MLB Power Rankings: Ranking All 30 Teams' Rotations After Zack Greinke Signing
Committing $147 million to Zack Greinke moves the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation ahead of most others in these updated MLB power rankings. This soon-to-be-completed deal has combined with countless winter meetings transactions to alter the pecking order.
We're roughly halfway between the end of the 2012 regular season and the date when pitchers and catchers report for 2013 spring training. Analyzing all 30 rotations now allows us to simultaneously review last summer's performances, react to this winter's starting pitching transactions and look forward to how teams might behave in the coming months.
All staff projections come from MLBDepthCharts. As well, there are alternates listed on the following slides. These include established arms who may miss Opening Day following major surgeries and maturing prospects with potential to crack 25-man rosters.
Read on to see which club is heading toward the holidays with the strongest starting staff.
30. Houston Astros
Phil Humber (right) is less than a season removed from his perfect game.
Brad White/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Lucas Harrell, RHP Phil Humber, RHP Jordan Lyles, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Alex White.
Alternates: RHP Jarred Cosart, LHP Dallas Keuchel.
Keuchel pitched poorly as a rookie (more walks than strikeouts), but may wind up in the rotation thanks to his handedness.
Both Humber and White are new to the Houston Astros organization, acquired via waiver claim and trade, respectively. These once-promising prospects struggled in 2012, albeit in hitter-friendly ballparks.
Inexperience is obviously a concern for Houston considering that nobody on the 40-man roster has ever pitched 200 innings in an MLB season.
29. Miami Marlins
Ricly Nolasco will be Miami's most experienced—and disgruntled—starter.
Jason Arnold/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, LHP Wade LeBlanc, RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Jacob Turner.
Alternates: RHP Tom Koehler, RHP Alex Sanabia.
Though Eovaldi and Turner have high ceilings, it will be at least another year before either is vying for an All-Star selection.
The other probable rotation members pitch to contact.
The Miami Marlins have been trimming payroll and understandably aren't connected to any top free agents.
However, Carl Pavano, who started on the 2003 championship team, could sign a one-year, incentive-laden deal, according to Phil Mackey of ESPN 1500. The junking-throwing, injury-prone veteran wouldn't help them much in these power rankings.
28. Colorado Rockies
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Jhoulys Chacin, RHP Jorge De La Rosa, LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Juan Nicasio, LHP Drew Pomeranz.
Alternates: LHP Edwar Cabrera, RHP Tyler Chatwood, LHP Christian Friedrich.
Each of the aforementioned pitchers must prove themselves anew after an abysmal year, the least competitive in Colorado Rockies history.
Francis discussed his disappointment with MLB.com's Thomas Harding after re-signing earlier this month:
We greatly underachieved. Everybody in here is capable of better things. We all know that, and we all think that. We lost a lot of games...and I think we can do a few things to make ourselves better.
Colorado will shop center fielder Dexter Fowler for rotation reinforcements this winter. Troy Renck of The Denver Post reports that the team has talked with the Cincinnati Reds about Mike Leake. He also names the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays as other potential trade partners.
27. Cleveland Indians
Ubaldo Jimenez is coming off a disastrous year (9-17, 5.40 ERA, 1.61 WHIP).
David Maxwell/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Carlos Carrasco, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Zach McAllister.
Alternates: RHP Jeanmar Gomez, LHP David Huff, RHP Josh Tomlin.
Jimenez is rapidly declining, and "it doesn’t seem that the major causes are easily fixable," Eric Seidman explains on FanGraphs. The former NL Cy Young candidate has lost velocity and the ability to induce ground balls. Barring wholesale adjustments, Jimenez will be one of the league's weakest starters.
On the other hand, Masterson should bounce back in 2013, and the Cleveland Indians hope Carrasco can throw harder than ever after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Adding offensive thump is the team's top priority this offseason, so it's unclear who—if anyone—will bolster this pitching staff. There's evidently lots of optimism in Kluber and McAllister, though they have only combined for 38 career MLB starts.
26. Minnesota Twins
Vance Worley is temporarily slotted to be Minnesota's ace.
Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Kevin Correia, LHP Scott Diamond, LHP Brian Duensing, RHP Liam Hendriks, RHP Vance Worley.
Alternates: RHP Nick Blackburn, RHP Cole De Vries, RHP P.J. Walters.
Minnesota Twins starting pitching finished with baseball's worst strikeout rate a year ago. The rotation also posted an ugly earned run average (5.40), batting average against (.291) and winning percentage (.342).
In recent months, the front office has lost two accomplished starters—Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano—and acquired Worley, who's coming off a sloppy sophomore season.
But ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports that Minnesota has spent $10 million to add Correia's veteran presence. His tendency for pounding the strike zone will help.
25. San Diego Padres
Edinson Volquez's wildness prevents him from pitch deep into games.
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Jason Marquis, LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Tyson Ross, LHP Eric Stults, RHP Edinson Volquez.
Alternates: RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Joe Kelly, LHP Cory Luebke.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors described Richard and Volquez as the only "sure things" in the San Diego Padres rotation.
Unfortunately, the former is an underwhelming southpaw who led the National League in hits and home runs allowed last season. That hardly seems possible for someone who pitched 14 of 33 games in cavernous Petco Park. And Volquez has terrible control problems (105 BB in 182.2 IP with San Diego).
Cashner, Luebke and Joe Weiland—all starting candidates—will begin 2013 on the disabled list. Their injuries are pressuring GM Josh Byrnes to acquire another arm.
Daisuke Matsuzaka considers the Padres a good fit for him, according to Bill Center of U-T San Diego. Center implies that the feeling isn't mutual.
24. Milwaukee Brewers
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Mike Fiers, RHP Yovani Gallardo, LHP Chris Narveson, RHP Mark Rogers.
Alternates: RHP Johnny Hellweg, RHP Wily Peralta.
The Milwaukee Brewers know exactly what to expect from Gallardo. As you can see on FanGraphs, the Mexican ace has pitched several wins above replacement in each of the past four seasons. He consistently misses bats and often helps his own cause with extra-base hits.
Beyond him, the staff is pretty questionable. Nobody else besides Narveson has spent a full summer in an MLB rotation, and he's coming off rotator cuff surgery!
The Brew Crew may add a durable, veteran arm via free agency. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune tweets that they have serious interest in Ryan Dempster. Moreover, agent Craig Landis cites a couple preferences that give Milwaukee a recruiting edge:
Craig Landis figures once Greinke signs Dempster will get 3 years, preferred NL w/ training in Arizona.— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) December 8, 2012
23. Pittsburgh Pirates
Will A.J. Burnett's surprising success continue for another year?
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP A.J. Burnett, LHP Jeff Locke, RHP James McDonald, RHP Kyle McPherson, LHP Wandy Rodriguez.
Alternates: RHP Gerrit Cole, LHP Andrew Oliver.
Perhaps the biggest unknown about next year's Pittsburgh Pirates concerns McDonald. Is he the All-Star snub who awed us through 17 outings, or the vulnerable right-hander removed from the rotation in September? Check out the splits at Baseball-Reference.com.
Cole and Oliver have arguably the two best arms in the organization, but neither is expected to be MLB-ready by April.
Rodriguez, considered an adequate No. 3 guy, must address his declining strikeout rate. Management has its fingers crossed that Burnett can provide the same value he did in 2012.
General manager Neil Huntington believes signing free-agent Russell Martin was Pittsburgh's "biggest move" of the offseason, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Judging by those comments, he's probably limited to pursuing non-tendered pitchers (think Jair Jurrjens or Mike Pelfrey).
22. Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester was one of Boston's biggest underachievers in 2012.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Clay Buchholz, LHP Felix Doubront, RHP John Lackey, LHP Jon Lester, LHP Franklin Morales.
Alternates: RHP Alfredo Aceves, RHP Rubby De La Rosa.
It's tough to trust Lackey and Lester, both of whom were liabilities for the Boston Red Sox when they last took the mound. If his steady velocity and walk rate are any indication, Lester will rebound from a brutal campaign.
Doubront should also be an interesting character to keep tabs on. He finished 2012 with some impressive games, but never figured out pitch efficiency.
Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports that Morales is preparing to be a starting pitcher. Presumably, though, he wouldn't fill such a role if the team ends up signing Ryan Dempster or Kyle Lohse.
Still, the soon-to-be 27-year-old provides depth in case the Red Sox stop spending.
21. Chicago Cubs
Chicago will hold onto Matt Garza until he restores his trade value.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Matt Garza, LHP Chris Rusin, RHP Jeff Samardzija, LHP Travis Wood.
Alternates: RHP Scott Baker, RHP Arodys Vizcaino.
Samradzija made a smooth transition from setup man to starter after beginning his MLB career in the bullpen. Taking away the innings limit should result in progression.
The Chicago Cubs are counting on Feldman and Garza to pitch with a purpose as impending free agents. The latter in particular ranked among the NL Central's best players in 2011 when he amassed 197 strikeouts.
Vizcaino and Baker had Tommy John surgeries performed on them in March and April, respectively. How soon they make their 2013 debuts and how effective they can be when active will determine the strength of this rotation.
20. Seattle Mariners
Jason Vargas will be particularly affected by Safeco Field's new dimensions.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Blake Beavan, RHP Felix Hernandez, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP Erasmo Ramirez, LHP Jason Vargas.
Alternates: LHP Danny Hultzen, RHP Hector Noesi.
King Felix can't fully compensate for the mediocrity of his fellow rotation members. Of them, only Iwakuma is likely to continue being an above-average pitcher in the newly-downsized Safeco Field.
Hultzen, a former No. 2 overall draft pick, doesn't aim well enough to merit promotion from Triple-A.
Life will get tough for Beavan and Vargas, who rely so heavily on fly balls. Their numbers will suffer without the vast acreage they've become accustomed to.
19. New York Mets
Johan Santana struggled as the 2012 season wore on.
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP R.A. Dickey, RHP Dillon Gee, RHP Matt Harvey, LHP Jon Niese, LHP Johan Santana.
Alternates: RHP Jenrry Mejia, RHP Zack Wheeler.
Forget his age—Dickey will continue to thrive so long as his knuckleball continues dropping off the table. And speaking of dropping, the New York Mets will plummet in power rankings like these if they trade the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.
Niese looks like the best homegrown Mets starting pitcher in recent memory, and Gee isn't far behind.
Gifted with mid-90s heat, Harvey is equally intriguing. However, he hasn't been humbled by MLB batters yet. Eventually, opponents will take advantage of his indifferent pitch location. The right-hander is due for an up-and-down season.
How often will Santana be available for New York? Since 2009, he has averaged fewer than 19 starts per season, dealing with elbow, shoulder, ankle and back injuries during that span. Another abbreviated campaign will challenge the not-so-deep Mets minor league system.
18. Baltimore Orioles
Al Bello/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: LHP Zach Britton, LHP Wei-Yin Chen, RHP Miguel Gonzalez, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Chris Tillman.
Alternates: RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Dylan Bundy, LHP Tsuyoshi Wada.
The Baltimore Orioles gloriously overachieved in 2012, falling a few timely hits short of advancing to the ALCS. Starting pitching was a strength, even in the postseason against the high-scoring New York Yankees and Texas Rangers.
The league will be ready to adjust to sophomores Chen and Gonzalez. Similarly, Hammel and Tillman cannot get complacent following breakout years.
Bundy is the only other-wordly rotation candidate. Devoid of his incredible talents, the regular rotation members should temper their expectations.
17. Los Angeles Angels
C.J. Wilson disappointed in the first year of a $77.5 million deal.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Joe Blanton, RHP Tommy Hanson, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Jered Weaver, LHP C.J. Wilson.
Alternate: RHP Jerome Williams.
The Hanson-Jordan Walden trade was truly a head-scratcher from the Los Angeles Angels' perspective. L.A.'s acquisition hasn't delivered top-of-the-rotation quality in years. Adding the wrinkle of a designated hitter probably won't help.
Blanton is unfortunately ordinary, but at least he attacks the strike zone.
More than 200 starts into his MLB career, Weaver can be counted on to overwhelm any enemy. His lack of pure stuff hasn't been a limiting factor in recent years, and it won't prevent him from consistently painting the corners next season.
Critics prepare to pounce on Wilson, though. Another summer of six innings per start will fail to justify his eight-figure annual salary. The Angels must feel uncomfortable with a No. 2 option who seldom throws first-pitch strikes.
16. Oakland Athletics
Brett Anderson can be an elite lefty, but durability is a concern.
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: LHP Brett Anderson, RHP A.J. Griffin, LHP Tom Milone, RHP Jarrod Parker, RHP Dan Straily.
Alternates: LHP Travis Blackley, RHP Bartolo Colon, RHP Brad Peacock.
These youngsters focus on getting ahead in the count and putting opposing batters in defensive situations.
Straily doesn't comply with that team strategy, but he's someone who can get by on raw talent for the time being.
Colon's PED ban expires five games into the 2013 season, so the pudgy right-hander will miss only one turn of the rotation. Since 2011, he has finished off the majority of his strikeout victims with looking strikes (via Baseball-Reference.com), a stat you rarely see at the major league level.
15. Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto expects great numbers from Josh Johnson in his contract year.
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: LHP Mark Buehrle, LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Josh Johnson, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Ricky Romero.
Alternates: LHP Brett Cecil, RHP Kyle Drabek.
Romero was brutally ineffective in 2012, much like slugger Adam Dunn the year prior. The southpaw aims for a similar bounce-back season. A more stable release point should get him producing again.
Buehrle, actually, is tougher to sell to Toronto Blue Jays fans. Four of five AL East ballparks—including Toronto's Rogers Centre—yield a lot of home runs. The veteran's durability should not be questioned, but all indications are that his numbers will dip.
The Blue Jays could still wind up with a top-10 rotation if they acquire R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the team is one of three legitimate suitors for the knuckleballer. Such an addition would send Happ to the bullpen.
14. Kansas City Royals
Kansas City moved top prospects to get James Shields, a legitimate ace.
Charles Sonnenblick/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: LHP Bruce Chen, RHP Wade Davis, RHP Jeremy Guthrie, RHP Ervin Santana, RHP James Shields.
Alternates: LHP Danny Duffy, RHP Luke Hochevar, RHP Luis Mendoza.
Overpaying for Guthrie and Santana moved the Kansas City Royals' starting five up several spots. Announcing the acquisitions of Davis and Shields via trade raises the rotation to respectability.
Much like their division rivals Minnesota Twins, the Royals began this offseason with very underwhelming internal options.
However, the front office has been very proactive in addressing team needs. K.C. finally possesses durable arms, a few of which can miss bats.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks
Due to injury, Brandon McCarthy has never pitched a full season.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Trevor Bauer, LHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Wade Miley.
Alternates: RHP Josh Collmenter, RHP Daniel Hudson, LHP Tyler Skaggs.
Inexperience might slow down the Arizona Diamondbacks. None of their starting rotation candidates have thrown more than 800 MLB innings, and only Collmenter has earned a postseason victory before.
Signing McCarthy certainly improved the staff, though they cannot depend too much on someone with his history of elbow, shoulder and cranial injuries.
Excluding Bauer, these starters emphasize pitch efficiency and quick innings.
12. Chicago White Sox
Jake Peavy proved that, when healthy, he can dominate any lineup.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: LHP John Danks, RHP Gavin Floyd, RHP Jake Peavy, LHP Jose Quintana, LHP Chris Sale.
Alternate: RHP Dylan Axelrod.
Between Peavy and Sale, the Chicago White Sox have studs of both handedness. They carefully monitored Sale's workload upon joining the starting group, and he still placed sixth in AL Cy Young voting. His potential is incredible.
The White Sox might already regret signing Danks to a $65 million extension last winter. He pitched terribly through eight starts in April and May (6.46 ERA) before suffering a season-ending shoulder tear in the seventh inning of his only scoreless performance.
Every baseball stats website will tell you that the southpaw provided more than a dozen Wins Above Replacement from 2008-2010. If he returns to that elite level in 2013, Chicago could be home to the American League's top rotation.
11. Texas Rangers
Yu Darvish was exciting and frustrating during his debut season.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Yu Darvish, LHP Matt Harrison, LHP Derek Holland, RHP Alexi Ogando, LHP Martin Perez.
Alternate: RHP Colby Lewis.
Though Darvish possesses the electric stuff (221 SO in 191.1 IP) and Holland has a long-term contract, Harrison is actually the ace of the Texas Rangers. Regardless, none of the three mind pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark.
This rotation's depth is seriously compromised by injury. Right-hander Neftali Feliz wasn't even listed above because August Tommy John surgery rules him out for at least two-thirds of next season. Also, Lewis is likely to miss time. Doctors told him in July that rehabbing his surgically repaired flexor tendon would take nine to 12 months, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
Zack Greinke came very close to signing with the Rangers, as reports suggest that they and the Los Angeles Dodgers were the final two bidders for his services.
The front office now turns their attention to the next-best available arms, including R.A. Dickey, Anibal Sanchez and James Shields. Texas has the resources to add one of them and will inevitably move up in these power rankings later in the offseason.
10. New York Yankees
CC Sabathia has unmatched year-to-year consistency.
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Phil Hughes, RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Ivan Nova, LHP Andy Pettitte, LHP CC Sabathia.
Alternates: RHP David Phelps, RHP Michael Pineda.
Kuroda and Pettitte will eat up $27 million of the New York Yankees payroll—potentially more with award bonuses—because they finished their summers in style. Both leveraged late-season excellence to re-sign at higher salaries.
Sabathia leads the staff and ranks among the most trustworthy pitchers in Major League Baseball.
In 2011, Nova and Pineda were rookie standouts for the Yankees and Seattle Mariners, respectively. Since then, they have taken steps backward.
Good but not great results put Hughes in a category all his own, apart from New York's other starters. He'll enter spring training as the prototypical mid-rotation option, but with ample motivation to shake off that reputation in his walk year.
9. Philadelphia Phillies
Roy Halladay is an obvious bounce-back candidate for 2013.
Jason Arnold/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Tyler Cloyd, RHP Roy Halladay, LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Kyle Kendrick, LHP Cliff Lee.
Alternates: RHP Ethan Martin, RHP Jonathan Pettibone.
The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies led the sport in victories thanks to an unstoppable rotation. Collectively, the starters ranked first in ERA and WHIP despite also logging the most innings.
The back end has deteriorated since then. Joe Blanton went west to Los Angeles, and Philadelphia traded Vance Worley to get Ben Revere earlier this month.
MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes that the Phillies could browse for an elderly free agent, but GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has faith in Cloyd, Pettibone and other farmhands.
Of course, Halladay is the big ol' elephant in the room. He failed to toss a complete game in any of his 25 starts last summer. Regression was evident on the radar gun and in his statistics, particularly his home run rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio.
8. Tampa Bay Rays
David Price has reached his potential.
David Banks/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Alex Cobb, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Jeff Niemann, LHP David Price.
Alternates: RHP Chris Archer, RHP Jake Odorizzi
The dream rotation didn't last til spring training. As much as the Tampa Bay Rays annually depend on the quality and quantity of their starters to contend in the AL East, financial restrictions forced them to shop James Shields. Wade Davis went along with him.
Nonetheless, Tampa Bay claims a top-10 spot thanks to Moore and Price, two of the most talented left-handers in the game today.
7. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta expects Brandon Beachy to return around the All-Star break.
Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Randall Delgado, RHP Tim Hudson, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Kris Medlen, LHP Mike Minor.
Alternates: RHP Brandon Beachy, RHP Julio Teheran.
Baseball-Reference.com shows us how untouchable Medlen was as a starter in 2012. But the Atlanta Braves must face the reality that he—nor anybody else in baseball—can sustain such excellence for an entire summer.
Terrific rotation depth allowed the Braves to non-tender Jair Jurrjens and trade Tommy Hanson, two right-handers who actually held the team back a year ago.
Minor quietly dominated as his first full season wore on. Delgado, too, should be a viable option until Beachy's elbow mends.
Atlanta should be primarily concerned with Hudson. The 37-year-old doesn't induce as many ground balls as his younger self and seems bound to decline.
6. Detroit Tigers
Any rotation led by Justin Verlander deserves a high ranking.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Doug Fister, RHP Rick Porcello, RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Justin Verlander.
Alternates: LHP Casey Crosby, LHP Adam Wilk.
Scherzer joined Verlander in the prestigious club of world-class power pitchers last season. Fister has similarly learned to generate more swing and misses since arriving in Motown.
Once an acclaimed Detroit Tigers prospect, Porcello no longer fits in with this roster. He's dependent on balls in play that his pudgy teammates can't track down. Due $4.7 million in arbitration, via MLB Trade Rumors, he has not surprisingly been assigned to the trade block, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider access required).
Detroit has been linked to free agent Anibal Sanchez throughout the offseason. He reportedly turned down an offer from the team that fell short of his six-year, $90 million asking price.
With or without another established arm, the Tigers feel confident in their rotation.
5. St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis has plenty of depth behind injury-prone Chris Carpenter.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Chris Carpenter, LHP Jaime Garcia, RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Adam Wainwright, RHP Jake Westbrook.
Alternates: RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Trevor Rosenthal.
St. Louis Cardinals fans were a bit naive to expect Wainwright to re-emerge as an NL Cy Young contender upon returning from Tommy John surgery. The second year back ought to be much more successful for him.
Much like the Atlanta Braves, these Cards had too many starting candidates this fall. That's why they have shown no interest in signing free agent Kyle Lohse.
Depth is necessary for this rotation considering the injury histories of Carpenter and Garcia. Inking left-hander Randy Choate bolstered the bullpen and provides enough depth for the talented "alternates" to return to starting duty if/when a veteran gets sidelined.
4. San Francisco Giants
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Matt Cain, RHP Tim Lincecum, RHP Ryan Vogelsong, LHP Barry Zito.
Alternates: RHP Boof Bonser, RHP Yusmeiro Petit.
Now the second-highest-paid right-hander in baseball history, Cain is—to borrow a phrase from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith—"a superstar of the highest order." He has rarely allowed baserunners over the past three years (via Baseball-Reference.com) and never spent a moment on the disabled list. Two full seasons from his 30th birthday, the good times should continue to roll.
Bumgarner resembles Cain in all the best ways: start-to-start consistency, no tolerance for walks and brilliance in the World Series.
On the down side, the San Francisco Giants must put up with Zito for a bit longer. The postseason folk hero will remind everybody of his mediocrity from the get-go.
Questions also abound about Vogelsong's ability to pitch away from AT&T Park and whether "The Franchise" can find balance between his body weight and mechanics.
3. Cincinnati Reds
Better late than never, Homer Bailey took six MLB seasons to break out.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Bronson Arroyo, RHP Homer Bailey, LHP Aroldis Chapman, RHP Johnny Cueto, RHP Mat Latos.
Alternates: RHP Todd Redmond, RHP Mike Leake.
Likewise, the Cincinnati Reds should not doubt their rotation's co-leaders, Cueto and Latos. Both have prime years approaching and advanced repertoires.
Bailey stepped up into the No. 3 role in 2012. Mere months after looking like a non-tender candidate, John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Cincinnati has talked with him about a long-term extension.
Even with an innings limit, "The Cuban Missile" will be a welcome addition to the starting group.
Remember that with Reds pitching, we must always account for abiotic factors. Great American Ballpark is notoriously a hitter's haven, which makes low run allowance all the more impressive.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Zack Greinke's impending deal makes him the richest right-hander ever.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: RHP Josh Beckett, RHP Zack Greinke, RHP Aaron Harang, LHP Clayton Kershaw, LHP Ryu Hyun-jin.
Alternates: RHP Chad Billingsley, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Ted Lilly, RHP Stephen Fife.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have splurged on pitching this December, most notably by signing Greinke to an enormous deal. Great track records in both leagues and familiarity with the West Coast metropolis should translate to All-Star results in 2013.
Like the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, L.A. now has two Cy Young Award winners in the same rotation. Greinke and Kershaw, however, are both coming off steady seasons!
Hours after agreeing to terms with one formidable starter, the Dodgers signed another:
#dodgers sign ryu— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 9, 2012
Agent Scott Boras compared the southpaw to Mark Buehrle based on size and skills. The team would be elated to have somebody with that kind of durability slotted behind its aces.
FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi suspects that either Capuano or Harang will be dealt to reduce the clutter.
1. Washington Nationals
Washington's terrific rotation should lead the team to 100 wins.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Projected starting rotation: LHP Ross Detwiler, LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Stephen Strasburg, RHP Jordan Zimmermann.
Alternates: LHP Zach Duke, RHP Ryan Perry.
Everybody is well aware of Strasburg, but finally, the world has the chance to see him uninterrupted from April through September (October?). His impeccable control frustrates batters. The speed differential between his fastball and curveball (FanGraphs) makes life even worse for the opposition.
Speaking of interruptions, Haren's streak of 215-inning, sub-4.00 ERA seasons ended at five. Back pain was partially to blame, and rumors of a hip injury have recently followed him around. Still, when he's able-bodied, Haren is a strike-throwing sensation.
And let's not neglect Gonzalez, who pitched with new-found control last season. His array of pitches is pretty tricky to hit. At 27 years of age, he obviously has plenty left in the tank.
The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies were referenced earlier because they assembled this century's finest rotation. Barring injury, these Nats will make a strong case for that distinction.