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Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering Spring Training

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering Spring Training

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    While it might be freezing in your neck of the woods right about now, we can take solace in knowing that things are about to warm up.

    Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training over the next 10 days, and within the next two weeks, camps will be going full force as teams prepare for the warmer weather that comes along with the start of the MLB season.

    While pitchers like Kyle Lohse and Joe Saunders remain available via free agency, rotations around the game have already begun to take shape.

    Some teams enter spring training not only with a full complement of starters, but plenty of arms in reserve should injury or inconsistency befall a current member of the starting rotation.

    Other teams, battles for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation will be getting underway in earnest; battles that are sure to end with some surprising results.

    Where does your favorite team's starting rotation stand when compared to the others in baseball?

    Let's take a look.

30. Houston Astros

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    1. RHP Lucas Harrell

    2. RHP Bud Norris

    3. RHP Phil Humber

    4. RHP Jordan Lyles

    5. LHP Erik Bedard

     

    Lucas Harrell came out of nowhere to stake his claim to the top spot in the rotation last season, leading the team in wins (11) and ERA (3.76). Was he a flash in the pan or is he the real deal?

    Bud Norris has the ability to make batters miss, but he's been far less effective away from Minute Maid Park (5.39 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) than he has been at home (3.51, 1.27), and it's imperative for the Houston Astros that he figure out how to pitch more effectively outside of Houston.

    Jordan Lyles was rushed to the big leagues and probably could benefit from another season of fine tuning in the minors, but the 22-year-old will have to do his learning on the job as the team simply doesn't have many options to replace him.

    Adding the always maddening Erik Bedard to the mix was an inexpensive move that could pay dividends early. But it's only a matter of time before his effectiveness wears off—just ask the Pirates, who watched Bedard pitch to a 3.12 ERA over the first two months of last season only to fall apart, posting a 6.35 ERA from June through August before he was released.

    It's going to be a long season in Houston as the Astros make the switch to the American League.

29. Colorado Rockies

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    1. LHP Jorge De La Rosa

    2. RHP Jhoulys Chacin

    3. LHP Drew Pomeranz

    4. RHP Juan Nicasio

    5. LHP Jeff Francis

     

    To be fair, there's talent in Colorado's rotation, but whether this group can stay healthy and effective is anyone's guess.

    Injuries limited De La Rosa, Chacin and Nicasio to a combined 28 starts in 2012, while Pomeranz and Francis combined for an 8-16 record and 5.28 ERA in just over 200 innings of work.

    The scary thing is that Pomeranz and Francis were two of the more successful starters on a rotation that went 29-68 with a 5.81 ERA.

    Former Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins starter Chris Volstad, a non-roster invite to spring training, could factor into the Colorado Rockies rotation at some point this season, as could Tyler Chatwood and Christian Friedrich, who at this point figure to start the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

28. San Diego Padres

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    1. RHP Edinson Volquez

    2. LHP Clayton Richard

    3. RHP Jason Marquis

    4. LHP Eric Stults

    5. RHP Freddy Garcia

     

    The biggest question facing the San Diego Padres rotation is this: How will the group handle a Petco Park that isn't quite the pitcher's park it used to be?

    With the outfield fences moved in, things could get ugly.

    The ace of the staff, Edinson Volquez, struggles to command and control his electric stuff and figures to be the pitcher most negatively affected by the new outfield dimensions.

    While he is a ground ball pitcher,  Volquez was far better at home (2.95 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) than on the road (5.60, 1.65)—and with home no longer quite as spacious, that could spell trouble ahead.

    Clayton Richard is solid but unspectacular, while Jason Marquis, once a reliable innings eater, hasn't thrown more than 135 innings since 2009 and isn't getting any younger or more durable. 

    Along those same lines, Eric Stults, 33, has never thrown more than 100 innings in a major league season.

    Cory Luebke will return from Tommy John surgery at some point this season, but what the Padres can expect from him remains to be seen, while Casey Kelly and Tyson Ross, who will start the season in Triple-A, figure to see action throughout the season when the need arises.

27. Miami Marlins

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    1. RHP Ricky Nolasco

    2. RHP Henderson Alvarez

    3. LHP Wade LeBlanc

    4. RHP Nate Eovaldi

    5. RHP Jacob Turner

    Miami's rotation is mediocre with a chance of being slightly above average.

    Ricky Nolasco is a middling starter who hasn't posted an ERA under 4.00 since 2008, and he's the ace of the staff.

    Wade LeBlanc is a so-so finesse pitcher who doesn't do anything particularly well, while Henderson Alvarez, Nate Eovaldi and Jacob Turner all have room to grow, but thus far have been largely unimpressive in their short MLB careers.

    Waiting in the wings are a pair of career journeymen in John Maine and Kevin Slowey, neither of whom pitched in the major leagues last year, while top pitching prospect Jose Fernandez is still at least a year away from making an impact.

26. Minnesota Twins

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    1. RHP Vance Worley

    2. LHP Scott Diamond

    3. RHP Kevin Correia

    4. RHP Liam Hendriks

    5. LHP Brian Duensing

     

    Vance Worley and Scott Diamond are young arms with upside, while Liam Hendriks looked overmatched against major league hitters in 2012. All three need to take the next step in their development if Minnesota is going to get back into the thick of the American League playoff race in 2013.

    Kevin Correia is a serviceable veteran, while Brian Duensing has proven that he is far more effective pitching out of the bullpen (3.38 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) than as a starter (4.57 ERA, 1.43 WHIP).

    Prospects Kyle Gibson and Trevor May could be factors in the rotation at some point this season as could Mike Pelfrey, though he's recovering from Tommy John surgery and may not be ready to go until after the All-Star break.

25. Seattle Mariners

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    1. RHP Felix Hernandez

    2. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

    3. RHP Erasmo Ramirez

    4. RHP Blake Beavan

    5. RHP Hector Noesi

     

    There's Felix Hernandez...and then there's everyone else.

    Hisashi Iwakuma, 31, went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.in 16 starts for the Mariners in 2012, but whether he can sustain those numbers over a full season is a mystery.

    Beavan, Ramirez and Noesi have talent, but with prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker all geting closer to the big leagues, none of their spots in the rotation are set in stone.

    Shaky spring training performances by the incumbents will open the door for the prospects, who, at some point, will reach a stagnant point in their development against minor league hitters and need to be challenged by big-league talent every fifth day.

24. Cleveland Indians

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    1. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

    2. RHP Justin Masterson

    3. RHP Brett Myers

    4. RHP Zach McAllister

    5. RHP Carlos Carrasco

     

    For the first time in more than 20 years, 2012 saw two Cleveland Indians starters lose at least 15 games, and it represented the only time in the team's lengthy history that two starters with at least 15 losses had an ERA over 4.90.

    Meet your top two pitchers for the 2013 Cleveland Indians: Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez.

    Masterson has shown the ability to be very good in the American League, pitching to a 3.21 ERA as recently as the 2011 season. Jimenez has not, going 13-21 with a 5.32 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 42 starts for the Indians since the Tribe acquired him in 2011.

    Zach McAllister and Carlos Carrasco are the front runners for the final two spots in the rotation, but they will be challenged in spring training by Trevor Bauer, Scott Kazmir (yes, that Scott Kazmir), Corey Kluber and David Huff. Of the group, Bauer has the best stuff and biggest upside.

    There's potential for this rotation to be far better than it's ranking on this list—but until Masterson and Jimenez show that they can handle American League lineups, cautious optimism is the best approach.

23. Milwaukee Brewers

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    1. RHP Yovani Gallardo

    2. RHP Marco Estrada

    3. RHP Michael Fiers

    4. LHP Chris Narveson

    5. RHP Wily Peralta

     

    The rotation is drastically different from a year ago, when Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum comprised three-fifths of the group.

    Gallardo remains one of the most underrated pitchers in the game, throwing quality innings and giving the Milwaukee Brewers a chance to win every time he's on the mound.

    Marco Estrada and Michael Fiers will be looking to build on solid 2012 campaigns, while Chris Narveson is a middling veteran coming off of rotator cuff surgery that could easily be replaced by prospect Mark Rogers, who went 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in seven starts for Milwaukee in 2012.

    The wild card in the whole thing is Wily Peralta. Milwaukee's best pitching prospect since Gallardo, Peralta has the stuff to be an excellent No. 2 starter, but has been prone to bouts of inconsistency in the minors.

    He'll be given every opportunity to win the fifth spot in the rotation during spring training, and a solid showing could be a foretelling of things to come during the regular season.

    Along with Rogers, Tyler Thornburg and Johnny Hellweg could both see time in Milwaukee's rotation this season should the need arise.

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    1. RHP A.J. Burnett

    2. LHP Wandy Rodriguez

    3. RHP James McDonald

    4. RHP Jeff Karstens

    5. RHP Kyle McPherson

     

    After A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation is full of unanswered questions that we might start to get the answers to in spring training.

    Which James McDonald is the real one? The pitcher who was robbed of an All-Star spot after going 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over the first half of the season, or the one who went 3-5 with a 7.52 ERA and 1.79 WHIP down the stretch?

    Can Jeff Karstens continue his success over the past two seasons, in which he went 14-13 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.19 WHIP?

    Can Kyle McPherson, who has a total of two career major league starts, handle a full season of MLB action?

    Will Francisco Liriano, who remains unsigned but on track to eventually join the Pirates, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, contribute anything? Or will his maddening inconsistency find him a non-factor?

    Pittsburgh signed former San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, and he could be in the rotation mix as well if he can rediscover his stuff.

    It was only three years ago that Sanchez pitched to a 3.07 ERA, striking out 205 batters in 193.1 innings of work and allowing a league-low 6.6 hits per nine innings of work.

    Waiting in the wings are top prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, and the calls for one—or both of them—to join the Pirates rotation will only grow louder if the answers we get on the bulk of the rotation aren't the right ones.

21. Kansas City Royals

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    1. RHP James Shields

    2. RHP Jeremy Guthrie

    3. RHP Ervin Santana

    4. RHP Wade Davis

    5. LHP Bruce Chen

     

    For the first time in years, not only is the bulk of the Kansas City Royals' rotation set heading into spring training, but there's optimism as to how the group will perform during the regular season.

    Adding James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis to the mix has a way of changing people's outlook on things, especially when it means that middling starters like Luke Hochevar and Jeff Francis are no longer part of the conversation.

    Bruce Chen has the inside track on the final spot in the rotation, but he'll face stiff challenges in spring training from both Luis Mendoza and Will Smith—and in another rarity, whichever pitcher performs best, and not the pitcher due the biggest salary (Chen, $4.5 million), will get the nod.

20. Baltimore Orioles

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    1. RHP Jason Hammel 

    2. LHP Wei-Yin Chen 

    3. RHP Chris Tillman

    4. RHP Miguel Gonzalez

    5. RHP Jair Jurrjens

     

    Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen have the first two spots in Baltimore's rotation locked up, and it would take a disastrous spring training for Miguel Gonzalez to fall out of the mix, conceivably leaving two spots open in the Baltimore Orioles rotation.

    Something finally clicked for Chris Tillman in 2012, as the 24-year-old hurler put up the best numbers of his major league career, going 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 15 starts. Unless he reverts back to old habits, Tillman appears to have a spot locked up as well.

    That leaves one spot open for three pitchers: holdovers Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter and newcomer Jair Jurrjens, who has had the most success by far of the trio.

    A former All-Star with the Atlanta Braves, the 27-year-old told Eduardo A. Encia of the Baltimore Sun that he hasn't felt this good in years—and with his new contract guaranteeing him $1.5 million (with incentives that could push it higher), he'll be given every shot to claim that final rotation spot.

    The biggest question on the minds of Orioles fans will be when top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy will get his chance to start every fifth day. Only 20 years old, Bundy has thrown fewer than 20 innings above High-A and figures to start the season with Triple-A Norfolk.

    But there's no denying that he has the best pure stuff of anyone in the rotation mix, and a strong showing in spring training will only make the calls for Bundy's inclusion in the rotation louder at the first sign of trouble.

19. Chicago Cubs

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    1. RHP Matt Garza

    2. RHP Jeff Samardzija

    3. RHP Edwin Jackson

    4. RHP Scott Feldman

    5. RHP Carlos Villanueva

     

    Believe it or not, the Chicago Cubs have the makings of a solid rotation heading into the 2013 season.

    Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson are reliable veteran starters, while Jeff Samardzija continues to prove that he's a legitimate front-of-the-rotation arm. 

    Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva have been somewhat inconsistent over the course of their careers, and should either falter, a pair of arms recovering from Tommy John surgery—Scott Baker and Arodys Vizcaino, could take their spots in the rotation in the second half of the season.

    This is a far better rotation than the group that went 42-76 with a 4.52 ERA in 2012, and that should translate into more wins for the Wrigley Field faithful to celebrate.

18. Texas Rangers

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    1. RHP Yu Darvish

    2. LHP Derek Holland

    3. LHP Matt Harrison

    4. RHP Alexi Ogando

    5. LHP Martin Perez

     

    As a consolation prize for not landing Zack Greinke as a free agent, the Texas Rangers went out and signed...Randy Wells to a minor league deal with a spring training invite.

    Wells, 30, is nothing more than a fifth starter, but a strong showing in spring training could find him bringing up the back of the Rangers rotation while Martin Perez is either relegated to the bullpen or sent down to Triple-A to get regular work every fifth day.

    Aside from that spot in the rotation, the rest of the group is solid, with Darvish, Holland and Harrison leading the way.

    I still think that the Rangers will wind up signing Kyle Lohse to a one-year deal, and his presence would bump the Rangers up in the rankings a few spots.

    Until that veteran starter comes on board, the Rangers wind up in the middle of the pack.

17. Boston Red Sox

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    1. LHP Jon Lester

    2. RHP Ryan Dempster

    3. RHP Clay Buchholz

    4. LHP Felix Doubront

    5. RHP John Lackey

     

    Boston's rotation may be pretty much set in stone, but that rock is far from solid at this point in time.

    The top three starters: Joh Lester, Ryan Dempster and Clay Bucholz didn't have strong finishes to the 2012 season (Dempster's ERA after being dealt to the Texas Rangers was over five), and each one will need to bounce back in a big way if Boston is going to contend for a playoff berth in 2013.

    There's always concern over a sophomore slump, and Felix Doubront, who struggled mightily after the All-Star break, pitching to a 5.54 ERA and 1.55 WHIP will need to show that he's past those struggles and back on track.

    But the biggest question in Boston's rotation is what, if anything, the Boston Red Sox can expect from John Lackey, who missed all of the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery.

    Should the need arise to replace a member of the rotation, Boston has options in long reliever Alfredo Aceves and prospects Rubby de la Rosa and Allen Webster.

16. St. Louis Cardinals

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    1. RHP Adam Wainwright

    2. LHP Jaime Garcia

    3. RHP Jake Westbrook

    4. RHP Lance Lynn

    5, RHP Shelby Miller

     

    The news that Chris Carpenter is likely out for the season as he continues to battle the nerve issue in his shoulder that cost him much of 2012 is a tough pill to swallow for a rotation that is already without Kyle Lohse, who remains an unsigned free agent.

    Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook are established, veteran arms, but there are major questions with the rest of the staff.

    Both Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn have proven that they can be successful starting pitchers in the major leagues, but both battled inconsistency in 2012 and bounced between the rotation and the bullpen.

    There are concerns over Garcia's throwing shoulder, which gave him problems in 2012, adding even more uncertainty to a rotation that has the potential to be a Top 10 unit.

    Shelby Miller, the team's top pitching prospect who has fallen in-and-out of favor with the current regime in St. Louis, figures to step into the fifth spot in the rotation with Carpenter's absence, but he will be pushed in spring training by Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, making that one of the key battles to watch.

15. New York Mets

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    1. LHP Johan Santana

    2. LHP Jon Niese

    3. RHP Shaun Marcum

    4. RHP Matt Harvey

    5. RHP Dillon Gee

     

    I absolutely love the signing of Shaun Marcum, who while injury prone, is a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm that will give the New York Mets a chance to win every time he takes the mound.

    He joins a group of solid youngsters in Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey, with top prospect Zach Wheeler and Jenrry Meija waiting in the wings.

    How successful this group is in 2013 largely depends on their ace, Johan Santana.

    Santana, 33, looked like his old self for the first three months of the season, pitching to a 2.76 ERA and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning. 

    But he fell apart after that, allowing at least six earned runs in each of his final six starts of the season (a 15.63 ERA) as opposing batters crushed him to the tune of a .448/.471/.771 slash line.

    The loss of the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey hurts, but if Santana can get back on track for a full season, the Mets starting rotation could surprise a lot of people in 2013.

14. Chicago White Sox

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    1. LHP Chris Sale

    2. RHP Jake Peavy

    3. LHP John Danks

    4. RHP Gavin Floyd

    5. LHP Jose Quintana

     

    Chris Sale emerged as one of the best young pitchers in the game last year, and while the Chicago White Sox rotation is solid on paper, it isn't without concerns.

    The 32 starts that Jake Peavy made were the most that he's made since his National League Cy Young Award winning 2007 season, while John Danks, who was limited to nine starts in 2012 is recovering from shoulder surgery he underwent in August.

    There are legitimate injury concerns with both.

    Despite that, the White Sox have put together a solid rotation with Gavin Floyd a serviceable back-of-the-rotation arm and Jose Quintana a promising 24-year-old southpaw, though Quintana will need to fend off Hector Santiago for the final spot in spring training.

    Along with Santiago, there's some depth in the minor leagues, with Nestor Molina, Simon Castro and Andre Rienzo, among others, not far from making their major league debuts.

13. Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim

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    1. RHP Jered Weaver

    2. LHP C.J. Wilson

    3. RHP Tommy Hanson

    4. LHP Jason Vargas

    5. RHP Joe Blanton

     

    Led by a perennial Cy Young candidate in Jered Weaver, the Los Angeles Angels re-tooled their starting rotation for 2013 and wound up with a group that may be an even better fit than last year's crew, one that included Zack Greinke.

    Angel Stadium of Anaheim ranked 25th in the majors for home runs last season, and the three newcomers to the staff: Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton are all fly-ball pitchers.

    Granted, that means new right fielder Josh Hamilton's shaky defense will be on display and could prove to be an issue, but with Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos covering the rest of the outfield, that trio could put up some solid numbers at home.

    Prospects Garrett Richards and Nick Maronde provide some depth in case of injury, but neither one has much of a chance to break camp with the Angels.

12. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    1. RHP Ian Kennedy

    2. RHP Brandon McCarthy

    3. LHP Wade Miley

    4. RHP Trevor Cahill

    5. LHP Tyler Skaggs

     

    Arizona heads into spring training without a starting pitcher over the age of 30 on its roster.

    That'll change in July, when newcomer Brandon McCarthy celebrates his 30th birthday, but this is a young, effective rotation that knows how to put their team in a position to win games.

    The infield defense will be vastly improved with the additions of Martin Prado and Cliff Pennington, something that bodes well for the entire rotation, but especially ground ball pitchers like McCarthy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley.

    Tyler Skaggs was a mixed bag in his first six starts in the big leagues: He allowed five earned runs over his first 17.2 innings of work, 14 over his last 12.

    Ian Kennedy, the ace of the staff who followed up a Cy Young-worthy 2011 campaign with a disappointing 2012, needs to rebound with a strong campaign.

    If Kennedy throws like he did over his final five starts of the season, when he went 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, striking out 31 batters in 34 innings, he'll give the Arizona Diamondbacks the ace that they need to contend with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

    Despite trading pitching prospect Trevor Bauer, the Diamondbacks have plenty of depth, with southpaw Pat Corbin and newly-acquired righty Randall Delgado sitting in Triple-A while long reliever Josh Collmenter can step in and start when needed.

    Daniel Hudson, recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent last July, should be ready to contribute in the second half of the season.

11. New York Yankees

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    1. LHP CC Sabathia

    2. RHP Hiroki Kuroda

    3. LHP Andy Pettitte

    4. RHP Phil Hughes

    5. RHP Ivan Nova

     

    Concerns over CC Sabathia's surgically repaired elbow and Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte's age are valid ones to have, but there's no questioning what they'll deliver on the mound when healthy; comprising one of the best trios of starting pitchers in the game.

    Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova both have excellent stuff and the ability to be All-Stars in the league, but Hughes' inability to recover from one bad inning and Nova's overconfidence frustrated the team and its fans in 2012.

    Both youngsters need to move past their issues for the New York Yankees to succeed in 2013, as aside from David Phelps and Adam Warren, there isn't much depth in the system right now.

10. Oakland Athletics

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    1. LHP Brett Anderson

    2. RHP Jarrod Parker

    3. LHP Tommy Milone

    4. RHP A.J. Griffin

    5. RHP Dan Straily

     

    With Brandon McCarthy in the mix, the Okland A's starting rotation posted the third-lowest ERA in the American League last season at 3.80, a mark that ranked ninth among all rotations in the game.

    McCarthy is gone and the A's rotation won't miss a beat.

    Incredibly young and full of potential, Oakland's starting rotation only figures to be better in 2013 than it was last season.

    Anderson, who missed much of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, looked fantastic in the six starts he made at the end of the season, and will be leaned on to lead this rotation in 2013.

    Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone will look to build on excellent rookie campaigns, while A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily both have the potential to be solid No. 2 or No. 3 starters down the line.

    It wouldn't be shocking to see this group as one of the five best rotations in baseball by the time the season comes to an end.

9. Atlanta Braves

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    1. RHP Tim Hudson

    2. RHP Kris Medlen

    3. LHP Mike Minor

    4. LHP Paul Maholm

    5. RHP Julio Teheran

     

    Tim Hudson returns as the veteran leader of a rotation that is constantly evolving behind him.

    Both Kris Medlen and Mike Minor will look to pick up where they left off in 2012, which was outstanding. Down the stretch, the pair went a combined 16-4 with a 1.62 ERA in 27 second half starts.

    All eyes will be on top pitching prospect Julio Teheran, who, with the trade of Randall Delgado, is the prohibitive favorite to win the fifth spot in the rotation.

    Teheran will be challenged in spring training by fellow prospects Sean Gilmartin and J.R. Graham, and should Teheran falter, it will be another step back for the man once labeled as a "sure thing" and "future ace."

    None of those youngsters would have a chance at cracking the rotation were Brandon Beachy healthy.

    Beachy, who posted Cy Young-caliber numbers before injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery this past June, will be a factor in 2013. It wouldn't be surprising if the Braves stick him in the bullpen upon his return, taking a page out of how they handled Medlen's return from surgery last season.

8. Toronto Blue Jays

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    1. RHP R.A. Dickey

    2. RHP Josh Johnson

    3. LHP Mark Buehrle

    4. RHP Brandon Morrow

    5. LHP Ricky Romero

     

    If the Toronto Blue Jays were going to dip into their farm system to acquire more established pieces, this was the way to do it.

    Adding R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to the starting rotation, along with the other moves Toronto made makes the Blue Jays one of the favorites in the American League, something we haven't been able to say in 20 years.

    Brandon Morrow has stopped trying to strike out every batter he faces and become a pitcher, while Ricky Romero can't help but bounce back from a terrible 2012 season that saw him as the only Blue Jays starter to not be felled by injury.

7. Cincinnati Reds

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    1. RHP Johnny Cueto

    2. RHP Mat Latos

    3. RHP Homer Bailey

    4. RHP Bronson Arroyo

    5. LHP Aroldis Chapman

     

    Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos are one of the best duos atop a rotation as you'll find in baseball, while Homer Bailey finally took the next step in his development, especially in the second half, when he pitched to a 3.21 ERA and tossed a no-hitter.

    Bronson Arroyo is a durable, reliable innings eater, while Mike Leake remains as depth but out of the rotation due to Aroldis Chapman's move from the bullpen.

    How Chapman acclimates himself as a starter—and how the Cincinnati Reds handle his workload (you can be sure that he'll have an innings limit in 2013)—will be one of the most intriguing things to watch in spring training and as the season progresses.

6. Philadelphia Phillies

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    1. RHP Roy Halladay

    2. LHP Cliff Lee

    3. LHP Cole Hamels

    4. RHP Kyle Kendrick

    5. LHP John Lannan

     

    When they're healthy, there may not be a better trio of starting pitchers than Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

    But there are legitimate concerns about Halladay, who looked more like a physician's assistant than Doc Halladay, winner of two Cy Young awards and one of the elite starters of his generation in 2012. If his shoulder, which bothered him all season, is healthy, there's no reason that the doctor wouldn't be in.

    Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan are capable starters who have the ability to keep the Philadelphia Phillies in games at the back-end of the rotation.

5. San Francisco Giants

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    1. RHP Matt Cain

    2. LHP Madison Bumgarner

    3. RHP Tim Lincecum

    4. RHP Ryan Vogelsong

    5. LHP Barry Zito

     

    The same rotation that helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series returns fully intact in 2013, though whether Tim Lincecum can return to form is the biggest question facing the club.

    While he improved in the second half of the season(3.83 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), he wasn't anywhere close to the pitcher we had seen dominate the game for the last five years and there's legitimate concern if his unorthodox mechanics and heavy workload from early in his career are taking a toll.

    Madison Bumgarner continues to impress, and Matt Cain, who has left no doubt that this is his rotation, is aging like a fine wine, getting better with each season. He's only 28, sitting smack in the prime of his career.

    Even if Barry Zito takes a step back in 2013, the Giants rotation is still a Top 10 group.

4. Tampa Bay Rays

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    1. LHP David Price

    2. RHP Jeremy Hellickson

    3. LHP Matt Moore

    4. RHP Jeff Niemann

    5. RHP Alex Cobb

     

    David Price is one of the elite starters in the game, while Jeremy Hellickson has quickly established himself as a legitimate No. 2 starter and one of the brightest young pitchers in the game

    Matt Moore is the key to it all, however. If the lefty can build on a strong finish to the 2012 season, when he pitched to a 3.01 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and lowered his walk rate significantly over the his last 14 starts, the Tampa Bay Rays won't miss the departed James Shields or Wade Davis, who were traded to the Kansas City Royals.

    The back-end of the rotation figures to be a fluid situation, with Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi all seeing action at one point or another..

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    1. LHP Clayton Kershaw

    2. RHP Zack Greinke

    3. RHP Josh Beckett

    4. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

    5. RHP Aaron Harang

     

    A staff that had the third-lowest ERA (3.41) in 2012 will be even better in 2013 with the addition of Zack Greinke, giving the Los Angeles Dodgers one of the most potent pitching duos in the league.

    While no longer in his prime, Josh Beckett was solid in seven starts for the Dodgers after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox (2.93 ERA), while the back-end of the rotation will feature a number of moving pieces including Ryu, Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly.

    Chad Billingsley, who opted for plasma injections in his ailing elbow rather than Tommy John surgery that would have cost him the entire season, is a major wild card.

    If the injections work and Billingsley can take the ball every fifth day, the Dodgers rotation will challenge for the top spot by the end of the season.

2. Washington Nationals

30 of 31

    1. RHP Stephen Strasburg

    2. LHP Gio Gonzalez

    3. RHP Jordan Zimmermann

    4. LHP Ross Detwiler

    5. RHP Dan Haren

     

    With no innings limits hovering over his head, Stephen Strasburg leads one of the best rotations in the game, with he, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann all capable of taking over a game.

    Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren are solid pitchers who would be in the middle of other team's rotations, but bring up the rear in Washington.

    It will be fascinating to see just how good Strasburg will be now that the restraints are off—the first of many Cy Young awards could be in his immediate future.

1. Detroit Tigers

31 of 31

    1. RHP Justin Verlander

    2. RHP Doug Fister

    3. RHP Max Scherzer

    4. RHP Anibal Sanchez

    5. RHP Rick Porcello

     

    Full seasons from Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez, coupled with the emergence of Max Scherzer as a big-time power pitcher make Detroit's rotation as good as any in the league.

    Oh, and they have that Verlander guy who's pretty good as well.

    The only real question is whether Rick Porcello or Drew Smyly takes hold of the last spot in the rotation. If it were up to me, I'd go with Smyly, the only left-hander of the group—but Porcello likely has the inside track on the job heading into spring training.

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