Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2016

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Rejoice! Spring training is almost upon us, bringing to an end what has been a hectic offseason, one that saw a slew of starting pitchers change uniforms, whether via free agency or trade. Keeping up with what your favorite team's rotation looks like, much less the competition's, has been challenging at times.

    Actually, I take that back. With pitchers like Yovani Gallardo, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum still searching for new homes, the offseason run on pitching isn't actually over—and what we think we know about rotations is going to change once those players come off the open market.

    In fact, the upcoming exhibition season is sure to take what we know about rotations and flip things upside down. Injuries are bound to occur, once-reliable veteran arms are sure to flame out, and previously unheralded prospects will force their way into an Opening Day rotation.

    But we can't be concerned with all of that right now.

    With pitchers and catchers set to begin reporting to camp next week, what follows is a look at where all 30 MLB team's rotations rank right now, heading into spring training.

    A team's projected five-man rotation carries the most weight in these rankings, but depth, along with potential impact prospects, was taken into account as well.

    After all, no team goes through an entire season using only five starting pitchers. Those that are able to keep that number under double digits are truly lucky.

30. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Aaron Nola
    Aaron NolaDavid Goldman/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Aaron Nola
    • RHP Jeremy Hellickson
    • RHP Charlie Morton
    • RHP Jerad Eickhoff
    • LHP Brett Oberholtzer

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Alec Asher
    • RHP David Buchanan
    • RHP Jeanmar Gomez
    • RHP Severino Gonzalez
    • LHP Matt Harrison (injured-back)
    • LHP Adam Morgan
    • RHP Vincent Velasquez

     

    Analysis

    Philadelphia's problem isn't necessarily a lack of talent—it's that most of that talent is still developing in the minor leagues and won't be ready for the big leagues until late 2016, at the earliest.

    Aaron Nola was the first of those high-upside arms to arrive, and the 22-year-old looked like he belonged last season, pitching to a 3.59 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 13 starts. Jerad Eickhoff, 25, also showed promise in limited action, posting a 2.65 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in eight starts.

    But things get rather ugly after that pair.

    Charlie Morton owns a career ERA over 5.00 away from Pittsburgh's PNC Park, while Jeremy Hellickson has spent the past three seasons trying—and failing—to rediscover the form that saw him named the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year.

    A healthy Matt Harrison would help to push Philadelphia out of the basement in our rankings, but it's foolish to expect any sort of contribution from a pitcher who, because of back issues, has logged only 44 innings of work over the past three seasons.

29. Atlanta Braves

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    Julio Teheran
    Julio TeheranDavid Goldman/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Julio Teheran
    • RHP Matt Wisler
    • LHP Manny Banuelos
    • RHP Bud Norris
    • RHP Williams Perez 

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Jhoulys Chacin
    • RHP Mike Foltynewicz
    • RHP Casey Kelly
    • RHP Kyle Kendrick
    • RHP Ryan Weber

     

    Analysis

    After Julio Teheran, Atlanta's rotation figures to feature a mixture of former prospects whose stars have dimmed and innings-eating veterans whose best days are behind them.

    Sure, there's some promise and upside to Manny Banuelos, Williams Perez and Matt Wisler, but the trio was mediocre at best in their major league debuts last year, pitching to a combined 4.77 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. The Braves can't count on significant improvement from all three.

    In fact, it's easy to envision a scenario where that entire trio doesn't make the cut and gets replaced by veterans Jhoulys Chacin and Kyle Kendrick, with pitchers like Mike Foltynewicz, Casey Kelly and Ryan Weber being constantly rotated through the final spot in the rotation.

    Since it's a rebuilding year, there's no reason for the Braves to start the service-time clocks of their best pitching prospects—Aaron Blair, Tyrell Jenkins, Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims, most of whom would benefit from continuing their development in the minors.

28. Milwaukee Brewers

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    Matt Garza
    Matt GarzaJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Jimmy Nelson
    • RHP Wily Peralta
    • RHP Matt Garza
    • RHP Taylor Jungmann
    • RHP Chase Anderson

     

    Other Candidates

    • LHP Chris Capuano
    • RHP Zach Davies
    • RHP Adrian Houser
    • RHP Jorge Lopez
    • LHP Pat Misch
    • RHP Ariel Pena

     

    Analysis

    Like Philadelphia and Atlanta, Milwaukee enters 2016 in rebuilding mode. While the Brewers don't have a front-line arm like the Phillies (Aaron Nola) and Braves (Julio Teheran) do, Milwaukee's rotation is stocked with complementary pieces, pitchers who would fit at the back end of a contending staff.

    Taylor Jungmann (3.77 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) and Jimmy Nelson (4.11 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) are the best of the bunch, and they'll keep things close enough in their starts for the Brew Crew to pick up some wins. After that, things get dicey.

    In a perfect world, veteran Matt Garza will bounce back from an atrocious 2015 that saw him removed from the rotation in early September—a move the 32-year-old was not pleased with—after posting a 5.63 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over 26 appearances (25 starts).

    If Garza can regain his prior form—he pitched to a 3.74 ERA and 1.23 WHIP from 2008 to 2014—Milwaukee's rotation would suddenly look a whole lot better. Considering how bad he was last season, that's a big "if."

    A trio of pitching prospects—Zach Davies, Adrian Houser and Jorge Lopez—is waiting in the wings and should be ready to contribute by midseason. All three have higher upside than anyone currently slotted for a rotation spot.

27. Colorado Rockies

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    Jon Gray
    Jon GrayDanny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • LHP Jorge De La Rosa
    • RHP Jon Gray
    • RHP Chad Bettis
    • RHP Jordan Lyles
    • RHP Tyler Chatwood

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Eddie Butler
    • LHP Yohan Flande
    • RHP David Hale
    • LHP Tyler Matzek
    • LHP Chris Rusin

     

    Analysis

    Colorado doesn't have an ace—at least not yet—and any pitching staff that spends half its time in the hitter's paradise that is Coors Field is going to have its fair share of issues. But for the first time in years, there's reason for optimism when it comes to the Rockies' starting rotation.

    That optimism starts with 24-year-old Jon Gray, who flashed ace-like stuff at times during his first taste of the big leagues, fanning 40 batters in 40.2 innings of work while posting a FIP of 3.63, nearly two full runs below his bloated 5.53 ERA.

    Gray and Jorge De La Rosa, the rotation's veteran workhorse who, despite having less-than-stellar stuff, has figured out how to succeed on a fairly regular basis at Coors, give the Rockies a solid one-two punch atop their rotation.

    After that, things go downhill.

    Now healthy, both Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Lyles will be looking to build upon the past promise they've shown, while Chad Bettis is out to prove that the 4.23 ERA (3.85 FIP) he delivered over 20 starts last season wasn't a fluke.

    Should they falter, the Rockies have plenty of depth down on the farm, with a pair of potential front-of-the-rotation arms in Eddie Butler and Tyler Matzek waiting to build upon their shaky major league debuts in 2015.

26. Baltimore Orioles

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    Kevin Gausman
    Kevin GausmanPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
    • RHP Chris Tillman
    • RHP Miguel Gonzalez
    • RHP Kevin Gausman
    • RHP Mike Wright

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Parker Bridwell
    • RHP Odrisamer Despaigne
    • LHP Chris Jones
    • RHP Tyler Wilson
    • RHP Vance Worley

     

    Analysis

    Baltimore has yet to adequately replace its ace, Wei-Yin Chen, who departed for Miami as a free agent, and that's a major problem for a team that fancies itself a contender.

    The chances of Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman all bouncing back from disappointing seasons, which the Orioles appear to be counting on, aren't great, and Baltimore lacks the depth to replace one of them in the rotation should injury or ineffectiveness force the team's hand.

    If there's a bright spot, it's that 25-year-old Kevin Gausman will finally get a chance to take the ball every fifth day without interruption. The one rotation member with significant upside, Gausman will need to take the next step in his development if he's to replace Chen atop the rotation.

     

    *If Baltimore strikes a deal with Yovani Gallardo, something which ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets is "gaining momentum," the Orioles rotation would be ranked higher, though it would still fail to crack the top 20.

25. Cincinnati Reds

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    Raisel Iglesias
    Raisel IglesiasDavid Kohl/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Anthony DeSclafani
    • RHP Raisel Iglesias
    • LHP Brandon Finnegan
    • RHP Michael Lorenzen
    • RHP Jon Moscot

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Homer Bailey (injured—May 2015 Tommy John surgery)
    • LHP John Lamb (injured—December 2015 back surgery)
    • LHP Cody Reed
    • RHP Keyvius Sampson
    • RHP Josh Smith
    • RHP Robert Stephenson

     

    Analysis

    Cincinnati's rotation might be young and relatively inexperienced, but it flashed its promise down the stretch last season and looks ready to take the next step.

    Anthony DeSclafani established himself as a reliable, innings-eating workhorse, pitching to a respectable 4.05 ERA (3.67 FIP) over 184.2 frames, while the whiffability of Brandon Finnegan (9.1 K/9) and Raisel Iglesias (9.8 K/9) rounds out what is shaping up to be a solid, promising trio atop the rotation.

    While Michael Lorenzen and Jon Moscot have shown signs that they belong, the rotation's final two spots will ultimately belong to John Lamb, who is expected to be ready at some point in mid-April, per MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, and Homer Bailey, whose return may not come until late May or early June.

    Top prospect Robert Stephenson, who has drawn comparisons to the recently retired A.J. Burnett and Washington's Gio Gonzalez, is just about ready to contribute in the majors, giving Cincinnati another quality option to fill out its rotation should the need arise.

24. Los Angeles Angels

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    Andrew Heaney
    Andrew HeaneyMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Garrett Richards
    • LHP C.J. Wilson
    • RHP Jered Weaver
    • LHP Hector Santiago
    • LHP Andrew Heaney

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Yunesky Maya
    • RHP Matt Shoemaker
    • LHP Tyler Skaggs
    • LHP Nate Smith
    • RHP Nick Tropeano

     

    Analysis

    It's not that Los Angeles has a bad rotation, but after staff ace Garrett Richards and 24-year-old Andrew Heaney, there's little to get excited about.

    Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are both past their prime, while Hector Santiago, an All-Star last season, pitched to a 5.47 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over 15 second-half starts, making his sparkling first-half performance (2.65 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) look like nothing more than a fluke.

    Even the depth is questionable.

    Nick Tropeano is more of a back-of-the-rotation arm than future star, while Matt Shoemaker looked like a completely different pitcher than the one who finished second to Chicago's Jose Abreu in the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year voting, becoming significantly more home run-prone.

    A former consensus top-20 prospect, 24-year-old Tyler Skaggs is still young enough to reach the lofty ceiling he appeared to have before undergoing Tommy John surgery, which cost him most of 2014 and all of 2015. If he's able to put it all together, the Angels rotation could be better than expected.

23. Minnesota Twins

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    Ervin Santana
    Ervin SantanaJim Mone/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Ervin Santana
    • RHP Phil Hughes
    • RHP Kyle Gibson
    • RHP Ricky Nolasco
    • LHP Tommy Milone

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Jose Berrios
    • LHP Pat Dean
    • RHP Tyler Duffey
    • RHP Trevor May
    • RHP Alex Meyer
    • RHP Ricky Nolasco
    • LHP Taylor Rogers

     

    Analysis

    Minnesota's rotation has talent and depth, but the lack of a true front-of-the-rotation arm limits just how good this group can be. 

    Ervin Santana found his groove down the stretch after missing the first half of the season due to an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, pitching to a 1.88 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over his final six starts.

    He should provide the Twins with a bunch of quality innings as the team's de facto ace entering his age-33 season.

    Phil Hughes remains maddeningly inconsistent, while Ricky Nolasco, who hasn't been able to stay healthy since arriving in Minnesota, will get another crack to provide the Twins with any sort of return on the four-year, $48 million investment the club made in him before the 2014 season.

    Tyler Duffey, Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone are all fine mid-rotation arms but offer little in the way of upside. Jose Berrios, one of the team's top prospects, has a chance to become something more than that, but he's not the ace the Twins could sorely use.

22. Kansas City Royals

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    Yordano Ventura
    Yordano VenturaBrad Penner/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation 

    • RHP Edinson Volquez
    • RHP Yordano Ventura
    • RHP Ian Kennedy
    • LHP Danny Duffy
    • RHP Chris Young

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Miguel Almonte
    • LHP Brian Flynn
    • RHP Dillon Gee
    • LHP John Lannan
    • RHP Kris Medlen
    • RHP Kyle Zimmer

     

    Analysis

    While it's always nice to have a stud ace atop the rotation, Kansas City's stellar bullpen and defense allow the Royals to succeed with less. That's not to say the defending World Series champs have a rotation that's devoid of talent, however.

    Neither Ian Kennedy nor Edinson Volquez is on the same level as Johnny Cueto, who departed as a free agent for San Francisco, but they give the Royals a pair of durable, reliable veteran arms who are capable of pitching deep into games.

    On the surface, it might appear as if Yordano Ventura took a step back in his development last season, as his ERA was nearly a run higher (4.08) than it was in 2014 (3.20). But the 24-year-old increased his ground-ball and strikeout rates, lowered his walk rate and continued to flash dominant stuff.

    The back end of the rotation figures to be ever-changing, with Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen and Chris Young all capable of flipping between the rotation and bullpen, while veterans Dillon Gee and John Lannan could work their way into the picture.

    Reinforcements should arrive after the All-Star break as well, in the form of prospects Miguel Almonte and Kyle Zimmer and southpaw Jason Vargas, who continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery.

21. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Marcus Stroman
    Marcus StromanFred Thomhill/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Marcus Stroman
    • RHP R.A Dickey
    • RHP Marco Estrada
    • LHP J.A. Happ
    • RHP Aaron Sanchez

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Jesse Chavez
    • LHP Scott Diamond
    • RHP Roberto Hernandez
    • RHP Drew Hutchison
    • RHP Brad Penny

     

    Analysis

    For a team that lost Mark Buehrle and David Price during the offseason, Toronto's rotation is in solid shape heading into 2016.

    R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ aren't stars, but the veteran trio will eat innings and, more often than not, keep things close enough for Toronto's high-powered offense to push the Blue Jays past the competition.

    Jesse Chavez, who figures to start the season in the bullpen, and Drew Hutchison, who could wind up at Triple-A Buffalo on Opening Day, offer Toronto two quality fallback options if/when another starter is needed.

    But it'll be a pair of 20-somethings—Aaron Sanchez, 23 and Marcus Stroman, 24—who ultimately dictate just how good Toronto's rotation will be. When it comes to big league starters under the age of 25 who have tantalizing potential, they're near—if not at—the top of the list.

    Both were limited by injury in 2015—Stroman made only four regular-season starts, while Sanchez was knocked from the rotation in early June and worked out of the bullpen upon his return in late July. Full seasons from both could push Toronto's rotation significantly closer to the top 10.

20. Oakland Athletics

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    Henderson Alvarez
    Henderson AlvarezJ Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Sonny Gray
    • RHP Jesse Hahn
    • LHP Rich Hill
    • RHP Chris Bassitt
    • LHP Sean Nolin

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Henderson Alvarez (injured—shoulder)
    • RHP Aaron Brooks
    • RHP Kendall Graveman
    • RHP Jarrod Parker (injured—elbow)
    • RHP Chris Smith

     

    Analysis

    Were it not for Sonny Gray, one of the game's biggest talents, Oakland's rotation would have had no chance to crack the top 20.

    Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn and Sean Nolin have all showed varying degrees of promise, but none is what you'd consider to be anything more than capable mid-rotation arm.

    It's not a terrific group or a terrible one. It's just a group of arms that, outside of Gray, offers little in the way of excitement. That could change if Henderson Alvarez and Jarrod Parker can find their previous form as they recover from their respective injuries, but neither should be counted on at this point.

19. Miami Marlins

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    Jose Fernandez
    Jose FernandezSteve Nesius/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Jose Fernandez
    • LHP Wei-Yin Chen
    • RHP Jarred Cosart
    • RHP Tom Koehler
    • RHP Edwin Jackson

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Dylan Axelrod
    • LHP Adam Conley
    • LHP Chris Narveson
    • LHP Justin Nicolino
    • RHP David Phelps
    • RHP Jose Urena

     

    Analysis

    Jose Fernandez is a dominant force atop Miami's rotation, while Wei-Yin Chen gives the Marlins a second durable, reliable arm who will give the team a chance to win whenever he takes the ball from manager Don Mattingly.

    But that's where the good news ends, as the rest of the Marlins rotation is filled by mediocre, back-of-the-rotation arms—and the team's most promising young pitchers are still working their way through the lower levels of the farm system, years away from making an impact.

18. Detroit Tigers

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    Jordan Zimmermann
    Jordan ZimmermannNick Wass/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Justin Verlander
    • RHP Jordan Zimmermann
    • RHP Anibal Sanchez
    • LHP Daniel Norris
    • RHP Mike Pelfrey

     

    Other Candidates

    • LHP Matt Boyd
    • RHP Buck Farmer
    • RHP Michael Fulmer
    • RHP Shane Greene
    • LHP Kyle Ryan

     

    Analysis

    Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann are a formidable combination atop Detroit's rotation, and Anibal Sanchez gives the Tigers a third front-of-the-rotation arm—if he can stay healthy, which is anything but a guarantee for the 10-year veteran, who is entering his age-32 season.

    There's lots of potential with the young arms the Tigers have acquired over the past year, but Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris remain largely untested against major league bats, making it somewhat difficult to rely on them for quality innings, especially if the Tigers wind up in the middle of a playoff push.

17. San Diego Padres

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    Andrew Cashner
    Andrew CashnerLenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Tyson Ross
    • RHP James Shields
    • RHP Andrew Cashner
    • RHP Brandon Maurer
    • LHP Robbie Erlin

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Johnny Hellweg
    • RHP Brandon Morrow
    • RHP Carlos Pimentel
    • RHP Colin Rea

     

    Analysis

    Tyson Ross is one of the more underrated starters in baseball, while James Shields' demise has been grossly overstated. Together, they give San Diego a pair of quality, reliable arms atop the rotation.

    Andrew Cashner wasn't quite as bad as some believe, either, posting a respectable 3.85 FIP while setting new career highs in innings pitched (184.2) and strikeouts (165). And he's had success before, pitching to a combined 2.87 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over nearly 300 innings of work from 2013 to 2014.

    If he can stay healthy, Cashner could return to that previous form, and the Padres would have an impressive trio of starters to lean on. It's what comes after Cashner that raises questions.

    A failed starter in Seattle (6.62 ERA, 1.63 WHIP), Brandon Maurer seemed to find his groove working out of the Padres bullpen last season. But because of a lack of superior options, San Diego is going to stretch him out once again.

    Robbie Erlin is nothing more than a back-of-the-rotation arm, while Colin Rea, who has some upside, remains largely untested against major league pitching, with only 31.2 innings under his belt.

16. New York Yankees

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    CC Sabathia
    CC SabathiaBill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Masahiro Tanaka
    • RHP Luis Severino
    • LHP CC Sabathia
    • RHP Michael Pineda
    • RHP Nathan Eovaldi

     

    Other Candidates

    • LHP Richard Bleier
    • RHP Tyler Cloyd
    • RHP Bryan Mitchell
    • RHP Ivan Nova

     

    Analysis

    On stuff alone, you can make a case that New York's rotation belongs closer to the top 10. But aside from Luis Severino, who will be entering his first full season in the majors, all of the Yankees starters have dealt with injury issues over the past year.

    Masahiro Tanaka only recently started throwing off a mound after offseason elbow surgery, while both Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda missed about a month of the regular season with their own physical issues.

    But perhaps the biggest question surrounding the rotation is what, if anything, the Yankees can count on from former ace CC Sabathia, who, in October, entered into alcohol rehab and has battled weight issues and knee problems for years.

    “I feel the best I have in three years," he recently told the New York Post's George A. King III. "I am excited to get to Tampa with a clear head and a healthy body."

    If that group can stay healthy, the Yankees could have one of the better rotations in baseball. If not, it could be one of baseball's worst, as the team's best pitching prospects are still at least another year away from providing any assistance.

15. Boston Red Sox

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    David Price and Dave Dombrowski
    David Price and Dave DombrowskiWinslow Townson/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • LHP David Price
    • RHP Clay Buchholz
    • RHP Rick Porcello
    • LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
    • RHP Joe Kelly

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP William Cuevas
    • LHP Roenis Elias
    • LHP Brian Johnson
    • RHP Sean O'Sullivan
    • LHP Henry Owens

     

    Analysis

    David Price's arrival not only fills a gaping void atop Boston's rotation but immediately pushes the group, which would have sat firmly in the bottom third of major league rotations without him, right into the middle of the pack.

    Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello got off to rough starts last season but finished strong, while southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez is coming off an impressive rookie campaign and could be the biggest beneficiary of the Price signing, assuming he seizes the opportunity to pick Price's brain every chance he gets.

    When healthy, Clay Buchholz is capable of performing at an All-Star level, but the 31-year-old has struggled to stay on the mound, making more than 20 starts and logging over 120 innings only once since 2013.

    There's talent down on the farm as well, with prospects Brian Johnson and Henry Owens joined by Roenis Elias, who made 49 starts for Seattle over the past two years and figures to be the first pitcher the Red Sox call upon when a need arises.

14. Texas Rangers

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    Yu Darvish
    Yu DarvishKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Rotation

    • LHP Cole Hamels
    • LHP Derek Holland
    • RHP Colby Lewis
    • LHP Martin Perez
    • RHP Nick Martinez

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Yu Darvish (injured—Tommy John surgery)
    • RHP Chi-Chi Gonzalez
    • RHP A.J. Griffin
    • RHP Phil Klein
    • RHP Anthony Ranaudo

     

    Analysis

    If Yu Darvish was healthy heading into the season, Texas' rotation would have been a lock for the top 10. Few teams could contend with the one-two punch of Darvish and Cole Hamels, after all. But Darvish is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which leaves Hamels to lead the way until Darvish is ready to go.

    Derek Holland (shoulder) and Martin Perez (Tommy John surgery) will look to regain their previous forms in their first full seasons back from significant injuries, while Colby Lewis returns as a durable innings-eater, albeit one who belongs firmly at the back end of the rotation.

    Darvish's return will dramatically transform the rotation, but the Rangers have quality help down on the farm in prospect Chi-Chi Gonzalez and former Oakland farmhand A.J. Griffin, who hasn't pitched since 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2014.

13. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gerrit Cole
    Gerrit ColeCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Gerrit Cole
    • LHP Francisco Liriano
    • LHP Jon Niese
    • RHP Ryan Vogelsong
    • LHP Jeff Locke

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Wilfredo Boscan
    • RHP Tyler Glasnow
    • RHP A.J. Schugel
    • RHP Jameson Taillon

     

    Analysis

    Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano remain firmly planted atop Pittsburgh's rotation, and that alone puts the Pirates in better shape than most other teams. And it's foolish to doubt the magical abilities of pitching coach Ray Searage to turn average starters into studs, as he constantly silences the non-believers.

    Veterans Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong will benefit from a little bit of that Searage magic and pitching half their games at PNC Park, one of the game's most pitching-friendly venues, while Jeff Locke remains a viable back-of-the-rotation arm.

    Pittsburgh's much-ballyhooed pair of pitching prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, continue to work their way through the farm system and should be ready to contribute before too long. If they're as good as advertised, their arrivals will vault the Pirates rotation into the top 10.

12. Seattle Mariners

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    Taijuan Walker
    Taijuan WalkerLM Otero/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Felix Hernandez
    • RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
    • LHP Wade Miley
    • RHP Taijuan Walker
    • LHP James Paxton

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Nate Karns
    • LHP Brad Mills
    • LHP Vidal Nuno
    • RHP Donn Roach
    • RHP Joe Wieland

     

    Analysis

    Felix Hernandez remains the King in Seattle, where he's coming off his eighth consecutive 200-inning campaign. He's a perennial Cy Young contender, though 2015 marked the end of a stellar six-year run that saw him pitch to an ERA below 3.50 while striking out at least 200 batters.

    Hisashi Iwakuma, who nearly became a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers before the club backed away due to something it saw in his physical, returns to his familiar role as Hernandez's sidekick in the rotation, while the addition of Wade Miley gives the Mariners a third reliable innings-eater to lean upon.

    Taijuan Walker recovered nicely from a rough start in 2015, finishing strong down the stretch, while James Paxton will look to bounce back after a tendon injury on his pitching hand limited him to only 13 starts last season.

    The addition of Nate Karns from Tampa Bay gives the Mariners some much-needed insurance should one of the starters go down with injury. The 28-year-old pitched admirably for the Rays last season, posting a 3.67 ERA (4.09 FIP) and 1.28 WHIP over 27 appearances (26 starts).

11. Houston Astros

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    Collin McHugh
    Collin McHughRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • LHP Dallas Keuchel
    • RHP Collin McHugh
    • RHP Mike Fiers
    • RHP Scott Feldman
    • RHP Doug Fister

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Lance McCullers Jr.
    • RHP Brad Peacock
    • LHP Wandy Rodriguez
    • RHP Dan Straily
    • RHP Asher Wojciechowski

     

    Analysis

    Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel leads the way for a Houston rotation that knows how to pitch deep into games; only the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets get more innings out of their rotations than the Astros do.

    Somewhat obscured by Keuchel's beard are Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, quality mid-rotation arms who know how to make batters swing and miss while giving their team a chance to win nearly every time they take the mound.

    Scott Feldman returns from an injury-shortened season to provide veteran leadership at the back of the rotation, while Doug Fister will look to bounce back from his own disappointing, injury-filled season, which ultimately saw him removed from Washington's rotation.

    Lance McCullers Jr. gained invaluable experience over 22 starts in the majors last season, pitching to a 3.22 ERA (3.26 FIP) and 1.19 WHIP and striking out 129 batters over 125.2 innings. He'll be biding his time at Triple-A Fresno until the Astros come calling.

10. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Patrick Corbin
    Patrick CorbinRalph Freso/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Zack Greinke
    • LHP Patrick Corbin
    • RHP Shelby Miller
    • RHP Rubby De La Rosa
    • LHP Robbie Ray

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Archie Bradley
    • RHP Zack Godley
    • RHP Braden Shipley
    • RHP Tyler Wagner

     

    Analysis

    The additions of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller dramatically transformed Arizona's rotation, but as USA Today's Jorge L. Ortiz wrote in December, it's a holdover from last year's uninspiring group who will dictate just how good the Diamondbacks rotation truly is.

    "Suddenly, a starting corps that produced the fifth-worst ERA in the National League last season (4.37) is looking pretty decent and could become downright imposing if lefty Patrick Corbin, in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, returns to his All-Star form of 2013," Ortiz wrote.

    Corbin returned to action in July, pitching to a 2.99 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over his first 14 starts before faltering in his last two outings. He allowed a combined 10 earned runs and 15 hits, inflating his final numbers to a still-respectable 3.65 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.

    With Robbie Ray looking to build on a solid rookie campaign and a slew of young arms, most notably Braden Shipley and a healthy Archie Bradley, waiting in the wings, Arizona’s rotation is shaping up to be one of the better pitching staffs in baseball.

9. Chicago White Sox

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    Jose Quintana
    Jose QuintanaPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • LHP Chris Sale
    • LHP Jose Quintana
    • LHP Carlos Rodon
    • LHP John Danks
    • RHP Mat Latos

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Chris Beck
    • RHP Scott Carroll
    • RHP Erik Johnson
    • LHP Nik Turley
    • RHP Jacob Turner

     

    Analysis

    One of the five best pitchers on the planet, Chris Sale leads a Chicago White Sox rotation that, despite a questionable back end and lack of significant depth, is one of the best around.

    Jose Quintana remains criminally underrated and overlooked, delivering his third consecutive 200-inning campaign with an ERA below 3.55, while 23-year-old Carlos Rodon will look to build upon a successful rookie campaign that saw him pitch to a 3.75 ERA (3.87 FIP) while striking out one batter per inning.

    John Danks is unspectacular but remains a serviceable back-of-the-rotation arm who is capable of eating innings, while Mat Latos—when healthy and locked in—can still perform at a high level.

    If there's a concern, it would be a lack of quality depth. Chicago's best pitching prospects are still at least one year away, which leaves the White Sox with Erik Johnson, Jacob Turner and little else to call upon if another starter is needed.

8. San Francisco Giants

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    Johnny Cueto
    Johnny CuetoEric Risberg/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • LHP Madison Bumgarner
    • RHP Johnny Cueto
    • RHP Jeff Samardzija
    • RHP Jake Peavy
    • RHP Matt Cain

     

    Other Candidates

    • LHP Ty Blach
    • RHP Clayton Blackburn
    • RHP Chris Heston
    • LHP Adalberto Mejia
    • RHP Chris Stratton

     

    Analysis

    Faced with serious questions about its rotation after ace Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco went out and spent more than $200 million to sign two of the best free-agent starters available, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.

    While there are some concerns over Cueto's two-month lull in Kansas City and Samardzija's downright awful season in Chicago, a move back to the National League—and to the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park—should find both going back to dealing like the front-of-the-rotation arms they are.

    The bigger concern for the Giants is the back end of the rotation, where years of wear and tear appear to be catching up with veterans Matt Cain and Jake Peavy. While both are still capable of delivering quality outings, whether they can hold up over an entire season remains to be seen.

    Chris Heston may not get a chance to make 31 starts as he did last year, but the 27-year-old is sure to have a significant role in the rotation as the Giants look to assert their even-year dominance once again. 

7. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Chris Archer
    Chris ArcherChris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Chris Archer
    • RHP Jake Odorizzi
    • LHP Drew Smyly
    • RHP Erasmo Ramirez
    • LHP Matt Moore

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Alex Cobb (injured—Tommy John surgery)
    • RHP Eddie Gamboa
    • RHP Parker Markel
    • RHP Burch Smith (injured—Tommy John surgery)
    • LHP Adam Wilk

     

    Analysis

    The scary thing about Tampa Bay's rotation isn't that it led the American League in ERA last season or that it boasts one of the game's premier talents in Chris Archer, who has developed into a dominant force and perennial contender for a Cy Young Award.

    It's that Archer—and the rest of the Rays starters—are still getting better.

    Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez and Drew Smyly are high-end, mid-rotation arms who provide the Rays with quality outings more often than not and have the ability to pitch deep into games, taking pressure off the team's bullpen.

    Nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Matt Moore will look to regain the form that made him an All-Star in 2013. If he's able to do that, the Rays will easily have a top-five rotation on their hands.

    Should a need arise, there's help on the way, with Alex Cobb set to return from Tommy John surgery at some point before the All-Star break and top prospect Blake Snell nearly ready to show what he can do at the game's highest level.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Clayton Kershaw
    Clayton KershawBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Rotation

    • LHP Clayton Kershaw
    • LHP Scott Kazmir
    • LHP Brett Anderson
    • RHP Kenta Maeda
    • LHP Hyun-jin Ryu

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Brandon Beachy
    • RHP Mike Bolsinger
    • RHP Jose De Leon
    • RHP Carlos Frias
    • RHP Zach Lee
    • RHP Brandon McCarthy (injured—Tommy John surgery)
    • LHP Julio Urias
    • LHP Alex Wood

     

    Analysis

    Losing Zack Greinke as a free agentand to a division-rival nonethelessis a painful pill for Los Angeles to swallow. But the Dodgers still have Clayton Kershaw atop their rotation, and that alone is enough to push the group into the top 10.

    Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir and Hyun-jin Ryu are quality mid-rotation arms when healthy, while Kenta Maeda, who posted some impressive numbers over an eight-year career in Japan, could turn out to be more than that.

    The Dodgers also enjoy a ridiculous amount of depth. Alex Wood would be a lock for a rotation spot on most teams, while Brandon McCarthy, once he's able to return from Tommy John surgery, has a lengthy track record of success in the big leagues.

    And we haven't even mentioned the team's prospects, led by two of the best in baseball. Jose De Leon and Julio Urias have moved quickly through the minors and could factor into the team's plans at some point in 2016.

    There's talent up and down the rotation and tons of promising depth waiting in the wings. If everything goes well, the Dodgers could easily crack the top five.

5. Washington Nationals

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    Max Scherzer
    Max ScherzerKathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Max Scherzer
    • RHP Stephen Strasburg
    • LHP Gio Gonzalez
    • RHP Tanner Roark
    • RHP Joe Ross

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Bronson Arroyo
    • RHP A.J. Cole
    • RHP Lucas Giolito
    • RHP Taylor Hill
    • RHP Taylor Jordan

     

    Analysis

    Washington boasts a pair of aces atop its rotation in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and one of the game's best No. 3 starters, Gio Gonzalez, which cements its place in the top five. The Nationals have plenty of options when it comes to filling out the rest of the staff too.

    Joe Ross was impressive in his first taste of the big leagues last season, pitching to a 3.63 ERA (3.42 FIP) and 1.11 WHIP while averaging nearly one strikeout per inning, but he remains relatively untested. Still, he appears like a lock to stick.

    Tanner Roark could easily find himself replaced by top prospect Lucas Giolito before long, while Bronson Arroyo could provide some valuable innings, but nobody knows what to expect from the 38-year-old, who has missed the past year-and-half recovering from July 2014 Tommy John surgery.

4. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Adam Wainwright
    Adam WainwrightJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Adam Wainwright
    • RHP Carlos Martinez
    • RHP Michael Wacha
    • RHP Mike Leake
    • LHP Jaime Garcia

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Matt Bowman
    • LHP Tim Cooney
    • LHP Marco Gonzales
    • RHP Jeremy Hefner
    • RHP Deck McGuire

     

    Analysis

    John Lackey is now a member of the Chicago Cubs, while Lance Lynn will be a spectator in 2016 after undergoing offseason Tommy John surgery. That news would be enough to knock most rotations into a downward spiral from which they'd never recover.

    But not in St. Louis, where the return of a healthy Adam Wainwright, who missed most of the 2015 season due to a torn Achilles tendon, and the addition of Mike Leake find the Cardinals starting five in excellent shape heading into camp.

    A pair of young studs entering their age-24 seasons, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, already established as legitimate front-of-the-rotation arms, are still improving, while a pair of quality prospects, Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales, bide their time on the farm, waiting for their opportunity to contribute.

3. Chicago Cubs

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    John Lackey
    John LackeyCharles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Jake Arrieta
    • LHP Jon Lester
    • RHP John Lackey
    • RHP Jason Hammel
    • RHP Kyle Hendricks

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Dallas Beeler
    • LHP Eric Jokisch
    • LHP Clayton Richard
    • RHP Adam Warren

     

    Analysis

    It's not often that the addition of a pitcher entering his age-37 season will have a profound impact on a team's rotation, but that's exactly what has happened in Chicago, where John Lackey's arrival cements the Cubs rotation as one of the five best in baseball.

    Lackey, Jon Lester and the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta, give the Cubs a formidable trio atop their rotation, a trio that is capable of pitching deep into games and shutting down the competition whenever it takes the mound.

    That trio pushes Kyle Hendricks, who would be a mid-rotation arm on most staffs, to the back end, where he and Jason Hammel are more than capable of giving the Cubs a chance to win every fifth day.

    With most of the team's best young arms still at least one year away, the addition of Adam Warren will prove to be wise.

    Slated to start the season in the bullpen, Warren has spent his career bouncing between roles and put forth a solid performance last year for the New York Yankees when pressed into starting duty, pitching to a 3.66 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 17 starts.

2. Cleveland Indians

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    Trevor Bauer
    Trevor BauerKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Corey Kluber
    • RHP Carlos Carrasco
    • RHP Danny Salazar
    • RHP Trevor Bauer
    • RHP Josh Tomlin

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Cody Anderson
    • LHP T.J. House
    • LHP Ryan Merritt
    • RHP Felipe Paulino

     

    Analysis

    Cleveland's rotation has led baseball in strikeouts in each of the past two seasons, and it's not hard to envision a scenario in which the Indians make it a trifecta, becoming the first rotation since the 2003-2005 Chicago Cubs accomplished the feat.

    "After all," wrote MLB.com's Paul Casella, "Cleveland accounted for four of the American League's top seven starters when it came to strikeouts per nine innings last season. Carrasco (10.6), Kluber (9.9) and Salazar (9.5) ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, while Bauer (8.7) checked in at No. 7."

    Carrasco and Salazar continue to improve, while Kluber, who failed to replicate his Cy Young Award-winning numbers from 2014, was still ridiculously good, pitching to a 3.49 ERA (2.97 FIP) and 1.05 WHIP over 222 innings.

    If Bauer is able to take the next step in his development and become more consistent, Cleveland's rotation could be even better than expected.

1. New York Mets

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    Matt Harvey
    Matt HarveyAssociated Press

    Projected Rotation

    • RHP Jacob deGrom
    • RHP Matt Harvey
    • RHP Noah Syndergaard
    • LHP Steven Matz
    • RHP Bartolo Colon

     

    Other Candidates

    • RHP Rainy Lara
    • RHP Seth Lugo
    • RHP Rafael Montero
    • RHP Logan Verrett
    • RHP Zack Wheeler (injured—Tommy John surgery)

     

    Analysis

    The New York Mets are living the dream, rocking a rotation that's stocked with homegrown flamethrowersall legitimate front-of-the-rotation talents—and the ageless wonder, 43-year-old Bartolo Colon.

    Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard should all be good for 30-plus starts, 200-plus innings and a whole bunch of strikeouts, while Steven Matz, who is sure to have his workload closely monitored in his first full season, figures to battle Los Angeles' Corey Seager for NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Even the depth is impressive.

    Former top-100 prospect Rafael Montero, who missed most of 2015 with shoulder issues, will be rounding back into form at Triple-A Las Vegas, while Zack Wheeler is expected to return from Tommy John surgery in early June, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. All contract information courtesy of Cot's Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus).

    Hit me up on Twitter to talk all things baseball: @RickWeinerBR.