Predicting the 2013 Opening Day Starting Rotation for All 30 MLB Teams
We all know how the saying goes: "Pitching wins championships."
And it starts with the starting rotation. A strong group of starting pitchers who can go deep into games not only gives a team the chance to win, but it reduces the wear and tear on a team's bullpen, keeping relievers fresh and effective deeper into the season.
Some teams already know that their rotations next season will be identical to what they have right now. Others believe they are only one piece away. Meanwhile, some teams have significant work ahead of them if they want to show up on Opening Day with a rotation full of solid contributors.
Now, we don't have a crystal ball, and last time I checked, I couldn't tell the future—so much of this is speculation. But none of the rotations you're about to take a look at are impossible to piece together, and they very well could be what your favorite team trots out to the mound every fifth day in 2013.
It's time to break up this meeting on the mound, put the rosin bag on the ground and get to it.
1. LHP Wade Miley
2. RHP Ian Kennedy
3. RHP Trevor Cahill
4. RHP Trevor Bauer
5. LHP Tyler Skaggs
Arizona's Opening Day rotation will feature a trio of young arms with high upsides in Trevor Bauer, Wade Miley and Tyler Skaggs.
Both Trevor Cahill and Ian Kennedy will be looked upon to deliver significantly better performances in 2013 than the pair put forth in 2012, with Pat Corbin waiting in the wings to slide into the rotation if and when one of the two falters.
Daniel Hudson, who underwent Tommy John surgery this past July, most likely won't be ready to rejoin the team until sometime in the second half of the season.
1. RHP Tim Hudson
2. RHP Kris Medlen
3. RHP Tommy Hanson
4. LHP Paul Maholm
5. LHP Mike Minor
Don't expect any major changes to Atlanta's starting rotation in 2013, though there will be an interesting three-way battle for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Randall Delgado, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran will all be given the chance to prove that they are worthy of a spot in the Opening Day rotation in spring training. While Teheran is arguably the most talented of the trio, I think Minor wins out and both Delgado and Minor start the year back in Triple-A.
The club holds $9 million and $6.25 million options on Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, respectively, and it makes sense for them to exercise both of them.
Brandon Beachy, who underwent Tommy John surgery in June, could be a candidate to join the rotation in the second half of the season.
1. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
2. RHP Dylan Bundy
3. RHP Jason Hammel
4. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
5. RHP Chris Tillman
Baltimore will make a hard charge to bring Zack Greinke to the inner harbor but fall short in their pursuit.
Instead of settling for a second-tier arm, they'll instead promote top prospect Dylan Bundy to join the rotation—a long-anticipated move that could make a bigger impact on the club than a free-agent signing could have.
Coming off an impressive rookie campaign, Chen will be looked upon to lead the staff. And Hammel, finally healthy, will be asked to pick up where he left off in 2012, which was as a player with a legitimate gripe about being left off of the American League All-Star roster.
Tillman and Gonzalez will be expected to build upon their success in 2012, giving the Orioles quality options at every spot in the starting rotation—a stark change from seasons past.
Tsuyoshi Wada, out since May with Tommy John surgery, could figure into the mix later in the season.
Boston Red Sox
1. LHP Jon Lester
2. RHP Clay Buchholz
3. RHP Edwin Jackson
4. LHP Felix Doubront
5. RHP John Lackey
First and foremost, let's get one thing out of the way: Including an injured Carl Crawford in a blockbuster trade, along with a perennial All-Star first baseman, a veteran starting pitcher and a solid utility player, does not mean that the Red Sox can now go out and find a sucker to take John Lackey off of their hands.
Boston is stuck with Lackey.
The Dodgers could have had him and passed, and no team is going to take the three-years and $31 million that remains on the contract of a soon-to-be 34-year-old pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery. Nobody.
With that settled, Boston will add Edwin Jackson to the mix. Coming off of a solid season with the Nationals, Jackson is a consistent innings-eater who has experience pitching in the American League East.
Buchholz and Lester will be expected to deliver bounce-back campaigns, while Doubront will be looked at to build upon a solid debut in 2012.
1. RHP Matt Garza
2. RHP Jeff Samardzija
3. LHP Travis Wood
4. RHP Justin Germano
5. LHP Chris Rusin/LHP Brooks Raley
The top of the rotation remains the same, with Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija leading the way. Travis Wood will be asked to take another step towards becoming the third member of that leading group.
While a front-of-the-rotation starter like Zack Greinke or a solid secondary arm in Brandon McCarthy would be welcome additions in Chicago, chances are that neither fits into Theo Epstein's plans for the Cubs in the foreseeable future.
In comments he made to Bruce Miles of the Chicago Daily Herald, Epstein waxed poetic on how he views the Cubs and the free-agent market:
Sometimes that works out for you, but more often than not, it doesn’t. There’s a price to pay for that type of thing. If you get tempted and you get impatient and you try to solve your problems through free agency, there’s always a price to pay. Usually, it happens pretty soon toward the end of that deal. Free agency is definitely a nice way to add talent to an organization without giving up talent, but you cannot make an organization that way. We have a lot of steps ahead of us we have to take care of before we’re in position to add a finishing piece or two through free agency.
We'll always look to free agency. We'll always be on every free agent and see if it's the right player or the right value. If we sat around and drew up a plan that had free agency as the answer to most of our problems, we’d be on a fool’s errand there. We need to build a foundation based on scouting we believe in, player development we believe in, a steady flow of prospects.
It's pretty clear that the Cubs are looking to build from within. And in doing so, they'll give a pair of young southpaws a chance to stick at the back-end of the rotation out of the gate in 2013—26-year-old Chris Rusin and 24-year-old Brooks Raley.
Either one of those two, or Arodys Vizcaino—who is expected to be healthy for spring training—could easily beat out Germano for one of the two final spots in the Cubs' 2013 rotation.
Coming off of Tommy John surgery, the Cubs very well may decide to groom him as an eventual replacement for Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning instead of throwing him out there as a starter every fifth day.
Chicago White Sox
1. LHP Chris Sale
2. RHP Kyle Lohse
3. LHP Jose Quintana
4. LHP John Danks
5. RHP Gavin Floyd
Noticeable in his absence from the 2012 team is Jake Peavy. The White Sox hold a $22 million option on him for the 2013 season, one that they simply cannot justify exercising, even with his resurgent 2012 campaign. As a free agent, Peavy will head elsewhere.
Peavy's departure will force Kenny Williams to look to the open market for a replacement, and he'll find one in 34-year-old Kyle Lohse, one of the most underrated starters in the game over the past two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.
A pair of 24-year-olds, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, both with significant upside, represent the present and future of the White Sox starting rotation.
Also returning in 2013 are the currently-injured John Danks and Gavin Floyd, rounding out a solid rotation as the season gets underway.
1. RHP Johnny Cueto
2. RHP Mat Latos
3. RHP Bronson Arroyo
4. RHP Homer Bailey
5. RHP Mike Leake
Adding Aroldis Chapman to the rotation is always going to be talked about, but he's quickly becoming one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the game—a late-inning weapon that the Reds would be crazy to give up, especially when this year's starting rotation is performing so well.
The rotation does not feature a left-handed pitcher, and their best option internally is 23-year-old Tony Cingrani. Although, adding him to the mix would create a logjam, as neither Leake or Bailey will have minor league options remaining.
1. RHP Justin Masterson
2. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
3. RHP Zach McAllister
4. RHP Roberto Hernandez
5. RHP Carlos Carrasco
Personally, I'd turn down Ubaldo Jimenez's $5.75 million option and take a chance with a veteran looking for a home late in the offseason. But the Indians won't do that, as they'll try to prove that their trade for Jimenez was not the gigantic disaster that it clearly was.
In response to the spin on Jimenez's time with the Indians that will unquestionably come in the comments section, you simply cannot put a positive spin on a 5.61 ERA and 1.64 WHIP over more than 200 innings.
Masterson took a significant step backwards in 2012 and will have to prove that his 2011 season—where he posted a 3.21 ERA and 1.28 WHIP—was not just a fluke. McAllister is a promising youngster who will be looked at to build upon his 2012 season.
Hernandez, formerly Fausto Carmona, could be a candidate to have his $6 million team option declined. But considering that the team was willing to restructure his deal when his identity came into question rather than just release him, they'll hope that he can rediscover what made him a solid pitcher as recently as 2010.
Carrasco, who is continuing to work his way back from 2011 Tommy John surgery, should be healthy and a contender to land a rotation spot in spring training.
1. LHP Jorge de la Rosa
2. RHP Jhoulys Chacin
3. LHP Jeff Francis
4. LHP Drew Pomeranz
1. RHP Juan Nicasio
2. LHP Christian Friedrich
3. RHP Tyler Chatwood
4. RHP Alex White
The Rockies are convinced that their hybrid four-man rotation, which is really an eight-man rotation, is the way for them to go. Under this plan, the four starting pitchers would be on a strict 75-pitch limit, at which point the second wave of starters, on a strict 50-pitch limit, would take over.
Rockies' brass points to the "improvement" they've seen since making the switch to a four-man rotation as reason enough to continue this experiment.
Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?
Over the first 65 games of the season, Rockies starters went 13-20 with a 6.28 ERA. Since then, they've gone 11-26 with a 5.61 ERA.
While there's a noticeable decline in their combined ERA, there is an overwhelming fact that the Rockies' brass is overlooking: Those stats still stink.
1. RHP Justin Verlander
2. RHP Doug Fister
3. RHP Max Scherzer
4. RHP Rick Porcello
5. LHP Drew Smyly
No big changes with Detroit's starting five.
Anibal Sanchez has been underwhelming in a Tigers uniform and won't be asked back.
Drew Smyly will take his place at the back of the rotation, looking to improve on a solid rookie campaign.
1. RHP Lucas Harrell
2. RHP Jordan Lyles
3. RHP Bud Norris
4. RHP Jarred Cosart
5. LHP Fernando Abad
As the Astros continue along the long road of rebuilding, don't expect much in the way of change to the 2012 rotation.
Lucas Harrell has far and away been their best starter in 2012, and both he and Bud Norris will return as the veteran leaders of a young rotation.
21-year-old Jordan Lyles still figures to be a mainstay in Houston's rotation for the foreseeable future, as does Jarred Cosart, the Astros' best pitching prospect, who figures into next year's plans.
Fernando Abad, a former left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, will be a part of the Astros rotation for at least the rest of the 2012 season, according to interim manager Tony DeFrancesco (via MLB.com.)
With no other real alternatives on the horizon and the team unlikely to waste money on a free-agent signing, Abad figures to start 2013 at the back end of the rotation as well.
Kansas City Royals
1. LHP Bruce Chen
2. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
3. RHP Luis Mendoza
4. RHP Luke Hochevar
5. RHP Jake Odorizzi
With one of the cheapest owners around in David Glass, GM Dayton Moore's hands are somewhat tied in his ability to go out and compete for the best talent on the free-agent market.
Jeremy Guthrie has rediscovered his mojo since joining the Royals. Keeping him in the fold would fulfill the Royals' promise from July that they planned on adding "a real starting pitcher, not a fifth starter" to the mix for 2013, as reported by CBS Sports' Danny Knobler.
Jake Odorizzi, the best pitching prospect in the organization, will begin his major league career in 2013 at the back of Kansas City's rotation.
Midseason reinforcements could arrive in the form of Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino, who are both rehabbing from Tommy John surgery performed earlier this summer.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
1. RHP Jered Weaver
2. RHP Zack Greinke
3. LHP C.J. Wilson
4. RHP Dan Haren
5. RHP Garrett Richards
Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson return as mainstays in the rotation, and Garrett Richards gets another shot to prove he belongs after a disappointing 2012 campaign.
Zack Greinke re-signs with the Angels, as Arte Moreno opens his wallet once again for the good of the team, giving the Angels a trio of pitchers atop their rotation that is as good as any in baseball.
After receiving assurances from their medical staff that Dan Haren's back issues are behind him, the team exercises their $15.5 million option on the 32-year-old, realizing that bringing in a free agent to replace him would cost nearly as much and bring with it future payroll obligations.
Ervin Santana, who spent his entire eight-year major league career with the Angels, is bid farewell.
Los Angeles Dodgers
1. LHP Clayton Kershaw
2. LHP Chris Capuano
3. RHP Chad Billingsley
4. LHP Aaron Harang
5. RHP Josh Beckett
Visions of the Dodgers making a big splash on the free-agent market for a starting pitcher simply don't make any sense, as the team has all five of the above pitchers already under contract for 2013.
Should Chad Billingsley's elbow soreness prove to be a major issue that requires surgery, look for either RHP Stephen Fife or Zach Lee, the team's top pitching prospect, to fill the spot.
1. RHP Josh Johnson
2. LHP Mark Buehrle
3. RHP Ricky Nolasco
4. RHP Nate Eovaldi
5. RHP Jacob Turner
With all five of their current starters under contract for 2013 and owner Jeffrey Loria's free-agent spending spree prior to the 2012 season not producing the desired results, don't expect any changes to the Marlins rotation going forward.
Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle return as the backbones of the staff, while youngsters Nate Eovaldi and Jacob Turner need to take a step forward in their development and become reliable starters that manager Ozzie Guillen can depend on.
Ricky Nolasco is what he is—an average major league starter who is undeserving of his hefty $11.5 million salary.
1. RHP Yovani Gallardo
2. RHP Michael Fiers
3. RHP Ryan Dempster
4. RHP Mark Rogers
5. RHP Marco Estrada
The Brewers will part ways with Shaun Marcum and look to add to a solid foundation of Yovani Gallardo and Michael Fiers. Enter Ryan Dempster, who is bought in not only for his talent on the mound but to serve as the veteran leader on a young staff.
Estrada has put up numbers similar to what Marcum provided at a fraction of the cost, and Rogers was impressive in a short seven-game stint.
Pospects Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg, along with veteran Chris Narveson, could all figure into the equation at some point should Rogers or Estrada falter—or they could find their way to the bullpen, an area that the Brewers most definitely need to address moving forward.
New York Mets
1. LHP Johan Santana
2. RHP R.A. Dickey
3. RHP Dillon Gee
4. LHP Jon Niese
5. RHP Matt Harvey
The Mets may have significant issues to deal with this winter, but one area that is not a concern is their starting rotation.
Dillion Gee, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey, three big parts of the future in Flushing, are under team control for the foreseeable future.
A healthy and rested Johan Santana should be able to return to some semblance of his form from the first half of this year, when he posted a 3.28 ERA while holding the opposition to a .228 batting average.
The only decision that GM Sandy Alderson needs to make is whether or not to exercise the $5 million team option that the club holds on National League Cy Young Award contender R.A. Dickey—a decision that should take him all of about five seconds to make.
New York Yankees
1. LHP CC Sabathia
2. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
3. LHP Andy Pettitte
4. RHP Phil Hughes
5. RHP Michael Piñeda
CC Sabathia remains the ace and workhorse of the Yankees rotation in 2013, which remains relatively unchanged from the group they've gone with in 2012.
Re-signing Hiroki Kuroda has to be GM Brian Cashman's top priority this winter. And based on the season that he's had, a two-year deal isn't out of the question for the veteran who turns 38 years old in February.
Another ageless wonder, 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, needs to be convinced to return for the Yankees in 2013 as well. Pettitte wouldn't rule out playing again in 2013 when asked about his future plans back in August by Chad Jennings of the Journal News.
Phil Hughes continues to frustrate the Yankees and their fans with his inability to recover from one bad inning, but he'll go to arbitration and work out another one-year deal with the club.
The one major addition to the group is Michael Piñeda. Considering the cost that the Yankees paid to obtain him (Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi), along with his recent DUI arrest in Tampa, he's got a lot to prove to the organization in 2013.
1. RHP Jarrod Parker
2. LHP Tommy Milone
3. LHP Brett Anderson
4. RHP A.J. Griffin
5. RHP Dan Straily
This year's ace, Brandon McCarthy, is noticeable in his absence. But he's likely to receive offers that far exceed what the A's believe him to be worth as a free agent this winter. Coupled with the fact that Oakland has a plethora of young pitchers that they can call upon to replace him, McCarthy will be elsewhere in 2013.
Bartolo Colon is also nowhere to be found, he of the 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs, and the A's won't miss him much either.
A group of talented youngsters will have another top prospect, right-hander Brad Peacock, waiting in the wings down at Triple-A to jump in when needed.
Dallas Braden likely won't pitch at all again in 2013, as he needs rotator cuff surgery. He's a prime candidate to not be offered arbitration this winter, making him a free agent.
1. RHP A.J. Burnett
2. RHP James McDonald
3. LHP Wandy Rodriguez
4. RHP Jeff Karstens
5. LHP Jeff Locke
It's possible that Gerrit Cole could have the kind of spring training that forces the Pirates to reevaulate their plans for the opening day rotation, but it seems far more likely that they'll keep the best pitching prospect in the system in Triple-A to start the season.
Jeff Locke hasn't been great in the little major league action that he's seen. But he's a promising left-hander who will be 25 years old by the time next season starts, and he will get a chance to prove he belongs at the back end of the Pirates rotation.
The rest of the group remains the same from this season, led by veterans A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez.
1. RHP Roy Halladay
2. LHP Cliff Lee
3. LHP Cole Hamels
4. RHP Kyle Kendrick
5. RHP Vance Worley
The only real change from the group that Philadelphia entered 2012 with is the addition of Kyle Kendrick, who replaces the departed Joe Blanton.
Philadelphia returns one of the most impressive trios in the game in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. While Halladay and Lee have not been themselves in 2012, there's no reason to bet against either veteran being able to get back on track in 2013.
San Diego Padres
1. RHP Jake Peavy
2. RHP Edinson Volquez
3. LHP Clayton Richard
4. LHP Eric Stults
5. RHP Andrew Cashner
A huge change atop the Padres rotation, as former National League Cy Young Award winner and Padres fan-favorite Jake Peavy returns to San Diego as the first big free agent signing of the O'Malley era.
Eric Stults and Andrew Cashner, two promising youngsters, will bring up the back end of the rotation, following the capable arms of Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard.
Cory Luebke, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery performed at the end of May, likely won't figure into the picture until sometime during the second half of the season.
San Francisco Giants
1. RHP Tim Lincecum
2. LHP Madison Bumgarner
3. RHP Matt Cain
4. RHP Ryan Vogelsong
5. RHP Barry Zito
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And that's exactly what the Giants will do: keep intact what has proven to be one of the best rotations in the game.
1. RHP Felix Hernandez
2. LHP Jason Vargas
3. LHP Danny Hultzen
4. RHP Erasmo Ramirez
5. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
King Felix and Jason Vargas return to lead the Mariners rotation in 2013, bringing consistency, stability and, in the case of the king, dominance to the front of Seattle's pitching staff.
Top prospect Danny Hultzen will break camp with the club, while his counterparts, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, will return to the minors for some more refinement and finishing touches before they are ready to join him on the big stage.
Erasmo Ramirez has pitched both as a starter and in relief for the Mariners in 2012, but he'll get a shot to start exclusively in spring training and prove that he belongs as a member of an up-and-coming group of youngsters.
Hisashi Iwakuma has been solid enough as a starter and reliever to garner another contract from the Mariners, and he'll bring up the rear of the rotation to start the season.
With Ramirez and Iwakuma, the Mariners have some flexibility should the need arise in the bullpen for one of their services. That would open up a rotation spot for either Paxton or Walker if the team deems either of them ready for prime time.
St. Louis Cardinals
1. RHP Adam Wainwright
2. RHP Chris Carpenter
3. LHP Jaime Garcia
4. RHP Jake Westbrook
5. RHP Lance Lynn/RHP Shelby Miller
Kyle Lohse will be elsewhere in 2013, having priced himself out of the Cardinals' plans. But with the return to health of former ace Chris Carpenter, his loss is not felt nearly as much as it could be.
Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller will battle it out in spring training for the fifth and final spot in the rotation, with the loser headed to the bullpen.
Tampa Bay Rays
1. LHP David Price
2. RHP James Shields
3. LHP Matt Moore
4. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
5. LHP Alex Cobb
It would be shocking if Tampa didn't exercise the $9 million team option that they hold on James Shields for the 2013 season, though that doesn't necessarily mean that he's a lock to finish the year with the Rays. He could find himself traded off for additional pieces.
But to start the season, Tampa Bay will return essentially the same rotation that it has right now.
Prospect Chris Archer could push Alex Cobb for the fifth spot, but I'd wager that Cobb sticks and Archer starts the year back in Triple-A.
1. LHP Derek Holland
2. RHP Yu Darvish
3. RHP Matt Harrison
4. RHP Scott Feldman
5. LHP Martin Perez
Derek Holland, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison are no-brainers at the top of the Rangers' rotation for 2013.
It's unlikely that Ryan Dempster will return to Texas—and it's no sure thing that the Rangers would even want him back, which opens up a spot for prospect Martin Perez.
That leaves one spot and a $9.25 million team option on Scott Feldman that could fill it.
Feldman certainly hasn't pitched all that well, but realistically, what are the Rangers' alternatives? They aren't going to spend big money to sign a free agent unless it's an ace, and Zack Greinke, who seems like a long shot, is the only pitcher out there who'd fit that bill.
With Neftali Feliz expected to return to action late next year—or 2014 at the latest—and Colby Lewis a midseason possibility, chances are that Texas doesn't want to commit to any long-term deals either.
That leaves them to choose from the Joe Blantons of the world, and are they any better than Feldman? It's a push at best, and the Rangers will pick up the option, choosing to stay with the pitcher they know.
Toronto Blue Jays
1. LHP Ricky Romero
2. RHP Brandon McCarthy
3. RHP Shaun Marcum
4. RHP Brandon Morrow
5. RHP Henderson Alvarez
You read that right: I'm predicting that the Blue Jays will be incredibly aggressive in free agency, bolstering their rotation with two of the best arms available after Zack Greinke in Brandon McCarthy and Shaun Marcum.
The duo would bring stability to a rotation that was anything but stable in 2012.
Marcum, who spent the first six years of his major league career in Toronto, was only traded so that the Jays could acquire Brett Lawrie—a no-brainer back then and a no-brainer today. He is well-liked by his former teammates and would be a great addition to the clubhouse.
McCarthy is a solid 29-year-old veteran who gives manager John Farrell another arm he can trust to give him a solid performance every time that he takes the mound.
With a rotation like this, there's no reason Toronto couldn't contend for the American League East next season.
1. RHP Stephen Strasburg
2. LHP Gio Gonzalez
3. RHP Jordan Zimmerman
4. RHP Ross Detwiler
5. RHP Anibal Sanchez
The only change to Washington's rotation comes at the bottom, where Edwin Jackson departs for more money (and years) and is replaced by 29-year-old Anibal Sanchez, who is likely to receive less than he expects after being roughed up in the American League with the Tigers.
A return to the National League—where he posted a 3.75 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over parts of seven seasons with the Miami Marlins—is exactly what the doctor ordered to get Sanchez back on track. And he gives the Nationals yet another quality starting pitcher under the age of 30.
Notable Free Agents
You'll notice that a number of recognizable names aren't on an opening day roster.
That doesn't mean that they aren't in the mix with any of the 30 teams in the game, but I don't see them as fits in Opening Day rotations right now. Perhaps some of them could wind up in someone's bullpen.
But for argument's sake and the purposes of this article, we'll call them free agents.
Do you think one of these arms is a fit somewhere? Let's discuss it in comments below.
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