Ranking All 30 MLB Pitching Staffs Ahead of Opening Day 2022April 5, 2022
Ranking All 30 MLB Pitching Staffs Ahead of Opening Day 2022
Yesterday, we ranked every MLB team's offense going into the 2022 season. Now it's time to turn our attention to the mound.
The New York Mets looked like a no-brainer for the title of best starting rotation in baseball until Jacob deGrom was shut down indefinitely with a shoulder injury.
Who has the game's best pitching pitching staff now?
Here, we've ranked all 30 teams based on their projected starting rotation and bullpen, as well as the depth they have beyond their Opening Day roster. Teams rarely get through a season without having to tap into their depth, especially in the starting rotation, so having a good sixth, seventh and eighth guy can go a long way over 162 games.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates will hand the ball to JT Brubaker on Opening Day, a pitcher who went 5-13 with a 5.36 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 124.1 innings last season. Late-inning relievers David Bednar and Chris Stratton are the only pitchers on the team who would be a lock to make a contender's roster.
29. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles at least have a legitimate staff ace in left-hander John Means, but the rest of the rotation is a collection of back-of-the-rotation arms. The front office also just traded away two of the club's best relievers, Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott, to the Miami Marlins in exchange for prospects.
28. Texas Rangers
If young pitchers like Spencer Howard, Kolby Allard, Taylor Hearn and Glenn Otto can take a step forward this year, the Rangers could wind up much higher on this list. For now, a rotation led by Jon Gray and Martin Perez with a patchwork bullpen behind it ranks near the bottom of the pack.
27. Washington Nationals
With Max Scherzer gone, Patrick Corbin coming off the worst season of his career and Stephen Strasburg easing his way back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, the Nationals rotation is a shell of what it was a few years ago when they won the World Series. Top prospect Cade Cavalli should be ready to help at some point in 2022.
26. Oakland Athletics
After trading away Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt as part of their offseason fire sale, the Athletics are left with Frankie Montas, Cole Irvin and a lot of question marks in the starting rotation. Closer Lou Trivino also looks like a prime trade candidate, and there's a good chance that he and Montas will both be playing elsewhere before the 2022 season is over.
25. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-backs added soft-tossing Zach Davies to the starting rotation and veterans Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy and Oliver Perez to the back of the bullpen. Healthy seasons from Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver would also go a long way in stabilizing the rotation, though Gallen is already dealing with a shoulder issue.
24. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have a solid top four in the starting rotation in Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela and Austin Gomber, and Pirates cast-off Chad Kuhl could prove to be a nice under-the-radar addition on a one-year, $3 million deal. However, the Rockies needed to do a lot more to shore up their bullpen beyond signing Alex Colome.
23. Kansas City Royals
Bringing back veteran Zack Greinke to anchor a young rotation was a great move by the Kansas City front office. If young pitchers Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Carlos Hernandez, Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar can take another step forward in their development, this pitching staff could surprise some people. Scott Barlow is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball.
22. Minnesota Twins
An offseason where they added Sonny Gray, Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy would have looked great for the Twins five years ago, but here in 2022, it's tough to get excited about that trio. Rookie Joe Ryan is taking the ball on Opening Day, and fellow rookies Jhoan Duran and Josh Winder will also need to make a significant impact for this staff to even be a middle-of-the-road group.
21. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers gave Eduardo Rodriguez a five-year, $77 million contract to slot into the staff ace role in the hope that it would take some pressure off young starters Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning while they continue their development. With no significant additions made to a bullpen that ranked 22nd in the majors with a 4.50 ERA, it's tough to rank them any higher.
20. Chicago Cubs
Aside from adding Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly and Wade Miley to the starting rotation, the Cubs also completely overhauled their bullpen. Veterans David Robertson and Mychal Givens will join Rowan Wick in the late innings, while Jesse Chavez, Chris Martin and Daniel Norris will help bridge the gap in the middle innings. This is a group that could easily exceed expectations if things click.
19. Cincinnati Reds
After blowing up their lineup, it was surprising to see the Reds hold onto Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, but those two should be a solid duo at the top of the rotation once Castillo returns from a sore shoulder. With that said, the performance of young starters Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Vladimir Gutierrez and Reiver Sanmartin will ultimately determine how good this staff can be.
18. Boston Red Sox
What can the Red Sox reasonably expect to get out of Chris Sale this year as he opens the season on the 60-day injured list? Luckily, they are better equipped to be without their ace than they were a year ago, thanks in part to the upside that Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck have shown. The bigger question might actually be the bullpen, which once again lacks a proven closer. If Matt Barnes can return to form, the entire relief corps will fall into place.
17. Los Angeles Angels
There's quality depth in the Angels rotation for the first time in years thanks to the emergence of Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez last year, along with the offseason additions of Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen. If Shohei Ohtani can stay healthy and former top prospects Reid Detmers and Griffin Canning can make an impact, the rotation could be a legit strength, while the bullpen also improved with the additions of Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup and Archie Bradley.
16. St. Louis Cardinals
Don't sleep on Drew VerHagen (Japanese League) and Aaron Brooks (KBO) as potential impact additions to the Cardinals staff after they put together successful international runs. The back of the bullpen should be a strength once again, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson are back healthy, and top prospect Matthew Liberatore should be a factor at some point in 2022.
15. Miami Marlins
The Marlins took a step toward upgrading a sketchy bullpen when they acquired Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott from the Orioles, but it still looks like a potential weakness. That drags down their ranking, but the young rotation of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Rogers, Elieser Hernandez and Jesus Luzardo has a chance to be nasty.
14. New York Yankees
The Yankees should have one of the best bullpens in baseball, even with Zack Britton still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the rotation has enough question marks to keep them from ranking any higher for the time being. Can Luis Severino return to his pre-injury form? Can Nestor Cortes Jr. duplicate his out-of-nowhere breakout? Can Jameson Taillon stay healthy?
13. Seattle Mariners
Signing AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to a five-year, $115 million deal gives the Mariners the true ace they've been lacking in recent years. Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen will continue to chew up innings, while Logan Gilbert, Matt Brash, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock all have huge upside. The no-name bullpen was one of the biggest surprises of 2021 and returns largely intact after playing a major part in the team's success last year.
12. Tampa Bay Rays
With Tyler Glasnow, Shane Baz, Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks all starting the season on the injured list, it's tough to rank the Rays any higher than this right now. With that said, they always seem to find a way to put together a top-10 pitching staff, and young pitchers Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Luis Patino are all capable of breakout seasons. Don't be surprised if they also find a way to squeeze the most out of Corey Kluber.
11. Philadelphia Phillies
Did the Phillies do enough to upgrade a bullpen that ranked 25th in the majors with a 4.60 ERA and had 34 blown saves in 70 opportunities? They signed Corey Knebel, Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia in free agency, so they certainly made upgrading the relief corps a priority. If the relievers can pull their weight, the rotation of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Kyle Gibson and Zach Eflin has the potential to be elite.
10. Cleveland Guardians
With Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Triston McKenzie and 2021 breakout star Cal Quantrill, the Guardians could have one of the best rotations in baseball. However, none of those pitchers made more than 25 starts in 2021, so staying healthy will be key. At the back of the bullpen, Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak are as unhittable as any duo in baseball.
9. San Francisco Giants
It will be interesting to see how swapping out Kevin Gausman and Johnny Cueto for free-agent signings Carlos Rodon and Alex Cobb plays out for the Giants. The key will be Rodon's health. He was one of baseball's best pitchers during the first half last year, but he threw only 43 innings after the All-Star break. Logan Webb and Camilo Doval are budding stars, and the lights-out bullpen returns intact.
8. New York Mets
Prior to Jacob deGrom being sidelined indefinitely with a stress reaction in his right scapula, the Mets would have had a legitimate case for the No. 1 spot. Instead, they are left wondering when the best pitcher in the game will return. Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker are still a solid trio, and they had a top-10 bullpen last year, but they lost Aaron Loup, Jeurys Familia and Miguel Castro and replaced them with lesser options.
7. Atlanta Braves
The bullpen trio of Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter and Will Smith deserves a ton of credit for the Braves winning the World Series, and the relief corps should be even better this year with Kenley Jansen and Collin McHugh added to the mix. Charlie Morton and Max Fried are a terrific one-two punch, while young pitchers Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa, Tucker Davidson, Spencer Strider, Kyle Muller and Touki Toussaint give the Braves a ton of rotational depth.
6. Houston Astros
The unheralded trio of Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy anchored the Astros rotation last year, and they now have Justin Verlander back to help ease the loss of Lance McCullers Jr. to a strained flexor tendon. The only notable addition to the bullpen is Hector Neris, but the trio of Ryan Pressly, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton returns to handle the late innings.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
As long as some combination of Andrew Heaney, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, David Price and an eventually healthy Dustin May can hold down the final two spots in the starting rotation, the Los Angeles Dodgers are in great shape to once again have a top-tier pitching staff.
The Dodgers acquired Craig Kimbrel and Daniel Hudson to join Blake Treinen, Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol in the late innings after Kenley Jansen, Corey Knebel and Joe Kelly departed in free agency. They also have an abundance of arms capable of going multiple innings in middle relief roles.
The Dodgers' top three of Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw stacks up to any trio in baseball. The pipeline is also still churning out talent, as top prospects Ryan Pepiot and Bobby Miller could both make an impact at some point in 2022.
4. San Diego Padres
No team has more quality starting pitching depth than the San Diego Padres.
Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Sean Manaea, Nick Martinez and Blake Snell will break camp as the Opening Day rotation, with Chris Paddack working out of the bullpen in a long relief role.
They also have Mike Clevinger, who is recovering from knee surgery but should be ready to rejoin the rotation in short order, along with Ryan Weathers, Reiss Knehr and MacKenzie Gore waiting in the wings in Triple-A.
Mark Melancon and Daniel Hudson are gone from last year's relief corps, and Drew Pomeranz will start the year on the injured list. But the Padres still have Emilio Pagan, Pierce Johnson, Austin Adams, Craig Stammen, Tim Hill, free-agent signing Robert Suarez and starter-turned-reliever Dinelson Lamet in the bullpen.
3. Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox were dealt some tough injury news in the past week, with hard-throwing Garrett Crochet out for the year and veteran starter Lance Lynn sidelined for a month with a torn meniscus in his right knee, but they have the depth to overcome those injuries.
Vince Velasquez will temporarily slot into the starting rotation, and Reynaldo Lopez is another capable depth option who will begin the year in the bullpen. Ahead of them is a rock-solid foursome of Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Dallas Keuchel and reliever-turned-starter Michael Kopech, who might be the biggest X-factor on the entire roster.
The bullpen is anchored by the AL's best closer Liam Hendriks, ground-ball machine Aaron Bummer and free-agent signing Kendall Graveman who inked a three-year, $24 million deal after a breakout season with the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays started rebuilding their starting rotation last year when they gave prospect Alek Manoah a spot on the staff and acquired Jose Berrios from the Minnesota Twins in a trade deadline blockbuster.
Those two and incumbent workhorse Hyun-Jin Ryu are now joined by free-agent signings Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi. That impressive five-man staff is backed by capable depth options Ross Stripling, Trent Thornton, Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay and former top prospect Nate Pearson.
The standout bullpen trio of Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber and Jordan Romano will be joined by Yimi Garcia in the late innings, and a wealth of middle relievers capable of working multiple innings should help take pressure off the starting staff in the early going.
The Blue Jays offense gets the bulk of the attention, but the vastly improved pitching staff has turned them into a legitimate title contender.
1. Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers have the best starting rotation in baseball, and it isn't particularly close.
- Corbin Burnes: 28 GS, 2.43 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 234 K, 167.0 IP
- Brandon Woodruff: 30 GS, 2.56 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 211 K, 179.1 IP
- Freddy Peralta: 27 GS, 2.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 195 K, 144.1 IP
- Adrian Houser: 26 GS, 3.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 105 K, 142.1 IP
- Eric Lauer: 20 GS, 3.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 117 K, 118.2 IP
They also have two of the top 10 relief pitchers in the game:
- Josh Hader: 60 G, 34/35 SV, 1.23 ERA, 15.6 K/9
- Devin Williams: 58 G, 23 HLD, 2.50 ERA, 14.5 K/9
Add to that a rock-solid setup reliever in Brad Boxberger, swingman lefty Brent Suter, electric young left-hander Aaron Ashby and 2021 rookie standout Jake Cousins, and the Brewers are a relatively easy choice for the No. 1 spot in these rankings.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.