2012 MLB Rankings: The Top 10 Starting Pitching Staffs

Nolan GauvreauContributor IIMarch 30, 2012

2012 MLB Rankings: The Top 10 Starting Pitching Staffs

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    There is no question that Major League Baseball has become a pitching league in recent years. Pitching has proven to be the top priority towards winning and the overall success of a team. Before the top 10 staffs are revealed, here is this season's honorable mention list of the teams that just missed the cut.

     

    2012 MLB Starting Rotation Honorable Mentions: 

    15. Los Angeles Dodgers

    14. Miami Marlins

    13. Boston Red Sox

    12. Atlanta Braves

    11. Cincinnati Reds

    Now, without further ado, here are the top 10 pitching rotations in MLB for the 2012 season.

10. Texas Rangers

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. RHP Yu Darvish
    2. RHP Colby Lewis
    3. RHP Derek Holland
    4. RHP Neftali Feliz
    5. LHP Matt Harrison

    Good bye C.J. Wilson, hello Yu Darvish. He has potential to be an absolute stud and a true No. 1 in Texas. Darvish appears to be a powerful and intimidating presence on the mound, yet speed is not always his game. He can deal a variety of pitches to keep hitters off-balanced and should be a bright spot for the Rangers this season.

    Neftali Feliz was a dominant force as closer, but with the addition of Joe Nathan, Feliz has made the switch to starter. The move is risky, but also the team's best option—only time will tell if the experiment worked. 

    Derek Holland has not had a great spring, but last season's production still indicates the southpaw is ready to become a top-tier pitcher in the American League.

9. St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. RHP Chris Carpenter*
    2. RHP Adam Wainwright
    3. LHP Jaime Garcia
    4. RHP Kyle Lohse
    5. RHP Jake Westbrook

    Adam Wainwright will make his return this season after missing all of 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was a 20-game winner in 2010 and despite the injury, Wainwright still has the stuff to hit 20 in the W column again this year.

    Chris Carpenter is an animal; he is one of only three pitchers to throw at least 235 innings in each of the past two seasons. But at 37 years old, durability has to be an area of concern for the aging right-hander. (*Chris Carpenter is currently injured.)

    Jaime Garcia posted respectable numbers in 2011, especially as a young starter. Pitching behind Carpenter and Wainwright gives him the opportunity to face the opponent's No. 3 starter, which could be the kind of matchups he needs to increase his confidence and become a star.

8. New York Yankees

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. LHP CC Sabathia
    2. RHP Ivan Nova
    3. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
    4. RHP Michael Pineda
    5. RHP Phil Hughes

    Ivan Nova has done a nice job staying out of the bright New York City lights after having a terrific rookie season. With no pressure on him, the righty looks primed to have a sensational sophomore campaign. 

    Michael Pineda can really throw. He's a big guy with a powerful arm that can touch 96 mph, and is accompanied with some nasty breaking balls. Consistency will be a concern for the young gun, but he should add positive depth to the New York rotation.

    2012 could be the year Phil Hughes finally pitches up to his potential. His spring outings have been impressive, his velocity is up and he looks healthier than he has looked in awhile.

    The wild card to this rotation is the addition to Andy Pettitte. The veteran has looked strong this spring, but a lot remains to be seen considering he has not pitched since 2010. Look for Pettitte to get his first start sometime in early May. 

7. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. RHP Ian Kennedy
    2. RHP Daniel Hudson
    3. LHP Joe Saunders
    4. RHP Trevor Cahill
    5. RHP Josh Collmenter

    It's going to be tough for Ian Kennedy to repeat his 2011 season statistics of 21 wins with a sub-3.00 ERA, but he has the command to be just as—if not more—productive. There's nothing sexy about his style of pitching and his stuff is far from lights-out, but he arguably places his pitches better than anyone else in the game.

    Daniel Hudson notched 16 wins last season as a rookie, and at age 24, don't be surprised if he rides the fast track to success this season and makes the NL All-Star team.

    Joe Saunders and Trevor Cahill don't boost the most glamorous of numbers, but are reliable No. 3 and 4 options that provide the D-Backs rotation with experienced depth. 

6. Tampa Bay Rays

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. LHP David Price
    2. RHP James Shields
    3. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
    4. LHP Matt Moore
    5. RHP Jeff Niemann

    Don't let the 12-win campaign for David Price in 2011 fool you, he still has the same stuff that netted him to 19 wins in 2010. Price is the unquestioned ace of the staff and Rays fans should be expecting a Cy Young type of season out of Price in 2012.

    James Shield had an impressive 2011 season with 16 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA. This spring he has worked on his off-speed pitches and now has greater command of his changeup. Look for Shields to have an even better year in 2012.

    Watch out for the lefty Matt Moore. He may be just a rookie, but is already showing signs that he has the presence of a top of the rotation pitcher with the pitches to back up his confidence. Rookie struggles are nearly impossible to avoid, but Moore looks like the real deal and is on the rise.

5. Milwaukee Brewers

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. RH Yovani Gallardo
    2. RH Zach Greinke
    3. RH Shaun Marcum
    4. LH Randy Wolf
    5. LH Chris Narveson

    The Brewers have one of the best one-two punches in baseball at the top of their rotation with Gallardo and Greinke. Last season, Gallardo posted 17 wins and averaged a strikeout an inning. He is a crafty pitcher who can take speed of his breaking balls at any time and does an outstanding job of keeping hitters off-balance. Gallardo is one of the elite pitchers in the National League and is on the short list for the NL Cy Young award.

    Zach Greinke is as elite as any No. 2 starter in baseball. When he is locked in, there might not be a tougher pitcher to hit in the NL—he is that good. Consistency will always be Greinke's area of concern, but no doubt he has the arm to match his 16-6 record from a year ago. 

4. San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. RHP Tim Lincecum
    2. RHP Matt Cain
    3. LHP Madison Bumgarner
    4. RHP Ryan Vogelsong
    5. LHP Barry Zito

    Tim Lincecum looks bigger and stronger than ever—that's scary. He is arguably the best pitcher in the National League and leads a terrific Giants rotation.

    Matt Cain could be a No. 1 pitcher for most teams. Last season, he posted a 2.88 ERA and had a WHIP under 1.10 for the second consecutive season, joining only Jered Weaver, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay to reach that mark.

    Look out for Madison Bumgarner who finished strong last year. He showed great promise in September with a 4-1 record and a 2.01 ERA and if that's a sign of things to come, the 22-year-old could have a breakout year in 2012.

    The Giants pitching staff allowed the fewest home runs in baseball in 2011. Top to bottom, they are one of the best rotations in the game. 

3. Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. RHP Justin Verlander
    2. RHP Max Scherzer
    3. RHP Doug Fister
    4. RHP Rick Porcello
    5. LHP Andrew Oliver

    Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball in 2011. The Detroit ace went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA last season and has not taken his foot off the gas this spring. He looks outstanding again, and has to be the clear-cut favorite to repeat as the American League Cy Young winner.

    Last season Doug Fister accounted for more losses than wins, yet produced a sub-3.00 ERA. Those numbers will be nearly impossible to reproduce, but with his great command and control, look for Fister to have many more wins than losses this time around.

    Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are a pair of impressive young guns who racked up 15 and 14 wins respectively a year ago. Their ERAs were by no means impressive, but look for these two to have much better 2012 seasons with another year of experience under their belt.

2. Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. RHP Roy Halladay
    2. LHP Cliff Lee
    3. LHP Cole Hamels
    4. RHP Vance Worley
    5. RHP Joe Blanton

    Last season Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley became the first Phillies quartet to each start 20 games and have an ERA of 3.01 or lower since 1915. Furthermore, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee join Milwaukee's Gallardo and Grienke as one of the two pairs of returning NL starters who each had at least 15 wins, a sub 4.00 ERA and a sub .250 opponents' batting average. 

    Halladay, Lee and Hamels all look tremendous this spring, and their 2012 production should be no different from what we are accustomed to.

    For Philadelphia, Vance Worley will be the starter to watch because he has potential to be a star. Pitching against the opponent's No. 4 starter will help his success of course, but this guy is as competitive as they come. He will not overpower anyone, but he throws strikes and delivers a nasty curve and changeup. Worley went 11-3 in 2011, and I believe he has a realistic chance of winning 20 this season.

1. Los Angeles Angels

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    2012 Projected Rotation:

    1. RHP Jered Weaver
    2. RHP Dan Haren
    3. LHP C.J. Wilson
    4. RHP Ervin Satana
    5. RHP Jerome Williams

    Surprise, surprise. The Los Angeles Angels have overtaken the Phillies as the top rotation in baseball. No. 1 through 4, there is not a better quartet of pitchers in baseball. 

    Not too often a pitcher goes 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP and is overshadowed, but that's exactly what happened to Jered Weaver last year, thanks to Justin Verlander's 24-win campaign. Weaver finished second in votes for the Cy Young Award and is one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball. He is deceptive and unpredictable on the mound and has a real mean streak about him.

    Dan Haren is one of the more underrated pitchers in the game. He would be an ace on many MLB clubs, and is an absolute workhorse who you can count on for 200-plus innings every year.

    C.J. Wilson, the Rangers' No. 1 last season, will pitch in the No. 3 spot this season—a true testament to the depth of this rotation. Wilson won 16 games with a sub-3.00 ERA last season, and moving out of the hitter-friendly ballpark at Arlington will only help his game.

    Don't forget about Ervin Santana either. He is by no means consistent, but has the capable of being a nasty pitcher. Last season's no-hitter in Cleveland proved that when Santana is on, he knows how to deal with the best of them.