Power Ranking MLB's Best Pitching Staffs for 2017 Ahead of Spring Training

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2017

Power Ranking MLB's Best Pitching Staffs for 2017 Ahead of Spring Training

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Offense puts fans in the seats, but pitching wins championships.

    As we've seen in recent years, that statement is all too true.

    And it's not specific to starting pitching, either, as the San Francisco Giants can attest.

    The Cleveland Indians rode ace Corey Kluber and the bullpen trio of Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen to the World Series last year, while the Chicago Cubs trio of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks was backed by deadline-addition Aroldis Chapman on their way to the title.

    So who has the best stable of arms looking ahead to the 2017 season?

    We've set out to answer just that, ranking all 30 teams' pitching staffs.

    A good starting rotation carried a bit more weight than a good bullpen, but you won't see any team in the top 10 with a weakness in either area.

30. San Diego Padres

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    Brad Hand
    Brad HandLachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.61 (21st in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    4.18 (23rd in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.43 (23rd in MLB)

                       

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Jhoulys ChacinRHP Jarred Cosart
    LHP Clayton RichardRHP Miguel Diaz (R)
    RHP Luis PerdomoLHP Keith Hessler
    LHP Christian FriedrichRHP Kevin Quackenbush
    RHP Paul ClemensLHP Brad Hand
     LHP Ryan Buchter
    RHP Tyrell JenkinsRHP Brandon Maurer

    *SP Robbie Erlin (Tommy John), SP Colin Rea (Tommy John) and RP Carter Capps (Tommy John) expected to begin the season on the DL.

                         

    Analysis

    Teenage pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza is still at least a couple years away from making his debut with the San Diego Padres, but he might already be one of the five best starting pitchers in the organization.

    While his future is incredibly bright, that sentiment is meant more as an indictment on the current state of the team's rotation than a suggestion Espinoza is anywhere near ready.

    Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard signed matching one-year, $1.75 million deals this winter, and as it stands today, they are the two best starters on the roster.

    The team is close to adding another veteran swingman Trevor Cahill, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. He pitched primarily out of the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs the past two seasons but could legitimately earn the Opening Day nod.

    As for the bullpen, the trio of Brad Hand, Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer was quietly solid last year, though they are lacking a proven closer.

    Hand in particular was one of the most underrated relievers in the game, posting a 2.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 with 21 holds in 89.1 innings while leading the NL with 82 appearances.

    As the Padres continue to rebuild, they'll be looking for cheap innings and potential bargains, and that could mean trotting out the league's worst pitching staff in 2017.

29. Minnesota Twins

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    Ervin Santana
    Ervin SantanaBrace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 5.39 (30th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    4.63 (26th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    5.08 (29th in MLB)

                        

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Ervin SantanaRHP Justin Haley (R)
    RHP Kyle Gibson LHP Buddy Boshers
    LHP Hector Santiago RHP Michael Tonkin
    RHP Phil Hughes LHP Taylor Rogers
    RHP Tyler Duffey RHP Trevor May
      RHP Ryan Pressly
    RHP Jose Berrios RHP Brandon Kintzler

                       

    Analysis

    The Minnesota Twins had the worst starting rotation in baseball last season, ranking dead last with a 5.39 starter's ERA and also tallying a league-low 59 quality starts.

    Ervin Santana was not shopped this offseasonsomething of a surprise given the team's standing as a non-contender and his obvious value in a thin market for starters.

    That leaves him as the ace of a rotation that will likely consist of five guys who were part of last year's trainwreck and no newcomers. The young duo of Jose Berrios and Stephen Gonsalves represents the future, but they'll likely both head to Triple-A to begin the year.

    Meanwhile, the bullpen will once again lean on Brandon Kintzler in the late innings after he converted 17 of 20 save chances with a 3.15 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 54 appearances. He's a useful veteran arm, but his 5.8 K/9 is a good indication he's better served in a setup role.

    There's not much else to say here.

    The Twins had one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball a year ago, and they've made no significant additions this offseason. Can't reasonably expect anything but a similarly poor showing.

28. Oakland Athletics

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    Sonny Gray
    Sonny GrayMichael Zagaris/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.84 (27th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    4.01 (20th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.51 (24th in MLB)

                             

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Sonny Gray RHP Raul Alcantara (R)
    RHP Kendall Graveman RHP Liam Hendriks
    LHP Sean Manaea RHP John Axford
    RHP Jharel Cotton (R) RHP Ryan Dull
    RHP Andrew Triggs RHP Santiago Casilla
      LHP Sean Doolittle
    RHP Jesse Hahn RHP Ryan Madson 

                                           

    Analysis

    Which Sonny Gray will show up in 2017?

    That's the question for the Oakland Athletics as their young ace went from a third-place finish in AL Cy Young voting in 2015 to a 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 117 innings of work last season.

    Kendall Graveman has emerged as a quality middle-of-the-rotation starter, and he'll fill the No. 2 starter role, leaving young arms like Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, Andrew Triggs, Frankie Montas, Jesse Hahn, Daniel Mengden, Zach Neal and Dillon Overton to compete for the final three spots on the staff.

    Manaea and Cotton have the be considered the favorites to grab two of those jobs. 

    Manaea posted a 3.86 ERA while ranking second on the team with 144.2 innings of work, while Cotton went 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in five starts after coming over from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade.

    A healthy Sean Doolittle and newcomer Santiago Casilla should help bridge the gap to closer Ryan Madson, and both could get a chance to close if Madson struggles again after he blew seven saves last season.

    The A's have a lot of young arms ready to contribute at the MLB level and more on the way, headlined by Grant Holmes and Daniel Gossett, so 2017 will be about sorting through those arms and deciding who fills what role going forward.

27. Kansas City Royals

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    Danny Duffy
    Danny DuffyBrace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.67 (22nd in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.45 (4th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.21 (17th in MLB)

                         

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Danny Duffy RHP Chris Young
    RHP Ian Kennedy LHP Mike Minor
    RHP Yordano Ventura LHP Scott Alexander
    LHP Jason VargasRHP Chris Withrow
    LHP Matt Strahm (R) LHP Brian Flynn
      RHP Joakim Soria
    RHP Nathan Karns RHP Kelvin Herrera 

                   

    Analysis

    Change is coming for the Kansas City Royals, as it appears their window of contention has slammed shut.

    Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy were the only reliable arms in a starting rotation that was among the worst in baseball last season, and all signs point to that being the case once again in 2017.

    Yordano Ventura still has electric stuff, but he's failed to take the step forward many expected.

    Rookie Matt Strahm excelled out of the bullpen last season, and he'll now get a shot at winning the No. 5 starter job this spring. He'll need to beat out Nathan Karns, Alec Mills and Miguel Almonte as well as veterans Chris Young and Mike Minor, who will likely work out of the bullpen if they don't claim a rotation spot.

    The bullpen is also considerably weaker after Wade Davis was traded to the Chicago Cubs and both Luke Hochevar and Peter Moylan departed in free agency.

    Absolute best-case scenario: Duffy builds off of last season with a big breakout year, Strahm emerges as an AL Rookie of the Year candidate and Kelvin Herrera is lights out in his first year in the closer's role.

    Even then, this looks like a below-average group.

26. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Robbie Ray
    Robbie RayMatthew Hazlett/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 5.19 (29th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    4.94 (27th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    5.09 (30th in MLB)

                                 

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Zack Greinke RHP Tyler Jones (R)
    LHP Robbie Ray LHP Jared Miller (R)
    RHP Taijuan Walker RHP Enrique Burgos
    LHP Patrick Corbin LHP Andrew Chafin
    RHP Shelby Miller RHP Jake Barrett
      RHP Randall Delgado
    RHP Archie BradleyRHP Fernando Rodney 

                             

    Analysis

    On paper, the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation has a chance to be vastly improved this coming season.

    Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller both fell well short of expectations in their respective debuts with the club, while Patrick Corbin is still not the same pitcher we saw pre-Tommy John surgery.

    Meanwhile, newcomer Taijuan Walker and left-hander Robbie Ray are both potential breakout candidates.

    Walker has flashed front-line potential during his time with the Seattle Mariners but is still searching for consistency, while Ray ranked fourth in the NL with 218 strikeouts in 174.1 innings last season.

    Former top prospects Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley are both waiting in the wings, as is new No. 1 prospect Anthony Banda, so the leash could be considerably shorter for anyone who struggles early in the rotation.

    It's the bullpen that looks like a major question mark.

    The front office opted to go the bargain route in filling the closer void, signing 39-year-old Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal. He was brilliant to begin last season with the San Diego Padres but struggled to a 5.89 ERA in 39 appearances after a midseason trade to the Miami Marlins.

    Randall Delgado and Jake Barrett are both serviceable relievers and Arizona Fall League standout Jared Miller (18.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 30 K) could be an X-factor, but the pen as a whole looks like one of the thinnest in baseball.

25. Cincinnati Reds

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    Raisel Iglesias
    Raisel IglesiasKirk Irwin/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.79 (25th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    5.09 (29th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.91 (27th in MLB)

                 

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Anthony DeSclafani RHP Louis Coleman
    RHP Dan Straily RHP Blake Wood
    LHP Brandon Finnegan RHP Jumbo Diaz
    RHP Homer Bailey LHP Tony Cingrani
    RHP Tim Adleman RHP Drew Storen
      RHP Michael Lorenzen
    RHP Robert Stephenson (R) RHP Raisel Iglesias 

                         

    Analysis

    The Cincinnati Reds' bullpen was nothing short of a dumpster fire last season.

    A staggering 24 different relievers combined to post an ERA north of 5.00 and converted just 28 of 53 save chances.

    Converted starters Raisel Iglesias (37 G, 2.53 ERA, 9.5 K/9) and Michael Lorenzen (35 G, 2.88 ERA, 8.6 K/9) were the lone bright spots, while veteran Blake Wood was a passable middle-relief option who tallied a team-high 70 appearances.

    The addition of Drew Storen gives them an intriguing buy-low candidate who could emerge as a viable trade chip by July, and the pen as a whole should provide a bit more stability this season with Iglesias and Lorenzen locked into the back end from the get-go, albeit still not a strength.

    The rotation situation will be one of the most interesting to watch this spring.

    Anthony DeSclafani is the team's best starter when healthy, while 2016 standouts Brandon Finnegan and Dan Straily should be locked into spots alongside high-priced veteran Homer Bailey.

    That leaves one slot up for grabs this spring, with Tim Adleman, Cody Reed and top prospects Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson all in the mix this spring.

    This is a pitching staff that should be better than it was a year ago but still looks like one of the worst in baseball as the Reds continue with the rebuilding process.

24. Milwaukee Brewers

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    Zach Davies
    Zach DaviesJon Durr/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.40 (17th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.61 (12th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.08 (12th in MLB)

                            

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Junior Guerra RHP Wily Peralta
    RHP Zach DaviesLHP Tommy Milone
    RHP Chase Anderson RHP Tyler Cravy
    RHP Matt Garza RHP Jhan Marinez
    RHP Jimmy Nelson RHP Jacob Barnes
      RHP Carlos Torres
    RHP Taylor Jungmann RHP Corey Knebel 

                            

    Analysis

    The Milwaukee Brewers have no shortage of starting-pitching options heading into the 2017 season.

    While there's no clear-cut Opening Day starter, there could be as many as 10 starters vying for a spot in the rotation this spring.

    Junior Guerra, Zach Davies and Chase Anderson all pitched well enough to be locked into jobs for the upcoming season, while Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann and prospects Jorge Lopez, Josh Hader and Brandon Woodruff are all in the mix as well.

    Hader is the name to watch among the prospects, as he posted a 3.29 ERA and struck out 161 batters in 126 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

    With Tyler Thornburg, Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress all traded since last summer, the bullpen has a decidedly different look with Corey Knebel penciled in as the likely closer.

    That may not be the case much longer, though.

    The team is close to signing Neftali Feliz, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

    The 28-year-old enjoyed a bounce-back year with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, posting a 3.52 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 as he tallied 29 holds as the team's primary setup man.

    He racked up 40 saves as a rookie in 2010 and followed that up with a 34-save season, but he's dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness in the years since. The rebuilding Brewers are the perfect team to give him an opportunity to close games again.

23. Los Angeles Angels

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    Garrett Richards
    Garrett RichardsLisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.60 (20th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.77 (18th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.28 (21st in MLB)

                                

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Garrett Richards RHP Deolis Guerra
    RHP Ricky Nolasco RHP Kirby Yates
    RHP Matt Shoemaker RHP JC Ramirez
    LHP Tyler Skaggs LHP Jose Alvarez
    RHP Jesse Chavez RHP Andrew Bailey
      RHP Cam Bedrosian
    RHP Alex Meyer (R) RHP Huston Street 

                              

    *SP Andrew Heaney (Tommy John) and SP Nick Tropeano (Tommy John) expected to begin the season on the DL.

                              

    Analysis

    The Jered Weaver/C.J. Wilson era is officially over for the Los Angeles Angels.

    With those two veterans departing in free agency and both Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano still recovering from Tommy John surgery, starting pitching depth could be an issue.

    Especially if Garrett Richards' decision to forego Tommy John surgery in favor of stem-cell treatment backfires and he is shelved once again with arm issues.

    Swingman Jesse Chavez is a useful addition to the staff in whatever role the team sees fit, though it appears he'll be given every chance to win the No. 5 starter job over prospects Alex Meyer and Nate Smith.

    The closer's job once again belongs to veteran Huston Street, though how much longer that's the case remains to be seen as Cam Bedrosian is waiting in the wings as one of the game's best young relievers.

    This staff really isn't all that different than the one we saw a year ago.

    The biggest difference could come from what type of impact Meyer and Smith, as well as bullpen prospect Keynan Middleton and a few others, can make when they're inevitably called upon.

22. Chicago White Sox

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    Nate Jones
    Nate JonesEd Zurga/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.33 (13th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.68 (17th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.10 (14th in MLB)

                                      

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Jose Quintana RHP Tommy Kahnle
    RHP James Shields RHP Dylan Covey (R)
    LHP Carlos Rodon RHP Michael Ynoa
    LHP Derek Holland RHP Zach Putnam
    RHP Miguel Gonzalez LHP Dan Jennings
      RHP Nate Jones
    RHP Reynaldo Lopez (R) RHP David Robertson 

                              

    Analysis

    The departure of Chris Sale undoubtedly hurts the Chicago White Sox's ranking, but there's still a decent staff in place, and Jose Quintana is more than capable of stepping into the role of staff ace if he's not moved before the offseason is over.

    James Shields and Derek Holland are both veteran bounce-back candidates, while Carlos Rodon is capable of taking the next step as he enters his third MLB season.

    The 24-year-old went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 168 strikeouts in 165 innings, and he showed significantly improved command as he lowered his walk rate from 4.6 to 2.9 BB/9.

    Miguel Gonzalez will open the season as the No. 5 starter, but expect him to be pushed by the prospect trio of Carson Fulmer, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez by midseason.

    Fulmer and Lopez could both land in the bullpen before all is said and done, and that could be where they pitch in 2017.

    Speaking of the bullpen, veteran closer David Robertson looks like a clear trade candidate.

    If and when he is moved, right-hander Nate Jones could be ready to emerge as the game's next standout closer after a dominant performance in a setup role last year.

    The 30-year-old posted a 2.29 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 28 holds with 80 strikeouts in 70.2 innings.

21. Atlanta Braves

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    Julio Teheran
    Julio TeheranNorm Hall/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.87 (28th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.95 (19th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.51 (24th in MLB)

                  

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Julio Teheran RHP Josh Collmenter
    RHP Bartolo ColonRHP Armando Rivero (R)
    LHP Jaime Garcia RHP Dan Winkler (R)
    RHP R.A. Dickey LHP Ian Krol
    RHP Mike Foltynewicz RHP Mauricio Cabrera
      RHP Arodys Vizcaino
    RHP Matt Wisler RHP Jim Johnson 

                         

    *RP Paco Rodriguez (Tommy John) and RP Jacob Lindgren (Tommy John) expected to begin the season on the DL.

                                             

    Analysis

    The Atlanta Braves set out to find short-term veteran help for the starting rotation, and it didn't take them long to find it as they signed Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey to one-year deals and then acquired Jaime Garcia, who will reach free agency next winter.

    Bringing aboard that trio gives young starters like Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair more time to develop in the minors, without blocking them or any of the team's many promising pitching prospects going forward.

    Julio Teheran once again looks like the ace of the present and future after rebounding from a mediocre 2015 season, and his team-friendly contract will be a major asset going forward.

    Veteran Jim Johnson will return to the closer's role after converting 20 of 23 save chances with a 3.06 ERA last season, but it's the flame-throwing duo of Arodys Vizcaino and Mauricio Cabrera that will turn heads out of the bullpen.

    Among relievers with at least 30 innings of work, they ranked second (Cabrera, 100.1 mph) and sixth (Vizcaino, 97.4 mph) in average fastball velocity.

    Swingman Josh Collmenter was scooped up last September and brought back on a one-year, $1.2 million deal, and he could wind up emerging as an important part of this year's staff while pitching in a number of different roles.

    This is exactly what a rebuilding team's pitching staff should look like: Several veterans on short-term deals to eat up innings and a few promising young arms pitching in low-stress roles.

20. Colorado Rockies

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    Jon Gray
    Jon GrayJason O. Watson/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.79 (25th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    5.13 (30th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.91 (27th in MLB)

                         

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Jon Gray RHP Jordan Lyles
    RHP Chad Bettis LHP Chris Rusin
    LHP Tyler Anderson RHP Chad Qualls
    RHP Tyler Chatwood LHP Mike Dunn
    RHP Jeff Hoffman (R) RHP Jason Motte
      LHP Jake McGee
    RHP Eddie Butler RHP Adam Ottavino 

                                  

    Analysis

    A 4.79 starter's ERAgood for 25th in the leaguemight not seem like much, but it marked a significant improvement for the Colorado Rockies.

    They were worst in the majors with a 5.27 starter's ERA in 2015, and the emergence of some quality young arms have provided some legitimate hope they can continue trending upward.

    Jon Gray looks like a legitimate ace in the making after finishing sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He tallied double-digit strikeouts six times last season, including a 16-strikeouts, four-hit shutout against the San Diego Padres on Sept. 17 that might be the best game ever pitched at Coors Field.

    Tyler Anderson also impressed as a rookie with a 3.54 ERA over 19 starts, while Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood showed enough to think they can hold down rotation spots. Rookie Jeff Hoffman is the X-factor, as he could slot behind Gray as the No. 2 starter going forward.

    Then there's the bullpen, a group that added the likes of Jake McGee, Jason Motte and Chad Qualls last offseason and still checked in as the worst in baseball.

    This winter's big signing has been Mike Dunn on a three-year, $19 million deal. Adding him to the mix along with a healthy Adam Ottavino should make it relatively easy to improve on last year's 5.13 ERA.

    The Rockies have emerged as a popular pick to be a dark-horse contender in 2017, and it all hinges on whether the pitching staff can shoulder its portion of the load.

19. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gerrit Cole
    Gerrit ColeJustin Berl/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.67 (22nd in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA:
    3.57 (11th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.21 (17th in MLB)

                 

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Gerrit Cole LHP Wade LeBlanc
    RHP Ivan Nova RHP Jared Hughes
    RHP Jameson Taillon LHP Antonio Bastardo
    RHP Chad Kuhl RHP Juan Nicasio
    RHP Drew Hutchison LHP Felipe Rivero
     RHP Daniel Hudson
    RHP Tyler Glasnow (R) LHP Tony Watson 

                                   

    Analysis

    The Pittsburgh Pirates boasted one of the best pitching staffs in baseball in 2015, finishing second in the majors in team ERA (3.21), fifth in starter's ERA (3.53) and first in bullpen ERA (2.67).

    What a difference a year can make.

    With Francisco Liriano traded at the deadline and Jeff Locke non-tendered, the team will be relying heavily on young arms to round out the staff behind Gerrit Cole and Ivan Nova, who returned on a three-year, $26 million deal.

    Jameson Taillon showed enough as a rookie to earn a spot in the 2017 rotation, leaving Drew Hutchison, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow to battle it out for the Nos. 4 and 5 starter jobs this spring.

    If Glasnow can rein in his command, he has the stuff to join Cole at the top of the staff.

    However, after walking 81 batters in 140 innings last season it's clear the 23-year-old still has work to do and a return to the minors would be in his best interest.

    As for the aforementioned Cole, he battled injury in a wholly forgettable 2016 campaign and will need to return to front-line form if the Pirates have any chance of contending.

    Daniel Hudson has been the one notable addition to the staff this winter, and he gives the team an alternative closer option should Tony Watson struggle in his first full-time crack at the closer's job or eventually wind up on the trade block.

    It's tough to bet against a pitching staff under the tutelage of Ray Searage, but with so much riding on inexperienced arms, this looks like a middle-of-the-road group at best.

18. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Jeremy Hellickson
    Jeremy HellicksonRich Schultz/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.41 (18th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    5.05 (28th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.63 (26th in MLB)

                  

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Jeremy Hellickson RHP Severino Gonzalez
    RHP Aaron Nola RHP Edubray Ramos
    RHP Jerad Eickhoff LHP Joely Rodriguez (R)
    RHP Vincent VelasquezRHP Pat Neshek
    RHP Clay Buchholz RHP Jeanmar Gomez
      RHP Hector Neris
    RHP Alec AsherRHP Joaquin Benoit 

                              

    Analysis

    The surprising decision by Jeremy Hellickson to accept his qualifying offer means the Philadelphia Phillies will likely have the same Opening Day starter in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Roy Halladay in 2011 and 2012.

    After striking gold by buying low on Hellickson in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks last offseason, they're hoping for some similar luck after acquiring Clay Buchholz from the Boston Red Sox in what amounted to a cash dump.

    Buchholz struggled early in 2016 and eventually lost his spot in the rotation, but he rebounded with a 3.22 ERA in the second half and four quality starts in five games after returning to the rotation in September.

    Those two veterans will flank the promising young trio of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez, leaving Alec Asher, Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin on the outside looking in for now, though the team will want to see what they have in those three at some point.

    Newcomers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek should help bring some stability to the relief corps, and Benoit will compete with Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez for the closer's job this spring.

    Keep an eye on Edubray Ramos.

    The 24-year-old has the classic mid-90s fastball and plus slider repertoire, and he enjoyed a solid rookie season, posting a 3.83 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 with 15 holds in 42 appearances.

17. New York Yankees

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    Aroldis Chapman
    Aroldis ChapmanJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.44 (19th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.67 (16th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.16 (15th in MLB)

                   

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka RHP Luis Cessa
    RHP Michael Pineda LHP Chasen Shreve
    LHP CC Sabathia RHP Adam Warren
    RHP Luis Severino LHP Tommy Layne
    RHP Bryan Mitchell RHP Tyler Clippard
      RHP Dellin Betances
    RHP Chad GreenLHP Aroldis Chapman 

                      

    Analysis

    The New York Yankees have three rotation spots locked in with Mashiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia all coming off solid seasons.

    However, with Ivan Nova traded last summer and Nathan Eovaldi non-tendered there are two wide-open rotation jobs up for grabs this spring.

    Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Chad Green and Luis Cessa appear to be the four leading candidates for the job, while 2016 breakout prospect Chance Adams could make an impact at some point after reaching Double-A.

    Despite the team undergoing something of a rebuild, closer Aroldis Chapman was brought back on a five-year, $86 million deal that represents a new record contract for a reliever.

    Tyler Clippard was quietly acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks shortly after the team shipped Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians last summer, and he'll join Chapman and All-Star Dellin Betances to form a new "Big Three" at the back of the 'pen.

    Adam Warren also figures to fill a key role as the one reliever capable of working multiple innings, as he could be called on early and often to pick up the slack for the team's Nos. 4 and 5 starters.

    There's no bigger X-factor than Severino, though.

    "He has all the equipment to be a starter. Last year was really the first year he lost his changeup. He never had it from start to finish," GM Brian Cashman told reporters, per Mark Herrmann of Newsday. "But it’s way too early to have a verdict in on whether he can be a starter. It’s something he’s always been and he’s always been successful at. He never really finished off his development because of our needs at the big-league level. We plan on continuing it."

    The 22-year-old still has tremendous upside, and he posted a 2.29 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 19.2 innings after returning from the minors last September.

16. Baltimore Orioles

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    Zach Britton
    Zach BrittonMatt Hazlett/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.72 (24th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.40 (3rd in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.22 (19th in MLB)

                       

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Chris Tillman LHP T.J. McFarland
    RHP Kevin Gausman RHP Oliver Drake
    RHP Dylan Bundy LHP Donnie Hart
    LHP Wade Miley RHP Mychal Givens
    RHP Ubaldo Jimenez RHP Darren O'Day
      RHP Brad Brach
    RHP Tyler Wilson LHP Zach Britton 

                          

    Analysis

    The Baltimore Orioles have inexplicably stuck their belief that they can legitimately contend with the collection of starting pitchers they trotted out a year ago.

    While they reached the postseason in a wild-card spot, it was no thanks to a starting staff that ranked 24th in the majors with a 4.72 ERA.

    Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy both have upside, and Chris Tillman remains a steady presence at the top of the staff, but expecting anything beyond a 5.00 ERA from Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez is asking too much, and guys like Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright are nothing more than organizational depth.

    That means they'll once again be leaning heavily on the relief corps.

    Darren O'Day, Brad Brach and Zach Britton should again be one of the best bullpen trios in all of baseball, and 2016 rookie Mychal Givens probably belongs in that conversation as well after a terrific showing last season.

    Britton will almost certainly take a step back from his 2016 numbers, if only because he put together one of the greatest single-season performances ever by a reliever.

    Still, this is a group that will have no trouble closing out games.

    It will simply be a matter of whether the Orioles' offense can pile up enough runs to offset the damage done by the team's starters.

15. Miami Marlins

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    David Phelps
    David PhelpsJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.32 (12th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA:
    3.63 (14th in MLB)
    Team ERA:
     4.05 (10th in MLB) 

                           

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Wei-Yin Chen RHP David Phelps
    RHP Edinson Volquez LHP Hunter Cervenka
    LHP Adam Conley RHP Dustin McGowan
    RHP Tom Koehler RHP Junichi Tazawa
    LHP Jeff LockeRHP Brad Ziegler
      RHP Kyle Barraclough
    LHP Justin Nicolino RHP A.J. Ramos 

                          

    Analysis

    The Miami Marlins took a bold approach to the offseason, opting to further bolster what was already a solid relief corps in hopes it could prop up a mediocre starting rotation.

    While they whiffed on top target Kenley Jansen, they did manage to add a pair of quality arms in Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler.

    Those two veterans will join David Phelps, Kyle Barraclough and A.J. Ramos to form what could wind up being the best bullpen in the NL.

    It will need to be brilliant to make up for a rotation that might be the worst in baseball outside of the San Diego Padres.

    Adam Conley and Wei-Yin Chen are passable No. 3/4 starters on good teams, but instead they'll be battling for the honor of Opening Day starter.

    Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke were signed to low-cost deals to round out the staff, and Locke will compete with Justin Nicolino, Odrisamer Despaigne and Jarlin Garcia for the No. 5 starter job this spring.

    Expect plenty of turnover at the back of the rotation, and it might not take long for top prospect Luis Castillo to get the call if he gets off to a strong start.

    The 24-year-old went 8-6 with a 2.26 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 131.2 innings last season, but he's pitched just 14 innings at the Double-A level so far.

14. Detroit Tigers

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    Justin Verlander
    Justin VerlanderMark Cunningham/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.25 (9th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    4.22 (24th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.24 (20th in MLB)

                       

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Justin VerlanderRHP Mike Pelfrey
    RHP Michael FulmerLHP Daniel Stumpf
    RHP Jordan ZimmermannRHP Mark Lowe
    RHP Anibal SanchezRHP Bruce Rondon
    LHP Daniel NorrisRHP Alex Wilson
     LHP Justin Wilson
    LHP Matt BoydRHP Francisco Rodriguez 

                                              

    Analysis

    A return to front-line form from Justin Verlander and the emergence of AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer gives the Detroit Tigers a stellar duo to anchor the starting rotation.

    Now if only Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez can live up to their combined $34.8 million price tag for the upcoming season.

    Those two went 16-20 with a 5.46 ERA over 258.2 innings last season in 44 combined startsjust 14 of which were quality starts.

    Alex Wilson and Justin Wilson will once again be asked to bridge the gap to closer Francisco Rodriguez, and a rebound season from Mark Lowe would be a nice shot in the arm for the relief corps.

    K-Rod was once again effective in nailing down 44 of 49 save chances, but he saw his walk rate (1.7 to 3.2 BB/9) and strikeout rate (9.8 to 8.0 K/9) both move drastically in the wrong direction.

    Hard-throwing Bruce Rondon may finally be ready to step into a more significant role in the bullpen, and he could soon be joined by top prospect Joe Jimenez.

    The Tigers have the potential to be a great staff if Zimmermann and Sanchez can pull their weight.

    That's a big if, though, and reason enough for them to not rank any higher for the time being.

13. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Chris Archer
    Chris ArcherMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.26 (11th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    4.09 (21st in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.20 (16th in MLB)

                                        

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Chris Archer RHP Erasmo Ramirez
    RHP Jake Odorizzi RHP Kevin Gadea (R)
    RHP Alex Cobb LHP Enny Romero
    LHP Blake Snell RHP Danny Farquhar
    RHP Matt Andriese LHP Xavier Cedeno
      RHP Brad Boxberger
    RHP Chase Whitley RHP Alex Colome 

                                  

    Analysis

    After trading Matt Moore at the deadline and Drew Smyly this offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays have considerably less starting pitching depth than they did at this time last year.

    Blake Snell will be asked to step into a more prominent role after an up-and-down rookie season.

    The 24-year-old posted a 3.54 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 89 innings of work, but he also issued 51 free passes en route to a 1.62 WHIP.

    Matt Andriese will also likely move into the rotation full-time after serving as a swingman last year. He was 7-7 with a 4.80 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 90 strikeouts in 105 innings over 19 starts, though he showed better in his 10 relief appearances.

    The biggest question mark is still ace Chris Archer, though.

    After a coming-out party in 2015, his ERA spiked from 3.23 to 4.02 and he led the AL with 19 losses while surrendering 30 home runs. There's no question he has top-tier stuff, it's just a matter of avoiding the long ball and not becoming too reliant on the strikeout.

    The relief corps will be essentially the same group, though a healthy Brad Boxberger could provide a boost ahead of All-Star closer Alex Colome.

    Swingman Erasmo Ramirez could be the X-factor in an Andrew Miller-type role after he worked 90.2 innings last season and tallied seven wins, two saves and 15 holds.

12. Houston Astros

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    Chris Devenski
    Chris DevenskiThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.37 (15th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA:
    3.56 (8th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.06 (11th in MLB)

                               

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Dallas Keuchel RHP Brad Peacock
    RHP Collin McHugh RHP Michael Feliz
    RHP Lance McCullers RHP Chris Devenski
    RHP Mike Fiers LHP Tony Sipp
    RHP Charlie Morton RHP Will Harris
      RHP Luke Gregerson
    RHP Joe Musgrove RHP Ken Giles 

                                         

    Analysis

    One of the biggest questions of the offseason has been whether the Houston Astros need to acquire a front-line starting pitcher to be legitimate World Series contenders.

    Dallas Keuchel is just a year removed from winning AL Cy Young honors, but he took a step back last season and looks more like a good No. 2/3 starter on a contender than a true ace.

    Lance McCullers has ace-caliber stuff, but he's struggled to stay healthy and, if nothing else, has yet to prove he's truly a top-tier starter.

    Behind those two, Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers and injury-returnee Charlie Morton figure to round out the rotation, with Joe Musgrove and prospects David Paulino and Brady Rodgers all ready to make an MLB impact.

    Chris Devenski is the X-factor as the team decides how to best utilize his arm going forward.

    The 26-year-old finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting after going 4-4 with a 2.16 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 108.1 innings spanning five starts and 43 relief appearances.

    The relief corps will once again rely on Will Harris, Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles to close out games, and all three pitchers saw time in the closer's role last year.

    Finding a left-handed reliever remains on the offseason to-do list, as Tony Sipp saw his ERA climb from 1.99 to 4.95, and he's really the only viable lefty option on the 40-man roster.

11. Seattle Mariners

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    Edwin Diaz
    Edwin DiazThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.25 (9th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA:
    3.55 (7th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.00 (8th in MLB)

                        

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Felix Hernandez LHP Ariel Miranda
    RHP Hisashi Iwakuma RHP Casey Fien
    LHP James Paxton RHP Dan Altavilla (R)
    RHP Yovani GallardoLHP Marc Rzepczynski
    LHP Drew Smyly RHP Evan Scribner
      RHP Nick Vincent
    RHP Chris Heston RHP Edwin Diaz

     

    *RP Steven Cishek (hip) expected to begin the season on the DL.

                      

    Analysis

    It's been another busy winter for Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto.

    In the first big trade of the offseason, the Mariners acquired infielder Jean Segura from the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-hander Taijuan Walker, among others.

    Walker had long been viewed as the ace of the future for the Ms, and while he certainly flashed front-line potential, he had yet to show the consistency needed to become a front-line starter.

    Moving Walker left a void in the starting rotation, and it's since been filled by the additions of Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly in a pair of other trades.

    Smyly has some intriguing upside after a disappointing 2016 season with the Tampa Bay Rays, while Gallardo was terrific prior to a brutal debut with the Baltimore Orioles after signing a two-year, $22 million deal last winter.

    Felix Hernandez also has plenty of room for improvement after an uncharacteristically mediocre season saw him go 11-8 with a 3.82 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He failed to reach the 200-inning mark for the first time since 2007, missing nearly two months with a calf injury.

    The bullpen has some new faces in Casey Fien and Marc Rzepczynski, and it will again be Edwin Diaz filling the closer's role after his breakout performance as a rookie.

    The 22-year-old made the jump from Double-A in June and went on to convert 18 of 21 save chances with a 2.79 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 51.2 innings.

10. Texas Rangers

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    Cole Hamels
    Cole HamelsRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.38 (16th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    4.40 (25th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.37 (22nd in MLB)

                   

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Cole HamelsRHP Mike Hauschild (R)
    RHP Yu Darvish RHP Keone Kela
    LHP Martin Perez RHP Tony Barnette
    RHP Andrew Cashner LHP Jake Diekman
    RHP A.J. Griffin RHP Matt Bush
      RHP Jeremy Jeffress
    RHP Nick Martinez RHP Sam Dyson

     

    *SP Tyson Ross (thoracic outlet surgery) expected to begin the season on the DL.

                              

    Analysis

    Once Yu Darvish returned from Tommy John surgery, the one-two punch of Darvish and Cole Hamels was as good as advertised for the Texas Rangers.

    It's the rest of the rotation that was a question mark.

    Martin Perez will fill one of the remaining spots and another will go to Andrew Cashner, who was signed to a one-year, $10 million deal in hopes that this will be the year he turns his quality stuff into consistent production.

    Tyson Ross will be the X-factor.

    He underwent thoracic outlet surgery last year and was subsequently released by the San Diego Padres. The Rangers won out over a number of teams pursuing him, giving the right-hander a one-year, $6 million deal that includes incentives.

    Assuming he's not ready for the start of the season, A.J. Griffin looks like the favorite to win the No. 5 starter job over Nick Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez, among others.

    The bullpen returns essentially the same group, with the addition of Rule 5 pick Mike Hauschild and former closer Shawn Tolleson departing in free agency.

    A full season of Jeremy Jeffress and a healthy Keone Kela should make that group better without any other outside additions.

9. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Clayton Kershaw
    Clayton KershawHarry How/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 3.95 (6th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA:
    3.35 (1st in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    3.70 (5th in MLB)

                          

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Clayton Kershaw LHP Alex Wood
    LHP Rich Hill RHP Brandon McCarthy
    RHP Kenta Maeda LHP Luis Avilan
    LHP Scott Kazmir RHP Josh Fields
    LHP Julio Urias LHP Grant Dayton (R)
      RHP Pedro Baez
    RHP Jose De Leon (R) RHP Kenley Jansen 

    *SP Hyun-Jin Ryu (elbow surgery) and RP Yimi Garcia (Tommy John) expected to begin the season on the DL.

                                     

    Analysis

    Health and development will give the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation a much different look in 2017, despite not making a significant outside addition.

    Clayton Kershaw made just 21 starts while battling a back injury, and there's no reason to think he won't go back to being the workhorse atop the staff.

    Meanwhile, Scott Kazmir (26 starts) and Brandon McCarthy (nine starts) also missed time to injury, while Julio Urias figures to become a full-time member of the staff after making 15 starts and three relief appearances as a rookie.

    Then there's veteran Rich Hill, who was brilliant in six regular-season starts and on into the playoffs after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics in July. He returns on a three-year, $48 million deal and even if he only makes 20 starts, he'll make a huge impact.

    Jose De Leon, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart give the team plenty of depth should the injury bug bite again.

    It's the bullpen that now looks like the bigger question mark now.

    Kenley Jansen was re-signed a primary setup man and Pedro Baez is also back, but J.P. Howell and Joe Blanton departed in free agency and the team has yet to make a notable addition to replace them.

    Rookie Grant Dayton and former Houston Astros setup man Josh Fields are capable of stepping into bigger roles, but relying on them is a risky proposition.

8. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Aaron Sanchez
    Aaron SanchezElsa/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 3.64 (4th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    4.11 (22nd in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    3.78 (6th in MLB)

                     

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Aaron Sanchez RHP Mike Bolsinger
    LHP J.A. Happ RHP Glenn Sparkman (R)
    RHP Marco Estrada RHP Ryan Tepera
    RHP Marcus Stroman LHP Aaron Loup
    LHP Francisco Liriano RHP Joe Biagini
      RHP Jason Grilli
    RHP Gavin Floyd RHP Roberto Osuna 

                                    

    Analysis

    An offensive juggernaut in 2015 when they led the majors in runs scored, the Toronto Blue Jays reached the ALCS on the strength of their terrific starting pitching in 2016.

    Aaron Sanchez emerged as the best pitcher on the roster in his first full season as a starter, while J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada proved to be well worth the money the team shelled out to sign them last offseason.

    Marcus Stroman proved to be something of a disappointment in what many predicted would be a breakout season that saw him emerge as the ace of the staff. That being said, he still went 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 204 innings and offers plenty of upside as a 25-year-old.

    The deadline move to acquire Francisco Liriano gave them an in-house replacement for veteran R.A. Dickey, who joined the Atlanta Braves in free agency.

    The question here will be the bullpen.

    Joaquin Benoit and Brett Cecil are gone from last year's pen, and the only significant addition has been Rule 5 pick Glenn Sparkman, meaning guys like Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup and Joe Biagini will be thrust into more high-leverage situations.

    Still, there's no reason to think the starting rotation won't be terrific once again, and that should help take some pressure off the middle relief.

7. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Carlos Martinez
    Carlos MartinezDylan Buell/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.33 (13th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.62 (13th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.08 (12th in MLB)

                          

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Carlos Martinez RHP Michael Wacha
    RHP Adam Wainwright RHP Miguel Socolovich
    RHP Lance Lynn RHP Jonathan Broxton
    RHP Mike Leake LHP Brett Cecil
    RHP Alex Reyes (R) RHP Trevor Rosenthal
      LHP Kevin Siegrist
    RHP Luke Weaver RHP Seung Hwan Oh 

     

    *RP Zach Duke (Tommy John) and RP Tyler Lyons (knee) expected to begin the season on the DL.

                                           

    Analysis

    The St. Louis Cardinals had the best starting rotation in baseball in 2015, posting a 2.99 ERA as a group and tallying an MLB-best 106 quality starts.

    However, they dropped to 13th in starter's ERA (4.33) and ninth in quality starts (83) last season. 

    Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright will front the staff once again, and they'll welcome back Lance Lynn after he missed the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    Mike Leake should also be a lock for the rotation as he enters the second year of a five-year, $80 million deal signed last offseason.

    That leaves Michael Wacha to compete with rookies Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver for the No. 5 starter job, and going forward, Wacha may actually be better suited pitching out of the pen.

    The 25-year-old has struggled to stay healthy since his breakout rookie season, and his stuff would play up in a move to the bullpen as he could scrap his cut-fastball and again be a fastball-changeup pitcher.

    The relief corps is essentially the same, aside from the addition of Brett Cecil who will replace Zach Duke as the primary lefty reliever. Fellow southpaw Kevin Siegrist will continue to pitch in a setup role, but he's been more effective against right-handed batters in his career.

    Trevor Rosenthal will be the one to watch this spring.

    Now that Seung Hwan Oh has seized the closer job, it appears the team will get creative in how to best utilize the power arm of Rosenthal, as he could fill a multi-inning role or even be stretched out to start.

6. New York Mets

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    Noah Syndergaard
    Noah SyndergaardJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 3.61 (3rd in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA:
    3.51 (6th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    3.57 (3rd in MLB)

                       

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Noah Syndergaard RHP Zack Wheeler
    RHP Jacob deGrom LHP Josh Edgin
    RHP Matt Harvey RHP Erik Goeddel
    LHP Steven Matz LHP Josh Smoker (R)
    RHP Robert Gsellman (R) RHP Hansel Robles
      RHP Addison Reed
    RHP Seth Lugo RHP Jeurys Familia 

                               

    Analysis

    The New York Mets starting rotation could very well prove to be a post-hype sleeper.

    At this time last year, a staff of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon was being touted as the best in baseball and a sure-fire ticket back to the World Series.

    Instead, injuries hit hard as Harvey (17 starts), Matz (22 starts) and deGrom (24 starts) all missed time, while Zack Wheeler never made his triumphant return from Tommy John surgery after suffering a setback.

    It wasn't all bad, though.

    Syndergaard took another step forward in his second season and emerged as a legitimate ace, while all of those injuries opened the door for impressive debuts from Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo.

    It will be interesting to see what the team does with Wheeler now that he's expected to be ready to go from the onset in spring training. Easing him back into the mix by pitching him out of the bullpen is certainly a possibility.

    The bullpen will need to deal with the impending suspension of Jeurys Familia, who is facing at least a 30-game ban for a domestic violence incident, per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.

    Addison Reed should be more than capable of handling closing duties for a month, but losing Familia weakens the relief corps as a whole.

    The loss of Jerry Blevins, who is still a candidate to be re-signed, could also prove to be a big blow to the pen.

5. Washington Nationals

26 of 30

    Max Scherzer
    Max ScherzerRob Carr/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 3.60 (2nd in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.37 (2nd in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    3.51 (2nd in MLB)

                   

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Max Scherzer RHP A.J. Cole (R)
    RHP Stephen Strasburg RHP Koda Glover (R)
    RHP Tanner Roark LHP Oliver Perez
    LHP Gio Gonzalez RHP Trevor Gott
    RHP Joe Ross LHP Sammy Solis
      RHP Blake Treinen
    RHP Jacob Turner RHP Shawn Kelley 

                                 

    Analysis

    The Washington Nationals might have taken the No. 1 spot in these rankings had they been able to seal the deal in negotiations with the Chicago White Sox for ace Chris Sale.

    As it stands, they still have a pretty darn good pitching staff.

    Max Scherzer and a healthy Stephen Strasburg can be as good as any one-two punch in the league, while Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez are more than capable of being solid No. 3 starter types.

    Don't expect Roark to match his 2.83 ERA from a year ago, as his 3.79 FIP is a pretty good indication there's some regression to come, but he's a quality arm nonetheless.

    Trading Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez means the team will be counting on Joe Ross to stay healthy in the No. 5 starter spot, as there's next to nothing in the way of depth behind him.

    Non-roster invitee Jacob Turner and prospect Austin Voth look like the leading candidates for the "next man up" role.

    The bullpen is stocked with quality arms, but none have significant closer experience after Mark Melancon departed in free agency.

    Shawn Kelley has all the stuff to close and he posted a 2.64 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 12.4 K/9 in his first season with the team, so he'll get the first crack at winning the job.

    Hard-throwing rookie Koda Glover might be a dark horse for the ninth-inning role and figures to make an impact in some capacity.

4. San Francisco Giants

27 of 30

    Madison Bumgarner
    Madison BumgarnerEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 3.71 (5th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA:
    3.65 (15th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    3.65 (4th in MLB)

                            

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Madison Bumgarner RHP Cory Gearrin
    RHP Johnny Cueto LHP Steven Okert (R)
    RHP Jeff Samardzija RHP George Kontos
    LHP Matt Moore RHP Hunter Strickland
    RHP Matt Cain LHP Will Smith
      RHP Derek Law
    LHP Ty Blach (R)RHP Mark Melancon 

                                            

    Analysis

    The San Francisco Giants absolutely had to add a top-tier closer this offseason, and they did just that when they signed Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal.

    That allows the young trio of Derek Law, Hunter Strickland and Steven Okert to continue their development in middle relief and setup roles, while a full season of setup man Will Smith should give the relief corps as boost as well.

    The team will also have Matt Moore for a full season after he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays last summer, giving them four rock solid starting pitching options headlined by a pair of aces in Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto.

    Matt Cain is once again a wild card, and he'll be given every chance to earn his $20 million salary as the No. 5 starter.

    That being said, left-hander Ty Blach impressed down the stretch last season with a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings of work, and he'll be waiting in the wings should Cain falter.

    Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez all departing in free agency represented the end of an era, as that trio was integral in the Giants three World Series titles.

    It was time for a change, though, and with an improved relief corps and a deep rotation, they should once again be able to lean on the pitching staff in their pursuit of another title.

3. Cleveland Indians

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    Corey Kluber
    Corey KluberElsa/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.08 (7th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.45 (4th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    3.84 (7th in MLB)

                              

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    RHP Corey Kluber LHP Hoby Milner (R)
    RHP Carlos Carrasco RHP Zach McAllister
    RHP Danny Salazar LHP Kyle Crockett
    RHP Trevor Bauer RHP Dan Otero
    RHP Josh Tomlin RHP Bryan Shaw
      LHP Andrew Miller
    RHP Mike Clevinger RHP Cody Allen 

                  

    Analysis

    It's easy to forget that the Cleveland Indians reached the World Series last year without two of their top three starters, as Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were both non-factors in the postseason after suffering injuries in September.

    They immediately become a better team than the one we saw last October with the return of those two front-line arms.

    Meanwhile, guys like Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt gained valuable experience pitching when the lights were brightest, and that should only make them better going forward.

    As for the relief corps, the dynamic trio of Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen will lead the way once again.

    Don't expect to see Miller worked nearly as hard during the regular season as we saw in October, but he'll still be a huge weapon in his first full year in Cleveland.

    Rule 5 pick Hoby Milner could also be an interesting addition to the pen.

    The 26-year-old posted a 2.49 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 76 strikeouts in 65 innings between Double-A and Triple-A while pitching in the Philadelphia Phillies organization a year ago.

2. Chicago Cubs

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    Jon Lester
    Jon LesterElsa/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 2.96 (1st in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA:
    3.56 (8th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    3.15 (1st in MLB)

                            

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Jon LesterLHP Caleb Smith (R)
    RHP Jake Arrieta RHP Justin Grimm
    RHP Kyle HendricksLHP Brian Duensing
    RHP John Lackey RHP Pedro Strop
    LHP Mike Montgomery RHP Carl Edwards Jr.
     RHP Koji Uehara
    LHP Rob Zastryzny (R)  RHP Hector Rondon
     RHP Wade Davis 

                                      

    Analysis

    The Chicago Cubs pitching staff was nothing short of brilliant last season, and it has a chance to be just as good, if not better, in 2017.

    Assuming no further additions are made, Mike Montgomery will slide into the rotation to replace Jason Hammel, who is still looking for a new home in free agency.

    That move leaves the team without a reliable lefty in the bullpen, but they do have some options with veteran Brian Duensing added on a one-year deal and Rule 5 pick Caleb Smith offering some intriguing potential.

    Aside from that, the staff is stacked.

    Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey is as good as any 1-4 in the game, and even if Hendricks adds a run to his NL-best 2.13 ERA, he's proven himself as a front-line arm thanks to his pinpoint command and ability to induce the groundball.

    The bullpen lost closer Aroldis Chapman but will now have a full year of Wade Davis and a healthy Hector Rondon after he rushed back from a triceps injury last year.

    Carl Edwards Jr. emerged as a key weapon in the second half, and he joins Pedro Strop and former Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara to form a deep and talented stable of middle relief options.

    A lack of starting pitching depth is all that keeps the Cubs from the No. 1 spot.

1. Boston Red Sox

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    Rick Porcello
    Rick PorcelloMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    2016 Ranks

    Starter ERA: 4.22 (8th in MLB)
    Bullpen ERA: 
    3.56 (8th in MLB)
    Team ERA: 
    4.00 (8th in MLB)

                            

    Projected Pitching Staff

    RotationBullpen
    LHP Chris Sale RHP Heath Hembree
    LHP David Price LHP Fernando Abad
    RHP Rick Porcello RHP Matt Barnes
    LHP Drew Pomeranz LHP Robbie Ross Jr.
    RHP Steven Wright RHP Joe Kelly
     RHP Tyler Thornburg
    LHP Eduardo Rodriguez RHP Craig Kimbrel 

    *RP Carson Smith (Tommy John) expected to begin the season on the DL.

                              

    Analysis

    No one has added a bigger piece of the pitching staff this offseason than the Boston Red Sox did when they landed Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale in a winter meetings blockbuster.

    Sale joins David Price and Rick Porcello to form a rotation trio that rivals any in baseball, and the rest of the staff has no shortage of potential either.

    Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright were both All-Stars in 2016, while Eduardo Rodriguez has front-line upside and could emerge as the clear No. 4 starter in that group with a breakout season.

    That being said, if anyone from that trio battling for the final two rotation spots is going to start the season in the minors, it would likely be Rodriguez as he continues to refine his secondary stuff and overall command.

    A full season with Joe Kelly serving in a setup role and the offseason addition of Tyler Thornburg gives the team a pair of dynamic bridges to All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.

    It's certainly a different looking bullpen than a year ago when Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa filled the setup roles.

    The return of Carson Smith from Tommy John surgery will be the real X-factor, as he could transform the bullpen from good to great.

    Still, with six viable MLB starters, including a trio of aces and a solid group of relievers as the back of the bullpen, the Red Sox have a staff that looks like the best in baseball here in January.

                                                       

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Contract information via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.