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Ranking MLB Rotations Part 4: The Rebuild Is Looking Successful

You’ll see 6 more of these over the next week & I hope you enjoy them all. I know these are long so I’ve bolded all of the relevant pitcher names. I’d really love to talk with you all about the rankings or baseball in general in the comments or on twitter.

“This blog should have come with an Adderall warning. Like you’ll need a bunch of it in order to stick around til the end”

-Gritkowski, Barstool Commenter

Prior rankings: 30. San Diego Padres, 29. Cincinnati Reds, 28. Minnesota Twins, 27. Miami Marlins, 26. Milwaukee Brewers, 25. Kansas City Royals, 24. LA Angels, 23. Colorado Rockies, 22. Philadelphia Phillies, 21. Baltimore Orioles, 20. Oakland Athletics, 19. Arizona Diamondbacks

yankees 18. New York Yankees The Yankees are a team on the rise, and after their perfectly executed trade deadline, every Yankee fan should be optimistic. The rotation just isn’t there yet, but it is much better than many think and if Girardi works it properly, it could be among the 13 or so best rotations in the game.

Each year, we discount Masahiro Tanaka by saying that he’s injury prone but he’s been relatively clean recently and was one out away from the 200 inning mark last season. There are some troubling trends with the Japanese ace: his K rate has fallen and his walk rate has risen each year he’s pitched in the majors. More alarmingly, batters are starting to figure his pitches out. Opponent contact rate has increased from just 72.9% in his rookie season to 78.3% last year. There isn’t much reason to think that Tanaka won’t be successful, but these are just some trends to keep an eye on. pineda6’5 265 lb Michael Pineda (pictured) looks the part but he hasn’t really put it all together yet. He will. Allow me to run through the top 10 pitchers in percentage of plate appearances that end in strikeouts minus percentage of plate appearances that end in walks since 2014 (minimum of 400 IP). This statistic is excellent at measuring who some of the best pitchers in baseball are. Here it goes, in order: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Madison Bumgarner, David Price, Michael Pineda, and Jacob deGrom. Not a bad list. Assuming Pineda gets everything else under control, I don’t see much reason why he can’t develop into a top 30 or 40 pitcher in the game. Stay with me, that is a big assumption for someone as volatile as he is but this is the year. 36 year old CC Sabathia is a shell of his former self yet still managed a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts. Sabathia has a reputation as an innings eater but maybe that shouldn’t be the case. The 1st two times through the order, Sabathia’s ERA was just  2.59 ERA. After that? 7.19. You might have to sacrifice a few starter innings but the difference is pretty stark. Say what you want about ESPN’s Keith Law (I personally really like him) but he has been right so far regarding Luis Severino’s chances as a starter. Severino allowed 46 runs in 47.2 innings as a starting pitcher. Batters hit .337/.389/.587 against him. For comparison, only 1 batter in all of baseball (Daniel Murphy) had a better line than that. Severino turned every batter into Daniel Murphy. I don’t trust his as a starter. Jordan Montgomery, a towering 6’6 left handed minor leaguer was a relative unknown prior to spring training but his spring performance isn’t bad, he had a 2.13 ERA across AA and AAA last season (with only 4 runs allowed in 37 AAA innings) and he seems to be a better choice than some of the Yankees’ other trash. My guess when he reaches the rotation is he’ll have a pretty great first 3-4 starts, Yankee fans will start calling him the messiah, then his deception will wear off and teams will have a book on him and he’ll turn into a prototypical back-end starter. Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, and Luis Cessa are all other options for that 5th starter and all 5 are TERRIBLE. Chad Green is probably the least bad but look for prospect James Kaprielian to make his presence known in the Bronx at some point this season. Kaprielian hasn’t even made it to AA yet but he’s already 23 and has a shot at stardom.

whitesox 17. Chicago White Sox The White Sox entered a full re-build mode this off-season, and while the title of the blog doesn’t yet apply to them, they are off to a phenomenal start. They’ve still got a top-tier starter on their roster and have another pitcher with the talent to become one.

The White Sox traded away ace Chris Sale but came away with fire-throwing Michael Kopech (and Yoan Moncada and more). Kopech is still a ways away but the South Siders held onto Jose Quintana, perhaps the most underrated pitcher in baseball. Quintana has consistently thrown 200 innings every year since 2013 and has stable mid-low 3 ERAs each year as well. He is the picture of stability except in one regard. Quintana has induced 1.3 grounders for every fly ball throughout his career. Last year, the flyball/groundball numbers were practically even – 1.04 grounders per flyer. It’s important to note that much of this was offset by a doubling of the number of infield fly balls he allowed (6.4% to 13.4%) but it is still something that we should keep an eye on. You might also notice opponent swings connected with the ball 83% of the time in 2016 (3% higher than in 2015) but this is actually a good thing. 100% of that change is because they made much more contact on balls outside of the strike zone which can often lead to weaker contact. I LOVE Carlos Rodon (pictured – sidenote: does Rodon kinda look like Big Cat circa 2013? Here’s a picture of him from back then for reference), rodon1the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 draft already has two big league seasons under his belt and he just keeps on improving. His 4.04 ERA isn’t anything to write home about but he struck out more than a batter an inning, decreased his walk rate substantially from his rookie season, and has one of the best sliders in the game. Rodon improved as the season progressed and should take another step forward in ‘17. Behind these two, there isn’t much potential. Miguel Gonzalez might be the most boring pitcher to post a 3.03 2nd half ERA and he was so boring that the Orioles decided they’d rather watch Ubaldo Jimenez serve up bomb after bomb than keep him in their rotation. That being said, Gonzalez is a capable mid-backend starter who won’t wow you with his stuff. At one point, Derek Holland was an interesting, young arm. Injuries have mostly robbed him of his potential and now he struggles to strike batters out, and has an ERA about 4.90 in his past two seasons. James Shields had the highest ERA in baseball (5.85) last year – he is no longer a capable MLB starter, and I won’t write more than a sentence about him. Luc Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez each came over from the Nats in the Adam Eaton deal. Giolito’s stock has fallen rapidly and Lopez might be better suited for the bullpen in the long run. Neither will start the season with the club. 

braves 16. Atlanta Braves The way that the Atlanta Braves have rebuilt is remarkable. They still aren’t close to being ‘there’ but the rotation isn’t half bad. Frankly, I am pretty high on this rotation, and if there is one ranking that will come back to bite me in the bottom half of my rankings, its this one. I’m placing a lot of trust in the guys behind Teheran to hold up their end of the bargain.

 Julio Teheran (pictured), just 26, is the clear ace of the staff. Last year, he struck out 4 times as many batters as he walked and put together another fine year. His 1.64 ERA in May and June was incredible but he did falter a little afterwards (4.17 ERA from July on). All things considered, Teheran is young, talented, and can hold up teheranrelatively well. He’s exactly the guy the Braves want atop their staff. Big Sexy Bartolo Colon (buy a shirt – production stopped on this shirt? Then buy Ball Don’t Lie instead! I’m a company man who had UCLA winning both his brackets) went south from Queens to his new home in Atlanta. This is the 9th team for the 43 year old with 2 families and he somehow manages to keep chugging along. His successes with an 88 mph fastball don’t really make sense to me but I shouldn’t question Bartolo. Splits don’t matter for a 43 year old. Frequently injured Jaime Garcia was healthy enough to appear in 32 games last season, but his production didn’t benefit. The lefty’s ERA jumped from 2.43 to 4.67 and his walk rate climbed as well. By far the most amazing part about Garcia’s season is that after surrendering just 6 homers in 130 innings in 2015, he gave up 26 in 170 innings last year. Garcia’s troubles were surprisingly mostly against righties. They hit .269/.339/.459 off him with 22 homers. R.A. Dickey, the 2nd 40+ year old Cy Young winner on the Braves staff, had his worst year as a full time starter last season with Toronto. Knucklers have big time volatility from year to year so his regression isn’t something to be too concerned about but he won’t be the ace that he was in 2012 either. Mike Foltynewicz has a 95 mph fastball and finally started commanding it last season. A flamethrower with good strikeout numbers and limited walks has a place in any rotation, but he also had a 4.60 ERA from June until the end of the season. He’s got potential but a long way to go before reaching it. Matt Wisler is a solid 6th starter but the lack of quality stuff and the propensity for home runs will hold him back.

Be on the lookout for part 5 tomorrow!