The San Diego Padres sent shockwaves through Major League Baseball when they accomplished two blockbuster trades last week. Within 24 hours, the Padres acquired starting pitchers Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays and Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs. The additions not only were the biggest moves of a quiet offseason thus far, but they also helped to establish San Diego's rotation as one of the best in the game. Even without Mike Clevinger, who will miss 2021 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, San Diego has an impressive rotation loaded with upside.
With Snell and Darvish, the Padres have bolstered their rotation and cemented their status as serious 2021 World Series contenders. So much so that the club has the third-best odds to win the 2021 World Series. Only the division rival and defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees have better odds as the calendar flips to 2021. The Padres are serious about World Series contention in 2021 after ending a 14-year long postseason drought in 2020.
While we're only just fresh into a new year and most of the top free agent starting pitchers remain unsigned, we thought that now might be a good time to take another look at the best rotations in baseball after San Diego's slew of recent trades. Let's dive into the rankings.
The 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals suffered a bit of a championship hangover in 2020, but their rotation is expected to rebound in 2021. Stephen Strasburg is on track for spring training after he underwent surgery for carpal tunnel neuritis in late August. Along with Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin should also be able to help make the Nats rotation one of the best in baseball. Right-handers Erick Fedde and Joe Ross should slot in the No. 4 and 5 spots, but it wouldn't hurt if the Nationals made a move to secure some extra depth for the back half of their rotation.
1. LHP Max Fried
2. RHP Charlie Morton
3. RHP Ian Anderson
4. LHP Drew Smyly
5. RHP Kyle Wright
* ace Mike Soroka is recovering from an Achilles injury and is expected to rejoin the rotation early in the 2021 season
The Atlanta Braves had a rough go around last season when it came to pitching. Injuries and unreliability hurt their rotation, but lefty Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson both impressed. Atlanta didn't take long this offseason to address their weakness and added veteran All-Star starting pitcher Charlie Morton and lefty Drew Smyly to regain rotation depth. Morton and Smyly will join a returning Mike Soroka (Achilles), Kyle Wright, Fried and Anderson. Some other internal options at this point could be Touki Toussaint, Sean Newcomb, Bryse Wilson and Huascar Ynoa.
Despite trading Mike Clevinger at last year's trade deadline, Cleveland still boasts a very impressive rotation. Not only were Cleveland starters dominant in 2020, they were historically good. The club's ace, Shane Bieber, who won the 2020 American League Cy Young, will lead the way in 2021 with veteran right-hander Carlos Carrasco and youngsters Zach Plesac (turns 26 in January), Aaron Civale (25) and Triston McKenzie (23) filling out the rest of the rotation.
The defending champion Dodgers will return a dominant rotation in 2021. Veteran ace Clayton Kershaw will enter the final year of a three-year extension he signed with the club in 2018 and Walker Buehler sits in at the No. 2 spot as the two true aces will look to continue anchoring the L.A. rotation. Lefty David Price, who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, indicated that he intends to play this upcoming season. Price, 35, figures to bolster the starting rotation if and when he makes his Dodgers debut next season. Youngsters Julio Urias (24) and Dustin May (23) will both look to cement themselves in the rotation, and Tony Gonsolin should provide extra depth. Top prospect right-hander Josiah Gray could also debut in 2021 and become a mid-rotation starter.
As of now, the Padres get the top spot for the best rotation in baseball. With their upgraded rotation, the Padres will be a legitimate threat to the Dodgers in the National League West. San Diego's starters are a great blend of veterans and young pitchers. Of course, like any rotation, most of the success will be reliant on their new frontline starters staying healthy. Both Yu Darvish and Blake Snell have recent injuries on their resumes. Right-hander Dinelson Lamet will also be returning from a right biceps injury that cut his 2020 season short. Also included in the Padres rotation depth is top prospect MacKenzie Gore. The lefty isn't far from making his MLB debut, and it's likely it will happen sometime in the coming season.