Now that the steroid era in baseball has come and gone, teams are leaning heavily on pitching to get into the playoffs and even moreso when the postseason arrives. It is said that pitching is about 75% of baseball in terms of value and some teams have loaded up on starters that can carry the squad. Just look at the Chicago Cubs in 2016, as they were able to break their 108 year futility streak thanks to the strongest rotation in the game.
The arms race is on now to match the Cubs and some big names moved in the offseason as teams like Boston have added Chris Sale to compete for a World Series. Now that the winter meetings have come and gone, it appears that the 2017 MLB rosters are set for the most part (of course, things can change).
Let’s take a look at each MLB team and the rotation that they are projected for in 2017. While some might try to find where their strong points are going to be, we’re going to pick out the weakest part of the rotation. Here is the worst starting pitcher on every MLB roster as we head into 2017.
30 Arizona Diamondbacks - Shelby Miller
The first team on the list was a hard one to pick, as pretty much every starting pitcher outside of Robbie Ray was a huge disappointment in 2016. While Zack Greinke pitched well below what he was being paid, the biggest bust on the team right now has to be Shelby Miller. In 2015, while with Atlanta, Miller was able to post a 3.02 ERA despite a 6-17 record and people thought things would get better in Arizona.
Miller responded to the hype by absolutely laying an egg in his first season as a Diamondback. Miller went 3-12 in 2016 with an inflated ERA of 6.12. The Braves received a lot of talent in their trade of Miller and it certainly looks like they got the better of it. Patrick Corbin was a close second on the list after his disappointing fall, but it wasn’t as far as Miller’s.
29 Atlanta Braves - R.A. Dickey
The Braves are one of those teams that a lot of people are picking to be a dark horse for the 2017 season. While the top of the rotation seems strong with Julio Teheran and Bartolo Colon, it seems to drop off fast and the rest of the team is questionable. Mike Foltynewicz is an exciting young prospect that had a strong season in 2016 and he is much younger than the pitcher we selected; R.A. Dickey.
Jaime Garcia was also considered, but Garcia’s drop off in 2016 was not as bad as it seemed despite seven more losses than 2015. Dickey, on the other hand, will be 42 years old and has been trending downward over the course of the past three seasons. In 2016 with a solid batting team behind him in Toronto, Dickey posted a 10-15 record with a 4.46 ERA.
28 Baltimore Orioles - Ubaldo Jimenez
If this was 2010, the Orioles would have an amazing top of their rotation with Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez. Unfortunately for Baltimore, 2017 is just around the corner and now those two make up the bottom of their rotation. Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy appear to be taking the reins at the top, and it was tough to pick between the other two, but Jimenez appears to be the worst of the bunch.
Jimenez was disappointing when he went from Colorado to Cleveland, and it hasn’t gotten much better in Baltimore. 2015 was a decent year as he posted a 12-10 record with a 4.11 ERA, but 2016 saw him go just 8-12 with a 5.44 ERA. Jimenez is trending downward and it’s safe to say that he’s not a fan favorite among those in Baltimore.
27 Boston Red Sox - Eduardo Rodriguez
With the addition of Chris Sale in December 2016, there really aren’t any glaring weaknesses in the Boston rotation. After all, David Price is a former Cy Young winner and Rick Porcello won the 2016 award. Those three lead a strong rotation, and Drew Pomeranz is no slouch as he was an All Star in 2016 thanks to a record of 11-12 overall and a 3.32 ERA. By default, the weakest pitcher in the rotation is Eduardo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has a lot of potential as he was getting toward the top 50 prospects in all of baseball and he got his chance to start 20 games for Boston in 2016. Rodriguez went 3-7 on the season with a 4.71 ERA. That’s a respectable season for a rookie, but until he develops, he’s bringing up the rear.
26 Chicago White Sox - Lucas Giolito
Speaking of Chris Sale, his former team is now boasting a fairly weak rotation now that one of the best pitchers in baseball is gone. Jose Quintana, Miguel Gonzalez and Carlos Rodon aren’t bad, and they are at least ahead of the other two pitchers on the rotation; James Shields and Lucas Giolito. Giolito came over to the White Sox in the Eaton trade and it’s hard to say what he will do in his first full season after heading in from Washington.
While it’s tempting to say that James Shields is the worst pitcher on the roster, his 2016 season is definitely one that went against the trend. Shields should be able to rebound, while it will be tough for Giolito to have a strong season in his rookie year. While the future looks bright for the White Sox, they will have to go through some tough times first.
25 Chicago Cubs - Mike Montgomery
The Cubs and the Red Sox have the same problem in the fact that neither team has a glaring weakness in their starting rotation. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks were all Cy Young candidates for the 2016 season while John Lackey provided a much needed lift in the fourth spot. Jason Hammel filled in the void for the fifth spot for much of last year, but he’s no longer with the Cubs.
With that said, the Cubs will likely trust Mike Montgomery to carry the end of the rotation. While Montgomery was very solid in relief for the Cubs (and even got the final out of the 2016 World Series), he’s still not a certainty as a starting pitcher compared to the other four guys around him.
24 Cincinnati Reds - Robert Stephenson
Anthony DeSclafani, Dan Straily and Brandon Finnegan are able to avoid being called the worst pitcher for the Reds because of the uncertainty of the other two pitchers. The Reds are expecting Homer Bailey to return as their ace in 2017, but that might not be the best idea. Bailey has only started eight games over his past two seasons and that’s the same amount as fifth starter Robert Stephenson.
So which one between the two players will be worse in 2017? You have to imagine that it will be Stephenson as the 23 year old continues to develop. Bailey will be on the wrong side of 30 coming into the 2017 season, so a regression from his best days is to be expected. When it comes to 2018, however, Stephenson is the pitcher that you would rather not have.
23 Cleveland Indians - Josh Tomlin
This selection was a tough one to pick as all of the Indians pitchers could certainly be considered above average at the very worst, which is probably why they went to the World Series in 2016. In this instance, we picked Josh Tomlin as the worst pitcher on the Indians rotation for a couple of reasons. First, he already has a fairly high ERA at 4.40. Secondly, he is going to be 32 in the 2017 season, so it might get worse.
Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer are much younger than Tomlin while Carlos Carrasco is putting up much better numbers. Then, there’s Corey Kluber, who shouldn’t belong anywhere close to a “worst” list. Tomlin is definitely one of the best pitchers that made the list, but he finds himself as the worst Indians starter.
22 Colorado Rockies - Jeff Hoffman
The Rockies rotation is very, very young. So young, in fact, that the oldest starter in their 2017 rotation won’t even turn 28 years old until a few weeks into the next season. They all have similar stats at this point, but the youngster that’s leading up the rear right now is Jeff Hoffman. While there were other players in the rotation that haven’t posted a large sample of numbers just like Hoffman, he has given the least amount of hope.
In 2016, Hoffman started in six games (while appearing in eight) and went 0-4 with a 4.88 ERA. That might sound high, but good luck finding a Rockies pitcher that’s able to have an ERA below 4.0. The future looks bright for the Rockies, but just like the White Sox, they are going to take some lumps for a year or two before breaking out.
21 Detroit Tigers - Anibal Sanchez
Finally, there’s one team on the list that has been easy to pick and it’s not some poor rookie at the back of the rotation. Ask any Tigers fan who the worst pitcher in the rotation is and I guarantee you that they’ll say Anibal Sanchez. It’s odd, because Sanchez went 14-8 with a 2.57 ERA back in 2013, but he has fallen off fast. In 2016, Sanchez finished with a 7-13 mark and a 5.87 ERA.
It’s hard to believe that the Tigers still trust Sanchez in the fourth spot of their rotation considering how fast he’s fallen off the table, but it appears that will be the case once again in 2017. Now that he will be 33 years old before the Tigers even report for Spring Training in 2017, it doesn’t look good for Sanchez.
20 Houston Astros - Charlie Morton
The Astros have some veteran pitching on their 2017 squad and appear to be poised to make a run at the playoffs. The team will have to lean on their rotation a bit, though there are a couple of questionable spots. While Mike Fiers isn’t the greatest pitcher, he avoids being named the worst on the Houston rotation because of the uncertainty of Charlie Morton. Morton missed most of the 2016 season due to a hamstring injury.
Being injured for almost an entire season is already a concern, combined with the fact that he has already turned 33 years old and you start to worry. In his last full season in 2015, Morton finished 9-9 with a 4.81 ERA, and that came in the National League.
19 Kansas City Royals - Yordano Ventura
There were hopes by the Royals faithful that Yordano Ventura would end up being an All Star pitcher and it looked good after the 2014 season. Unfortunately, Ventura has regressed in each of his two seasons since then as his ERA has gone from 3.20 to 4.08 and now 4.45 in the 2016 season. Ventura also finished with an 11-12 record last season (for what that’s worth) and his 1.9 WAR suggested that he belongs in the fifth spot at best.
Ventura beats out Matt Strahm, who just completed his rookie season with the Royals in 2016. Strahm will be moving to the rotation from the bullpen and there’s a lot to be excited about. That’s because Strahm posted just a 1.23 ERA in his 21 appearances. By the way, you also have to worry about Ventura getting ejected from games because of his temper.
18 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Jesse Chavez
We’ve seen some teams so far on the list that were hard to select because there were so many good pitchers and the Angels pretty much have the opposite problem. Outside of Garrett Richards, there are a lot of question marks for the Angels. The decision came down to three pitchers; Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Skaggs and Jesse Chavez. While Skaggs has had limited time as a starter, he’s trending upward and is still only 25 years old.
Chavez and Nolasco, on the other hand, are getting toward the end of their careers and have had almost identical numbers in their long time as Major League pitchers. Since we’re forced to pick just one for the list, though, we have to say that Chavez is the worst of the bunch. The journeyman isn’t an exciting player at all and is basically a body to fill the rotation.
17 Los Angeles Dodgers - Scott Kazmir
Meanwhile, the other Major League team in the area that actually plays in Los Angeles doesn’t have a problem with their starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, Rich Hill has been a revelation and the rookie combo from 2016 (Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda) looked like surefire blue chips, especially Urias since he was just 19 years old in his first season.
With all of that said, the obvious choice here is former Tampa Bay Rays All Star Scott Kazmir. Kazmir will be 33 years old in the 2017 season and struggled mightily last season. Kazmir had a solid record at 10-6, but his ERA was the worst on the team at 4.56. You have to figure that it might continue to climb as he winds down his career.
16 Miami Marlins - Jeff Locke
The Marlins made some moves at the winter meetings in December to try and fill out the rest of their rotation. While there weren’t many great names to select from in the free agency market, they did land both Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke, while the squad already had Adam Conley, Tom Koehler and Wei-Yin Chen. So of their new additions, which one should be the fifth in the rotation?
Both players are former All Stars and Locke finished with a 9-8 record and 5.44 ERA in 2016 while Volquez posted a 10-11 record and 5.37 ERA. However, those numbers tell us that Volquez should be stronger in 2017 than Locke despite being much older. The transition from the American League to the National League will be easier on Volquez’s numbers while Locke stays in the senior circuit.
15 Milwaukee Brewers - Matt Garza
Remember when there was a time when Matt Garza was an exciting young pitcher that made some noise with both the Rays and Cubs? After a mediocre half season in Texas during the 2013 season, Garza has been a member of the Brewers rotation. While his first season was solid with a 3.64 ERA, he has been struggling ever since then with an ERA of 5.63 in 2015 and 4.51 in 2016 where he didn’t even make 20 starts.
The Brewers are trusting Garza to be the second man in the rotation behind Junior Guerra, which should probably tell you all you need to know about the Brewers’ playoff chances in 2017. The rest of the rotation isn’t all that much better with Chase Anderson, Zach Davies and Wily Peralta. Guerra will really have to carry the load.
14 Minnesota Twins - Kyle Gibson
The Twins were the worst team in baseball in 2016 and looking at their rotation, you can probably see why. Ervin Santana is the ace and he wouldn’t even be in the top three in a lot of rotations (especially in Boston or Chicago). Santana isn’t bad compared to the rest of the rotation, though, so it was hard to pick between just one out of Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes and Jose Berrios.
Berrios is a highly touted prospect and it appears that he will have a big rebound season after a rocky and brief rookie campaign. Based on a full sample size, we have to give the award for worst pitcher to Gibson. In 25 starts, Gibson carried a 5.07 ERA and had a 6-11 record in 2016, and it doesn’t appear that it will get better now that he is already past his prime.
13 New York Mets - Zack Wheeler
As it stands right now, the Mets have a lot of question marks in the rotation. Behind Noah Syndergaard, it gets a bit dicey, but at least Jacob deGrom has shown that he can be valuable. After two good seasons before an injury, Matt Harvey came back and had a great 2015 campaign before falling off of the rails in 2016. The Mets also look to finalize their rotation with Zack Wheeler for now.
Wheeler has not pitched since 2014 after being shut down for two seasons, so it’s hard to say which one of them will be worse in 2017. You have to expect that Harvey will have a rebound next season as one bad year does not outweigh a great past. For that reason, we have to go with Zack Wheeler since he’s somehow even more unpredictable and his best isn’t as good as Harvey’s.
12 New York Yankees - Bryan Mitchell
After three years of struggling, CC Sabathia had his best year for the Yankees since 2012, avoiding being named the worst pitcher on the starting rotation. Obviously, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda also avoid the list, so it comes down to the young guns Chad Green and Bryan Mitchell. Green started just eight games last season with a 4.73 ERA while Mitchell had five starts with a 3.24 ERA.
Green’s rise to the Major Leagues was quicker than Mitchell’s overall, but Mitchell did go all the way from A ball to the Major Leagues over the course of 2016. If the Yankees’ pitchers end up meeting their potential, then they are going to be solid for many years, though they might have some struggles in 2017. For now, Mitchell is the weak point in the roster, though not a bad problem to have.
11 Oakland Athletics - Andrew Triggs
Oakland certainly has a problem with their rotation from the top to the bottom. Their believed ace, Sonny Gray, posted a 5-11 record and 5.69 ERA after three strong seasons. Meanwhile, there are a lot of young guys behind him that actually posted some pretty solid numbers for Oakland. It’s hard to say which one is going to be the worst in 2017 as none of them are expected to be that great.
Gray should have a rebound season where he gets back to under a 4.00 ERA, while Jharel Cotton and Kendall Graveman should also show improvements. That leaves out Andrew Triggs, who had to wait until he was 27 to make his first six starts. While he wasn’t bad, his sample size is very small and he’s not what you would consider a prospect.
10 Philadelphia Phillies - Alec Asher
Despite the Braves having a historically bad start in 2016, they would end up rebounding and finishing within 2.5 games of the Phillies in the National League East. The Braves appear to be ahead of Philadelphia in the rebuilding process right now as there are four young players scheduled to be in the starting rotation for the Phillies with Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher behind Jeremy Hellickson.
Jerad Eickhoff has been the best of the bunch on the Major League level so far, while Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola haven’t struggled. Asher has had just 12 starts in the Major Leagues so far, but he has posted a 2-7 record with a 5.88 ERA. Of course, he should improve overall, but he is rightly at the end of the rotation right now.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates - Steven Brault
The Pirates have a lot of potential that they will be leaning on in 2017 as they will be using three pitchers in their starting rotation that made their Major League debuts in 2016. For now, the top of the rotation has Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon while the three young guns trail behind them. Tyler Glasnow appears to be the one with the most potential, as he was a top 10 overall prospect heading into last season.
Glasnow would have a 4.24 ERA in seven appearances last year, while Kuhl was at 4.20 in 14 starts and Brault boasted a 4.86 ERA in seven starts. Based on the small sample sizes, we have to say that Brault is the least exciting pitcher of the bunch while Glasnow is bringing the most positive attention. Still, the future looks good for Pittsburgh.
8 San Diego Padres - Christian Friedrich
If you were looking for the worst rotation in Major League Baseball, well it looks like you just found it. The Padres plan on using Luis Perdomo as their ace and he finished with a 9-10 record and 5.71 ERA in his first full season last year. While his numbers are certain to improve, the rest of the rotation is shaky at best with Christian Friedrich, Paul Clemens, Jarred Cosart and Cesar Vargas.
You don’t want to pitch on Vargas too much as he is their best prospect outside of Perdomo in the rotation, while the other three guys are ones that never met their potential already. As it stands, Friedrich is the pick here for worst pitcher in the rotation. His best ERA came in 2016 as he had a 4.80 and he is already 29 years old. Things likely won’t get better for the veteran.
7 San Francisco Giants - Matt Cain
The top of the Giants rotation is absolutely set thanks to All Stars Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. There is a bit of a drop off next with Jeff Samardzija, but he is nowhere near the worst pitcher in the starting rotation. After that, you have Matt Moore whose only bad season came in 2015 (with a 5.43 ERA in 12 starts). Last season, he rebounded with 33 starts and a 4.08 ERA.
That just leaves Matt Cain, who has been trending heavily downward since his All Star campaigns in 2011 and 2012. Cain hasn’t had more than 17 starts in each of the past three seasons, and his ERA over the past two years has been 5.79 and 5.64. The future is in doubt for the 32 year old, but it could be worse at the fifth spot in the rotation.
6 Seattle Mariners - Nate Karns
The Mariners came oh so close to being able to make their first playoff appearance since 2001 last season as their rotation ended up being an asset. That should likely be the case again in 2017 with a top of the rotation that features Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton. After that, it becomes a bit questionable with Nate Karns and Ariel Miranda (who both had their first season in Seattle last year).
Karns would finish with a 5.15 ERA in 15 starts for the Mariners and has a career ERA of 4.41, while Miranda boasts a 3.88 ERA on 10 career starts. That’s not a big sample size, making it tough to choose between the two. Miranda is a better player in terms of WAR right now (though not by much), so Karns gets the “honor” here.
5 St. Louis Cardinals - Mike Leake
The Cardinals have one of those rotations where there isn’t a dominant ace on hand, but there really aren’t any glaring weaknesses. After all, Lance Lynn is the fourth starter in the rotation and he has posted seasons of 2.74 and 3.03 in the past two seasons. Michael Wacha is the fifth starter as it’s listed right now and he had an All Star campaign in 2015, but followed it up with a 7-7 season and a 5.09 ERA.
Wacha’s season in 2016 seems to just be a fluke right now as he is still very young and should rebound nicely. That leaves Mike Leake, who posted several strong seasons before finishing 9-12 with a 4.69 ERA in 2016. Leake is four years older than Wacha, so you have to figure that Leake will start heading down a bit while Wacha picks it up.
4 Tampa Bay Rays - Drew Smyly
One of the bigger stories of the offseason was whether or not Rays ace Chris Archer would be moved to another team. That hasn’t happened with the winter meetings coming to an end, so it looks like he will stick around as the season starts back up in 2017. Behind him you have Jake Odorizzi and then it gets a bit sketchy with Drew Smyly, Alex Cobb and Blake Snell rounding it out.
Snell had a strong season in his first as a Major League with a 3.54 ERA over 19 starts, and the 24 year old should certainly outplay his spot in the rotation in 2017. Cobb, on the other hand, has pitched in just five games since 2015 after posting two very good seasons. If he plays the way he did before missing time, then Drew Smyly is the worst pitcher on the rotation with his 4.88 ERA over 30 starts in 2016.
3 Texas Rangers - Andrew Cashner
The Rangers don’t really have to worry about the top of their rotation as Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish make up a great 1-2 combo. Things appear to fall off pretty fast for the reigning AL Central champions, however, with Martin Perez, Andrew Cashner and A.J. Griffin rounding out the rotation. Out of those three, Perez is certainly going to be the third starter as he has been consistent.
Cashner and Griffin are big question marks, though, as Cashner has regressed tremendously and Griffin struggled a bit after missing the 2015 season. For now, we have to say that Cashner is the worst pitcher on their rotation. He has not yet pitched in the American League and his ERA has slipped from 2.55 in 2014 all the way up to 5.25 overall in 2016.
2 Toronto Blue Jays - Francisco Liriano
The Blue Jays are one of the teams on our list that don’t have many weak spots in their rotation and you have to go all the way to the five spot to find their worst pitcher (who was actually solid for them in 2016). Francisco Liriano was an All Star way back in 2006 and was having a few strong seasons in a row before 2016 when he started to fall apart as a member of the Pirates.
Liriano is by no means a bad pitcher, but he is already 33 years old and likely won’t improve on his 4.69 overall ERA from last year, especially now being in the American League full time. He also gets named the worst pitcher because the rest of the rotation (Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez) is so strong.
1 Washington Nationals - Gio Gonzalez
Every year over the past few years, the Nationals have been a hot pick to win the World Series and a lot of that has been on the backs of their starting rotation. Max Scherzer is the reigning Cy Young winner in the National League while Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark round out a strong top three. On the back end, you have Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross.
Joe Ross is very young, and he has already proven to be a solid Major League pitcher at 23 years old. Ross, in 32 starts so far, has recorded a 12-10 record with a 3.52 ERA that will likely get better in 2017. The same could not be said for Gonzalez, the former All Star, that has regressed since his best season in 2012. Now on the wrong side of 30, he will likely end up being the fifth starter.