The first two MLB unit ranks this week have looked at the bat and glove groupings of the top 10 infields and outfields in the game today. However, for day 3 the attention turns to the mound, as it is time to break down the top 10 pitching rotations in the game today.
The National League is dominant in this particular area currently, with each division hosting an elite unit. But the American League has some very solid rotations as well, led by some of the game’s most overpowering arms.
The pitching game is in the midst of a premium era right now, so this is about as tough of an exercise as possible. It is at the point where pitching staffs that even slightly miss the honorable mention level could climb their way into the top 10 easily by season’s end. So as baseball prepares to take its initial shape in 2015, here is a look at the best pitching staffs as they stand today.
However, results may vary … especially from those that not pictured as of yet.
1.) Washington Nationals: What was in place was overwhelming enough. Between Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark, the Nationals started nearly every game with an advantage on the mound. However, when GM Mike Rizzo took the initiative to land the crown jewel of the winter and former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer to front of the rotation, it took the the Nats’ starters from top of the game to potentially a classic all-time rotation. Every pitcher in their rotation has a chance to not only be an All-Star, but also compete for a Cy Young. It is okay to feel sorry for the rest of the NL East.
2.) Los Angeles Dodgers: Spearheaded by the best 1-2 punch in the game in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers are surprisingly deep as well beyond their headline duo (which owns a combined four Cy Young wins). Hyun-jin Ryu has been very effective in his two years in America, winning 28 games on a 3.17 ERA, and if Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson can stay healthy, they offer two front-end caliber arms to the back of the Dodger rotation.
3.) St. Louis Cardinals: With a plethora of big-game experience and two of the game’s winningest pitchers in Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn leading the way, the Cardinals offer a tough matchup every day of the week. Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales offer a glimpse into the future of what should continue to be one of the game’s premier staffs for years to come. Add in John Lackey, who is poised to be an understated major addition to the middle of their rotation and should pay better than expected dividends as well.
4.) Detroit Tigers: It speaks to the depth of what Brad Ausmus has at his disposal when his staff can lose Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello and still remain the best the AL has to offer. That is because David Price will seamlessly assume the role that Scherzer formerly inhabited behind ace emeritus Justin Verlander, who is at a turning point in his career, admittedly. But the presence of the perpetually underrated Anibal Sanchez and the acquisition of Alfredo Simon make this a retooled, but still very deep, starting staff.
5.) San Diego Padres: There was already a lot to like about the Padres’ staff with Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner all being very good middle-of-the-rotation types that make an occasional All-Star appearance. There’s even depth with rehabbing strikeout artists Josh Johnson and Brenden Morrow on the tab as well. But the addition of James Shields to offset the big, front-line presences in the league pulls the Pads staff way up into a new class.
6.) Seattle Mariners: The Mariners play in the spacious Safeco Field and have built a pitching staff that feasts on their helpful home base. But in a rotation led by the likes of Felix Hernandez and supported by Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton, the placement of the outfield walls is not that much of factor. These guys go over no matter where they toss.
7.) Tampa Bay Rays: Yes, they lost David Price as their headliner, but the Rays staff remains one of the game’s most potent — and potential-laden. Alex Cobb is primed to take the step up to stand among the league’s best, while the core of Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and Chris Archer shows the type of potential to be top-half-of-the-rotation performers as well. If Matt Moore can successfully come back from Tommy John surgery at some point in the second half, this will be a team worth watching again by 2016.
8.) Chicago White Sox: There are many nights where there appears there is no pitcher possibly better than Chris Sale, oftentimes because there isn’t a more dominant presence on the mound. Now joining him and emergent lefty Jose Quintana is another power hurler in Jeff Samardzija, whom the club aggressively acquired early in the winter. Top prospect Carlos Rodon is not far away either and should reach the show this summer.
9.) Oakland Athletics: A lot has changed about the A’s, but pitching depth is not one of them. Not many teams could stand the loss of Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel all at once, but Oakland still boasts a deep overall staff that stands to get even greater as the season goes on. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir lead the way, but Drew Pomeranz, Jesse Hahn and Jesse Chavez are all in stock as well. And if all goes to plan, both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin will return to the staff as well before the All-Star break.
10.) Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates have three very strong arms topping their rotation in Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Gerrit Cole. Jeff Locke was an All-Star just two years ago, and Vance Worley was the latest Pittsburgh-based pitching rival late last year. Add in the rehabbing Charlie Morton, and this is a solid all-around staff that can hang with anybody.
Just A Bit Outside: The Mets have perhaps the most exciting trio of young pitchers in the National League at their disposal in Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler all rounding into form together. The Cubs’ addition of Jon Lester at the top of their rotation and the rise of Jake Arrieta give them a potentially regularly dominant duo. The Orioles are a very deep and solid, if not spectacular, group that features a pair of up-and-coming arms in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy pushing for time. Madison Bumgarner assures that the Giants have an elite arm ahead of a solid all-around group that has seven options potentially.
I’m a firm believer that the closest I’ve gotten to Heaven is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. In the meantime til we cross paths again, I’ll pass along the gospel of the Field of Dreams here, Cheap.Seats.Please, I70 Baseball, and ‘Live From The Cheap Seats’.
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