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Baseball 2012: MLB's Top 13 Starting Rotations in the Fantasy Realm

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterNovember 28, 2016

Baseball 2012: MLB's Top 13 Starting Rotations in the Fantasy Realm

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    The following listing touts Major League Baseball's top 13 starting rotations in the fantasy realm from a seasonal perspective.

    Why only 13 teams? While in the process of ranking clubs 14 through 19, it became painfully clear that baseball is awash in middling fantasy rotations, typically featuring two studs and three or four eminently replaceable assets on the back end.

    As a result, it wasn't worth the time and/or effort to deify the 14th and 15th clubs while denigrating the equally talented and flawed teams at Nos. 16, 17, 18 and 19.

    Of course, the quandaries weren't exclusive to the units at the end of the countdown. The No. 1 rotation may be on the brink of mortality...if/when their franchise anchor approaches an innings mark of 160-180.

    Enjoy the show!

Nos. 14-30: The Best of the Rest

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    14. Pittsburgh Pirates
    15. Texas Rangers
    16. Baltimore Orioles
    17. Seattle Mariners
    18. Detroit Tigers
    19. New York Mets
    20. Milwaukee Brewers
    21. Kansas City Royals
    22. Miami Marlins
    23. Boston Red Sox
    24. Chicago Cubs
    25. Toronto Blue Jays
    26. San Diego Padres
    27. Minnesota Twins
    28. Houston Astros
    29. Cleveland Indians
    30. Colorado Rockies

13. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Wade Miley—14-8, 2.80 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 109/27 K-BB

    Ian Kennedy—11-10, 4.24 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 138/38 K-BB

    Trevor Cahill—9-10, 3.86 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 115/59 K-BB

    Joe Saunders—6-10, 4.22 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 89/31 K-BB

    Skinny: I'm happy to include the Diamondbacks rotation in this countdown.

    I'm even happier to gush about Arizona's starting five for next year, assuming I can correctly guess that quintet.

    Barring an offseason trade, Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill are reasonable locks for rotation spots in 2013.

    After that, Trevor Bauer (one of baseball's best pitching prospects) and Tyler Skaggs (another elite arm in the minors) should have the inside track for the final two vacancies. If that's the case, I'll personally guarantee Bauer's place on a major league roster for the next 12-13 seasons (along with six or seven All-Star berths).

    Looking for a late-round pitching stud next March? You absolutely cannot go wrong with Bauer (above) and his 12-2 record and 11.0 K/9 rate in 21 minor league appearances this season (bookended by a rough, but encouraging four-game stint in the bigs).

12. Atlanta Braves

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Tim Hudson—12-4, 3.69 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 82/39 K-BB

    Tommy Hanson—12-5, 4.27 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 119/56 K-BB

    Mike Minor—6-10, 4.74 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 109/46 K-BB

    Kris Medlen—5-1, 1.86 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 65/18 K-BB

    Skinny: The fantasy strength of the Braves rotation isn't limited to two or three assets. Their admirable depth from top to bottom essentially clinched this respectable ranking.

    The 37-year-old Hudson is probably a bottom-tier fantasy ace at this point in his career. But he's still good enough to lead an eclectic staff that's long on production, but short on name-brand power.

    Take the club's No. 4 and 5 starters, for example. In the last 30 days, Kris Medlen has four wins and microscopic marks in ERA (0.76) and WHIP (0.90). And in that span, Paul Maholm (traded to Atlanta right before the deadline) has a 3-0 record, 2.01 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and sterling 38/11 K-BB ratio.

    One last note: If Brandon Beachy (2.00 ERA) hadn't suffered a season-ending elbow injury two months ago, the Braves would rate considerably higher here.

    And Beachy would be a top-10 pitcher heading into next season.

11. Chicago White Sox

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Chris Sale—15-4, 2.64 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 150/36 K-BB

    Jake Peavy—9-9, 3.11 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 150/37 K-BB

    Jose Quintana—5-2, 2.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 58/23 K-BB

    Francisco Liriano—5-10, 5.12 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 139/67 K-BB

    Skinny: We couldn't have a countdown without including Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and the sneaky-good exploits of Jose Quintana.

    This Chicago trio has been fantastic for big chunks of the season and deserve a robust ranking despite the maddening inconsistencies of Philip Humber, Gavin Floyd and Dylan Axelrod, along with an extensive injury to John Danks.

    Of course, if the White Sox hadn't waived Eric Stults in May, perhaps they'd be higher here. Since joining San Diego, Stults has a 3.06 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

10. Oakland A's

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Tommy Milone—10-9, 3.87 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 112/30 K-BB

    Jarrod Parker—8-7, 3.48 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 97/50 K-BB

    Brandon McCarthy—6-5, 3.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 62/21 K-BB

    Travis Blackley—4-3, 3.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 56/20 K-BB

    Skinny: The sudden loss of starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (50-game drug/PED suspension) might have been enough to boot the A's from this countdown if A.J. Griffin wasn't almost in the picture.

    The Oakland rookie (3-0, 2.42 ERA, 0.96 WHIP), who's in line for two rehab starts after tweaking his shoulder, will hopefully reclaim his spot in the Athletics rotation 10 days from now and stabilize a starting core that has been rock-solid the last few months.

    Down the road, Tommy Milone (above), Jarrod Parker and Griffin are all excellent long-term prospects. Throw in the impending arrival of Brad Peacock, Sonny Gray and A.J. Cole, and the A's should be fixtures in this countdown for years to come.

9. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Jered Weaver—15-5, 2.85 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 183/43 K-BB

    Zack Greinke—10-5, 4.01 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 150/41 K-BB

    C.J. Wilson—9-9, 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 135/72 K-BB

    Dan Haren—8-10, 4.90 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 101/32 K-BB

    Skinny: From a name-recognition standpoint, the Angels quartet should have a top-three ranking.

    But for whatever reason, this group—including Zack Greinke's 6.19 ERA/1.59 WHIP in five starts with Anaheim—has been largely inconsistent throughout the year.

    As a result, the absurd greatness of Albert Pujols/Mike Trout/Mark Trumbo (combined numbers: 82 HR/234 RBI/224 runs/51 steals) still might not be enough to get the Angels in the playoffs.

    Even Jered Weaver, a presumptive lock for the American League Cy Young just three weeks ago, has been sluggish in his last three outings (after a nine-game winning streak): 17 innings, 14 runs allowed and 18 hits.

    Short-term blues aside, the Angels rotation still has the goods to warrant a top-10 ranking and perhaps dominate in the season's final five weeks.

8. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Cole Hamels—14-6, 2.94 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 168/42 K-BB

    Roy Halladay—7-7, 3.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 95/15 K-BB

    Cliff Lee—2-7, 3.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 151/25 K-BB

    Vance Worley—6-9, 4.06 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 103/47 K-BB

    Skinny: Even while typing this, I'm not sure how to quantify the season-long progress of Philly's rotation.

    Yes, Cliff Lee only has two victories, Roy Halladay missed a big chunk of the year (shoulder woes) and Vance Worley may not even rack up 150 strikeouts by season's end (a seemingly easy prediction back in March).

    But man, take a good look inside the numbers:

    1. Any pitcher would kill for Halladay's 6.33/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    2. Lee has already enjoyed 10 outings of two runs or less allowed.

    3. Worley has posted nine or more strikeouts three times.

    4. And Hamels, for various stretches of the season, has been a dominant fantasy ace.

7. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Clayton Kershaw—11-7, 2.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 175/42 K-BB

    Chris Capuano—11-9, 3.37 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 145/46 K-BB

    Chad Billingsley—10-9, 3.44 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 142/27 K-BB

    Aaron Harang—9-7, 3.65 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 112/67 K-BB

    Skinny: Ted Lilly hasn't pitched since May 23, and Joe Blanton has yet to register a victory since his pre-deadline trade to Los Angeles. And yet the Dodgers rotation—from a top-four standpoint—hasn't really suffered from it.

    Yes, we already knew that reigning Cy Young Clayton Kershaw would be his immaculate self this year. But Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Chad Billingsley have been pleasant surprises in the real-world and fantasy realms.

    That's doubly true for Billingsley. In his last six outings, spanning 41.2 innings, he boasts a 6-0 record, 1.31 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and respectable strikeout-to-walk ratio (25/8).

    Hmmm...I'd swear those were Kershaw's numbers since July 23.

6. Cincinnati Reds

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Johnny Cueto—16-6, 2.44 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 135/37 K-BB

    Mat Latos—10-3, 3.56 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 140/49 K-BB

    Bronson Arroyo—10-7, 3.87 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 102/27 K-BB

    Homer Bailey—10-8, 4.11 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 117/43 K-BB

    Skinny: It pains me to say this, but Homer Bailey—one of my favorite prospects of the previous decade—is responsible for the Reds' ranking outside the top five.

    In his last five outings, where Bailey has produced just 26 innings of work, he surrendered four or six runs four times. Ouch.

    It's a nit-picky occurrence on my part, casting a cloud of doubt over Bailey's season off five starts. But when it comes to separating MLB's elite rotations, a core foursome is only as strong as its weakest link.

    In other words, I didn't have much luck extracting bad trends from the Reds' Big Three:

    1. Bronson Arroyo is a perfect 25-for-25 in allowing three or less walks.

    2. Mat Latos has shaved nearly two full points off his ERA since June 18.

    3. And Cueto already has 17 outings of two runs or less on his remarkable resume.

5. New York Yankees

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    CC Sabathia—12-3, 3.56 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 140/35 K-BB

    Hiroki Kuroda—12-8, 2.96 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 125/38 K-BB

    Phil Hughes—12-11, 4.15 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 125/35 K-BB

    Ivan Nova—11-7, 4.92 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 139/50 K-BB

    Skinny: Even with the uncertainty at the No. 5 starting slot, each member of the Yankees' core foursome (Sabathia, Kuroda, Hughes, Nova) has double-digit victories and at least 125 strikeouts—a feat only matched by the Giants in this countdown (when including Tim Lincecum).

    A factoid like that can never be understated, especially with the Yankees offense ranking a pedestrian 11th in total base hits and 19th in runs scored (as of Aug. 22).

4. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    David Price—16-4, 2.28 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 167/50 K-BB

    Matt Moore—10-7, 3.57 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 138/65 K-BB

    James Shields—12-7, 4.01 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 168/47 K-BB

    Jeremy Hellickson—8-8, 3.28 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 86/48 K-BB

    Skinny: On the morning of May 18, Rays rookie Matt Moore was staring at a 1-4 record, 5.20 ERA and three outings of four or more walks.

    It was the worst start imaginable to a season that began with so much promise.

    But oh, how things have recently changed for the better: Since July 17, Moore is a perfect 7-for-7 in allowing two earned runs or less.

    And his rotation mates have followed suit, shaving precious points off their ERA and helping vault the red-hot Rays (20-8 since July 24) into the top wild card slot.

    At this rate, the club might even catch the Yankees for the American League East title.

3. San Francisco Giants

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Matt Cain—13-5, 2.83 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 159/33 K-BB

    Madison Bumgarner—14-7, 2.83 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 160/32 K-BB

    Ryan Vogelsong—10-7, 2.85 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 168/47 K-BB

    Barry Zito—9-8, 4.42 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 79/58 K-BB

    Skinny: If the Giants had more production at the No. 4 and 5 slots, perhaps they'd rank as the No. 1 overall rotation.

    After all, what's not to love about Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong logging double-digit victories, triple-digit strikeouts and nearly identical (and prodigious) ERA marks?

    On the positive side, with Lincecum, he boasts three wins, a 30/13 K-BB ratio and respectable 3.93 ERA in the last 30 days. So it's possible that he'll finish the season on a high note—reminiscent of Lincecum seasons past.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Kyle Lohse—13-2, 2.61 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 104/32 K-BB

    Adam Wainwright—12-10, 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 154/38 K-BB

    Lance Lynn—13-5, 3.73 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 143/53 K-BB

    Jake Westbrook—12-9, 3.50 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 95/41 K-BB

    Skinny: Once again, I take full responsibility for leaving the Cardinals off the preseason Top 15 Rotations list, a product of (rightfully) being scared of Chris Carpenter's shoulder injury and (wrongfully) thinking that Adam Wainwright wouldn't recapture his mojo—just one year removed from major elbow surgery.

    Remember when Kyle Lohse (above) stifled the Miami batters for the Marlins' stadium-christening opener on April 4? Since that night, it's essentially been clear sailing for Lohse, who has surrendered two or less runs in nine of his last 10 starts.

    And check out Wainwright's elite-strata numbers from the last 30 days: five wins, 1.62 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 43/7 K-BB ratio, highlighted by a 12-strikeout shutout gem against the anemic Astros on Aug. 21.

1. Washington Nationals

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    Top 4 Pitchers

    Stephen Strasburg—15-5, 2.85 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 183/43 K-BB

    Gio Gonzalez—16-6, 3.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 161/58 K-BB

    Jordan Zimmermann—9-7, 2.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 116/29 K-BB

    Edwin Jackson—7-8, 3.69 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 121/45 K-BB

    Skinny: This No. 1 ranking comes with a major caveat, since the Nationals rotation could look dramatically different after the club shuts down Stephen Strasburg upon reaching an arbitrary innings limit of 160 or 180 (depending on who you talk to).

    With Strasburg taking the mound every fifth day, Washington's main foursome is baseball's best from an ERA, WHIP and strikeout-to-walk standpoint. Within that context, Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann are also in the discussion of fantasy's most formidable troika.

    But with Strasburg on the sidelines, the Nationals (with Ross Detwiler/John Lannan) would struggle to maintain a top-10 ranking.

    That's quite a disparity for the last week of August.

    Bottom line: It'll be interesting to see how Washington fares in the playoffs with a healthy Strasburg sitting in the press box.

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