Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations for the 2021 Season
The old adage that pitching wins championships still holds true, even in today's launch-angle-driven, power-centric game.
The San Diego Padres made headlines this offseason with a trio of trades to acquire Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove, while the division-rival Los Angeles Dodgers solidified their title contender standing by landing Trevor Bauer in free agency.
Can any other team push those two NL West juggernauts for the top spot in our starting rotation power rankings?
Ahead is a look at how all 30 starting staffs stack up, complete with projected rotations courtesy of Roster Resource at FanGraphs, notable depth arms and currently injured players. Depth options and injured players expected to return this year were factored into team rankings.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
Projected Rotation: LHP Steven Brault, LHP Tyler Anderson, RHP Chad Kuhl, RHP Mitch Keller, RHP JT Brubaker
Depth/Injured: RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Wil Crowe, RHP Cody Ponce
After trading Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon, the Pirates are without anything even remotely resembling a top-tier starting pitcher. Former top prospect Mitch Keller has the potential to develop into that, but he needs to take a step forward in his third season.
29. Baltimore Orioles
Projected Rotation: LHP John Means, RHP Dean Kremer, LHP Keegan Akin, RHP Jorge Lopez, RHP Matt Harvey
Depth/Injured: RHP Felix Hernandez, LHP Bruce Zimmermann, RHP Michael Baumann
The battle between Matt Harvey and Felix Hernandez for the final spot in the Baltimore rotation has quietly been one of the most compelling storylines of the spring. It also speaks to the current state of the starting staff that such a battle is even taking place. How long before DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez are ready?
28. Detroit Tigers
Projected Rotation: LHP Matthew Boyd, RHP Spencer Turnbull, RHP Michael Fulmer, RHP Jose Urena, RHP Julio Teheran
Depth/Injured: RHP Casey Mize, LHP Tarik Skubal, LHP Derek Holland
Signing low-cost veterans Jose Urena and Julio Teheran will allow the Tigers to give Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal a bit more time to develop in the minors after both top prospects were knocked around in their debuts last year. With Matt Manning also knocking on the door, this is a staff on the rise.
27. Texas Rangers
Projected Rotation: RHP Kyle Gibson, RHP Kohei Arihara, RHP Jordan Lyles, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Dane Dunning
Depth/Injured: LHP Kolby Allard, RHP Kyle Cody, LHP Joe Palumbo, LHP Brock Burke (shoulder)
Opening Day starter Kyle Gibson. That should tell you all you need to know about the current state of the Texas rotation. That said, Kohei Arihara has a chance to be a sneaky under-the-radar addition, while young arms Dane Dunning, Kolby Allard, Kyle Cody and Joe Palumbo provide hope for the future.
26. San Francisco Giants
Projected Rotation: RHP Kevin Gausman, RHP Johnny Cueto, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, RHP Logan Webb, RHP Aaron Sanchez
Depth/Injured: RHP Nick Tropeano, LHP Conner Menez, RHP Sean Hjelle, LHP Alex Wood (back), RHP Tyler Beede (Tommy John surgery)
The Giants hit on bounce-back candidates Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly last offseason, and took a similar approach to building out the staff this year by buying low on Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez and Alex Wood. At some point, they will need some young arms to enter the picture and prove they are long-term options.
25. Seattle Mariners
Projected Rotation: LHP Marco Gonzales, LHP Yusei Kikuchi, LHP James Paxton, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Chris Flexen, RHP Justin Dunn
Depth/Injured: RHP Ljay Newsome, RHP Logan Gilbert, LHP Nick Margevicius
The Mariners plan to use a six-man rotation in 2021, and they have some intriguing arms on the staff. James Paxton has significant bounce-back potential, Justus Sheffield showed flashes of reaching another level last season, and Chris Flexen is back stateside after a promising showing in the KBO in 2020.
24. Colorado Rockies
Projected Rotation: RHP German Marquez, LHP Kyle Freeland, RHP Jon Gray, LHP Austin Gomber, RHP Antonio Senzatela
Depth/Injured: RHP Ryan Castellani, RHP Antonio Santos, LHP Ryan Rolison, RHP Peter Lambert (TJ surgery)
With another strong season from German Marquez and bounce-back performances from Kyle Freeland Antonio Senzatela, the Rockies rotation was solid at the top a year ago. Jon Gray has a lot to prove in a contract year, and Austin Gomber will shoulder the weight of being the centerpiece of the Nolan Arenado trade, but this staff could be better than expected.
23. Toronto Blue Jays
Projected Rotation: LHP Hyun Jin Ryu, LHP Robbie Ray, RHP Tanner Roark, LHP Steven Matz, RHP Ross Stripling
Depth/Injured: LHP Anthony Kay, RHP Trent Thornton, RHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP Thomas Hatch (elbow), RHP Nate Pearson (groin)
Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, Steven Matz and Ross Stripling have all been effective MLB starters as recently as the 2019 season, but all four struggled to an ERA north of 5.80 last year. That gives the Blue Jays starting staff as much boom-or-bust potential as any group in the majors, but that risk is mitigated by their quality depth.
22. Chicago Cubs
Projected Rotation: RHP Kyle Hendricks, RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Zach Davies, RHP Trevor Williams, RHP Alec Mills
Depth/Injured: RHP Adbert Alzolay, RHP Kohl Stewart, LHP Brailyn Marquez
After trading Yu Darvish and waving goodbye to Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood in free agency, the Cubs rotation has a new look in 2021. Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies are actually very similar pitchers, while Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams could provide positive value relative to their contracts. Don't sleep on Adbert Alzolay making an impact near the top of the rotation.
21. Boston Red Sox
Projected Rotation: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Nick Pivetta
Depth/Injured: RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Tanner Houck, RHP Connor Seabold, LHP Chris Sale (TJ surgery)
The Red Sox rotation could look much different by midseason if Chris Sale can make a smooth return from Tommy John surgery and Tanner Houck can show out in the minors after logging a 0.53 ERA in three starts with the big league club last year. There are a lot of moving parts, but there is also some real upside with this staff.
20. Arizona Diamondbacks
Projected Rotation: LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Zac Gallen, RHP Luke Weaver, LHP Caleb Smith, RHP Merrill Kelly
Depth/Injured: LHP Alex Young, RHP Corbin Martin, RHP Taylor Widener
It's not hard to convince yourself that Madison Bumgarner (9 GS, 6.48 ERA) and Luke Weaver (12 GS, 6.58 ERA) are both better pitchers than their 2020 numbers would lead you to believe, and a full season of Caleb Smith will also go a long way. If you're looking for a dark-horse NL Cy Young pick, Zac Gallen is a good place to start.
19. Kansas City Royals
Projected Rotation: LHP Danny Duffy, RHP Brad Keller, LHP Mike Minor, LHP Kris Bubic, RHP Brady Singer
Depth/Injured: RHP Jakob Junis, RHP Carlos Hernandez, RHP Jackson Kowar
The veteran trio of Danny Duffy, Brad Keller and Mike Minor has a chance to be better than a lot of people might expect, especially if Minor can return to anything close to his pre-2020 form. Kris Bubic and Brady Singer both impressed in their debuts, and they should be joined by fellow 2018 draft pick Jackson Kowar before 2021 is over.
18. Los Angeles Angels
Projected Rotation: RHP Dylan Bundy, LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Alex Cobb, RHP Griffin Canning, LHP Jose Quintana, RHP Shohei Ohtani
Depth/Injured: RHP Jaime Barria, LHP Patrick Sandoval, LHP Jose Suarez
The Angels will employ a six-man rotation this year in an effort to keep Shohei Ohtani on the once-per-week schedule he was accustomed to in Japan. With a staff made up exclusively of good-not-great starters bolstered by the additions of Alex Cobb and Jose Quintana this winter, it could be the best way to squeeze the most value out of their available arms.
17. Tampa Bay Rays
Projected Rotation: RHP Tyler Glasnow, LHP Ryan Yarbrough, RHP Chris Archer, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Michael Wacha
Depth/Injured: LHP Josh Fleming, RHP Luis Patino, RHP Trevor Richards, LHP Shane McClanahan, RHP Brent Honeywell Jr., RHP Chris Mazza
If there's any team capable of finding a way to get the most out of Chris Archer, Rich Hill and Michael Wacha, it's the Tampa Bay Rays. Expect to see plenty of bulk relievers, openers and a handful of prospect debuts as they try to navigate the loss of Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. Would anyone be surprised if they finish with a top-10 rotation?
16. Philadelphia Phillies
Projected Rotation: RHP Aaron Nola, RHP Zack Wheeler, RHP Zach Eflin, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Chase Anderson
Depth/Injured: RHP Spencer Howard, RHP Adonis Medina, RHP Vince Velasquez (oblique)
The Phillies replaced Vince Velasquez and Jake Arrieta in the rotation with Matt Moore and Chase Anderson, but will that move the needle enough to make them viable contenders in an incredibly deep NL East? Zach Eflin quietly had a breakout season in 2020 with a 3.97 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59 innings, so he's one to watch.
15. Cincinnati Reds
Projected Rotation: RHP Luis Castillo, RHP Tyler Mahle, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Michael Lorenzen, RHP Tejay Antone
Depth/Injured: RHP Tony Santillan, RHP Hector Perez, RHP Jeff Hoffman, RHP Sonny Gray (back)
The Reds looked a lot better with NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer fronting the starting rotation, but they still have a bona fide ace in Luis Castillo and a second frontline starter in Sonny Gray once he returns from a back injury. If you're looking for a breakout candidate, Tyler Mahle is one to watch after he logged a 3.59 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 47.2 innings last year.
14. St. Louis Cardinals
Projected Rotation: RHP Jack Flaherty, RHP Adam Wainwright, RHP Carlos Martinez, LHP Kwang Hyun Kim, RHP John Gant
Depth/Injured: RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon, RHP Johan Oviedo, RHP Jake Woodford, RHP Miles Mikolas (shoulder)
The Cardinals pitching staff endured the grind of playing 53 games in 44 days following a COVID-19 outbreak last year, so bounce-back seasons from ace Jack Flaherty and two-time All-Star Carlos Martinez could be on tap in 2021. John Gant has been a standout reliever the past two years and will now have a chance to prove himself in the rotation.
13. Milwaukee Brewers
Projected Rotation: RHP Brandon Woodruff, RHP Corbin Burnes, RHP Adrian Houser, LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Josh Lindblom
Depth/Injured: LHP Eric Lauer, LHP Brent Suter, RHP Alec Bettinger
In Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, the Brewers have one of the best one-two punches in baseball and easily the best tandem in the NL Central. The veteran trio at the back of the staff are all capable of being passable middle-of-the-rotation options, but none was particularly effective in 2020.
12. Minnesota Twins
Projected Rotation: RHP Kenta Maeda, RHP Jose Berrios, RHP Michael Pineda, LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Matt Shoemaker
Depth/Injured: RHP Randy Dobnak, LHP Lewis Thorpe, RHP Jhoan Duran
The Twins let Jake Odorizzi walk in free agency, replacing him with low-cost veterans J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker. That duo and sinkerballer Randy Dobnak should bring more stability to the back of the staff than they've had in recent years. Can Kenta Maeda come close to duplicating the best season of his career? Will Jose Berrios finally take another step forward?
11. Houston Astros
Projected Rotation: RHP Zack Greinke, RHP Lance McCullers Jr., RHP Jose Urquidy, RHP Jake Odorizzi, RHP Cristian Javier
Depth/Injured: RHP Luis Garcia, RHP Brandon Bielak, RHP Tyler Ivey, LHP Framber Valdez (finger)
After leaning heavily on the young trio of Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy last year following a season-ending injury to Justin Verlander, the Astros added some veteran stability by signing Jake Odorizzi to a two-year, $20.25 million deal. More change is coming with Zack Greinke and Verlander both headed for free agency next offseason.
10. Oakland Athletics
Projected Rotation: RHP Chris Bassitt, LHP Jesus Luzardo, LHP Sean Manaea, RHP Frankie Montas, LHP A.J. Puk
Depth/Injured: RHP Daulton Jefferies, RHP Grant Holmes, RHP James Kaprielian, RHP Mike Fiers (hip)
In his age-31 season, Chris Bassitt was a revelation, going 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 11 starts to finish eighth in AL Cy Young voting. He'll fill the role of staff ace to start the year, but it's only a matter of time before electric left-hander Jesus Luzardo takes the mantle. Can A.J. Puk finally stay healthy long enough to realize his vast potential?
Projected Rotation: RHP Shane Bieber, RHP Zach Plesac, RHP Aaron Civale, RHP Triston McKenzie, LHP Logan Allen
Depth/Injured: RHP Cal Quantrill, LHP Sam Hentges, LHP Scott Moss
With Mike Clevinger traded over the summer and Carlos Carrasco shipped out in the Francisco Lindor blockbuster, the Cleveland staff has gotten younger, but it's still one of the best in the league. Shane Bieber was baseball's best pitcher last year, Zach Plesac broke out in 2020, and wiry right-hander Triston McKenzie is just scratching the surface of his potential. This is a franchise that knows pitching.
8. New York Yankees
Projected Rotation: RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Jameson Taillon, RHP Corey Kluber, LHP Jordan Montgomery, RHP Domingo German
Depth/Injured: RHP Deivi Garcia, RHP Clarke Schmidt, RHP Michael King, RHP Luis Severino (TJ surgery)
The Yankees will go as far as a revamped starting rotation carries them in 2021, and that means Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber will both need to stay healthy enough to make 30 starts. Young right-handers Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt provide high-upside depth, but leaning on either of those young arms could be asking too much in the year ahead. A healthy Luis Severino will be the X-factor.
7. Miami Marlins
Projected Rotation: RHP Sandy Alcantara, RHP Pablo Lopez, RHP Elieser Hernandez, RHP Sixto Sanchez, LHP Trevor Rogers
Depth/Injured: RHP Nick Neidert, LHP Braxton Garrett, RHP Edward Cabrera
The young trio of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Sixto Sanchez helped carry the Marlins to an unexpected postseason berth last year, and they will be the foundational pieces of the ongoing rebuild. They will soon be joined by flamethrower Edward Cabrera, while first-round picks Trevor Rogers and Braxton Garrett provide further depth and potential. This is the most underrated starting staff in baseball.
6. Chicago White Sox
Projected Rotation: RHP Lucas Giolito, LHP Dallas Keuchel, RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Dylan Cease, LHP Carlos Rodon
Depth/Injured: RHP Reynaldo Lopez, RHP Michael Kopech, RHP Jonathan Stiever
The lack of a third reliable arm was the biggest hole in the White Sox roster last year. Dylan Cease has the potential to be a frontline guy, and a healthy Michael Kopech is a huge X-factor, but the addition of Lance Lynn solidifies the rotation. The decision to bring back Carlos Rodon after he was initially non-tendered shows the organization's faith in his remaining potential.
5. Atlanta Braves
Projected Rotation: LHP Max Fried, RHP Charlie Morton, RHP Ian Anderson, LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Kyle Wright
Depth/Injured: RHP Bryse Wilson, LHP Sean Newcomb, LHP Tucker Davidson, RHP Mike Soroka (Achilles)
After using 14 different starting pitchers to get through a shortened 60-game season, it was no surprise to see the Atlanta Braves prioritize veteran arms this offseason.
Charlie Morton (1/$15M) and Drew Smyly (1/$11M) will help take some pressure off the young duo of Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright, who were forced into prominent roles last postseason, and 2019 rookie standout Mike Soroka will return from an Achilles injury before the season is over.
One year after struggling to cobble together five viable starters for much of the season, the rotation looks like a bona fide strength.
4. New York Mets
Projected Rotation: RHP Jacob deGrom, RHP Marcus Stroman, RHP Taijuan Walker, LHP David Peterson, LHP Joey Lucchesi
Depth/Injured: RHP Carlos Carrasco (hamstring), RHP Noah Syndergaard (TJ surgery)
The depth the New York Mets added this offseason will be put to the test early with Noah Syndergaard still recovering from Tommy John surgery and Carlos Carrasco recently sidelined with a hamstring injury.
A healthy Marcus Stroman, high-upside free agent Taijuan Walker and underrated left-hander Joey Lucchesi are all capable of pitching quality innings behind ace Jacob deGrom, and an improved lineup means the Mets are not as reliant on top-tier starting pitching as they were in recent years.
The competition for rotation spots once they're all healthy should light a fire under everyone on the staff.
3. Washington Nationals
Projected Rotation: RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Patrick Corbin, RHP Stephen Strasburg, LHP Jon Lester, RHP Joe Ross
Depth/Injured: RHP Austin Voth, RHP Erick Fedde, LHP Tim Cate
When Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg are all healthy and pitching up to their potential, the Washington Nationals staff is as good as any in baseball.
Strasburg made just two starts last season while dealing with a nerve issue in his pitching hand after signing a seven-year, $245 million contract, so he'll be as big an in-house addition as any team makes this coming season with a clean bill of health.
Replacing Anibal Sanchez with Jon Lester could prove to be an upgrade, while Joe Ross remains capable of more than he has shown to this point in his oft-injured career.
2. San Diego Padres
Projected Rotation: RHP Yu Darvish, LHP Blake Snell, RHP Joe Musgrove, RHP Chris Paddack, LHP Adrian Morejon
Depth/Injured: LHP Ryan Weathers, RHP Reggie Lawson, LHP MacKenzie Gore, RHP Dinelson Lamet (elbow)
Even with Mike Clevinger out for the year and 2020 breakout star Dinelson Lamet dealing with elbow soreness, the San Diego Padres still have an elite starting rotation.
The blockbuster trades to acquire Yu Darvish and Blake Snell this offseason give the rotation a one-two punch, and Joe Musgrove is an extremely underrated pitcher who did not always get the recognition he deserved in Pittsburgh.
Chris Paddack was a rising star just a year ago, Adrian Morejon has intriguing potential as a starter or reliever, and No. 1 prospect MacKenzie Gore is an ace-in-waiting who could force his way onto the MLB roster by midseason.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Projected Rotation: LHP Clayton Kershaw, RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Walker Buehler, LHP Julio Urias, LHP David Price
Depth/Injured: RHP Tony Gonsolin, RHP Dustin May, RHP Josiah Gray
Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin would be viewed as rising stars in the rotation of almost any other team in baseball.
On the Los Angeles Dodgers, they are ticketed for a spot in the bullpen following the return of David Price from opting out of the 2020 season and the blockbuster signing of Trevor Bauer.
The Dodgers rotation features three Cy Young winners and a pitcher who is squarely among the 2021 NL Cy Young favorites in Walker Buehler.
The rich have gotten richer this offseason, and the Dodgers have a staff capable of delivering a second straight title.