MLB logoMLB

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Pitching Staffs Entering Opening Day

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2013

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Pitching Staffs Entering Opening Day

1 of 31

    Home runs and high-scoring offenses puts fans in the seats, but pitching wins championships. Just ask the San Francisco Giants.

    Having a good starting rotation can go an awful long way in hiding the other flaws a team may have, and having a proven, veteran bullpen can significantly shorten games for an opponent.

    Looking at the complete staffs of every MLB team entering the 2013 season, here is how I would rank all 30 pitching staffs entering Opening Day.

     

    *All stats via Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

30. Houston Astros

2 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    Top to bottom, the Astros roster is, for the most part, a ragtag group of low-cost veterans and journeyman minor leaguers looking to break through.

    The rotation will be led by incumbent starters Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, but neither pitcher factors into the long-term plans and could be dealt by midseason.

    Brad Peacock is one to watch, as he was acquired from the A's in the Jed Lowrie deal and has solid upside at 25 years old.

    One of the few brights spots from last year, closer Wilton Lopez, was dealt to the Rockies, and veteran setup man Jose Veras was signed to take over the ninth-inning role. Keep an eye on Rule 5 pick Josh Fields, as he has the upside to be a terrific late-inning reliever.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Bud Norris
    RHP Lucas Harrell
    RHP Phil Humber
    RHP Brad Peacock
    LHP Erik Bedard

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Jose Veras
    Setup: Wesley Wright (L)
    Setup: Hector Ambriz 
    Relief: Xavier Cedeno (L)
    Relief: Alex White
    Relief: Josh Fields
    Relief: Rhiner Cruz 

29. Colorado Rockies

3 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Rockies had the worst pitching staff in baseball by a sizable margin last season, and little was done to improve that situation in free agency.

    Instead, the team will hope that having Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio all back at 100 percent after they missed time last season will help. Veteran Jon Garland was added after he failed to make the Mariners roster despite a solid spring.

    The team actually has a decent collection of relievers, led by 37-year-old Rafael Betancourt, who saved 31 games in his first season as a closer last year. Matt Belisle is a top-tier setup man, and Wilton Lopez was a nice pickup from the Astros.

    Rex Brothers, 25, is one of the best young left-handed relievers in the game, as he posted a 3.86 ERA and 11.0 K/9 over 75 appearances last season.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Jhoulys Chacin
    LHP Jorge De La Rosa
    RHP Juan Nicasio 
    LHP Jeff Francis
    RHP Jon Garland 

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Rafael Betancourt
    Setup: Matt Belisle
    Setup: Wilton Lopez
    Relief: Rex Brothers (L)
    Relief: Edgmer Escalona
    Relief: Adam Ottavino
    Relief: Chris Volstad

28. Minnesota Twins

4 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    Aside from last year's breakout star, Scott Diamond, who will open the season on the DL, the Twins rotation was a disaster last season.

    Vance Worley was acquired from the Phillies for Ben Revere, and Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey were signed as free agents, so the staff is undoubtedly improved.

    Still, it lacks high-end talent and has a pair of sub-par options at the back end of the rotation. Prospect Kyle Gibson could join the starting rotation early on if he performs in his return from Tommy John.

    The unheralded setup duo of Jared Burton (64 G, 2.18 ERA) and Casey Fien (35 G, 2.06 ERA) were terrific last season, and closer Glen Perkins is one of the better southpaw relievers in the game.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Vance Worley
    RHP Kevin Correia 
    RHP Mike Pelfrey
    RHP Liam Hendriks
    RHP Cole De Vries

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Glen Perkins (L)
    Setup: Jared Burton 
    Setup: Casey Fien
    Relief: Brian Duensing
    Relief: Josh Roenicke 
    Relief: Tyler Robertson
    Relief: Ryan Pressly

27. Miami Marlins

5 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    After dealing Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays this offseason and dealing Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers at the deadline last year, the Marlins staff is a shell of what it was.

    Free-agent-to-be Ricky Nolasco fronts the staff, but he's as likely as anyone to be moved by midseason. Hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi was acquired for Hanley Ramirez, and he could emerge as the staff ace.

    Henderson Alvarez was added in the trade with Toronto, and Wade LeBlanc turned in a strong spring, so there is plenty of young talent here. Jacob Turner won't crack the Opening Day rotation, but he may have the most upside of any of the team's young pitchers.

    Steve Cishek emerged as a solid ninth-inning option last year and pitched for the U.S. in the WBC. He may be the lone plus arm in what could be a rough bullpen this year.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Ricky Nolasco
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi 
    LHP Wade LeBlanc
    RHP Henderson Alvarez  
    RHP Kevin Slowey

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Steve Cishek
    Setup: Jon Rauch
    Setup: Ryan Webb
    Relief: Mike Dunn (L)
    Relief: A.J. Ramos
    Relief: Chad Qualls
    Relief: John Maine

26. San Diego Padres

6 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Padres had one of the better bullpens in the league last year, and the one-two punch of Luke Gregerson and Huston Street in the eighth and ninth innings will once again help lock down the leads the Padres manage to post.

    The starting rotation remains an issue, though. They have a pair of solid starters in Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard, but those guys project more as No. 3 starter types.

    Eric Stults is a wild card. He quietly turned in a terrific 2012 season, going 8-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) after being claimed off waivers from the White Sox.

    The team has a deep farm system, but the majority of their pitching talent is still in the low minors. That said, left-hander Robbie Erlin is one to watch, as he's expected to debut this year.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Edinson Volquez
    LHP Clayton Richard
    RHP Jason Marquis 
    LHP Eric Stults 
    RHP Tyson Ross

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Huston Street
    Setup: Luke Gregerson 
    Setup: Brad Brach
    Relief: Joe Thatcher (L)
    Relief: Dale Thayer   
    Relief: Tom Layne (L)
    Relief: Anthony Bass

25. Chicago Cubs

7 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Cubs had a clear focus this offseason, as they signed Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva to help improve their starting pitching depth. Jackson, who signed a four-year deal, is the only one who figures to hang around long-term, though.

    Jeff Samardzija will look to take the next step toward being a true staff ace after a breakout season last year, while Travis Wood can also secure a place in the team's future plans with a strong season.

    The bullpen will once again be anchored by the wildly inconsistent Carlos Marmol, who is in the final year of his contract. His replacement was brought aboard in 32-year-old Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who piled up 202 saves for the Hanshin Tigers.

    Matt Garza opens the season on the DL, and he could be one of the top trade chips of the deadline if he proves healthy. 

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Jeff Samardzija
    RHP Edwin Jackson 
    RHP Scott Feldman 
    LHP Travis Wood
    RHP Carlos Villanueva

     

    Projeced Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Carlos Marmol
    Setup: Kyuji Fujikawa
    Setup: Shawn Camp
    Relief: James Russell (L)
    Relief: Michael Bowden 
    Relief: Hector Rondon
    Relief: Guillermo Moscoso

24. New York Mets

8 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    With Johan Santana on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Jon Niese takes over the role of staff ace for the Mets, looking to build off of a 13-9 record with a 3.40 ERA.

    He's just keeping things warm for Matt Harvey and top prospect Zack Wheeler, though, as that duo is expected to front the Mets staff. Wheeler opens the season in the minors, but he should be up by midseason.

    The bullpen was a disaster last season, and the team added veterans Brandon Lyon, LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Atchison in an attempt to shore things up. 

    The closer situation is still shaky, though, as Bobby Parnell will hold things down until Frank Francisco returns from elbow problems. Neither guy is what you would describe as a shutdown option.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP Jon Niese 
    RHP Dillon Gee
    RHP Matt Harvey 
    RHP Jeremy Hefner
    LHP Aaron Laffey

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Bobby Parnell
    Setup: Brandon Lyon 
    Setup: Scott Atchison
    Relief: Josh Edgin (L)
    Relief: LaTroy Hawkins   
    Relief: Robert Carson (L)
    Relief: Greg Burke

23. Cleveland Indians

9 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Indians had a busy offseason, signing Brett Myers as a free agent and taking a flier on comeback candidate Scott Kazmir, who won the No. 5 starter job with a strong spring. However, much will hinge on whether or not Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez can turn things around.

    The big offseason move was the acquisition of Trevor Bauer from the Diamondbacks. He struggled upon reaching the majors last year and fell out of favor in Arizona, but he still has ace upside and should be in Cleveland relatively quickly.

    Two-time All-Star Chris Perez returns as closer after being kicked around in trade rumors this offseason. He gives the team an elite option in the ninth.

    Setting things up for Perez are two of the best in the business in Vinnie Pestano (70 G, 2.57 ERA) and Joe Smith (72 G, 2.96 ERA). That late-inning trio gives the Indians one of the more underrated bullpens in the league.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Justin Masterson
    RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
    RHP Brett Myers 
    RHP Zach McAllister 
    LHP Scott Kazmir

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Chris Perez
    Setup: Vinnie Pestano
    Setup: Joe Smith
    Relief: Nick Hagadone (L)
    Relief: Cody Allen
    Relief: Bryan Shaw
    Relief: Rich Hill (L)

22. Seattle Mariners

10 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    Felix Hernandez signed a massive seven-year, $175 million extension this offseason. The perennial Cy Young candidate will front the Seattle staff as the team pushes towards a return to contention.

    No. 2 starter Jason Vargas was dealt to the Angels for DH Kendrys Morales, but the Marniers signed a similar pitcher in Joe Saunders to replace him. The rest of the staff is average at best, with No. 4 starter Brandon Maurer ranking as one of the team's top pitching prospects.

    He could soon be joined by three other high-ceiling pitching prospects in Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, as that group is expected to lead the Mariners' turnaround.

    The bullpen has a nice collection of young arms, led by top prospects Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor. Tom Wilhelmsen returns to the closer role after saving 29 games with a 9.9 K/9 mark last season.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Felix Hernandez
    RHP Hisashi Iwakuma 
    LHP Joe Saunders
    RHP Brandon Maurer
    RHP Blake Bevan

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Tom Wilhelmsen
    Setup: Carter Capps
    Setup: Charlie Furbush (L)
    Relief: Stephen Pryor  
    Relief: Oliver Perez (L)
    Relief: Lucas Luetge (L)
    Relief: Kameron Loe

21. Milwaukee Brewers

11 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    Gone from last year's Opening Day rotation are Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf, as the Brewers will enter the season with a relatively unproven staff.

    Kyle Lohse was signed to give the team another proven front-line starter alongside ace Yovani Gallardo, but the rest of the staff is short on experience. Journeyman Marco Estrada enjoyed a breakout season of sorts last year, and Mike Fiers (9-10, 3.74 ERA) was a pleasant surprise as a rookie.

    The bullpen was the worst in baseball last season, leading the team to add Mike Gonzalez, Burke Badenhop and Tom Gorzelanny this winter. Still, it's a relatively weak group.

    Closer John Axford, who won Rolaids Relief Man honors in 2011, scuffled to a 4.67 ERA. He'll be looking to return to his previously dominant form.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Yovani Gallardo
    RHP Kyle Lohse
    RHP Marco Estrada
    LHP Chris Narveson 
    RHP Mike Fiers 

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: John Axford
    Setup: Jim Henderson
    Setup: Brandon Kintzler 
    Relief: Mike Gonzalez (L)
    Relief: Burke Badenhop
    Relief: Tom Gorzelanny (L)
    Relief: Alfredo Figaro

20. Boston Red Sox

12 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Red Sox as a whole were a major disappointment last season, with few players ranking as exceptions. Ace Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz both had rough seasons, but they have the talent to get back on track as front-line starters.

    Ryan Dempster was signed to bolster the staff, and John Lackey is back after missing all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery. 

    After acquiring closer Andrew Bailey form the A's last offseason, only to watch him spend the bulk of the season on the disabled list, the team acquired Joel Hanrahan from the Pirates to close this season.

    Koji Uehara was also added to the bullpen. If he can pitch well and Daniel Bard can figure things out, the 'pen should be significantly improved from last year.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP Jon Lester
    RHP Clay Buchholz
    RHP Ryan Dempster 
    LHP Felix Doubront
    RHP John Lackey

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Joel Hanrahan
    Setup: Andrew Bailey
    Setup: Koji Uehara
    Relief: Andrew Miller (L)
    Relief: Junichi Tazawa
    Relief: Alfredo Aceves
    Relief: Clayton Mortensen  

19. Pittsburgh Pirates

13 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Pirates' big offseason move regarding pitching came when they shipped All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox for a package of players that included setup man Mark Melancon. He joins Jared Hughes, Tony Watson and prospect Justin Wilson in a terrific bullpen.

    With Hanrahan gone, 36-year-old Jason Grilli will take over ninth-inning duties. He posted a 2.91 ERA and 13.8 K/9 over 64 appearances in what was the best season of his 10-year career last year.

    In the rotation, the team will benefit from having a full season of Wandy Rodriguez, but it will need A.J. Burnett to avoid regressing and James McDonald to pitch like he did in the first half. Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Sanchez were signed to add some veteran depth, but the staff remains a question mark.

    The future is bright, however, as top prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon push ever closer to the big leagues. Cole should get the call at some point this season, and Taillon could be in the rotation by 2014.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP A.J. Burnett
    LHP Wandy Rodriguez
    RHP James McDonald 
    LHP Jeff Locke 
    LHP Jonathan Sanchez

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Jason Grilli
    Setup: Mark Melancon 
    Setup: Tony Watson (L)
    Relief: Jared Hughes
    Relief: Justin Wilson (L) 
    Relief: Chris Leroux
    Relief: Jeanmar Gomez 

18. Texas Rangers

14 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    Much has been made of the losses the Rangers endured on the offensive side of things this offseason, but the pitching staff also lost a pair of key setup men in Koji Uehara and Mike Adams, as well as deadline acquisition Ryan Dempster.

    Matt Harrison will lead the staff after enjoying a breakout year in 2012, while Yu Darvish will be looking to build off of a terrific first season in the States.

    Alexi Ogando returns to the rotation, where he was an All-Star in 2011, but the No. 5 starter spot is a major question mark after Martin Perez went down with a fractured ulna. 

    Josh Lindblom and Jason Frasor were added to replace the aforementioned setup men. Those two, alongside Robbie Ross and All-Star closer Joe Nathan, should give the team a solid bullpen core.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP Matt Harrison
    RHP Yu Darvish
    LHP Derek Holland 
    RHP Alexi Ogando 
    RHP Nick Tepesch

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Joe Nathan
    Setup: Jason Frasor
    Setup: Josh Lindblom
    Relief: Robbie Ross (L)
    Relief: Tanner Scheppers
    Relief: Michael Kirkman (L)
    Relief: Derek Lowe

17. New York Yankees

15 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Yankees re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to once again slot behind ace CC Sabathia. That should give them a solid staff again this season.

    David Phelps opens the season in the rotation with Phil Hughes battling a bulging disk in his back, where he's joined by the inconsistent but talented Ivan Nova.

    Mariano Rivera returns after missing most of last season with a torn ACL for what will be his last go-around, as the future Hall of Famer has announced he'll retire at season's end. No reason to think he won't put up his usual elite numbers.

    The rest of the bullpen is largely the same as last year, with David Aardsma a potential difference-maker after making just one appearance the past two seasons. David Robertson and Boone Logan will once again make things tough for opposing hitters in the seventh and eighth.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP CC Sabathia
    RHP Hiroki Kuroda
    LHP Andy Pettitte 
    RHP Ivan Nova
    RHP David Phelps 

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Mariano Rivera
    Setup: David Robertson 
    Setup: Boone Logan (L)
    Relief: Joba Chamberlain
    Relief: David Aardsma   
    Relief: Shawn Kelley
    Relief: Vidal Nuno

16. Chicago White Sox

16 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    Few bullpen-to-rotation transitions have gone as well as things did for Chris Sale last season. The 23-year-old went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA after spending the previous two seasons in a setup role.

    His breakthrough season, coupled with the bounce-back campaign of Jake Peavy, gave the White Sox a terrific one-two punch, but the rest of the rotation is a question mark.

    In the bullpen, rookie closer Addison Reed held his own last season, converting 29 of his 33 save chances with a 4.75 ERA. He should only get better in his second season.

    The real story in the bullpen last season was Nate Jones, a 27-year-old rookie who went 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA over 65 appearances. He joins Matt Thornton in a setup role, along with free-agent signing Matt Lindstrom, in what is a solid White Sox bullpen top to bottom.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP Chris Sale
    RHP Jake Peavy
    RHP Gavin Floyd 
    LHP Jose Quintana
    RHP Dylan Axelrod 

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Addison Reed
    Setup: Matt Thornton (L)
    Setup: Nate Jones
    Relief: Matt Lindstrom
    Relief: Donnie Veal (L) 
    Relief: Brian Omogrosso
    Relief: Hector Santiago (L)

15. Arizona Diamondbacks

17 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    After surprisingly winning the NL West title in 2011, the Diamondbacks took a step backwards last season, and they were as active as anyone this winter. Brandon McCarthy was their big free-agent signing, and if he can stay healthy, he gives them a front-line starter on the cheap.

    He'll be joined by Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill atop the rotation, two pitchers who were solid in 2012 but are capable of much more. Surprise NL Rookie of the Year candidate Wade Miley is back as well, and he'll look to duplicate last season's success.

    Top prospect Trevor Bauer was shipped to the Indians, but the team has another top pitching prospect in Tyler Skaggs. He'll open the season in the minors after a rough spring, with another young left-hander in Pat Corbin filling the No. 5 spot.

    The bullpen got a facelift as well, as the team added Heath Bell, Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds to a group that was average at best last year. Those newcomers join one of the top setup men in the game, David Hernandez, as the team looks to better bridge the gap to All-Star closer J.J. Putz.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Ian Kennedy
    RHP Brandon McCarthy
    RHP Trevor Cahill
    LHP Wade Miley
    LHP Patrick Corbin

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: J.J. Putz
    Setup: David Hernandez
    Setup: Heath Bell
    Relief: Tony Sipp (L)
    Relief: Brad Ziegler 
    Relief: Matt Reynolds (L)
    Relief: Josh Collmenter

14. Los Angeles Angels

18 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    Gone are Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and deadline acquisition Zack Greinke, and taking their place in the rotation are Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson.

    On paper, that's a sideways move at best, but it has the potential to be a solid veteran staff. Jered Weaver returns as staff ace, and he should once again be a Cy Young candidate. Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson will look to pick things up in his second season with the Angels.

    Left-handed setup man Sean Burnett was signed to bolster the bullpen, as was closer Ryan Madson, who will start the season on the DL as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Both could wind up playing major roles in the team's success this season.

    Ernesto Frieri slides into the closer's job until Madson returns after doing a phenomenal job in that role last season. And solid veteran Scott Downs is back as well in a setup role.

    With a stacked offense, it's the Angels pitching staff that will determine how far they go in 2013.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Jered Weaver
    LHP C.J. Wilson
    RHP Joe Blanton
    LHP Jason Vargas 
    RHP Tommy Hanson 

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Ernesto Frieri
    Setup: Sean Burnett (L)
    Setup: Kevin Jepsen
    Relief: Scott Downs (L)   
    Relief: Garrett Richards
    Relief: David Carpenter
    Relief: Jerome Williams

13. Philadelphia Phillies

19 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The big names are still there for the Philadelphia staff, but there's a changing of the guard of sorts as Cole Hamels takes over the role of staff ace. Cliff Lee should once again be a front-line starter as well, but Roy Halladay has not looked like himself in over a year, and he may be winding down a Hall of Fame career.

    Kyle Kendrick, who has served as a swing man his entire career, finally seems to have a rotation spot locked down. John Lannan, who was non-tendered by the Nationals, was a good bargain signing to fill out the staff.

    Jonathan Papelbon enjoyed a solid first season in Philadelphia, helping to justify the four-year, $50 million deal he got by saving 38 games with a 2.44 ERA and 11.8 K/9.

    Left-handed setup man Antonio Bastardo will be joined in the late innings by one of the best in the business in Mike Adams, who was added as a free agent. The rest of the bullpen is a solid, if unspectacular, group and has the potential to be a plus for the team.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP Cole Hamels
    RHP Roy Halladay
    LHP Cliff Lee  
    RHP Kyle Kendrick 
    LHP John Lannan

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
    Setup: Mike Adams 
    Setup: Antonio Bastardo (L)
    Relief: Mike Stutes
    Relief: Jeremy Horst (L)   
    Relief: Chad Durbin
    Relief: Raul Valdes (L)

12. St. Louis Cardinals

20 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    Even with Kyle Lohse gone in free agency, Chris Carpenter sidelined indefinitely and closer Jason Motte battling an elbow strain, the Cardinals pitching staff is among the best in baseball.

    Adam Wainwright should return to ace form in his second full season removed from Tommy John surgery, and he'll be joined by veterans Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook.

    Lance Lynn, an 18-game winner and All-Star in 2012, fills the No. 3 spot, while top prospect Shelby Miller locked down the No. 5 spot with a strong spring.

    Even without Motte, the bullpen is deep. Mitchell Boggs will hold down the ninth inning role for now, and he has emerged as one of the best setup men in the business. Flame-throwing prospect Trevor Rosenthal is a major asset in a setup role, and newcomer Randy Choate joins Edward Mujica and Marc Rzepczynski to give the 'pen a handful of experienced veteran arms.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Adam Wainwright
    LHP Jaime Garcia
    RHP Lance Lynn
    RHP Jake Westbrook
    RHP Shelby Miller

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Mitchell Boggs
    Setup: Trevor Rosenthal
    Setup: Edward Mujica
    Relief: Marc Rzepczynski (L)
    Relief: Fernando Salas
    Relief: Randy Choate (L)
    Relief: Joe Kelly 

11. Baltimore Orioles

21 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Orioles spent much of last season trying to find the right mix of five guys to fill out the staff, as rookie Wei-Yin Chen was the only pitcher to make more than 20 starts.

    Chen and Jason Hammel return to their roles atop the staff, where they'll be followed by breakout candidate Chris Tillman. Tillman went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts last season, and he was the team's best starter by season's end.

    Miguel Gonzalez and former top prospect Jake Arrieta fill out the rest of the rotation, and Arrieta will be looking for a similar breakout performance after a strong spring.

    It's the bullpen that propels this group up the rankings, though. Closer Jim Johnson saved a league-high 51 games last season, while Pedro Strop (70 G, 2.44 ERA), Luis Ayala (66 G, 2.64 ERA), Darren O'Day (69 G, 2.28 ERA) and Troy Patton (54 G, 2.43 ERA) were all rock solid.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Jason Hammel
    LHP Wei-Yin Chen
    RHP Miguel Gonzalez
    RHP Chris Tillman 
    RHP Jake Arrieta

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Jim Johnson
    Setup: Pedro Strop
    Setup: Darren O'Day
    Relief: Troy Patton (L)
    Relief: Luis Ayala 
    Relief: Brian Matusz (L)
    Relief: Tommy Hunter

10. Toronto Blue Jays

22 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    It's not every year a team has a chance to add the reigning Cy Young winner in a trade, so the Blue Jays jumped to acquire R.A. Dickey when the Mets made him available. Also added to the staff via trade were Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, who came over in a blockbuster with the Marlins.

    Those three will join Brandon Morrow, who was on his way to a breakout year before injury struck last season, and J.A. Happ in the rotation.

    Former staff ace Ricky Romero was optioned to High Single-A this spring, where he'll look to get his career back on track.

    The bullpen is somewhat of a question mark, and the team's only real move was switching out free agent Jason Frasor for trade acquisition Esmil Rogers.

    A healthy Sergio Santos could be the X-factor, as he was acquired to close last offseason before injuries made it more or less a lost year. Steve Delabar was acquired from the Mariners for Eric Thames, and he struck out 92 hitters in 66 innings of work last season.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP R.A. Dickey
    RHP Brandon Morrow
    LHP Mark Buehrle 
    RHP Josh Johnson 
    RHP J.A. Happ

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Casey Janssen
    Setup: Steve Delabar 
    Setup: Sergio Santos
    Relief: Darren Oliver (L)
    Relief: Esmil Rogers   
    Relief: Aaron Loup (L)
    Relief: Jeremy Jeffress

9. Kansas City Royals

23 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Royals completely overhauled their starting rotation this offseason, with the big moving coming when they traded a prospect package built around Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields gives them the workhorse staff ace they've been lacking and immediately makes the entire team better.

    They also acquired Ervin Santana from the Angels and re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year deal after a strong three months with the team post-trade.

    The improved rotation will benefit from having one of the best bullpens in the game behind it, as the team overcame the loss of All-Star closer Joakim Soria in spring training last season to finish sixth in the MLB with a 3.17 bullpen ERA.

    Greg Holland (16 SV, 12.2 K/9) took over the closer job when Jonathan Broxton was traded, and he'll return to that role this season. Meanwhile, Aaron Crow (73 G, 3.48 ERA), Tim Collins (72 G, 3.36 ERA) and Kelvin Herrera (76 G, 2.35 ERA) are all plus relief arms. The team's top two starters from 2012, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen, now find themselves in the bullpen as well.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP James Shields
    RHP Jeremy Guthrie
    RHP Ervin Santana 
    RHP Wade Davis 
    RHP Luis Mendoza

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Greg Holland
    Setup: Kelvin Herrera
    Setup: Aaron Crow
    Relief: Tim Collins (L)
    Relief: Luke Hochevar 
    Relief: Juan Gutierrez 
    Relief: Bruce Chen (L)

8. Oakland Athletics

24 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    At the heart of the A's surprise 2012 AL West division title was a phenomenal performance from a largely unheralded and inexperienced pitching staff that combined for a 3.48 ERA—the second-best mark in the American League.

    They did that for the most part without ace Brett Anderson, who made just six starts as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

    Gone is Brandon McCarthy, but young starters Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.47 ERA), Tom Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA) and A.J. Griffin (7-1, 3.06 ERA) have a ton of upside. Rookie Dan Straily has a bright future as well, filling the No. 5 spot until Bartolo Colon returns from suspension.

    The bullpen was also terrific, with Grant Balfour going a perfect 17-of-17 on save chances with a 2.08 ERA from August 11 on last season. Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle have swing-and-miss stuff in the setup spots, while Pat Neshek, Jeremy Blevins and Jordan Norberto were all solid as well.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP Brett Anderson
    RHP Jarrod Parker
    LHP Tommy Milone 
    RHP A.J. Griffin 
    RHP Dan Straily

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Ryan Cook
    Setup: Sean Doolittle
    Setup: Pat Neshek
    Relief: Jordan Norberto
    Relief: Evan Scribner
    Relief: Jerry Blevins
    Relief: Chris Resop

7. Los Angeles Dodgers

25 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    With major offseason signing Zack Greinke battling elbow inflammation, the Dodgers slide down a little lower than where they could be on this list, but they have a deep staff even without him.

    Clayton Kershaw may be the best pitcher in the NL, and both Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett are plus arms as well. Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu has plenty of upside, and Chris Capuano edged out Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly for the final rotation spot until Greinke returns.

    With so many veteran arms, the team could look to move at least one pitcher before the season starts or shortly thereafter.

    In the bullpen, Brandon League was re-signed to be the team's closer, but it's Kenley Jansen (2.35 ERA, 13.7 K/9) who has the best stuff. If he can put the heart problems that plagued him last year behind him he could wind up closing.

    Left-hander J.P. Howell was signed as a free agent, and he remains one of the better left-handed relievers in the game.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP Clayton Kershaw
    RHP Chad Billingsley
    LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu 
    RHP Josh Beckett 
    LHP Chris Capuano

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Brandon League
    Setup: Kenley Jansen
    Setup: Ronald Belisario 
    Relief: J.P. Howell (L)
    Relief: Matt Guerrier
    Relief: Aaron Harang
    Relief: Ted Lilly

6. Tampa Bay Rays

26 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Rays finally pulled the trigger on dealing some of their pitching for offense, sending James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for a prospect package highlighted by Wil Myers.

    Even with Shields gone, the rotation is terrific, led by reigning Cy Young winner David Price. Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore are two of the game's top young arms, and both have room to improve. And Alex Cobb is as good a candidate to break out in 2013 as any pitcher in the game.

    Fernando Rodney was nothing short of phenomenal as the team's closer last season, going 48-of-50 on save chances with a 0.60 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 74.2 innings of work.

    Joel Peralta (76 G, 3.63 ERA) and Jake McGee (69 G, 1.95 ERA) are back as well in their setup roles, while a healthy Kyle Farnsworth and newcomer Roberto Hernandez should once again give the team one of the better bullpens in baseball.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    LHP David Price
    RHP Jeremy Hellickson
    LHP Matt Moore
    RHP Alex Cobb 
    RHP Jeff Niemann 

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Fernando Rodney
    Setup: Joel Peralta 
    Setup: Jake McGee (L)
    Relief: Kyle Farnsworth
    Relief: Roberto Hernandez   
    Relief: Cesar Ramos (L)
    Relief: Jamey Wright

5. Atlanta Braves

27 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    There are some question marks, but the Braves starting rotation has a chance to be as good as any in baseball in 2013.

    Kris Medlen was perhaps the best pitcher in baseball in the second half (9-0, 0.94 ERA), while Mike Minor (6-4, 2.16 ERA) wasn't far behind. Veterans Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm should once again post above-average numbers as well.

    The wild card is prospect Julio Teheran, who took a big step back last season. But he would take home spring training Cy Young honors this season if that was a thing after allowing just seven hits, three runs and striking out 35 in 26 innings of work.

    The bullpen should also once again make a run at the title of best in the league, led by perhaps the best closer in the game in Craig Kimbrel. Setup man Jonny Venters is battling arm issues, but Eric O'Flaherty and newcomer Jordan Walden anchor a deep group of middle relief arms.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Tim Hudson
    RHP Kris Medlen
    LHP Mike Minor
    LHP Paul Maholm
    RHP Julio Teheran

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Craig Kimbrel  
    Setup: Eric O'Flaherty (L)
    Setup: Jordan Walden
    Relief: Cory Gearrin
    Relief: Luis Avilan (L)
    Relief: Anthony Varvaro  
    Relief: Cristhian Martinez

4. Detroit Tigers

28 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Tigers may have the most complete starting rotation in all of baseball, provided Max Scherzer pitches like he did down the stretch last season and Rick Porcello takes the next step in his development.

    Justin Verlander returns atop the staff as arguably the best pitcher in the game, and Doug Fister has proven capable of being a reliable No. 2 guy behind him. Scherzer went 16-7 with 231 strikeouts in 187.2 innings, and he has slowly rounded into a more consistent pitcher.

    Anibal Sanchez, who was a deadline pickup, was re-signed to a whopping five-year, $80 million deal, but he shores up the rotation if nothing else.

    Much has been made about the team's lack of a proven closer, but prospect Bruce Rondon looked sharp over the second half of spring training, and the team has a deep, proven bullpen behind him.

    Al Alburquerque is one to watch, as he may have the best stuff of any reliever on the team.

     

    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Justin Verlander
    RHP Max Scherzer
    RHP Doug Fister
    RHP Anibal Sanchez 
    RHP Rick Porcello

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Joaquin Benoit
    Setup: Phil Coke
    Setup: Al Alburquerque
    Relief: Octavio Dotel
    Relief: Drew Smyly
    Relief: Brayan Villarreal 
    Relief: Darin Downs

3. Cincinnati Reds

29 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Reds had as good of luck as anyone last season from a health standpoint on the pitching side of things, as their five Opening Day starters made 161 of 162 starts for the team on the season.

    Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78 ERA) emerged as one of the game's elite starers, while Mat Latos and Homer Bailey were both front-line arms as well. Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo aren't flashy, but they're effective.

    After originally planning to move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, the Reds opted instead to leave him in the closer's role, where he recorded 38 saves and struck out a ridiculous 122 hitters in 71.2 innings of work.

    And he's not the only plus arm in the bullpen, as the Reds led all of baseball with a 2.65 bullpen ERA last season. Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall are as good a setup duo as their is in baseball, and the rest of the group is solid top to bottom.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Johnny Cueto
    RHP Mat Latos
    RHP Bronson Arroyo 
    RHP Homer Bailey 
    RHP Mike Leake 

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Aroldis Chapman (L)
    Setup: Jonathan Broxton
    Setup: Sean Marshall (L)
    Relief: Jose Arredondo
    Relief: Manny Parra (L)
    Relief: J.J. Hoover
    Relief: Sam LeCure

2. San Francisco Giants

30 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Giants rode their pitching staff (as well as the bat of Buster Posey) to their second World Series title in three years last season, and they return essentially the same group this season.

    Matt Cain stepped forward as the staff ace and Cy Young candidate when Tim Lincecum struggled, and Madison Bumgarner remains one of the best young pitchers in the game. Barry Zito enjoyed perhaps his best season in San Francisco, while Ryan Vogelsong continued to be a revelation in the late stages of his career.

    Lincecum is the real question mark here, though, as he was rocked once again this spring and is in a contract year.

    In the bullpen, the team overcame the loss of Brian Wilson to rank among the best relief corps in all of baseball. Sergio Romo (14 SV, 1.79 ERA) emerged as a front-line closer, and the trip of Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla once again shortened games for the opponent.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Matt Cain
    RHP Madison Bumgarner
    LHP Tim Lincecum
    LHP Barry Zito
    RHP Ryan Vogelsong

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Sergio Romo
    Setup: Santiago Casilla
    Setup: Javier Lopez (L)
    Relief: Jeremy Affeldt (L)
    Relief: George Kontos
    Relief: Jose Mijares (L)
    Relief: Chad Gaudin

1. Washington Nationals

31 of 31

    Pitching Staff Overview

    There's no better trio of starting pitching teammates in the game today than Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.

    After being shut down at the end of last season, Strasburg will be off the leash this year, and he has the stuff to be the best pitcher in baseball in 2013. Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA) and Zimmermann (12-8, 2.94 ERA) both have ace-caliber stuff as well.

    Dan Haren replaces Edwin Jackson as the No. 4 starter, while Ross Detwiler is more than capable as a No. 5 starter.

    Despite having a pair of plus closer options in Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, the team signed top free-agent closer Rafael Soriano, and an already great bullpen got even better. Flame-throwing Henry Rodriguez is one to watch.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    RHP Stephen Strasburg
    LHP Gio Gonzalez
    RHP Jordan Zimmermann 
    RHP Dan Haren 
    LHP Ross Detwiler

     

    Projected Opening Day Bullpen

    Closer: Rafael Soriano
    Setup: Drew Storen 
    Setup: Tyler Clippard
    Relief: Ryan Mattheus
    Relief: Henry Rodriguez   
    Relief: Zach Duke (L)
    Relief: Craig Stammen

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices