Ranking baseball's best starting rotations: American League version

With just a few weeks until the 2012 regular season finally begins, let's take a look at how the American League starting rotations rank. These are subjective, as in it was only me who did the ranking. Obviously when that happens, there's no wrong answer -- meaning everyone is encouraged to offer up his or her own opinion in the comments section.

We'll go in reverse order, so the drama builds -- as I'm certain you are all on pins and needles ...

14. Baltimore Orioles
Projected Rotation: Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton

It was tough to narrow the list down to five, because the Orioles also have Brian Matusz, Alfredo Simon, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland, Armando Galarraga and Tsuyoshi Wada in the mix. Sometimes when there's so much depth, we can use the cliche "that's a nice problem to have." Only here is because there aren't five good choices. No matter who they choose, it's pretty easy to see this being the worst rotation in the AL.

13. Kansas City Royals
Projected Rotation: Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, Bruce Chen, Felipe Paulino, Danny Duffy

The thing is, this group has the potential to actually be serviceable. In a best-case scenario, there's enough talent -- especially with Hochevar, Sanchez and Duffy -- to get the Royals into contention for a few months. It's just that you can't count on a best-case scenario from all five guys.

12. Oakland Athletics
Projected Rotation: Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, Tyson Ross, Tom Milone, Brad Peacock

The A's will get Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson back this season from 2011 surgeries, plus there is Jarrod Parker, whenever the A's decide to promote him. While the A's are pretty likely to be one of the worst teams in the AL in 2012, don't totally discount the talented young arms Billy Beane has assembled. There's talent here.

11. Toronto Blue Jays
Projected Rotation: Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, Brett Cecil, Dustin McGowan

Romero is an established ace and Morrow has shown some serious potential. There's nothing really awful here, but they could still use an upgrade (Gavin Floyd?) in the middle.

10. Minnesota Twins
Projected Rotation: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Jason Marquis

They could be way better, but I have no faith in Liriano being both consistent and healthy over the course of a full season. Plus, Pavano is hardly an ace and Marquis has never pitched for an American League team.

9. Chicago White Sox
Projected Rotation: John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Phil Humber, Chris Sale

Peavy is so confident in his inability to stay healthy for a whole season that he recently brought up the idea of converting to closer. Sale has loads of promise, but he's never made a major-league start. Then we're left with Danks, Floyd and Humber -- a trio that doesn't suck by any stretch, but it's hardly imposing enough to instill fear in the opposition. But the upside with best-case scenarios from Peavy and Sale is quite intriguing. It could be much worse.

8. Seattle Mariners
Projected Rotation: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hector Noesi, Charlie Furbush

Bonus points for having King Felix propelled the Mariners a few spots. After that, they have a group of decent-but-not-really-good starters. Next year at this time, though, they could make a big leap, due to prospects Danny Hultzen (No. 20 overall) and James Paxton (No. 59). Or at least 2014, when you can start thinking about Taijuan Walker (No. 27), too.

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7. Cleveland Indians
Projected Rotation: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe, Josh Tomlin, Kevin Slowey

They need Jimenez to return to form and Lowe to fight off age decline. If so, this is a rather formidable bunch; an underrated rotation heading into 2012.

6. Boston Red Sox
Projected Rotation: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves

High-risk, high-reward here due to all the questions. Can Buchholz stay healthy? Can Bard make a successful move to the rotation? Can Beckett keep himself healthy and disciplined all season? It's possible for the Red Sox to climb a few spots by later this season, but, on the contrary, I actually think there's more a chance they fall down.

5. Texas Rangers
Projected Rotation: Colby Lewis, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison

The Rangers are in an interesting position. They appear to lack a lock-down ace, but it's possible Darvish or Feliz can make that leap. And what if Holland -- the man who threw four shutouts last season at age 24 -- gains more consistency? The depth is outstanding, too, as Alexi Ogando and/or Scott Feldman could shift to the rotation if the need arises.

4. Detroit Tigers
Projected Rotation: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Andrew Oliver

Have we seen Scherzer and/or Porcello reach full potential yet? Some believe yes, some believe no. The two are huge wild cards here, that's for sure. If there's still another step forward from each and the Tigers trade for a fifth starter at some point, it's feasible to see the Tigers sitting in the top spot here by the end of the season.

3. New York Yankees
Projected Rotation: CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes

There's a lot to like here, especially the horse that is atop the rotation again. CC is as automatic as anyone these days. There's depth, too, with Freddy Garcia and Andy Pettitte -- in addition to prospects Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos -- as extras here. I do have concerns about Pineda shifting from AL West to AL East, especially being a right-hander with his home games in the left-handed hitting paradise that is Yankee Stadium. And, of course, there are the velocity concerns this spring. Still, there's enough here to land the Yankees in the top four (and having them over the Tigers was a complete toss-up. I'd hear arguments for either side).

2. Los Angeles Angels
Projected Rotation: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana, Jerome Williams

Back in December from the Winter Meetings, I raved about this Angels' rotation and I stand by that. The only thing keeping them from the top spot is a weak link in the five-spot and not really much depth after that, either. Weaver and Haren are a pair of aces at the top, Wilson has gotten so much "overrated" talk from fans this offseason he's become underrated -- seriously, he had a 2.31 road ERA last season, and now his home games aren't in the hitter-haven that is Rangers Ballpark -- and Santana has the ability to dominate a game with the best of them. If the Angels get to the playoffs with this top four, watch out.

1. Tampa Bay Rays
Projected Rotation: James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Wade Davis

The Rays may not have the imposing ace of the previous three teams here, but they have six -- including Jeff Niemann -- quality starters, now including phenom Moore. Shields, Price and Hellickson combined for 14 WAR (Baseball-Reference version) last season, and they're adding Moore to the mix this year. Plus there's also Alex Cobb for depth and prospect Chris Archer waiting in the wings. It's a scary stable of starting pitching in Tampa Bay.

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CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered the last six World Series beginning with the epic 2011 Fall Classic. The former Indiana University... Full Bio

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