On a normal Monday, we'd be ranking MLB teams. Whole teams, not just parts of them. But we haven't seen a single regular season baseball game and won't for a while, so it's time to rank different aspects of the 30 MLB teams. Last week, we hit . This week it's rotations.
What makes for a great rotation? Lots of things. Run prevention is at the top of the list, but longevity (innings pitched) also makes a big difference in not straining the bullpen. Depth is required, but we don't want a team with a rotation full of No. 4 starters toward the top of the list, because the ace is a huge deal.
As the throwback phrase goes from the great Earl Weaver, momentum is the next day's starting pitcher. When you can roll out someone like Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg or Patrick Corbin, it's pretty easy to feel good about stopping a bad streak.
Yes, the champs. The Washington Nationals are sitting pretty atop the power rankings of rotations without a clear cut No. 5 starter, and that's because they have three aces. We saw what that did for them in last year's playoffs.
There's certainly been an injury impact this season with the Mets, Red Sox, Yankees and others losing a key name for the season, but let's also take note of the impact of the delayed and shortened season. I mention it often below, but it will have a major impact regarding those coming off injury and younger pitchers who might have otherwise been on an innings limit.
If we have a short spring training upon return, it's possible the starting pitchers won't have as much impact early in the season, but by the end they'll again become the single most important player in any given game.
Now, let's rank 'em. As always, these are official and if your favorite team is too low, that means I'm biased, stupid and hate them.
|The champs reign supreme. They were able to retain Stephen Strasburg via free agency a year after they inked Patrick Corbin. They have a trio of aces in front of a good Anibal Sanchez. The delay in starting the season mitigates any concern about Max Scherzer's health and probably helps Sanchez at age 36. They don't have a ton of depth, but gimme the ace-caliber quality at the top.|
|They still have depth but not near as much as last season due to the departures of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda. Past-prime Clayton Kershaw is still very good along with Walker Buehler at the top here. I think David Price is set for a good run in L.A., too. What will they get from the likes of Julio Urias, Alex Wood and Dustin May?|
|Their ability to roll quality starters off a virtual assembly line is remarkable. Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger could be a pair of aces. Carlos Carrasco is back! Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac look like one of the better 4-5 duos in the league and Logan Allen adds depth. All this less than a season after moving on from Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber.|
|It's tough to pin down a rotation for the Rays, since they'll use openers, but the penciled in rotation is very strong. The upside in Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow is elite and Charlie Morton was Cy Young-caliber last season.|
|Jack Flaherty emerged as an ace last season and we saw the breakout of Dakota Hudson, giving the Redbirds a strong top two. Can Carlos Martinez rejoin the rotation and hit his upside? What does Adam Wainwright have left? Can Miles Mikolas return to 2018 form? It's a pretty solid rotation.|
|With all the focus over the offense, we may not be putting enough emphasis on how many question marks this rotation has. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are great. They are also 37 and 36, respectively. How will Jose Urquidy fare in a full season? Lance McCullers is coming off Tommy John surgery. Can Josh James stick? Still, a pair of aces is a pair of aces until it proves otherwise.|
|Noah Syndergaard being out for the season knocks them down a bunch. Jacob deGrom is a *stud*, but behind him is a handful of questions about consistency: Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, Steven Matz and Michael Wacha.|
|The shortened season helps them, because workload won't be an issue for the likes of Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk like it would have been in a 162-game year. Mike Fiers is near 35 years old, too. It's a quality group and we know the A's always max out on what they get from their arms.|
|Wade Miley completely fell apart down the stretch, but a return to the NL Central gives him a good shot to reverse course. Plus, he's the No. 5 guy in Cincy. Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo at the top is very good, and what if Trevor Bauer goes back to 2018 form?|
|I love Kyle Hendricks and firmly believe in the Yu Darvish we saw down the stretch last season. Past that it's worrisome. Jose Quintana seems likely to be mediocre, Jon Lester is 36 years old and seems to have hit his decline and Tyler Chatwood failed last time he was in the rotation. A good outcome on the latter three is certainly possible, but getting it from all three seems unlikely.|
|It sure looked like Corey Kluber was hitting his decline phase last season before the injury, but he's heading to his age-34 season and he just got an awful lot of rest. He averaged 218 innings pitched from 2014-18 and that doesn't include the playoffs (in 2016 alone he worked 34 1/3). If they get Kluber in prime form along with Mike Minor and Lance Lynn pitching like last season, this is a good big three. Kyle Gibson is a quality four, too.|
|Losing Luis Severino hurts. Good thing they won the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes. The longer we wait, the more value James Paxton is going to have this season, too. And hey, Jordan Montgomery is back.|
|Jose Berrios at the top is good and now Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill are added to the mix with Jake Odorizzi coming off his best MLB season. Does Homer Bailey add value?|
|I like Mike Soroka and Max Fried a lot at the top and Mike Foltynewicz is probably past the issues that caused his demotion last season. I'm a bit worried about Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez at the back end, though.|
|They lack ace power -- no, I don't think Madison Bumgarner is one anymore -- but the depth is good. Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen, who is poised for a major breakout per several Arizona-area scouts, make for a very good 4-5.|
|Much like I said about their offense last week, you look at the Phillies rotation from last season and you're left saying, "they should be better." Aaron Nola could've been better in 2019. Jake Arrieta hasn't lived up to his contract. Maybe with a new manager in the dugout things change. Add Zack Wheeler to this mix and it looks like the rotation should improve. But will they actually hit their upside?|
|Another example where the delay and shortened season helps. Michael Kopech is coming off Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease would be constrained on a workload limit. Lucas Giolito was an ace last year and they added Dallas Keuchel.|
|Johnny Cueto was bad in his return last season, but this extra time off is gonna help him. Jeff Samardzija is still a quality rotation piece, too. Can Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly put it all together for a full season?|
|Much like we have to mention the Coors Field Effect on offense, we have to do it here as well. Jon Gray was actually great last season with a 135 ERA+, which accounts for ballpark climate. German Marquez was at 109 and he's shown flashes of brilliance. The wheels fell off for Kyle Freeland last season, but he's only 26 and finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2018. Antonio Senzatela also got banged around last year but was good before that and he's only 25. Jeff Hoffman is a former first rounder. There's real talent here. It's just near impossible to find consistency with half their games at Coors. The lack of consistency is why they aren't higher.|
|I keep mentioning the shortened season helping pitchers, and here's another example. It gives Garrett Richards more distance from Tommy John surgery and Chris Paddack's workload will certainly have no limit.|
|The Angels had a brutal 5.64 rotation ERA last season and were last in Fangraphs WAR among rotations. They are getting a frontline starter in Shohei Ohtani back, though, thanks to the delay. Can Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy perform well after being added? If they can pitch well enough to make Andrew Heaney the No. 4 starter, that's good news in Anaheim.|
|They've got their ace in Ryu, but it's quite the step down after him to the likes of Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and Matt Shoemaker. Though Shoemaker did look great before his injury last year.|
|There's a whole new pitching coach and organizational plan in general, so it's hard to see how the talent on hand will react to any changes -- which were desperately needed, mind you. There is certainly upside in Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove and Mitch Keller, though. File this one away as a potentially high riser.|
|They were one of the best teams of all-time less than two years ago and now the rotation has Eduardo Rodriguez at the top, Nathan Eovaldi second and Martin Perez, Ryan Weber and Brian Johnson rounding things out. Quite the tumble.|
|I like Brandon Woodruff. Otherwise it's a good thing Craig Counsell can lean heavily on his bullpen.|
|Farewell, King's Court. What's left is slightly intriguing, even if they don't have an ace. Marco Gonzales is fine. Will Yusei Kikuchi improve in his second MLB go-round? Taijuan Walker is back and good when healthy. Ditto Kendall Graveman. Justus Sheffield has long been highly thought of. We can't put them any higher, but you could squint your way to saying this is a decent rotation in 2020.|
|For a team coming off 108 losses it's better than I thought it would be. John Means is a stud. Alex Cobb is coming back healthy. OK, it's still bad, but Means moves the needle.|
|Caleb Smith was good through 18 starts, but fell apart down the stretch. There is possibly some untapped potential in the likes of Sandy Alcantara and Jordan Yamamoto, but the rebuild is far from over.|
|Not much here to be excited about. At least Danny Duffy is around as a reminder of the 2014-15 run.|
|Between Michael Fulmer (out after Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2019), top prospects Casey Mize and Matt Manning along with Matthew Boyd, it's possible the Tigers have a decent rotation in 2021. In 2020, they don't.|