MLB Power Rankings: Where Does the Athletics Rotation Stand Among All AL Teams?

Brandon McClintock@@BMcClintock_BSNCorrespondent IFebruary 22, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: Where Does the Athletics Rotation Stand Among All AL Teams?

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    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 16:  (L-R) Pitchers Trevor Cahill #53 and Brett Anderson #49 of the Oakland Athletics warm up during a MLB spring training practice at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on February 16, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    With Cliff Lee bolting to Philadelphia and the National League, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum being traded to Milwaukee, Matt Garza traded to the Cubs and Andy Pettitte retiring, the American League has seen several teams take a step back in their pitching strength heading into 2011.

    Meanwhile, other teams that leaned on young starters in 2010 will look for their pitchers to build on their experiences from last season, make adjustments, and turn in improved performances in 2011.

    All four teams in the American League West ranked in the upper half of the American League pitching rotations. The Rangers were able to provide the run support to get their fourth best pitching staff in the American League into the World Series. Meanwhile the A's, Angels and Mariners mostly stood pat with their starting rotations for 2011. Where do they stand entering the beginning of the season?

14) Kansas City Royals

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    SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Luke Hochevar of the Kansas City Royals poses during photo media day at the Royals spring training complex on February 26, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The 2010 Kansas City Royals rotation brought up the rear in most pitching categories last season. The Royals ranked last in the American League in ERA (4.97), runs allowed (845), hits allowed (1553), total bases allowed (2448). The Royals ranked twelfth in home runs allowed (176) and tenth in base on balls (551).

    Unfortunately, the Royals are not likely to improve in many pitching categories in 2011. By trading away their ace, Zack Greinke, to the Milwaukee Brewers, they did acquire some nice young talent that will help them down the road.

    The Royals will be counting on Jeff Francis to return to his 2007 form when he went 17-9 for the Colorado Rockies. Kansas City provided some competition for Francis at the top of the rotation by traded David DeJesus to Oakland for Right-handed starter Vin Mazzaro. 

    The Royals have some exciting young arms in the minors, however none of them appear ready to compete for the rotation in 2011.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Jeff Francis 4-6 5.00 ERA 67 K 23 BB 1.361 WHIP - In 2010
    Luke Hochevar 6-6 4.81 ERA 76 K 37 BB 1.427 WHIP - In 2010
    Kyle Davies 8-12 5.34 ERA 126 K 80 BB 1.557 WHIP - In 2010
    Sean O'Sullivan 4-6 6.11 ERA 43 K 31 BB 1.446 WHIP - In 2010
    Vin Mazzaro 6-8 4.27 ERA 79 K 59 BB 1.447 WHIP - In 2010

13) Baltimore Orioles

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    BALTIMORE - AUGUST 03:  Jeremy Guthrie #46 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Camden Yards on August 3, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    The Orioles 2010 statistics are a little deceiving. They had the misfortune of having to face four of baseball's top ten offenses from 2010 on a regular basis thanks to being situated in the American League East division. This contributed to their thirteenth place ranking in ERA (4.59), runs allowed (785), hits (1508) and total bases allowed (2428). The Orioles also finished last in home runs allowed (186).

    Jeremy Guthrie will lead the Orioles rotation in 2011, and there is reason to be optimistic as their rotation is young and will have last year's experience to help them adapt to pitching in the AL East. There is considerable room and capability for improvement. Justin Duchscherer is a low risk, high reward addition. If he can remain healthy he is an all-star caliber pitcher. Health is always a concern for "The Duke of Hurl" however, and it remains questionably just how much, or for how long, he will help the Orioles rotation.

    Until proven though, with so many familiar faces, they find themselves right where they ended last season, in second to last place in the pitching ranking going into 2011.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Jeremy Guthrie 11-14 3.83 ERA 119 K 50 BB 1.161 WHIP - In 2010
    Brian Matusz 10-12 4.30 ERA 143 K 63 BB 1.343 WHIP - In 2010
    Justin Duchscherer
    2-1 2.89 ERA
    18 K 12 BB 1.357 WHIP - In 2010
    Brad Bergesen
    8-12 4.98 ERA 81 K 51 BB 1.435 WHIP - In 2010
    Jake Arrieta 6-6 4.66 ERA 52 K 48 BB 1.535 WHIP - In 2010

12) Cleveland Indians

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    ST PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 17:  Pitcher Fausto Carmona #55 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on May 17, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    While it is certain that Fausto Carmona will lead the Indians' rotation in 2011, the rest of the rotation behind him is uncertain and could be determined in spring training. The Indians have a staff of young, promising and yet unproven starters that will compete for starting jobs.

    While it is hard to project, we will go with the assumption that Carmona will be followed in the rotation by: Justin Masterson, Mitch Talbot, Carlos Carrasco, and Josh Tomlin. The Indians have several pitching prospects that could prove to be ready to contribute in 2011 though, so this rotation may never pan out as I just outlined.

    In 2010 the Indians rotation ranked eleventh in ERA (4.30), twelfth in total runs allowed (752) and eleventh in hits allowed (1477) and total bases allowed (2283). The Indians were also hurt by allowing the second most base on balls last season (572).

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Fausto Carmona 13-14 3.77 ERA 124 K 72 BB 1.307 WHIP - In 2010
    Justin Masterson 6-13 4.70 ERA 140 K 73 BB 1.500 WHIP - In 2010
    Mitch Talbot
    10-13 4.41 ERA 88 K 69 BB 1.494 WHIP - In 2010
    Carlos Carrasco 2-2 3.83 ERA 38 K 14 BB 1.366 WHIP - In 2010
    Josh Tomlin 6-4 4.56 ERA 43 K 19 BB 1.247 WHIP - In 2010

11) Detroit Tigers

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    ST PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 27:  Pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on July 27, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Although they finished behind Cleveland last season in the pitching rankings, they get the edge on the Indians this year thanks to a promising outlook from their younger pitchers.

    Like the Baltimore Orioles, the 2011 Detroit Tigers have a young staff that should see considerable improvement now that they have a year under their belt.

    In 2010 the Tigers staff ranked twelfth in ERA (4.30) and tenth in runs allowed (743). They allowed the second fewest home runs however (142) and fourth fewest total bases (2200).

    Verlander is the undisputed ace of this staff coming off of an 18-9 season in 2010. He will be backed up by fellow rotation-mates from 2010 Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. In 17 starts after returning from a stint in the minor leagues, Scherzer posted a 2.20 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 last season.

    Again as stated with Baltimore, this rotation has the potential to make this preliminary ranking look bad and climb the list, but until consistency and improvement are seen, they stay in roughly the same position as where they finished 2010.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Justin Verlander 18-9 3.37 ERA 219 K 71 BB 1.163 WHIP - In 2010
    Max Scherzer 12-11 3.50 ERA 184 K 70 BB 1.247 WHIP - In 2010
    Rick Porcello 10-12 4.92 ERA 84 K 38 BB 1.389 WHIP - In 2010
    Brad Penny 3-4 3.23 ERA 35 K 9 BB 1.293 WHIP - In 2010
    Phil Coke 7-5 3.76 ERA 53 K 26 BB 1.438 WHIP - In 2010

10) Toronto Blue Jays

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 31:  Pitcher Ricky Romero #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on August 31, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Toronto, like Baltimore, had some inflated numbers in 2010 due to their placement in the AL East where they have to face the Yankee and Red Sox lineups several times a year in divisional rivalries. They have a returning rotation of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, and Brett Cecil. There is a void from 2010 with the trade of Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee. Helping to fill that void will be Kyle Drabek and Jesse Litsch.

    Drabek was the 2010 Eastern League pitcher of the year. That distinction came after a season in which Drabek posted a 2.89 ERA and threw a no-hitter.

    Morrow threw a one-hitter in one of last season's most dominant games by any pitcher, striking out 17 batters. Morrow led the American League with 10.9 K/9, more than any qualified starter since 2007. Meanwhile, Romero (3.54 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9) and Cecil (3.80 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9) had impressive sophomore seasons.

    Similar adjustments and improvements should improve the Blue Jays pitching rankings from 2010. In 2010 the Jays ranked tenth in ERA (4.22), ninth in total runs allowed (728), seventh in hits allowed (1407) and ninth in total bases allowed (2229).

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Ricky Romero 14-9 3.73 ERA 174 K 82 BB 1.290 WHIP - In 2010
    Brandon Morrow 10-7 4.49 ERA 178 K 66 BB 1.380 WHIP - In 2010
    Brett Cecil 15-7 4.22 ERA 117 K 54 BB 1.326 WHIP - In 2010
    Kyle Drabek 0-3 4.76 ERA 12 K 5 BB 1.353 WHIP - In 2010
    Jesse Litsch 1-5 5.79 ERA 16 K 15 BB 1.457 WHIP - In 2010

9) New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20:  CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees celebrates after he forced Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers to ground into a double play to end the top of the fifth inning of Game Five of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yank
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes return from the Yankee's 2010 rotation. Javier Vazquez departs for the Florida Marlins and Andy Pettitte for retirement.

    The Yankees made a strong push to sign Cliff Lee, but were spurned for a return to the Philadelphia Phillies by Lee. The Yankees will now turn to rookie Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre to fill out their rotation, although a trade for a more established starter can not be ruled out.

    Sabathia enjoyed a dominant 2010 season and will look to improve on his season statistics this season with his opt-out clause and a huge pay-day in 2012 looming. Burnett had his usual inconsistent roller-coaster season, and Hughes got off to a great start in April and May before cooling down in June and July. He was limited the remainder of the season, but will be back more experienced and conditioned in 2011.

    The Yankees were right in the middle of the pack in ERA (4.06) and were fifth in runs allowed (693) in 2010. The Yankees ranked third in hits allowed (1349) and total bases allowed (2160).

    Losing Andy Pettitte without an experienced replacement will put the Yankees back a step for now, although you can expect them to address this issue should it become a problem during the season. Don't rule out a midseason return from Pettitte either if he decides to take a page out of Roger Clemen's playbook.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    CC Sabathia 21-7 3.18 ERA 197 K 74 BB 1.191 WHIP - In 2010
    Phil Hughes 18-8 4.19 ERA 146 K 58 BB 1.248 WHIP - In 2010
    A.J. Burnett 10-15 5.26 ERA 145 K 78 BB 1.511 WHIP - In 2010
    Ivan Nova 1-2 4.50 ERA 26 K 17 BB 1.452 WHIP - In 2010
    Sergio Mitre 0-3 3.33 ERA 29 K 16 BB 1.093 WHIP - In 2010

8) Boston Red Sox

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    OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 13:  John Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game on April 13, 2009 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    The 2010 Red Sox rotation ranked ninth in ERA (4.20), eleventh in total runs allowed (744), fifth in hits allowed (1402), seventh in total bases allowed (2216), sixth in home runs allowed (152) and dead last in base on balls (580).

    If the 2011 Red Sox are to improve their pitching performance they will need bounce back years from Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. John Lackey will also look to improve on his 2010 season, his first in a Red Sox uniform.

    If any of the Red Sox starters struggle early, they could wind up  replaced by 22 year old Felix Doubront. Doubront pitched out of the bullpen after being called up in 2010, but posted a 2.81 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 as a starter in the upper minors.

    With the additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Red Sox starters will have more offensive support giving them a little more margin for error. They will need to improve on their league worst walk-rate from 2010. An issue they addressed by hiring former Oakland pitching coach, Curt Young.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    John Lester 19-9 3.25 ERA 225 K 83 BB 1.202 WHIP - In 2010
    Josh Beckett 6-6 5.78 ERA 116 K 45 BB 1.535 WHIP - In 2010
    John Lackey 14-11 4.40 ERA 156 K 72 BB 1.419 WHIP - In 2010
    Clay Buchholz 17-7 2.33 ERA 120 K 67 BB 1.203 WHIP - In 2010
    Daisuke Matsuzaka 9-6 4.69 ERA 133 K 74 BB 1.373 WHIP - In 2010

7) Chicago White Sox

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 25: Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle #56 of the Chicago White Sox delivers the ball against the Baltimore Orioles at U.S. Cellular Field on August 25, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Orioles defeated the White Sox 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Dani
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The 2010 White Sox rotation returns intact for 2011. In 2010 they were good enough for the eighth best ERA in the American League (4.09), eighth most runs allowed (704), tenth most hits (1471), fifth most total bases (2204) and the least amount of home runs allowed (136).

    The White Sox have traded away most of their pitching prospects in recent years, so there is not much in the form of competition for rotation spots this spring.

    Buehrle's numbers declined a little in 2010 from his previous three seasons, he could have a bounce back year that will help Chicago, or at 32-years old before opening day his numbers could further decline, obviously hurting Chicago. Peavy also struggled in his first full season in the American League. If he makes the adjustment and reverts to his statistics from his time in San Diego, then the White Sox will improve. Peavy will turn 30 this season though, and could be starting his decline period as well. Peavy struggled as the league adjusted to him in 2010, but I fully expect him to make the proper adjustments and rebound with a year's experience under his belt.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Mark Buehrle 13-13 4.28 ERA 99 K 49 BB 1.403 WHIP - In 2010
    Gavin Floyd 10-13 4.08 ERA 151 K 58 BB 1.372 WHIP - In 2010
    John Danks 15-11 3.72 ERA 162 K 70 BB 1.216 WHIP - In 2010
    Edwin Jackson 10-12 4.47 ERA 181 K 78 BB 1.395 WHIP - In 2010
    Jake Peavy 7-6 4.63 ERA 93 K 34 BB 1.234 WHIP - In 2010

6) Seattle Mariners

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    SEATTLE - AUGUST 05:  Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on August 5, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The reigning AL Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez, will lead the Mariners 2011 rotation. Following Hernandez will be Erik Bedard, returning from injury, and 2010 surprises Jason Vargas and Doug Fister. The fifth spot in the rotation will likely go to Luke French, although prospect Michael Pineda is also a possibility for the Mariners rotation.

    The Mariners were a trendy pick to compete in 2010 led by a 1-2 punch of Hernandez and Cliff Lee, but Lee (8-3, 2.34 ERA, 0.945 WHIP - for Mariners) was traded to Texas after the Mariners fell out of contention. Bedard will have a hard time filling in for Cliff Lee, even if he is able to rebound to his 2009 form before he was injured and forced to sit out last season.

    Jason Vargas (3.78 ERA) and Doug Fister (4.11 ERA) were effective in 2010 and will look to build on their 2010 success and help the Mariners strive for a better overall season than their 61-101 record last season.

    Despite their struggles in 2010, the rotation (and overall pitching staff for Seattle) was not to blame. The Mariners ranked third in ERA (3.93 - tied with Texas), sixth in runs allowed (698), third in earned runs allowed (628), and second in base-on-balls allowed (452).

    They drop slightly because of the loss of Cliff Lee, but very similar to Texas not drastically because Bedard should minimize the effect felt if he is able to return to form this season.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Felix Hernandez 13-12 2.27 ERA 232 K 70 BB 1.057 WHIP - In 2010
    Jason Vargas 9-12 3.78 ERA 116 K 54 BB 1.251 WHIP - In 2010
    Doug Fister 6-14 4.11 ERA 93 K 32 BB 1.281 WHIP - In 2010
    Erik Bedard 5-3 2.82 ERA 90 K 34 BB 1.193 WHIP - In 2009
    Luke French 5-7 4.83 ERA 37 K 29 BB 1.335 WHIP - In 2010

5) Texas Rangers

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 28:  Starting pitcher C.J. Wilson #36 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the San Francisco Giants in Game Two of the 2010 MLB World Series at AT&T Park on October 28, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/G
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    While many people have concluded that the Rangers rotation will not be as strong without Cliff Lee, it is important to remember that Lee only provided the Rangers with 4-6 record in 15 games in 2010, posting a 3.98 ERA. Lee will certainly be missed in 2011, but his missing contribution does not hurt the Rangers as much as some are speculating.

    Tommy Hunter, Colby Lewis, C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland all built strong cases to remain in the 2011 rotation. Hunter had appeared in just 22 major league games going into 2010, but he posted a 3.73 ERA and has only allowed 2.3 BB/9.

    Lewis became a resounding success for GM Jon Daniels since returning from Japan. Lewis had a 3.72 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 2010.

    Wilson had not started a major league game since 2005 when the Rangers added him to their rotation last spring, but he responded well. He led the American League in walks, but had a 3.35 ERA and 7.5 K/9.

    Derek Holland, who replaced Rich Harden in the rotation, strung together 11 dominant starts in Triple A before joining the big league club. He had a 4.08 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in the majors, and the lefty’s still just 24.

    Brandon Webb will round out the Rangers rotation this year, and if he is able to return to his 2008 form before his career was sidelined by injuries, the Rangers will not miss Cliff Lee at all.

    The World Series Runner-Ups ranked fourth in 2010 in ERA (3.93), runs (687), hits allowed (1355) and were second in total bases allowed (2152).

    They drop slightly this year in the pitching ranking only because of the unknown effectiveness of Brandon Webb, and whether Wilson, Lewis, Hunter and Holland can repeat their success from 2010.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    C.J. Wilson 15-8 3.35 ERA 170 K 93 BB 1.245 WHIP - In 2010
    Colby Lewis 12-13 3.72 ERA 196 K 65 BB 1.189 WHIP - In 2010
    Tommy Hunter 13-4 3.73 ERA 68 K 33 BB 1.242 WHIP - In 2010
    Derek Holland 3-4 4.08 ERA 54 K 24 BB 1.378 WHIP - In 2010
    Brandon Webb 22-7 3.30 ERA 183 K 65 BB 1.196 WHIP - In 2008

4) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 01:  Pitcher Jered Weaver #36 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The 2010 LA Angels posted the leagues sixth best ERA (4.04), seventh fewest runs allowed (702), eighth fewest hits allowed (1422), tenth in total bases allowed (2241) and the fourth fewest home runs allowed (148).

    The Angels rotation did not require any additions during the offseason. The midseason trade for Dan Haren last year gave the Angels six solid major league starters to use in their rotation and for spot starts.

    Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro will round out the top five spots in the rotation in 2011 with Trevor Bell ready to go if any of the aforementioned five falter.

    If Scott Kazmir can return to the form that made him one of the league's top left-handed pitchers just a few years ago, this rotation can be especially dangerous. Kazmir is still only 26-years old and should have many serviceable years remaining if he can recapture the form he displayed in Tampa Bay.

    Dan Haren was a dominant pitcher in his first stint in the American League, and did not have any problems readjusting after his trade last season. He posted a 3.39 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in L.A.

    If their health holds up all season, the Angels will likely make this sixth place ranking look very poor. The Angels rotation is as good as any in the American League if they pitch to their potential and stay healthy.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Jered Weaver 13-12 3.01 ERA 233 K 54 BB 1.074 WHIP - In 2010
    Dan Haren 12-12 3.91 ERA 216 K 54 BB 1.272 WHIP - In 2010
    Ervin Santana 17-10 3.92 ERA 169 K 73 BB 1.320 WHIP - In 2010
    Scott Kazmir 9-15 5.94 ERA 93 K 79 BB 1.580 WHIP - In 2010
    Joel Pineiro 10-7 3.84 ERA 92 K 34 BB 1.241 WHIP - In 2010

3) Minnesota Twins

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 6: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during game one of the ALDS against the New York Yankees on October 6, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The Twin's 2011 rotation will be led by Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano at the top of the rotation, and rounded out with Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Brian Duensing.

    Liriano and Pavano both turned in solid performances in 2010, and will look to carry over that success to this coming season. The Twins will look for Slowey and Baker to provide consistency in the 3-4 slots in the rotation, and hope for Duensing to build on his surprising 2010 season. In 130 innings over 53 appearances (13 starts), Duensing posted a 2.62 ERA and 1.202 WHIP.

    Should Minnesota need help in the rotation due to injuries or ineffectiveness from any their starters, they have top prospects Kyle Gibson and Glen Perkins ready to break into the Major Leagues. The Twins have Jeff Manship who performed well in long relief and spot starts in 2010. Nick Blackburn could compete with Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing throughout spring training for the fifth and final rotation spot as well.

    The Twins' rotation is very efficient, leading the league in fewest base-on-balls allowed in 2010 (383). The Twins ranked fifth in ERA (3.95), and third in runs scored (671).

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Francisco Liriano 14-10 3.62 ERA 201 K 58 BB 1.263 WHIP - In 2010
    Carl Pavano 17-11 3.75 ERA 117 K 37 BB 1.195 WHIP - In 2010
    Scott Baker 12-9 4.49 ERA 148 K 43 BB 1.344 WHIP - In 2010
    Kevin Slowey 13-6 4.45 ERA 116 K 29 BB 1.291 WHIP - In 2010
    Brian Duensing 10-3 2.62 ERA 78 K 35 BB 1.202 WHIP - In 2010

2) Tampa Bay Rays

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 06:  Pitcher David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Texas Rangers during Game 1 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field on October 6, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    The best team during the regular season in the American League last season (96-66) was led by the AL's second best pitching staff. The Rays ranked second in ERA (3.78), runs allowed (649), earned runs allowed (611), and hits allowed (1347). Perhaps more impressive about this is that the Rays managed to do this while having to face the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox offenses as competition in the AL East. This gives them some consideration for the top ranking, however their trade of Matt Garza to the Cubs brings them back ever so slightly to remain in second where their statistics slotted them in 2010.

    David Price, the former first overall pick, has gone from late-inning reliever to Cy Young candidate and will remain one of the games best pitchers in 2011. He is followed by James Shields, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson.

    Shields lost some effectiveness in 2010 as his ERA inflated to 5.18, and he led the league in hits allowed (246), earned runs (117), and homeruns allowed (34). His strong strikeout (8.3 K/9) and walk (2.3 BB/9) ratios should earn him another shot at the rotation however.

    Should Shields not work out in the Rays rotation, Jake McGee posted a 3.06 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in the upper minors last year providing Tampa Bay with another option. Matt Moore, a 21-year-old left-hander, struck out 208 batters in the Florida State League and while he's not yet ready for the majors, he figures to rise quickly through the Rays' system.

    The Rays have a tremendous amount of starting pitching depth in their organization.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    David Price 19-6 2.72 ERA 188 K 79 BB 1.193 WHIP - In 2010
    James Shields 13-15 5.18 ERA 187 K 51 BB 1.461 WHIP - In 2010
    Jeff Niemann
    12-8 4.39 ERA 131 K 61 BB 1.262 WHIP - In 2010
    Jeremy Hellickson 4-0 3.47 ERA 33 K 8 BB 1.101 WHIP - In 2010
    Wade Davis 12-10 4.07 ERA 113 K 62 BB 1.351 WHIP - In 2010

1) Oakland Athletics

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Trevor Cahill #53 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Boston Red Sox at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 10, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    If you weren't familiar with the 2010 Oakland Athletics pitching staff you would probably think that they would be hurt by losing starters Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer to season ending injuries.

    The A's 2010 rotation, led by first time All-Star Trevor Cahill, was the league's best rotation in 2010 with an American League best 3.56 ERA, yielding the fewest runs (626), fewest earned runs (566), fewest hits (1315) and fewest total bases allowed (2040).

    The A's traded their number five starter, Vin Mazzaro, to Kansas City for David DeJesus, but they bring back Brett Anderson (2.80 ERA), Gio Gonzalez (3.23 ERA) and Dallas Braden (3.50 ERA) to backup Cahill (2.97 ERA) in the rotation.

    The fifth starter role will be decided in spring training with the main candidates being Rich Harden, Brandon McCarthy and Josh Outman. Since Harden has already suffered a setback and will sit out the next two weeks, and Outman has reportedly looked very solid in early bullpen sessions, we'll go with the assumption for now that Outman will start the season as the fifth starter. Outman impressed in 2009 before needing season ending Tommy John surgery. He sat out all last season, but is healthy now and ready to return to the A's rotation (or at worst long relief out of the bullpen).

    The A's rotation is the youngest in the American League, with Dallas Braden the eldest member at 27-years old entering the season. Despite their youth, there is no reason to assume the A's won't repeat their impressive pitching from 2010 this season. Based on xFIP, a fielding-independent stat that evaluates pitchers based on walk, strikeout and grounder rates, had all four returning starters at 4.33 or below, so they don't appear to be succeeding on luck.

    The A's also have depth at the starting pitching position with Rich Harden, Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross, Bobby Cramer, and upcoming prospects ready to step in should one of the starters get injured (always a concern with Oakland).

    The 2011 Oakland Athletics having nothing standing in their way of repeating as 2011's best American League pitching rotation.

    2011 Projected Rotation

    Trevor Cahill 18-8 2.97 ERA 118 K 63 BB 1.108 WHIP - In 2010
    Brett Anderson 7-6 2.80 ERA 75 K 22 BB 1.193 WHIP - In 2010
    Gio Gonzalez 15-9 3.23 ERA 171 K 92 BB 1.311 WHIP - In 2010
    Dallas Braden 11-14 3.50 ERA 113 K 43 BB 1.157 WHIP - In 2010
    Josh Outman 4-1 3.48 ERA 53 K 25 BB 1.158 WHIP - In 2009