Look for Justin Verlander to add another CY young to his collection.
There's been a saying for as long as I can remember. "Pitching Wins Championships". It may be a worn-out saying, but there's obviously some truth to it. Take a look at my rankings and see how your club stacks up to the rest.
1. Detroit Tigers - My projected WAR for the staff was far enough ahead of the rest that I couldn't even debate my decision to slot them #1. Justin Verlander plays an integral part in that, as their isn't a pitcher in the game that I'd rather have coming into this season.
The three to follow him could all be considered #2 starters on contending clubs. (Fister, Scherzer could be aces on almost half the clubs in MLB) They'll be just fine with rounding out their rotation with either Rick Porcello or Drew Smyly.
X Factor: Max Scherzer - Some fantasy owners in shallow leagues cut bait on him early because of the 7.77 ERA he posted in April. He was a victim of bad luck, and when the tide turned he put up monster numbers. A 3.14 ERA from April on and finished 2nd in the ML in K's, only trailing teammate Verlander.
Don't let him slip too far on your fantasy draft boards this year, as he should post a career best ERA.
Bold Prediction: Scherzer finishes with a career best ERA, and legitimizes himself as an upper echelon starter.
2. Washington Nationals - They've made it known that they're taking off Stephen Strasburg's training wheels this year. He showed signs of fatigue down the stretch last year, so I can only wonder if they'd be smart in keeping his workload under 200 innings. He needs to have some gas left in the tank for postseason play.
While I give a slight edge to the Tigers in the #2-4 slots, it's splitting hairs. I'm projecting some regression from Gio Gonzalez, but even so, I still consider him to be a legitimate front line starter.
X Factor: Dan Haren - He may never return to being the "vintage" Haren from years past, but expect a bounce back season. His production should be more respectable, up to par with what Edwin Jackson provided last year.
Bold Prediction: Strasburg is unshackled and thrives. He finishes as the Runner up in the CY Young race. If I knew he'd reach 210 + innings, he would have been my pick.
3. L.A Dodgers - Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will be the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball. There is only 3 other spots available with 6 viable candidates. If Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are deemed healthy enough to break camp, they'll have to trade a starter.
X Factor: Hyun-Jin Ryu - He's a mixed bag among scouts whether he'll be a mid rotation starter or just a solid reliever. I'll say he'll fall somewhere in between.(Without a lot of confidence) He should be more than acceptable as a back end starter, if he's more than that they'll have the best rotation in the NL.
Bold Prediction: Josh Beckett fits into their #3 spot in the rotation like a glove. He doesn't miss pitching in the rugged AL East, and should continue to thrive in a pitcher friendly home park. (2.93 ERA for LA in 43 innings last year)
4. Cincinnati Reds - It'll become an interesting scenario if Aroldis Chapman bounces back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. They'll have to limit his innings to 140-150, or otherwise risk him breaking down. If I was a Red's fan I'd prefer a different manager at the helm, as Dusty Baker has had his issues with handling pitching staffs over the years. Does Mark Prior ring a bell? Even if this experiment as a starter fails and he's moved back to the pen, it's still a formidable rotation. (While maybe not worthy of a #4 ranking.)
X Factor: Aroldis Chapman - We're all curious to see how Chapman transitions from lights out closer to starter. It's a worth while experiment if you ask me, but I can understand the other side of the argument. Why mess with him if he can post a 3 + WAR as a reliever? He's a fastball/slider pitcher that will need a decent 3rd pitch to be a mainstay in the rotation in the long term. The trio of Chapman, Cueto, Latos could lead the Reds to their first world series appearance since 1990.
Bold Prediction: Chapman shows flashes of brilliance as a starter, but struggles with command. He'll win 5 games as a starter, and compile 30 saves as their closer. He'll log 100-120 innings with this approach.
The back-end of the rotation leaves a lot to be desired in Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan. Kyle Lohse would give them a lift, but I'm sure they aren't comfortable surrending their #16 pick in the amateur draft. They may have to turn to an internal solution like Tyler Cloyd to replace Lannan, as his stay in the rotation will be short lived.
X Factor: Roy Halladay - I'm skeptical of him returning to his old form, but if he's once again a 5-7 WAR pitcher they'll rival any rotation in MLB.
Bold Prediction: Halladay finishes the season with 3.8 WAR, while not ace worthy, still more productive than any other #3 starter in the NL.
6. Texas Rangers - While there rotation isn't as sexy on paper as the likes of some of the beasts in the AL East, they'll likely be just as productive. Yu Darvish will anchor and should establish himself as one of the Top 10 starters in all of MLB this year.
Matt Harrison could see some regression, but still a solid #2. (3.5 WAR projection) Alexi Ogando has the potential to be one of the best #4's in MLB, I expect his transition from the pen back to the rotation to work out just fine. (3.7 WAR as as starter in 2011.) The #5 spot may not be solidified until Colby Lewis returns sometime in the 2nd half.
X Factor: Derek Holland - He's coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign. For their staff to justify this high of a ranking Holland must reform back to what he was in 2011. (16 W's, 3.95 ERA in 198 IP, 3.8 WAR) I expect to see a bounce back season.
Bold Prediction: Expect Darvish to be a finalist for the CY Young. Finishing 3rd or 4th in the voting sounds about right. He'll put up the numbers of a legitimate ace this year.
7. St. Louis Cardinals - Even with the likelihood that we won't be seeing Chris Carpenter this year, I still like what their staff has to offer. They have enough depth that Carp won't be sorely missed until postseason time. (10-4 3.00 ERA in playoffs)
Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn solidify the front end of their staff. Jaime Garcia has proven to be a solid middle to back end guy when he's healthy. Where the excitement lies is with young phenoms Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal. I expect Rosenthal to break camp as a reliever, but he could very well unseat Jake Westbrook in the 2nd half.
X Factor: Shelby Miller - I'm really high on this kid. His repertoire is impressive. (fastball, curveball, change up)His change is a little behind his other offerings, but he could eventually harness three plus pitches. He'll have some inconsistency as a young pitcher, but I expect him to be in their playoff rotation come October. The sky's the limit for him.
Bold Prediction: Adam Wainwright finishes in the Top 5 in the NL CY Young voting. He pitched better than his ERA dictated last year. Expect an ERA closer to 2.94 than 3.94, while soaking up 220 innings.
8. SF Giants - Why do I have them ranked this low? It's not because I don't love their staff. I just don't think their front end guys are as good as most of the other teams I have ranked ahead of them. Some may argue that Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are aces, but I view them more as elite #2 guys.
X Factor: Madison Bumgarner - He has the highest ceiling in the staff. He struggled down the stretch last year,possibly just fatigue. If he's more accustomed to a heavier workload, is a little more consistent, he should be what he was in 2011. (5.3 WAR)
Bold Prediction: If Tim Lincecum doesn't quite regress all the way back to his former dominant self, but I do expect a bounce back year, 13-14 wins with a 3.50 ERA. (WAR 3.5) I'm just afraid that the days of contending for a CY Young are numbered.
9. Tampa Bay Rays - Anchored by David Price, I couldn't let them fall out of my Top 10. They'll miss all the innings that James Shields provided for them, but they have a lot of promising young arms that are more than capable of getting the job done. If Matt Moore takes a massive step forward, I'll be the first to admit I undervalued their staff big time.
X Factor: Matt Moore- He fell short of my expectations last season. He'll likely be better, but I don't expect a quantum leap forward. He's likely to be ranked in a lot of top 20 SP fantasy lists, but I'm tempering expectations for 2013. He's only 23 years old though, and should develop into an ace in due time.
10. NY Yankees - Their #1-4 is set in stone. While there is some mileage on most of their arms, they should have enough in the tank to be highly productive in 2013. Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pinieda are good options for the 5th spot. David Phelps brings a lot of value as a spot starter in case their veterans do happen to miss a few starts.
X Factor: Phil Hughes - A breakout year wouldn't shock me if he can keep the ball in the park. He needs to take a step forward to solidify himself as a solid mid-rotation starter.
Bold Prediction: This isn't very bold, but I expect Sabathia to get back to his 230 + innings threshold. For the Yankees to win the AL east they'll be leaning on him more than ever. Don't be surprised if he's a finalist for the coveted CY Young award.
11. Toronto Blue Jays - On paper their revamped staff is as good as it gets. I'm just skeptical that they'll live up to all the hype. While you can count on R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle to soak up a lot of innings, but question marks surround the durability of Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson, and Rickey Romero. I expect some DL stints, but the staff as a whole should pitch often enough that the Jays will be in contention for a playoff berth all year.
X Factor: Brandon Morrow/Josh Johnson - If they both reach 180 + innings, I can't imagine the Jays missing the playoffs. Johnson has a higher probability of reaching 180 innings, but he isn't the same pitcher he used to be with the Marlins.
Bold Prediction: Morrow pitches roughly 40-50 innings less than Dickey, but is more productive. He finishes the year with a WAR a tick below 4.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks - Their staff has balance and depth. There isn't a huge drop off from 1 through 5. They may lack a true number one, but all their guys are solid mid rotation types. Tyler Skaggs is a young arm that has all the makings of a front line guy down the road, but he's not ready to shine quite yet.
Brandon McCarthy was one of the better free agent signings this winter. Even if he only pitches 140-150 innings for the next two years they're getting a solid return on their investment. (2 yrs $15.5 million.)
X Factor: Ian Kennedy - To take this staff to the next level, he needs to be close to what he was in 2011.(21 wins 2.88 ERA) He has proved that he is capable of being a #1.
13. Chicago White Sox - Will the core of the staff be able to avoid the DL? Sale pitched 121 more innings in 2012 than in 2011, which screams red flag. His delivery is a concern to whether he can stay healthy long term as well. Peavy has a checkered past in regards to injuries. He pitched more innings last year than in 10-11 seasons combined.
John Danks is coming off shoulder surgery, Gavin Floyd battled injuries last year, and I'm skeptical that Jose Quintana can repeat his success after signing as a minor league free agent. There is plenty of question marks surrounding the staff, but if they all stay on the field, they have more than enough talent to keep the White Sox relevant and in the hunt for a playoff berth.
.X Factor: John Danks - I'm skeptical of him being as productive as he used to be, but he is still more than capable of being an adequate back-end starter.
Bold Prediction - Sale misses some starts, but still logs 160-170 innings. Expect a 4 + WAR
14. LA Angels - Their rotation hasn't drawn too much praise from analysts this year. They sorely needed Zack Greinke to sign with them, but without him they still have a more than respectable staff. Most of their starters don't miss enough bats for my liking, but they have some elite defenders that will prevent a lot of runs from scoring. It doesn't hurt that they should receive a ton of run support as well.
X Factor: C.J Wilson - If he can pitch like he did his last two years in Texas, they'll be thrilled. He has more upside than Weaver in my eyes, just not the consistency.
Bold Prediction: Jared Weaver is no longer a CY Young candidate or a true #1, but has a productive season. Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson combine for a 4 + WAR, proving to be solid under the radar picks up for the Angels.
15. Atlanta Braves - Kris Medlen was the best pitcher in baseball the 2nd half of last year. He is someone they can build around. Tim Hudson is getting up there in age, he's not going to carry your staff any more these days,(4.10 xFIP and 5.1 K's/9 last year) but he'll still be a grinder and give you innings. Mike Minor and Paul Maholm are solid back-end options.
X factor: Julio Teheran/Brandon Beachy - Teheran's stock has fallen a bit and unless he improves his secondary stuff, he may offer much in the rotation for this year. Beachy is coming off Tommy John surgery, so it remains to be see just how big of an impact he'll have this year. He has the talent to be their #2 by season's end.
Bold Prediction: Kris Medlin proves he is the real deal. .His name will be at least mentioned in the CY Young discussion.. Don't let him slip too far in your fantasy drafts, he isn't just a flash in the pan.
16. Chicago Cubs - Clubs shouldn't sleep easy when the Cubs come to town this year. The Cub's won't be losing 100 games this year. They've assembled a competitive rotation.
There may not be an ace in the bunch, but the trio of Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, and Edwin Jackson is a solid foundation to build around. They're all capable of being 3 + WAR pitchers. They have some depth behind them because of the nice signs by Jed Hoyer in Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, and Carlos Villanueva.
X Factor: Scott Baker - He was a sleeper in my fantasy drafts last year after improving his K/9 and BB/9 in 2011. He has the talent to be a mid-rotation guy if he can ever prove he's healthy enough.
Bold Prediction: Samardzija leads his staff with a 3.6 WAR, proving he's more than capable of being a solid #2-3 starter for the years to come.
17. Oakland A's -. If I knew their guys were up to the task to pitching 30 + starts, I'd have them ranked much higher. Brett Anderson is a talented guy, but since his 175 innings in 2009, he hasn't pitched much. (112, 83, 58 IP last 3 years.) Jarrod Parker's workload spiked roughly 65 innings, which makes him an injury risk this year. The rest of their staff is rounded out with guys that I view as solid back-end starters.
X Factor: Brett Anderson - High Risk/High Reward sums him up. He has the highest ceiling out of the bunch for 2013. Setting the line for over/under is 100 innings?
Bold Prediction: Surprisingly betting the over on Anderson reaching 100 innings, but he will not be the horse they need him to be. That title goes to unheralded Tommy Milone. Put a 3 WAR in the bank for him, and could be a steal late in your fantasy drafts.
18. Boston Red Sox - The Sox starters pitched to a 5.19 ERA last year. a boost. Adding veteran Ryan Dempster goes a long way in ensuring vast improvement. Jon Lester pitched better than his ERA dictated, so don't expect another 4.82 season from him.
Unfortunately, Clay Buchholz's outlier season appears to be the masterful season he had in 2010 when he pitched to a 2.33 ERA. Expect him to improve upon his 4.56 ERA, but temper expectations.
X Factor: John Lackey - He's noticeably lost a ton of weight, but will that translate into a productive season? This staff will get a huge boost if he's a shell of his former self.
Bold Prediction - Felix Doubront shed's almost a run off his 4.86 ERA from last year. Expect him to be a stabilizing member of the rotation.
19. Kansas City Royals - The Royals were in dire need of a front-line starter, and they got their guy in James Shields. They also desperately needed more innings out of their starters. KC's starters were 28th in innings pitched last year (890) and 26th in ERA. (5.01) It's safe to say they'll be getting more innings this year. This should allow them not to overtax their bullpen, which is one of the biggest strengths of the club. Jeremy Guthrie is as reliable of an innings eater out there, as is Ervin Santana. (Santana 14th in MLB with 629 IP since 2010.)
X Factor: Wade Davis - He was a dominant reliever, but how will he transition back to the rotation? He wasn't anything more than an adequate 5th starter in 2010-2011. If he can post an ERA in the 3.8 to low 4's, Royals fans will be ecstatic.
Bold Prediction: Davis is moved to the bullpen in the 2nd half. Either Danny Duffy or Felipe Paulino will be a solid contributor in August-September.
20. NY Mets - Their rotation has some potential to be league average or a little better. (15th in WAR last year) Jon Niese and Dillon Gee should be consistent contributors all year, but I'm not sure how it will shake out for the rest of them?
X Factor: Matt Harvey/Zack Wheeler - They'll be building around these guys for years to come, so they'll likely handle them with care. But they should combine for 200 + innings, and a 3.5 WAR? Wheeler will be up sometime before the all star break.
Bold Prediction: Matt Harvey leads the staff with a 2.6 WAR. Wheeler gets his feet wet this 10-12 starts.
21. Baltimore Orioles - While Jason Hammel is the only true front-end guy, they have some depth. They have 7-8 guys that will chip in and do their part through out the year.
Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman I like and should stick in the rotation all year. Don't expect Miguel Gonzalez to pitch to a 3.25 ERA again. But he profiles well as their #4. If Dylan Bundy breaks camp as their 5th starter, I've undervalued them.
X Factor: Dylan Bundy - He's ready to make an impact now, but he's probably a year away from being a major contributor. If he breaks camp as a starter and logs 150 innings, he'll give the staff a huge lift. (Provide them with a couple more wins in the standings)
Bold Prediction - Bundy pitches in relief during the 1st half, gets stretched out as a starter in AAA, before making his way back up to start 7 or 8 games down the stretch. Hammel is once again there most productive starter, finishing with a 3.2 WAR.
22. Milwaukee Brewers - Yovani Gallardo is their workhorse pitching 200 + innings the last two seasons. He struggled at times during the 1st half, but rebounded nicely with a much better 2nd half.(Lower fly ball %) He's still capable of some growth, but it's more likely that he's already peaked. His command wasn't what it once was. (Lower K/9 Higher BB/9)
They'll also be leaning heavily upon Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers to make this a respectable rotation.The back-end will be a glaring weakness unless they upgrade via trade. I initially the Brew Crew's staff ranked higher on my board, but lack of proven depth is daunting.
X Factor: Marco Estrada - He was a nice waiver wire pick up in fantasy leagues last summer, as many didn't expect him to have sustaining success as a starter. (129 1/3 IP 133 K's 3.76 ERA) He should be productive once again, but how heavy of a workload can he handle? Anything more than 160 innings is icing on the cake.
Bold Prediction: Mike Fiers wore down late in the year due to a heavier workload, but he was brilliant in June-July. I'm expecting more consistency, and a staff leading 3.5 WAR. He may be a steal in your fantasy draft.
23. Pittsburg Pirates - They finished 20th in WAR last year and pitched to a 4.21 ERA. (18th) They're more than capable of repeating that, but I'm not expecting them to make a leap forward.
A.J. Burnett was a pleasant surprise for them last year, and will more than likely be their opening day starter this year. Wandy Rodriguez helps solidify the front end. What kind of production they get from the rest of the cast of characters is up in the air. Likely inconsistency.
X Factor: James McDonald/Fransisco Liriano - One of them needs to be a consistent cog in the rotation. McDonald had a great 1st half to 2012 before falling on his face down the stretch. I'd rather put my money on Mcdonald as Liriano has really struggled with his command for two years straight. He's better suited for the pen at this point in his career.
Bold Prediction: Liriano flashes a few good starts, but eventually is forced to the pen. They swallow a little of the contract and ship him out of town by the trade deadline.
24. Cleveland Indians - They're an improved staff from 2012, but just how much is the question? While Justin Masterson profiles best as a #3, he'll have the pressure of being the Indians ace. Ubaldo Jiminez is no longer a wildcard in my eyes, I don't think he has much upside left. If you desire upside, Trevor Bauer is your man. Brett Myers was brought in to eat innings, and was a nice sign on a one year deal.
X Factor: Trevor Bauer - A lot of pressure for him to perform at a high level if the Indians want to contend for a playoff berth. He definitely is capable of it, but I'm skeptical of him being a major impact on this years club. He may be one year away.
Bold Prediction: Zack McAllister is someone to keep an eye on. He won't put up flashy numbers, but I'm expecting him to be their most productive starter behind Masterson. Look for him to post a 2 WAR.
25. Seattle Mariners - King Felix is obviously one of the best pitchers in the game, but what's left in the cupboard I'm not too fond of. They were busy scrambling around for offense this offseason, but signing a couple veterans in the ilk of Brett Myers or Shaun Marcum should have been on their radar as well.
Their minor league system is stocked with stud arms, but they're a couple years away from making a major impact. Danny Hultzen is the one guy out of the bunch that may be ready to contribute by seasons end.
X Factor: Hisashi iwakuma - His FIP and xFIP would tell you that he's wasn't a 3.16 ERA caliber pitcher last year. His WAR was 0.8 in 125 IP, which isn't anything to write home about. I'm skeptical of him being anything more than a back-end starter, but he'll be counted on help carry the load.
Bold Prediction: Erasmo Ramirez showed some flashes of what he can do last year. I expect him to be their best starter not named King Felix. A late round sleeper in fantasy drafts.
26. Colorado Rockies - Jorge de la Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin are back, but how many innings will they be able to provide? Juan Nicasio also an unlikely candidate to be counted on to carry a heavy workload. What's left are some less attractive options.
X Factor: Jorge de la Rosa - I like his upside more than Chacin and Nicasio for 2013. He is capable of being a 2 WAR pitcher if he can take the mound every 5th day.
Bold Prediction: Jeff Francis will lead the staff in innings and WAR. And you're asking me why I don't have them 30th?
27. Minnesota Twins - Not a lot to love from these cast of characters, but they have a little to work with. Look for Scott Diamond to be solid once again, even if he regresses a little bit. They acquired Vance Worley in a trade and he'll be of some help. It gets a little dicey after that. I don't like the sign of Kevin Correia, but he will soak up some innings at least.
X Factor: Kyle Gibson - He's the reason why I didn't bump this staff lower. I think he'll be a solid mid-rotation guy when it's all said and done. He'll show flashes this year of what he can do. Look for him to breakout next year.
Bold Prediction: Liam Hendriks bounces back and holds his own after enduring a brutal 2012 campaign. (1-8 5.59) Expect 150 + innings with an ERA in the Mid 4's.
28. Houston Astros - They do have a promising talent in Lucas Harrell that prevents them from being last in my rankings. (2.8 WAR last year.) It seems like Bud Norris has been around much longer than he has? I don't see why he can't provide 160 + innings once again. It would be smart to put him on the trade market in July to a team in need of a stable 5th starter type. Erik Bedard should be able to eat 70-80 decent innings before breaking down. (Smart sign at a minimal cost.)
X Factor: Jordan Lyles - He's now made 40 starts in the ML. This is the year he needs to make a nice stride forward. While he'll never miss a lot of bats, I do expect him to be better than he's shown thus far.
Bold Prediction: Lyles is their 2nd most productive starter in the 2nd half. Proving that he can be a capable back-end starter when the club becomes relevant in a couple more years.
29. Miami Marlins - Ricky Nolasco wanted a trade, but it looks like he's stuck in Miami for a few more months. He's actually a little better than most people give him credit for. He never turned into the dominant hurler we thought he could be, but he'd be looking pretty darn good at the back-end of a contenders rotation. What else is left in the cupboard? No one proven, but they'll find out what some of the young bucks have to offer.
Bold Prediction: Nolasco is dealt to the Rangers in July, finishes the season with a 3 WAR. Eovaldi leads the remaining fish with a 1.5 WAR.
30. San Diego Padres - I hate to break it to you Padres fans, but their rotation stinks. You could argue that they deserve better treatment than this, but you'll have an uphill battle to believe they could be any higher than 26th.
X Factor: Clayton Richard - He pitched to a 0.2 war in 218 IP last year. They desperately need him to be more than just an innings guy.
Bold Prediction: Anthony Bass didn't exactly light the world on fire last year, but he's not as aweful as his numbers state. (2-8 4.73) I expect some growth. More upside than Stults, Ross, Kelly if you ask me.