projected Rotation: Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Archie Bradley, Shelby Miller; Braden Shipley/Patrick Corbin
Greinke didn’t yield great results in his first year with Arizona--certainly nothing close to his wondrous tenure with the Dodgers. In fact, the D’backs’ starting staff sputtered in general: Shelby Miller had a dismal 2016 and Robbie Ray, despite maintaining a high K/9 rate, had an ERA approaching 5.00.
The talent is there. It’s more likely than not that Ray and Miller will trend towards their previous statistical successes in 2017. Greinke in particular is bound to bounce back.
Walker, who was acquired from Seattle this offseason, showed substantial improvement from 2015 to 2016. The 24-year-old is no longer aided by the pitcher-friendly canyon of Safeco Field, but it stands to reason that Walker will somewhat alleviate Arizona’s depth issues. Bradley is another acclaimed prospect who’s due to burst forth in 2017. There’s ample upside in Arizona’s rotation.
13 13. Seattle Mariners
Projected Rotation: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Drew Smyly, Yovani Gallardo/Ariel Miranda
Hernandez and Iwakuma both slackened in 2016. King Felix’s ERA for the year was his highest in a decade. Iwakuma won 16 games, but he had his worst MLB season in terms of ERA and average velocity (87 mph). They’re both crafty pitchers, but their pitches are losing zip.
Losing Taijuan Walker tempered the long-term promise of Seattle’s rotation, though Smyly was a shrewd pickup: The former Ray had a so-so 2016 but his previous numbers suggest last season was a minor blip.
Paxton and Miranda are serviceable rotation back-enders with growth potential. Gallardo provides veteran guile and depth. More than any other factor, the Mariners’ rotational success will depend on the ability of Hernandez and Iwakuma to rebuff any doubts about their aging--they’ll both need to be cooking with gas in order for Seattle to realistically contend.
12 12. St. Louis Cardinals
Projected Rotation: Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Lance Lynn; Michael Wacha
Long-time ace Adam Wainwright showed signs of aging last season: the 35-year-old posted career highs in ERA and WHIP. The Cardinals, however, are stocked with a bounty of promising arms for replenishment.
Losing Reyes for the season is a big blow, considering the young starter is perhaps the top pitching prospect in MLB. He shined upon getting called up last season: Through 46 innings, Reyes put forth a 1.57 ERA and 52 strikeouts. He’s just 22 years old.
Martinez is due for another dazzling season after the 25-year-old won 16 games last year with an ERA hovering around 3.00.
If Lynn can continue being a mid-rotation pillar and Wacha can shed his 2016 bungles, St. Louis will boast a deep, solid rotation with towering potential in Martinez and Reyes, though Reyes is predicted to miss the entire season.
11 11. Texas Rangers
Projected Rotation: Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner/A.J. Griffin
Hamels and Darvish combine for a dynamic 1-2. The Rangers’ rotation recedes after them, though.
Ross should be pretty good. The signing of Ross didn’t register much on the MLB radar, but he enjoyed a shipshape run in San Diego--he’s among the top-ten qualified starters in K-rate from 2013-2015. Arlington’s ballpark is not as pitcher-friendly as San Diego, but Ross should be a sturdy spoke in Texas’ pitching wheel.
Hamels showed few signs of decline in 2016 and Darvish is on the verge of a new contract; the duo is poised to excel in 2017. Perez, Cashner, and Griffin provide depth and redemptive potential yields.
10 10. Detroit Tigers
This ranking may be too low: Detroit’s 1-4 imaginably could prove to be among MLB’s elite rotations. Questions loom, though. Can Fulmer replicate his rookie eminence? He did wane towards the end of 2016. Will Norris stay healthy and actualize his potential? Will Verlander, despite his stellar 2016, decline as his age catches up with him? We’ll see.
The potential for Detroit’s starting five, no doubt, is very high. Jordan Zimmerman was expected to be a stopper, but his first year in Detroit was below par (1.37 WHIP, 4.87 ERA). Maybe last season’s shortcoming was a breaking-in process for Zimmerman in a new environment--he’ll probably be much more reliable in 2017.
The Tiger’s staff has the material to become one of the most capable rotations in the league. If each member performs to their expected potentials and injuries don’t ravage their hopes, Detroit will once again contend for the AL Central crown and more.
9 9. Tampa Bay Rays
Projected Rotation: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Matt Andriese, Blake Snell
Chris Archer’s name continues to be mentioned in trade rumors. Assuming Archer stays put, however, Tampa Bay will enter the 2017 with an underprized young staff.
Cobb is the eldest prospective Rays starter and he’s only 29. Archer wasn’t playing at his best in 2016, but his K rate remained high; while Odorizzi and Snell put forth solid efforts (3.69 and 3.54 ERAs respectively). Andriese had a respectable rookie campaign too and his trajectory figures to ascend.
Tampa Bay has become acclaimed for scouting and grooming young starters. This tradition of solidness should only be reinforced in 2017. The Rays need to address their offense and bullpen before they can be considered likely contenders in the AL East, though.
8 8. Washington Nationals
Projected Rotation: Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross
2016 NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer will spearhead what figures to be a strong rotation for Washington in 2017. The Nats had the second-lowest staff ERA in the NL last season (3.51).
The Nationals’ front line of Scherzer, Strasburg, and Roark is among the most scary trios in the sport. Roark gets outshined by his more well-known teammates, but the right hander sparkled last season. Among his accomplishments in 2016: 16 wins, 210 innings, a 2.83 ERA, and 1.17 WHIP.
Gonzalez and Ross are experienced, exceptional back-end options; especially if Gonzalez can keep the ball in the park and reduce his BAA with RISP. The 31-year-old had his worst year in Washington last season, rendering a 4.57 ERA and 0.8 WAR. A return to his normal averages would be a game-changer for the Nats.
7 7. Los Angeles Dodgers
Projected Rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Scott Kazmir/Brandon McCarthy
Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw—so that’s a blessing for LA. If the perennial frontrunner and future Cooperstown inductee stays intact, the Dodgers will be advantaged in every game he pitches. The dude’s baseball prowess hardly needs an explanation.
Re-signing Rich Hill wasn’t the most sexy splurge this offseason, but it shores up the Dodgers’ 1-5. Kenta Maeda performed well in his rookie season last year; winning 16 games with a sub-3.50 ERA. Julio Urias will continue to build upon his hopeful 2016 and refine his potent pitch arsenal.
With McCarthy and Kazmir presumably rounding out the rotation, the Dodgers have a favorable and deep blend of reliable studs, innings eaters, and a budding superstar (Urias) in the wings.
LA poses a high-upside rotation for 2017. It’s probable that they’ll improve upon their fifthranked staff ERA from last season (3.70) and continue to boast one of the finest pitching corps in MLB.
6 6. Cleveland Indians
Projected Rotation: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin/Zach McAllister
Cleveland’s bullpen and offense get due credit for vaulting the Tribe to the World Series last year, but the Indians’ rotation is far from slack.
Kluber (6.5 WAR) and Carrasco (3.6 WAR) propelled the team to seize the AL Central title. Supporting the two stalwarts are fireballer Danny Salazar, who boasted a 10.55 K/9 last season, and young innings-eater Trevor Bauer.
Bauer has the tools to become more than a middling workhorse--he’s due for an upturn and 2017 could mark his materialization as a menacing hurler. Kluber and Carrasco are a lusty 1-2 and the arms behind them are capable; perhaps capable of breaking out into brilliant splendor.
5 5. Toronto Blue Jays
Projected Rotation: Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, Francisco Liriano
Backed by 24-year-old Aaron Sanchez’s breakout season (15-2, 3.00 ERA, 1,17 WHIP), the Blue Jays led the American League in ERA in 2016. Happ won 20 gamed--granted he was propped by plentiful run support--and Estrada ate 176 quality innings while rendering a 3.48 ERA. Toronto’s top three stratified themselves as legit last year.
Stroman, perhaps the most lauded of the lot, had a subpar 2016, but he’s projected to bounce back into ace-like territory this season. Liriano is a welcomed veteran presence who’s well-served rounding out Toronto’s peachy starting five.
Sanchez and Stroman are young and therefore perhaps haven’t reached their ceilings. Upside is abound.
Due to their depth, potential upside, and relative youth, the Blue Jays enter 2017 with one of the AL’s most imposing rotations. More run prevention will be needed of them in light of Edwin Encarnacion’s departure.
4 4. San Francisco Giants
Projected Rotation: Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzjia, Matt Moore, Ty Blach
Perhaps San Francisco’s staff is top-heavy. However, it’s a hefty, radiant top we’re talking about (Bumgarner and Cueto).
Cueto and MadBum each clocked in ERAs below 2.80 and 15-plus wins last season; maintaining their perennial greatness. Samardzjia was a solid contributor (3.81 ERA, 203 IP). Ty Blach sparkled in limited call-up action late last season and could emerge as a buoy for the Giants’ overbalanced staff.
The Giants’ playoff hopes may lie on their tertiary pitching options. Bumgarner and Cueto should maintain stasis if not improve upon last year’s successes, though making a serious playoff run is unlikely unless Blach and Moore shore up their aces. Given their previous performances, it seems probable that they can indeed provide rich depth to San Francisco’s 2017 campaign.
3 3. Chicago Cubs
Projected Rotation: Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Mike Montgomery/Brett Anderson
Chicago’s championship curse was dispelled in part thanks to their superb starting rotation: The Cubs led the majors in ERA (3.15) and SHO (15) in 2016. Anchored by Jon Lester, who nearly nabbed the NL Cy Young Award last season, the Cubbies retain a secure, veteran crew of starters for 2017.
One knock on their starting five is that there’s no reason to expect a breakout season from any of its members--we know we’re getting from their battle-tested arms. That's not a bad thing in this case.
If Arrieta recaptures his 2015 form and Hendricks picks up where he left off in 2016, then the Cubs will reap the fruits of their tremendous depth. This group is playoff-tested and seasoned. They are primed for the task of attempting to hoist another World Series banner at Wrigley Field.
2 2. Boston Red Sox
Projected Rotation: Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez/Steven Wright
It came at the cost of coveted prospect Yoan Moncada, but adding Chris Sale was a windfall for Boston. Their 1-2-3 punch of Sale, Price, and Porcello, on paper, is among the elite combinations in the league.
Price ebbed a bit last season, though he rediscovered his groove in the second half. Porcello finally flowered into a bona fide stopper last year; earning the AL Cy Young for his 22-win effort. Adding Sale to the fray emboldens Boston’s staff to lofty heights. If Rodriguez can assume his potential and Pomeranz can unearth the promise he flashed in San Diego, watch out for the Red Sox. Winning 100-plus games and making a deep playoff run is within reason for this team and this pitching staff.
1 1. New York Mets
Projected Rotation: Noah Synddergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler/Seth Lugo
Will they stay healthy? Will anyone’s arm fall off mid-pitch? Can they all stay active and contribute 150-plus innings? If so, it’s futile to argue against the Mets’ starting pitching supremacy.
Even with an injury-hampered Matt Harvey and without any contributions from a recovering Wheeler, New York posted MLB’s third-best ERA last season. Despite an injury epidemic, Synddergaard, Matz, and DeGrom all finished 2016 with ERAs below 3.40 and WHIPs below 1.21.
Health is a factor for every team, but it’s going to be especially critical for the Mets. Their young pitching troop has developed a history of succumbing to injuries and fatigue. However, a healthy and harmonious season for the big four (plus Wheeler, probably) will make the Mets the mightiest staff in baseball. They’re young so growth potential is possible, though NY’s starters have already entrenched themselves as proven commodities. The team’s success will hinge on the health on coalescence of these men. With their live arms and their blistering pitch arsenals, they can take the Mets far.
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