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Toronto Blue Jays: Does R.A. Dickey Give the Jays the Best Rotation in the AL?

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIJanuary 5, 2013

Toronto Blue Jays: Does R.A. Dickey Give the Jays the Best Rotation in the AL?

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    What a long way the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation has come this offseason.

    Three fifths of the projected rotation for 2013 has been acquired via trade.

    Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle were brought to Toronto along with Jose Reyes back in mid-November, while reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey was acquired from the New York Mets a few weeks ago.

    Combined, the three starters bring seven All-Star appearances, four gold gloves and a Cy Young award to Toronto.

    Throw in starters Brandon Morrow, who posted an impressive ERA of 2.96 and WHIP of 1.12 in 21 starts this past season, and Ricky Romero, who before a disastrous 2012 campaign had thrown for at least 200 innings in the previous two seasons, and you've got a pretty formidable five-man rotation.

    The team also has a few more starters ready to step in should one of their starting five sustain an injury.

    Guys like J.A. Happ, Kyle Drabek (when he returns from rehab) and Drew Hutchison are all capable of filling that fifth spot in the rotation.

    Question is, does Toronto now have the imposing starting rotation in the American League?

Houston Astros

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    The Houston Astros are the newest members of the American League and are in the process of going through a major rebuild.

    As a result, their projected starting rotation consists of Lucas Harrell, Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles, Philip Humber and Jared Cosart.

    It should go without saying that Toronto's rotation is superior to that Houston will be fielding come April.

Seattle Mariners

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    The Seattle Mariners have one of the best pitchers in all of baseball at the top of their five-man starting rotation.

    Unfortunately for Mariners fans, after Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, there isn't a whole lot to look forward to this season.

    Right now they aren't even close to matching Toronto's five starters, but with pitchers like Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton on the cusp of becoming effective major league starters, Seattle could possess one of the top rotations in baseball in a few years.

Los Angeles Angels

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    The Los Angeles Angels are another team that has a decent amount of talent at the top of their rotation.

    With the likes of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and even the recently acquired Jason Vargas, the Angels definitely have a few reliable starters.

    Their fourth and fifth guys are also recognizable names in Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton, but from their third starter right down to their fifth the Angels don't quite match up with the Jays.

    No doubt it's a quality rotation of starting pitchers, it's just not among the top two or three in the AL.

Texas Rangers

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    The Texas Rangers were a team that was looking to make a case for having the top rotation in the American League this offseason with their pursuit of free-agent hurler Zack Greinke.

    Unfortunately for the Rangers, they were up against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers, which seems to have bottomless pockets, and lost out in the Greinke sweepstakes.

    That leaves them with southpaws Matt Harrison and Derek Holland, as well as Colby Lewis, Japanese sensation Yu Darvish and either Alexi Ogando or prospect Martin Perez.

    While the Rangers boast a fair amount of depth with those six guys, none of them are true top-of-the rotation arms like Josh Johnson or R.A. Dickey.

    None of the Rangers' pitchers really possess the dominant kind of stuff that guys like Dickey, Johnson or even Brandon Morrow have.

    Thus, Texas' rotation isn't on the same level as Toronto's.

Oakland Athletics

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    The defending AL West champions don't exactly boast the kind of pitching talent that the Jays lay claim to either.

    Despite piecing together 94 wins last season (a number that could climb in 2013 with the addition of the Houston Astros to the division), the Oakland Athletics don't have a premier starting rotation.

    Guys like Brett Anderson, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily are solid, young arms, but none of them have truly proven themselves over the course of a full season.

    Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone did pitch a full season last year, but those two aren't as impressive as the top of Toronto's rotation.

    Bartolo Colon brings experience to the table, but we're still waiting to see if last year was truly a renaissance year or a statistical aberration.

Minnesota Twins

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    The Minnesota Twins are another team that acquired most of their projected starting rotation this offseason.

    Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia were signed, and the team dealt for former Philadelphia Philly Vance Worley.

    The Twins, however, weren't looking to bolster their rotation in an effort to contend in 2013 as the Blue Jays were. They are a team that is rebuilding and for some buy-low guys that could turn into unexpected gems.

    Chalk them up as another team that doesn't quite match the Jays in terms of starting pitching talent.

Cleveland Indians

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    The Cleveland Indians had a fairly busy 2012 offseason in their own right.

    A move that saw them deal Shin-Soo Choo netted a speedy center fielder in Drew Stubbs, as well as a to,p young pitcher in Trevor Bauer.

    They also dug deep and inked free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher, formerly of the New York Yankees.

    On the mound, however, the Indians very much resemble last year's team.

    Led by Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and the newly-acquired Brett Myers, the Indians will look to contend for a playoff spot in 2013.

    The problem is they don't have a true front-of-the-rotation arm.

Kansas City Royals

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    The Kansas City Royals made a big splash this offseason when the team dealt one of baseball's top prospects in Wil Myers, as well as Jake Odorizzi and two other pitching prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays for established starter James Shields.

    The Royals will presumably use Shields as their ace in 2013 as they try to contend for one of the AL's playoff spots.

    Behind Shields, however, the rotation is fairly slim, with Jeremy Guthrie occupying the second spot. Guthrie is known as a guy that can eat innings, but isn't exactly the who you want as your second starter.

    Ervin Santana was also brought in recently, but his 2012 was nothing to write home about and Kansas City will be looking for him to regain his 2011 form.

    After Santana, however, the Royals don't have anything of note.

Chicago White Sox

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    While the Chicago White Sox have a fairly solid starting rotation, there is a major cause for concern when it comes to starters John Danks and Gavin Floyd.

    Both Danks and Floyd seem to be on the decline, while youngster Jose Quintana still has to prove he can survive the rigors of a full season.

    With Chris Sale and Jake Peavy at the top, Chicago does have some real promise when it comes to starting pitching.

    At this point, however, the Sox don't quite stack up to Toronto either.

Detroit Tigers

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    The Detroit Tigers are the first team that could legitimately make a case for having a better rotation than the Blue Jays.

    Justin Verlander is one of the top three or four pitchers in all of baseball, without a doubt.

    The Tigers also boast the league's No. 2 strikeout pitcher in 2012 among AL starters in Max Scherzer (Verlander was No. 1).

    Then you have Doug Fister, who has been remarkable the last two seasons, and Anibal Sanchez who re-signed with the Tigers, despite a push from the Chicago Cubs.

    Those guys are great No. 3 and No. 4 starters in a rotation.

    As for the team's fifth starter, Rick Porcello is likely to fill that role come opening day, but there have been rumors that the Tigers have been looking to move him. That would probably make Drew Smyly the final hurler in Detroit's rotation.

    Both Porcello and Smyly are young guys who have plenty of work ahead of them. Keep in mind Jays fans, Ricky Romero was also shaky this past season, which means that the Jays don't have the decisive edge when it comes to fifth starters.

Baltimore Orioles

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    The 2012 Baltimore Orioles were the East Coast version of the Oakland Athletics.

    After a surprisingly successful regular season and playoff run that had them one win away from being in the American League Championship Series, the Orioles didn't do all that much this offseason.

    Now the question becomes, can the Orioles repeat their 2012 performance in a revamped AL East?

    The Jays reloaded in a big way, the Boston Red Sox did their best to put together a team that can win, the New York Yankees are still the same formidable team (albeit a year older) and the Tampa Bay Rays will have Evan Longoria healthy again.

    The Orioles strength lies in their bullpen, which was sensational last season.

    Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez are not to be underestimated, but they aren't nearly as good as the rotation that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has assembled.

Boston Red Sox

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    The 2013 edition of the Boston Red Sox should be much better than the utter disappointment that was 2012.

    That being said, most of the upgrades that GM Ben Cherington cobbled together this offseason were offensive upgrades, as he brought in Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew.

    The other major pieces that Cherington picked up were bullpen arms in Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan.

    As for the starting rotation?

    Well it will be pretty much the same as it has been in recent years, with Ryan Dempster coming to Beantown to add some depth and experience to Boston's starting five.

    Unfortunately for Boston, a rotation consisting of John Lackey (who hasn't been productive in years), Ryan Dempster (who struggled mightily after making the move to the AL last year), Felix Doubront (who will be a second year starter that wasn't anything special in 2012) and Clay Buchholz (who saw his production decline for the second consecutive season in 2012) won't be scaring anyone.

    Boston may contend for a playoff spot in 2013, but their rotation certainly isn't among the league's best.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Even with the departure of an All-Star-caliber arm in James Shields, the Tampa Bay Rays still have one of the better rotations in the AL.

    Reigning Cy Young Award winner David Price headlines a rotation that also includes phenoms Jeremy Hellickson and 2012's No. 2 prospect Matt Moore.

    Rounding out the rotation are big man Jeff Niemann, who had an incredible start to his 2012 season before suffering an injury, and the youngster Alex Cobb, who would be a great fifth starter for any team.

    24-year-old Chris Archer could also fill in as a viable No. 5 guy should anything happen to the aforementioned pitchers.

New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees are probably the second big threat to the Jays when it comes to having the top starting rotation in the American League.

    With C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes manning the first four spots of the rotation, the Yankees can beat you with their starting pitcher on any given day.

    Their fifth man, Ivan Nova, has a very similar story to Toronto's current fifth starter, Ricky Romero.

    Both starters had very impressive 2011 campaigns, but struggled in 2012.

    And yes, the Yankees are a fairly old rotation, but the Jays have a few pitchers that are injured fairly often (see Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson).

    All things considered, the Yankees and Jays have pretty equal starting rotations.

Conclusion

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    After going through each rotation in the American League, I would surmise that the top five starting rotations belong to the Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees.

    When it comes down to balancing depth and talent, we can narrow the field to the Tigers, Jays and Yankees.

    From there, it's a bit more subjective.

    If I had to rank them, I'd say that the Tigers come in No. 3, the Yankees no. 2, and yes, the Toronto Blue Jays do, indeed, have the best rotation among all American League teams

    The fact is that all five Blue Jays starters are All-Star-caliber pitchers.

    Two or three of them could easily finish in the top-five in voting for the Cy Young Award if they stay healthy and pitch well (easier said than done, I know).

    While it's not as clear cut as some Jays fans believe, the team does have the best starting rotation in the league.

     

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