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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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