2017 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotation (#1-15)

The positional power rankings continue with an entry that should be most strongly correlated to regular season, and postseason, success: the top-15 starting pitching depth charts. Paul Sporer began the starting pitching countdown with rotations No. 16-30 here, and we now advance from the Toyota Corolla to Cadillac class with this post.

The distribution of projected WAR is not much different than a year ago, with seven instead of six teams predicted to receive more than 16 WAR from their starting pitchers. The Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Indians and Cubs again project to rank among the top six of starting-pitcher production, with the Dodgers and Mets flip-flopping positions.

While there’s been a lot of focus on the home-run spike that began in the second half of 2015 and carried over to last season (starters allowed a record 13.3% HR/FB rate last year) and while run-scoring has increased across the league and while we’ve focused this offseason on the new swing philosophies of some players who might further increase offense, there’s still plenty of quality starting pitch. Starting pitchers produced record strikeout rates and strikeout- and walk-rate differentials (K-BB%) last season, and our forecasts call for starting pitchers to produce record collective WAR totals in 2017. Much of that value resides in the following depth charts.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Clayton Kershaw 208.0 11.0 1.5 0.7 .302 79.6 % 2.33 2.34 7.4
Rich Hill 140.0 10.0 3.3 0.9 .298 76.6 % 3.21 3.48 2.8
Kenta Maeda 154.0 8.5 2.3 1.0 .303 73.8 % 3.57 3.64 2.8
Brandon McCarthy 121.0 7.2 2.3 1.1 .305 72.7 % 3.95 4.09 1.5
Alex Wood 94.0 8.0 2.7 1.0 .306 73.1 % 3.77 3.82 1.4
Julio Urias 102.0 9.1 3.1 0.9 .307 74.9 % 3.49 3.61 1.9
Scott Kazmir   73.0 8.4 2.8 1.1 .301 73.3 % 3.91 4.00 1.1
Hyun-Jin Ryu 47.0 7.2 2.1 1.0 .309 71.7 % 3.83 3.74 0.7
Brock Stewart   19.0 8.5 2.5 1.3 .305 72.3 % 4.07 4.06 0.3
Ross Stripling 9.0 7.3 2.7 1.1 .306 70.4 % 4.21 4.11 0.1
Total 967.0 9.0 2.4 1.0 .303 74.9 % 3.36 3.45 20.0

After ranking second a year ago in these preseason rankings, the Dodgers advance to the No. 1 spot. Not only do the Dodgers have the top starting pitcher in the game to lead their rotation, they have the deepest rotation in the majors. Arms like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Scott Kazmir might not be able to crack the Dodgers’ starting rotation — Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said on Sunday that Kazmir would not begin the season in the rotation — but they would start for just about any other club. The Dodgers are eight deep with quality options, eight pitchers that project to produce sub-4.00 ERAs. Finding places for them is a good problem to solve, and it’s in part why the Dodgers top FanGraphs’ projected wins forecast. Not only are they talented but they have margin for error.

Leading the group is Clayton Kershaw, a generational talent. I can’t really add too much to the merits of Kershaw. But there are a couple developments worth watching this year to see if Kershaw can somehow reach an even greater level of performance. For starters, as Jeff Sullivan has documented, Kershaw began experimenting with a new drop-down arm slot at times last season, which is credited to conversations with fellow Dodgers lefty Rich Hill. I also wonder if Kershaw could incrementally improve if he were not so predictable. Even if there are no more production gains (how greedy can we be?), he’s still perhaps the best left-handed pitcher we’ll ever see. He’s posted at least 6 WAR in six consecutive seasons and he did so last year in 149 innings, when he produced a career-best (and outrageous) K-BB% of 29.6 points. There’s little left to accomplish in the regular season.

Rich Hill was as advertised by those believers in the sabermetric community – when he pitched – last season. Unique is an often misused term, but Hill truly is unique — from the shape and manipulation of his curveball, to his curveball usage and success, coupled with his elevated fastball.

Kenta Maeda is a bit lost on this staff, but he projects to be a three-win pitcher in just 154 innings of work. Meada walked a paltry 7% of batters and produced the 14th-best strikeout rate in the game last year thanks to four-pitch mix that includes a quality slider and changeup. He’s in the second year of an outrageous eight-year, $24-million deal.

It’s bit unclear what arms will log the lion’s share of innings in the final two rotation spots, though lefty Alex Wood appears to be a favorite to open in the rotation. When all are healthy, there are plenty of quality options. Wunderkind Julio Urias possesses the most upside of the back-end options whenever the Dodgers choose to unleash him. Urias is perhaps unlikely to open the season in the rotation, but he could very well finish the season there. Urias posted a 15.6-point K-BB% as a rookie and a 10.3% swinging-strike rate. His upside is considerable. The front of the rotation is world-championship caliber, as is its depth.

2. Mets
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Noah Syndergaard 195.0 10.6 2.2 0.8 .315 75.7 % 3.01 2.78 5.6
Jacob deGrom 182.0 8.9 2.3 0.9 .308 74.1 % 3.44 3.36 3.9
Steven Matz   161.0 9.0 2.6 0.9 .311 74.2 % 3.50 3.48 3.2
Matt Harvey 145.0 7.7 2.5 0.9 .297 71.3 % 3.79 3.73 2.7
Robert Gsellman 137.0 7.1 2.9 1.0 .308 71.0 % 4.20 4.16 1.7
Seth Lugo 66.0 7.2 2.8 1.3 .305 70.1 % 4.53 4.48 0.5
Zack Wheeler 37.0 8.7 3.6 0.9 .311 73.5 % 3.88 3.94 0.6
Rafael Montero 19.0 8.0 4.1 1.3 .307 70.3 % 4.78 4.65 0.1
Sean Gilmartin 19.0 7.7 2.8 1.1 .307 70.9 % 4.14 4.05 0.3
Total 960.0 8.7 2.6 1.0 .308 73.0 % 3.66 3.57 18.6

The Mets ranked No. 1 here a year ago and could easily finish the season wearing gold instead of silver. Noah Syndergaard could emerge as the top right-handed arm in the game this season. Already in possession of some of the filthiest pitches in the game, Syndergaard arrived to spring training bigger and stronger and hoping to throw even harder after regularly ingesting bowls of doom this offseason. For the game’s sake, let’s just hope his elbow and shoulder can handle the extra strain.

If not a true ace, Jacob deGrom has emerged as one of the best No. 2 starters in the game, recording 12 WAR in his first three seasons and posting ERAs of 3.04 or lower each season. While the rail-thin deGrom will perhaps always have health concerns — he had surgery in September to reposition the ulnar ligament in his right elbow — he hit 97 mph in his first spring start. He’s poised for another excellent season.

The Mets hold the No. 2 spot even though Steven Matz is dealing with an elbow issue and is likely to begin the season on the DL. Matz had a procedure after the season to clean out his elbow after pitching last season with a bone spur. When healthy, Matz is another organizational development success story. With health, the 25-year-old misses bats and limits walks. Last season, his ground-ball rate also ticked up six points in 2016 to an above-average standing of 51.1%. One area where Matz is trying to improve is in controlling the run game, as he allowed 20 steals last season.

Matz’s elbow is one concern, as is Matt Harvey’s stuff. Harvey’s velocity has been down this spring, though it reportedly increased to 96-97 mph Sunday. Will it hold? It’s worth watching, as his fastball velocity was down 1.5 mph last season from 2015. His strikeout rate has decreased in each of the last two years since coming back from Tommy John surgery, and his walk rate has increased. Can Harvey halt his downward trend in 2017?

Robert Gsellman has been a darling of commentators this spring and appears set to begin the season as the Mets’ fourth or fifth starter. Gsellman owns a sinker and cutter that produce above-average rates in ground balls and swings and misses. His fastball averages 94 mph.

After missing nearly two complete seasons to Tommy John, setbacks and rehab, Zack Wheeler was touching the upper 90s this spring. He looked like a future star in 2014 with he Mets and could very well return that path in 2017. The Mets are a rare club whose 2017 depth options include top-of-the-rotation talent. Seth Lugo (4.33 FIP/2.57 ERA last season) is another rotation option.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Max Scherzer 206.0 10.8 2.3 1.0 .304 76.5 % 3.08 3.01 5.7
Stephen Strasburg 174.0 10.6 2.3 1.0 .315 75.6 % 3.20 3.01 4.4
Tanner Roark 177.0 6.9 2.7 1.0 .303 72.0 % 4.05 4.17 1.9
Gio Gonzalez 165.0 8.5 3.2 0.8 .317 72.6 % 3.80 3.65 2.9
Joe Ross 148.0 8.0 2.5 1.0 .312 72.3 % 3.79 3.70 2.5
A.J. Cole 55.0 7.5 2.8 1.5 .305 71.4 % 4.62 4.67 0.5
Austin Voth 47.0 7.7 3.4 1.1 .308 71.8 % 4.28 4.32 0.5
Total 972.0 8.9 2.6 1.0 .309 73.5 % 3.65 3.59 18.4

The Max Scherzer contract just might work out. While he’s owed $180 million dollars and while the Nationals will be paying him through 2029, he’s been worth about $100 million over the first two years of the contract while earning roughly $30 million in a contract back-loaded with deferred money. Through two seasons with the Nats, Scherzer is averaging $35 million in surplus value per year. An analytical pitcher with explosive stuff, Scherzer wasn’t quite as good in his second year with the club. His walk rate inched up, his ground-ball rate dipped, and he produced “just” a 5.6-win season after recording a 6.4 WAR in the previous one. But it was still ace-level stuff and he stayed on the mound for a second consecutive year of 228 innings, his fourth straight season of 200-plus innings, and seventh straight season of 187 innings of more.

Scherzer is a pretty good comp for Nationals’ No. 2 starter, Stephen Strasburg. Scherzer posted a 31.5% K rate, 6.2% walk rate and a 33% ground-ball rate last season. Strasburg finished with a 30.6% K rate, 7.4% walk rate and a 39.5% ground-ball rate. They’re each 6-foot-4 right-handers. While they’re carbon copies in terms of size, handedness, rate stats and elite stuff, Strasburg has failed to reach 150 innings in his last two seasons and has just one 200-inning season to his credit. Of note this spring is Strasburg’s experiment with pitching from the stretch on all occasions. He also plans on reducing his slider workload, which he believes might have contributed to his 2016 injuries. While his pedigree and draft position will always set a high bar for expectations, Strasburg is among the game’s best pitchers — when he’s pitching.

If Joe Ross can figure out how to better handle lefties, the Nationals would really have something. Just like his brother Tyson, Joe features a fastball-slider combo that gives righties fits. Left-handed hitters produced a .356 wOBA against Ross last season versus the .265 mark recorded by righties. Ross also struggled mightily the third time through a lineup, as Eno Sarris noted last month in evaluating what pitchers could most use a third pitch

Tanner Roark emerged last season as an effective mid-rotation starter, logging 221 innings and 2.83 ERA. Not bad for a 25th-round pick. While his 3.79 FIP and 4.17 xFIP suggest he outperformed his true talent level, his .269 BABIP against was in line with his .272 mark.

Gio Gonzalez is still useful, though he has been declining since 2012. Notes Andrew Perpetua on Gonzalez’s profile: “The gap between his fastball and changeup velocities has steadily narrowed, from 10 mph in 2014, 8 mph in 2015, and now only 7 mph in 2016. Towards the later part of the season it was even nearing 6 mph. The vertical and horizontal movements are converging as well.” Gonzalez’s fastball lost 1.2 mph last year, dropping from 92.0 mph to 90.8 mph. Gonzalez is losing underlying talent and might need to find away to add movement to his changeup since the velocity gap might not be returning.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Corey Kluber 216.0 9.6 2.2 1.0 .308 75.1 % 3.26 3.22 5.2
Carlos Carrasco   188.0 9.6 2.2 1.0 .312 74.9 % 3.34 3.23 4.4
Danny Salazar 170.0 10.1 3.2 1.1 .309 75.6 % 3.58 3.61 3.4
Josh Tomlin 132.0 6.7 1.4 1.5 .307 71.4 % 4.37 4.34 1.5
Trevor Bauer 133.0 8.4 3.5 1.1 .308 71.8 % 4.25 4.22 1.7
Mike Clevinger 56.0 8.4 3.6 1.2 .311 71.6 % 4.46 4.39 0.7
Tim Cooney   47.0 6.8 2.6 1.3 .311 72.7 % 4.43 4.59 0.4
Ryan Merritt 19.0 5.6 1.8 1.3 .312 69.0 % 4.61 4.49 0.2
Cody Anderson   18.0 7.1 2.6 1.2 .313 71.2 % 4.40 4.32 0.2
Total 980.0 8.8 2.5 1.1 .309 73.6 % 3.79 3.75 17.7

If the Indians’ rotation had been at full strength in October, the Cubs might very well still be carrying a curse into 2017. But as you’re probably aware, the Tribe’s No. 2 and No. 3 starters were not available in the postseason. Cleveland’s rotation is healthy at present, and that gives them one of the game’s elite groups, as evidenced by this ranking.

If the general public was unaware of the greatness of Corey Kluber before the postseason, they were educated in October. Kluber went 4-1 over six postseason starts, compiling a 1.83 ERA over 34.1 innings. Using a dominant cutter-curveball, one-two punch, Kluber has been remarkably consistent since 2014, posting swinging-strike rates of 12% plus in three straight seasons, walk rates at 6% or below, and K-BB& figure between 19-22 points. Kluber’s last three WHIPs: 1.09, 1.05, 1.06. He’s been a model of consistently, a seemingly emotion-less, ultra-efficient cyborg, affectionately known as Klubot. We’ll have to see if three straight seasons of 215-innings plus and an extended postseason run catch up to him to any degree in 2017 — he pitched a total of 249 innings last year including the postseason — but his cutter velocity and curveball velocity were actually slightly up last season.

Carlos Carrasco is a dominant No. 2 starter — when healthy. He has an ace’s arsenal with three well above-average pitches in his slider, curveball and changeup — and five pitches he throws with 10% percent frequency or greater. His breaking stuff dives and his fastball can sit in the mid-90s. While he wasn’t quite as dominant a year ago as he had been in 2015, while his K-BB fell from 23 to 19 points, Carrasco’s biggest issue is health. He’s never reached 200 innings as a major leaguer and pitched just 146 innings last season. If Carrasco is healthy, the Indians have a 1-2 rotation punch that can end the sport’s longest title drought. Carrasco has dealt with elbow discomfort this spring.

Danny Salazar is kind of like Carrasco without a third quality pitch and shakier command. His split-change is one of the game’s nastiest pitches. It might be the best pitch in the changeup family in the game. Noted FanGraphs editor Carson Cistulli in Salazar’s write-up: “It was worth three runs better than average per every 100 thrown in 2016, a mark that would have been best among qualifiers.” But like Carrasco, he’s had trouble staying healthy, having never recorded a 200-inning season. Still, as third starters go, few teams can do better.

Assuming he avoids drone-related injury, Trevor Bauer should man a rotation spot and continue to frustrate with his diverse package of quality stuff and an inability to consistently command it. He did reach 190 innings and he still has talent, so perhaps a breakthrough is possible. Josh Tomlin figures to round out the rotation as a command-and-control specialist. In sum, and with health, it could be the best rotation in the AL. Its depth has been eroded, as Cody Anderson has been lost for the year with Tommy John surgery.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Chris Sale 220.0 9.8 1.9 1.0 .309 75.9 % 3.14 3.17 5.5
Rick Porcello 198.0 7.3 1.7 1.0 .310 72.4 % 3.77 3.74 3.8
Eduardo Rodriguez 140.0 7.7 2.9 1.2 .308 72.2 % 4.24 4.25 1.9
Steven Wright 143.0 6.9 3.1 1.1 .306 72.4 % 4.26 4.42 1.4
David Price   138.0 8.9 1.9 1.1 .314 74.5 % 3.50 3.41 3.0
Drew Pomeranz 65.0 9.1 3.4 1.1 .306 74.2 % 3.84 3.87 1.1
Kyle Kendrick 56.0 5.3 2.5 1.5 .312 68.2 % 5.20 5.07 0.2
Brian Johnson 28.0 6.9 4.0 1.2 .312 71.1 % 4.77 4.82 0.2
Henry Owens 9.0 8.0 5.4 1.3 .306 71.7 % 4.98 5.15 0.0
Roenis Elias   9.0 7.4 4.1 1.2 .311 71.0 % 4.70 4.71 0.1
Total 1007.0 8.1 2.4 1.1 .309 73.1 % 3.86 3.87 17.1

The Red Sox eroded an impressive farm system to elevate to this preseason ranking. You’re probably aware of Chris Sale’s many gifts, including tailoring. His skinny frame has defied odds to date, allowing him to shoulder enough innings to become the best lefty in the AL. He’s projected to post a monster 220-inning, 5.5-WAR season, and he’s given us no reason to think he’s ready to slow down. Perhaps one question is if he will miss White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and the White Sox’ renowned strength-and-training staff.

Rick Porcello is the reigning AL Cy Young winner, but he’s perhaps just the third-best starter on his own staff. While Porcello is a quality arm and while he enjoyed a breakout 22-win, 3.15-ERA season, there’s some debate as to whether he demonstrated real skill growth. On the one hand, he walked a career-low 3.6% percent of batters last season. On the other, he didn’t pick up any swing-and-miss gains and his ground-ball rate continues to decline. Porcello is a quality arm, but last season’s hardware perhaps inflates his actual value.

The concern here is the $214-million arm of David Price, who has received several opinions on his balky elbow. FanGraphs projections have dropped Price’s forecast to 138 innings for the season, which dropped the Red Sox’ rotation from third to fifth on this list. While Price appears to have avoided a surgery scare, if the situation worsens, there’s a cliff-like drop to Henry Owens and Brian Johnson. Assuming Price is OK, he could benefit by elevating his high-rpm four-seamer more often in the zone. Tampa Bay pitching coach Jim Hickey told FanGraphs that Price was resistant to the idea when in Tampa.

Drew Pomeranz is a quality back-of-the-rotation option with plenty of upside. He become a three-win pitcher last season by throwing his sharp-breaking curve 39% of the time, or more than any starting pitcher this side of Rich Hill. While he wasn’t nearly as effective after being traded from San Diego, he still missed plenty of bats in Boston. Steven Wright is coming off a career year and should round out the rotation.

After being recalled from Pawtucket, Eduardo Rodriguez posted a 23.5% K rate in September and a 2.71 FIP. After posting a 6.6-point K-BB% mark in the first half last year, he posted a 16-point mark in the second. If increasing his two-seam and changeup usage was the trick, Boston could have another mid-rotation (or better) arm on staff. It’s a staff that could lead a deep drive into October, but that might be dependent on Price’s ability both to (a) remain healthy and (b) overcome his issues in the postseason.

6. Cubs
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jon Lester 209.0 9.0 2.3 0.9 .298 75.1 % 3.25 3.38 4.5
Jake Arrieta 194.0 8.9 2.9 0.8 .291 74.7 % 3.21 3.38 4.1
Kyle Hendricks 172.0 7.9 2.2 0.9 .296 73.7 % 3.40 3.57 3.3
John Lackey 185.0 8.1 2.5 1.1 .294 73.1 % 3.74 3.87 2.9
Brett Anderson 92.0 6.3 2.7 0.9 .310 71.2 % 4.05 4.03 1.2
Mike Montgomery 75.0 7.8 3.5 0.9 .297 73.2 % 3.76 4.08 0.9
Eddie Butler 55.0 5.4 3.4 1.2 .303 69.4 % 4.93 4.99 0.2
Pierce Johnson 9.0 8.3 5.1 1.2 .304 71.6 % 4.79 4.94 0.0
Total 992.0 8.1 2.6 1.0 .297 73.4 % 3.58 3.72 17.1

Jon Lester has lost the confidence to throw in any direction other than toward home plate. But as long as he can continue to fill up the strike zone with his cutter, curve, and four-seamer, he’s a good bet to record a fourth consecutive, four-win season or better. He’s a workhorse who’s reached 200 innings in eight out of his nine seasons. While that work could catch up to him, he showed little signs of slowing down in 2016 as judging by his 1.02 WHIP. However, his FIP (3.41) did exceed his ERA (2.44) by a significant margin. As for running-game concerns? Despite the league being aware of his case of the yips, Lester’s quick time to the plate helped produced a 32% caught-stealing mark, better than the league average (27%).

Arrieta is a bit of a mystery. While the cross-firing Cy Young winner from 2015 was still effective, he declined across the board, with his walk rate nearly doubling from 5.5% to 9.6%. Did opponents make an adjustment? Arrieta’s out-of-zone swings against fell from 34.2% in 2015 to 29.6%. His fastball velocity also dropped by nearly a full mile per hour. Perhaps the league was getting a better read on a pitcher who doesn’t have a long track record of dominance. Can Arrieta return to the elite? Or will he again be merely good?

While the Cubs have not developed much pitching, they’ve sure identified the right asks for in trades. The former Rangers farm hand, Hendricks, had a breakout 2016 campaign, a 4.5-WAR effort during which he increased his soft-contact allowed by over six points, fueling a .250 BABIP and 2.13 ERA. We have to see if he can continue the magic act in 201, as his BB and K% rates were in line with his 2015 season, during which he was merely a good pitcher. His 3.20 FIP suggests he’ll still be good but there’s some regression coming.

Entering his age-38 season, John Lackey is still hanging around as a valuable mid-rotation arm, producing a career-best K-BB% of 17 points last season while throwing fewer fastballs and more curves. One interesting note on Lackey: his average fastball has rested between 91.5 mph and 91.7 every season since 2009.

The Cubs showed little interest in picking up Jason Hammel’s option for what could be myriad reasons, but one was the presence of Mike Montgomery, the top prospect, turned failed starter, turned reliever, who is now an interesting starting pitcher again. Alex Chamberlain found Montgomery was one of five pitchers to own three pitches that produced ground-ball rates north of 50% and whiff rates of 10% or greater. Arrieta, Carrasco, Marcus Stroman and Ross Stripling (Ross Stripling!) were the others. Beyond Montgomery, the Cubs signed injury-prone but elite ground-ball pitcher Brett Anderson to a one-year deal and traded for Eddie Butler to improve their depth. There’s little behind them in the system, so health is paramount for the Cubs.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Madison Bumgarner 224.0 9.5 2.0 0.9 .300 77.0 % 3.00 3.16 5.1
Johnny Cueto 218.0 7.9 2.1 0.8 .300 74.9 % 3.15 3.36 4.3
Jeff Samardzija 196.0 7.7 2.2 0.9 .304 72.5 % 3.64 3.61 3.1
Matt Moore 177.0 8.4 3.5 0.9 .301 73.5 % 3.76 3.89 2.3
Matt Cain 94.0 6.7 3.0 1.3 .304 70.8 % 4.55 4.61 0.6
Ty Blach 56.0 6.0 2.4 0.9 .306 71.0 % 4.05 4.08 0.6
Albert Suarez 28.0 6.4 2.8 1.0 .305 71.3 % 4.17 4.26 0.2
Clayton Blackburn 19.0 6.6 2.6 1.0 .308 71.1 % 4.18 4.17 0.2
Total 1011.0 8.0 2.5 0.9 .302 73.7 % 3.55 3.65 16.4

There will probably never be a better starting pitcher to hail from Hickory, N.C. Bumgarner and his unconventional delivery and arm slot produced a second straight five-win campaign, a third straight season of a 20-point or greater K-BB%, and sixth straight campaign of 200-plus innings.

While a homegrown product still leads the rotation, the Giants have had to import free-agent talent to keep their rotation among the game’s best. Johnny Cueto slots behind Bumgarner, having reached 200 innings in three straight seasons and four out of the last five. He took to the marine layer last season after signing with the Giants, as he recorded a career-best 5.5-WAR season, paced by a career-low 5.1% walk rate. He was even more willing to attack the zone after leaving Great American Ball Park behind.

The Giants have perhaps the most durable 1-2-3 punch in baseball, as Jeff Samardzija has tossed four straight seasons of 200 innings or better. While he’s maintained his mid-90s velocity — his fastball averaged 94.7 mph in his debut season and 94.3 last year — he lacks elite secondary offerings to induce more swing and miss. Still, he should produced a modest surplus value at his $18 million salary 

A former No. 1 prospect in the game, Matt Moore remained consistently inconsistent after being traded last season. He posted a 4.08 ERA with Tampa, and a 4.08 ERA in San Francisco. Moore has the velocity, curve and changeup to pitch at the top of the rotation, but his command wavers. There’s still some upside here if he can continue to trim his walk rate, which stands at 11% for his career but moved to under 9% the last two seasons.

Matt Cain has gone from a top-of-the-rotation arm to trying to hang on to the final rotation spot. Injuries and work-load appear to be catching up to Cain. After producing HR/FB of 8.4% or less in his first eight seasons, those rates have risen to double digits in the last four. Cain used to limit hard contact and keep balls in the park with almost magical ability, but those powers are leaving him. Left-handed rookie Ty Blach might be a more effective fifth option; he has command and a quality sinker.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Dallas Keuchel 202.0 7.7 2.4 0.9 .306 72.8 % 3.60 3.57 4.0
Mike Fiers 179.0 7.6 2.5 1.3 .303 71.2 % 4.32 4.30 2.2
Collin McHugh 163.0 8.1 2.5 1.1 .311 72.7 % 4.00 3.94 2.7
Lance McCullers   149.0 10.5 3.9 0.9 .319 76.3 % 3.41 3.44 3.0
Charlie Morton 119.0 7.6 3.2 1.1 .313 70.4 % 4.34 4.30 1.2
Joe Musgrove 84.0 7.8 1.8 1.3 .309 70.9 % 4.22 4.06 1.2
Brad Peacock 38.0 8.4 3.8 1.4 .305 71.3 % 4.65 4.64 0.3
David Paulino   19.0 8.4 2.9 1.1 .308 71.8 % 4.11 4.07 0.3
Christopher Devenski 9.0 8.8 2.3 1.1 .303 75.1 % 3.58 3.68 0.2
Total 962.0 8.2 2.8 1.1 .309 72.5 % 3.97 3.94 15.1

Dallas Keuchel suffered similar problems to those of Francisco Liriano last season, and it’s possible that hitters have figured out the key strategy that the two of them share in common — namely getting swings on pitches out of the zone. As Eno Sarris has noted, only Liriano threw more pitches out of the strike zone in 2015 than Keuchel, and like with Liriano in 2016, opponents stopped chasing as often, finding themselves in more favorable counts in 2016 as Keuchel’s ERA jumped from 2.48 to 4.55 while his BB% and HR/FB spiked. Unlike Liriano, Keuchel doesn’t get the benefit in 2017 of hopping to a new league. Keuchel might have to make an adjustment, but throwing an 88 mph fastball in the strike zone more often is a dangerous way to make a living.

Collin McHugh is Exhibit A of why your team should be interested in the next failed Rockies pitcher. McHugh has posted three consecutive 3-WAR seasons with the Astros after a having spent some forgettable time in Colorado. He throws his fastball only 35.7% of the time, relying heavily on a cutter (29%) and curveball (30%) last season. The formula continues to be effective.

If Lance McCullers can better harness his elite stuff, he will be the ace of the rotation. He has mid-90s velocity along with an elite curveball and quality split-change. It’s a three-pitch mix that could front many a rotation. He needs health and control, but the good news here is he reduced his walk rate from 13% to 11% in the second half while his strikeout rate soared to 35%.

The Astros signed Charlie Morton to a two-year deal this offseason, which was interesting given Morton’s DL history and his lack of a third pitch. But he has an elite two-seamer and a big-bending curveball. Moreover, the velocity gains he made in Philadelphia last spring have held. He could easily exceed or fall far short of his 1.2 WAR projection.

Joe Musgrove is an interesting rotation option given what Sarris has described as a “one-seam sinker” and sideways slider that reminds him a bit of Kluber. Rounding out the depth chart, the Astros have other interesting options in Brad Peacock and David Paulino, who are projected to strike out nearly a batter per inning while limiting walks. The Astros do not possess a clear ace, and Keuchel might have significant skill problems, but there’s upside and depth in the middle and back potions of the rotation.

9. Rays
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Chris Archer 199.0 9.9 2.9 0.9 .307 74.7 % 3.40 3.34 4.2
Jake Odorizzi 160.0 8.2 2.7 1.2 .299 73.4 % 3.91 4.00 2.3
Alex Cobb 143.0 7.1 2.9 1.0 .306 72.5 % 3.93 4.06 1.9
Blake Snell 132.0 10.1 4.4 1.0 .308 75.7 % 3.69 3.85 2.0
Matt Andriese 122.0 7.7 2.1 1.1 .306 72.1 % 3.85 3.78 2.1
Jose De Leon 74.0 10.2 2.9 1.2 .305 74.7 % 3.66 3.68 1.5
Taylor Guerrieri 65.0 5.4 3.3 1.3 .301 69.1 % 5.00 5.09 0.1
Jacob Faria 19.0 8.5 4.3 1.1 .303 71.8 % 4.35 4.40 0.2
Jaime Schultz 9.0 9.4 5.5 1.1 .305 72.8 % 4.52 4.67 0.1
Austin Pruitt 9.0 6.5 2.2 1.3 .305 69.9 % 4.49 4.43 0.1
Hunter Wood 9.0 7.3 4.1 1.2 .303 70.1 % 4.76 4.77 0.0
Chih-Wei Hu 9.0 6.3 3.1 1.3 .304 69.6 % 4.70 4.72 0.1
Total 951.0 8.5 3.1 1.1 .305 73.3 % 3.86 3.90 14.6

The Rays have a conceivable path to the postseason because they possess one of the AL’s better rotations. Chris Archer’s 16% HR/FB was the biggest culprit of his so-so 2016, but his K-BB% mark of 19 points was near elite, and his K% and BB% marks were in line with his 2015 level. His fall-off-the-SkyWay slider is a majestic pitch that he uses 40% of the time. Perhaps that usage rate isn’t promising for his long-term health and effectiveness, but the pitch should help him lead the Rays rotation again in 2017. Add in his contract, and he’ll be one of the more valuable commodities in the game either for the Rays or in a trade to which he’ll inevitably become linked at the deadline.

Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell and Jose De Leon figure to absorb many or the rotation’s innings, and they’re interesting because they do what the rest of the baseball has not done much of late: pitch up in the zone with high-rpm fastballs. As hitters adjust more and more to two-seamers and down-in-the-zone fastballs, the Rays appear to be ahead of the curve.

In Kansas City and Milwaukee, Odorizzi was taught to work against his natural strengths — throwing four-seamers up in the zone — until arriving in Tampa Bay, where the philosophy was encouraged and complemented both by his curveball and a changeup that he learned from teammate Alex Cobb. No team has taught or thrown more effective changeups than the Rays, a topic which I explored this spring.

While De Leon, acquired from the Dodgers for Logan Forsythe, doesn’t have a clear path to a rotation spot this spring due to the crowd, he’ll fit perfectly with his high-spin fastball and plus changeup when he does arrive.

Snell has the most explosive stuff in the group and owns a true four-pitch mix. He could really be something if he trims his walk rate and tightens the command. Cobb is the only two-seam-fastball pitcher in the projected rotation. He believes he’s returning closer to pre-Tommy John form.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Carlos Martinez 201.0 8.6 3.1 0.8 .310 74.5 % 3.46 3.59 3.5
Adam Wainwright 171.0 7.1 2.4 1.0 .310 71.4 % 3.94 3.85 2.7
Mike Leake 188.0 6.1 2.0 1.0 .310 70.0 % 4.15 4.04 2.3
Lance Lynn 159.0 8.0 3.3 1.0 .310 73.5 % 3.87 3.96 2.3
Michael Wacha 130.0 7.5 2.9 1.0 .309 71.6 % 4.10 4.01 1.7
Luke Weaver 66.0 7.9 2.3 1.1 .311 71.3 % 4.00 3.85 1.0
John Gant 38.0 8.1 3.6 1.1 .310 71.2 % 4.39 4.29 0.4
Mike Mayers 19.0 7.0 3.2 1.2 .310 69.9 % 4.55 4.47 0.1
Total 972.0 7.5 2.8 1.0 .310 72.1 % 3.93 3.90 14.1

The Cardinals’ depth chart suffered a significant setback in the loss of top-prospect and 100-mph-throwing Alex Reyes. The list here is also littered both with unknown pitchers and those returning from injury. Still, this could be one of the better groups in the NL if a few things break right.

The group is led by Carlos Martinez. If not quite a legit ace, Martinez is at least close. Pitchers have significant control over three things: the ability to strike out batters, walk batters, and (to a lesser extent) to control the type of contact they allow. As Eno Sarris wrote, only three qualified starting pitchers last season had a ground-ball rate greater than 50% paired with above-average strikeout and walk rates: Johnny Cueto, Noah Syndergaard, and Martinez. Martinez is really, really good. And with 492 major-league innings under his belt, he’s still only 25. Martinez might have another level to reach this season. As Jeff Sullivan noted, the right-hander threw some wicked changeups against lefties in the World Baseball Classic and has changed his position on the pitching rubber. If he can solve lefties — right-handed hitters posted a .243 wOBA against him last year vs. a .322 wOBA against lefties — then he could very well become one of the best pitchers in the game.

Adam Wainwright will be 36 in August. He’s likely in some sort of decline. He had a rough finish to 2016 and he’s had rough moments this spring. He posted the highest HR/FB rate of his career (11.8%) last year, the first time he’s crossed the double-digit threshold, while also producing the lowest ground-ball rate of his career and the highest walk rate since 2007. But perhaps he can put off significant decline for another year or two after recording an average fastball velocity similar to the mark he produced in 2014, when he was a five-win pitcher. His pitch mix remains the same. His swinging-strike rate of 8.1% wasn’t too far off from his career average of 8.8%. So perhaps Wainwright is still in the gentle decline phase. Our forecasts projects he will be good for a sub-4.00 ERA.

Lance Lynn is returning from Tommy John surgery and will likely return as one of the most fastball-reliant pitchers in the game. But that’s not such a bad thing if his four-seamer averages 2421 rpms as it did in 2015. (The MLB average was 2,226 last season.) He would benefit from pitching up in the zone, perhaps. In 2015, 27% of his pitches were in the upper third of the zone or above.

Michael Wacha was one of the unluckiest pitcher in baseball, as his 5.09 ERA significantly outpaced his 3.91 FIP, while his velocity, K, BB and GB% were nearly in line with his career averages. The great mystery with Wacha is if he can get his changeup back to its 2013-14 status when it was one of the better offspeed offerings in the game, playing off a mid-90s fastball from an unusually high arm slot. According to linear weights, the changeup has been a below-average pitch the last two seasons and Wacha was without an above-average non-fastball last season. The other big question with Wacha is whether he can maintain health. What’s encouraging is Wacha has had an excellent spring.

Mike Leake is not a flashy strikeout artist, instead relying on control and ground balls to scratch out a two-wins-per-season existence. That’s been his average production over the last four seasons, which should continue.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Gerrit Cole 185.0 8.3 2.4 0.8 .317 72.8 % 3.57 3.42 3.7
Jameson Taillon 174.0 7.6 1.9 0.9 .315 72.8 % 3.64 3.55 3.1
Chad Kuhl 130.0 6.6 2.6 1.2 .312 70.2 % 4.49 4.41 1.0
Ivan Nova 123.0 6.7 2.1 0.9 .316 70.4 % 4.01 3.86 1.7
Drew Hutchison 111.0 8.1 3.1 1.1 .313 70.5 % 4.40 4.19 1.5
Tyler Glasnow 101.0 10.4 4.9 0.8 .314 74.9 % 3.73 3.79 1.5
Steven Brault 64.0 7.0 3.2 0.9 .312 71.5 % 4.17 4.19 0.6
Wade LeBlanc 28.0 7.3 2.5 1.0 .310 72.7 % 3.94 3.94 0.4
Trevor Williams 19.0 6.2 2.8 1.1 .315 70.3 % 4.48 4.39 0.1
Nick Kingham 9.0 6.7 2.7 1.1 .313 69.5 % 4.43 4.26 0.1
Total 944.0 7.7 2.7 1.0 .314 71.9 % 3.96 3.86 13.9

Gerrit Cole never got on track in 2016. His start to the spring was delayed by a January rib injury, and once his season started he made three different trips to the disabled list. While his fastball still averaged 95 mph, he said he never was able to develop consistency and feel for his mechanics due to all the stops and restarts. His execution waned. In 2015, Cole was healthy and had excellent command of his pitches — including his slider, which was a weapon against lefties and righties alike. That year, when Cole finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting, his slider produced the 15th-highest whiff-per-swing rate in the game (40.8%) among starting pitchers, according to Baseball Prospectus’ PITCHf/x leaderboards. Last season, Cole fell to 50th in whiff-per-swing rate at (34.6%) with the pitch. Cole was actually more effective against lefties than righties in 2015, recording a .266 wOBA against LHH vs. a .283 wOBA against RHH. That was not the case last season, when Cole made too many mistakes in the strike zone and lefties produced a .371 wOBA against him. While Cole would benefit from a changeup, he’s not planning any dramatic changes to pitch mix. He’s not adding any new pitches this spring. What he needs most is health to return to ace form.

After missing nearly two entire seasons to Tommy John surgery and setbacks, Jameson Taillon debuted last season, almost six years after he was drafted. He arrived as a strike-throwing robot, walking just 4.1% of batters as a rookie. He still had big-breaking curveball, which has been his signature pitch. But as a rookie he added an effective two-seam fastball on the fly. While being drafted between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado means he will likely forever be held to unfair standards and while he might struggle to live up to his draft position, he has the drive, savvy and stuff to be a solid No. 2 starter if he’s put his health issues behind him.

Ivan Nova was Happ-ed after being traded at the deadline from the Yankees to Pirates last summer. Away from the bandboxes of the AL East, Nova began to more often pound the strike zone. After throwing 42% of his pitches in the zone with the Yankees, he threw 51% of his pitches in the strike zone with the Pirates. He particularly pounded the lower portion of the zone with a two-seamer he threw at a career-high 53.3% rate last season. After the Pirates helped turn around J.A. Happ only to see him walk away, the Pirates were able to come to terms on a three-year deal with Nova.

Tyler Glasnow is one of the bigger wild cards in the game. He generates incredible extension through his delivery and 6-foot-7 frame. He releases his mid-90s fastball and curveball closer to the plate than any major-league starter, according to Statcast data, but that head start doesn’t help him locate the ball. He had severe issues throwing strikes and controlling the run game in his first major-league exposure, and his changeup is a work in progress. It’s not inconceivable he winds up in a bullpen down the road. But he has the most upside of any of the remaining options on the Pirates’ depth chart, and FanGraphs projects him to be a two-win contributor. Glasnow has had some dominant outings this spring.

Chad Kuhl was squared up often as a rookie, but the University of Delaware product has a long minor-league history of keeping the ball on the ground with a low-to mid-90s two-seamer. The Pirates have depth options in Drew Hutchison, Trevor Williams and Steven Brault, but none figures to be more than a back-of-the rotation arm.

12. Tigers
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Justin Verlander 221.0 8.9 2.5 1.1 .299 73.3 % 3.66 3.65 4.6
Michael Fulmer 171.0 7.7 2.6 1.1 .306 72.6 % 3.93 4.02 2.7
Jordan Zimmermann 170.0 6.4 2.0 1.3 .308 71.0 % 4.35 4.34 2.4
Daniel Norris 122.0 8.3 3.4 1.1 .313 72.9 % 4.20 4.18 1.6
Matt Boyd 122.0 7.4 2.9 1.4 .306 71.3 % 4.58 4.62 1.3
Mike Pelfrey 66.0 4.6 3.0 1.1 .317 68.9 % 5.04 4.95 0.4
Anibal Sanchez 56.0 7.5 2.9 1.3 .307 69.5 % 4.61 4.39 0.8
Buck Farmer 28.0 7.2 3.4 1.4 .311 69.7 % 4.99 4.89 0.2
Sandy Baez 9.0 4.8 4.0 1.7 .312 66.2 % 6.31 6.10 -0.1
Total 966.0 7.5 2.7 1.2 .307 71.7 % 4.23 4.22 13.9

If the Tigers are going to challenge the Indians in the AL Central, Justin Verlander needs to pitch again as he did a year ago, when he was in vintage form, posting his best season since 2013. Verlander produced a career-best K rate (28%) and K-BB% mark (22.8). His slider and curveball were each excellent, bat-missing pitches and he hasn’t lost much velocity. The projections like him to come close to repeating last season’s campaign.

Michael Fulmer emerged as one of the more valuable young arms in the game last season. He would fit well in with the Rays after picking up an excellent changeup last season and more often throwing his mid-90s four-seam fastball up in the zone. If more and more hitters are geared toward hitting the low, sinking fastball, Fulmer is ahead of the curve. Fulmer began using a new changeup grip last season, and as Paul Sporer notes in Fulmer’s profile, he threw it 20% of the time after May 21 en route to a 2.58/1.00 WHIP in 139.2 innings to close the season. The projections likes him as a three-win pitcher but don’t know that a new grip made him basically a new pitcher. The projections could be underselling Fulmer.

After dealing with a number of injuries in awful 2016 campaign, Jordan Zimmermann is reportedly pain-free this spring. The Tigers owe Zimmermann $91 million over the next four season, so his health is an expensive question mark. The club will make a sacrifice at the altar of the velocity Gods in hopes it can rebound (91.8 mph last season), along with improvement from his K-BB% (8.9 points). Zimmerman’s K-BB% is in a three-year decline.

Daniel Norris has tremendous upside, as evident in his 23.5% strikeout rate and 16.2-point K-BB%. He has rare velocity from the left side and a full assortment of offspeed pitches. The projections do not anticipate a full season, but if that should occur, he could jump Zimmermann in the pecking order and form an excellent 1-2-3 group in the rotation.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Masahiro Tanaka 203.0 7.9 1.8 1.2 .305 73.3 % 3.78 3.80 4.0
Michael Pineda 148.0 9.4 2.0 1.1 .317 72.5 % 3.73 3.43 3.3
CC Sabathia 143.0 7.4 3.0 1.3 .311 71.4 % 4.48 4.47 1.8
Luis Severino 113.0 8.4 2.9 1.2 .310 71.9 % 4.15 4.07 1.9
Bryan Mitchell 113.0 7.2 4.2 1.4 .310 69.0 % 5.21 5.10 0.6
Chad Green 103.0 8.3 2.8 1.4 .312 71.5 % 4.49 4.40 1.2
Jordan Montgomery 47.0 7.3 3.5 1.3 .308 70.7 % 4.76 4.77 0.4
Luis Cessa 28.0 6.9 2.8 1.6 .307 69.0 % 5.08 4.96 0.2
Adam Warren 28.0 7.7 3.3 1.2 .303 71.9 % 4.36 4.44 0.3
Ronald Herrera 19.0 6.4 3.2 1.6 .309 68.1 % 5.37 5.23 0.1
Yefrey Ramirez 9.0 6.8 3.7 2.0 .308 66.9 % 6.02 5.86 0.0
Total 954.0 8.0 2.7 1.3 .310 71.4 % 4.32 4.24 13.8

If the Yankees do spend the equivalent of a small-country’s GDP on free agents in the 2018-19 offseason, it will be interesting to see where Tanaka fits in the rotation. What’s interesting about Tanaka is that he continues to evolve despite his veteran status. He has decreased his four-seam fastball usage from 25.1% to 19.4% to 6.5% the last three seasons, as he seeks more sink and movement from a combination of his cutter and a sinker that he’s added. Tanaka is trying to figure how to be more effective in the bandboxes of the AL East, and he did cut his HR/9 from 1.46 in 2015 to 0.99 last season. He essentially has a six-pitch mix and he has excellent command of his fastball and splitter. He can locate his fastball glove- and arm-side and to both elevated and lower locations. The projections like him as a four-win pitcher, and with more improvement he can lead the rotation of the next great Yankees team.

Pineda offered one of the more perplexing campaigns of 2016. He posted a 20.4-point K-BB% mark and an elite 14.1% swinging-strike mark, throwing his wipeout slider 40% of the time. But his ERA (4.82) outpaced his FIP by a run (3.8) as, for the second straight season, opponents posted a .330 BABIP against him and 17% of fly balls against him went for home runs. Perhaps Pineda needs to find a two-seam grip. One would be hard-pressed to find a pitcher who misses more bats while also finding such a high percentage of barrels.

The 23-year-old Luis Severino was another arm hurt by the tight confines of Yankee Stadium II in 2017, as suggested by his 25% HR/FB at home versus 6.5% on the road. He has an electric arm with a fastball that averages 96 mph. And while his walk rate was near league average, he missed too often in the zone in his second season of major-league experience. Notes Andrew Perpetua in Pineda’s profile: “His average line drive exit velocity jumped an astonishing 4 mph, up 96 mph. Against right handed batters it was even worse, and sat around 99 mph.” He also is in need of another secondary offering.

C.C. Sabathia is in the final year of his deal and can perhaps offer mid-level rotation production again.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Aaron Nola 162.0 8.2 2.1 0.9 .313 72.5 % 3.64 3.51 3.3
Jeremy Hellickson 170.0 7.5 2.4 1.3 .305 71.2 % 4.32 4.30 2.2
Vince Velasquez 156.0 10.1 3.0 1.3 .312 74.6 % 3.88 3.78 2.9
Jerad Eickhoff 153.0 8.1 2.4 1.3 .303 72.6 % 4.08 4.14 2.3
Clay Buchholz 103.0 7.6 3.0 1.2 .303 71.5 % 4.25 4.29 1.5
Jake Thompson 63.0 6.6 3.5 1.4 .304 69.9 % 4.88 4.96 0.3
Zach Eflin 46.0 5.9 2.2 1.5 .303 67.6 % 4.99 4.82 0.4
Alec Asher 28.0 6.1 2.2 1.6 .303 69.2 % 4.92 4.94 0.1
Adam Morgan 19.0 7.2 2.5 1.5 .307 69.2 % 4.84 4.67 0.2
Mark Appel 9.0 7.6 3.8 1.3 .304 70.4 % 4.71 4.72 0.1
Ben Lively 9.0 7.8 3.0 1.3 .306 70.6 % 4.48 4.43 0.1
Ricardo Pinto 9.0 5.9 3.5 1.6 .305 67.6 % 5.57 5.50 0.0
Nick Pivetta 9.0 8.3 3.6 1.3 .306 71.9 % 4.40 4.45 0.1
Total 937.0 8.0 2.6 1.2 .307 71.8 % 4.20 4.16 13.6

The Phillies are the only team forecast to own a top-15 rotation and also projected to post a losing season in 2017 (72-90). That makes the Phillies an interesting team in 2017, and perhaps one that can beat expectations.

Aaron Nola is an emerging top-of-the-rotation arm and might have been the unluckiest pitcher in the majors last season, with an ERA-FIP differential of 1.70. Nola struck out more than a batter per inning and posted a 19-point K-BB% figure, along with an elite ground-ball rate of 55%. His curveball is one of the best this side of Rich Hill, featuring the most horizontal break in the game (10.5 inches last season). While already leaning on the pitch heavily, he should perhaps consider throwing it even more frequently like Hill. His two-seamer has tremendous sink. He doesn’t throw his changeup often, but it has excellent vertical movement. He continues to lack elite velocity, but there are two plus pitchers here. And a promising changeup. And room for growth and better luck.

While Velasquez posted a 5.33 second-half ERA after a 3.32 first-half mark, his underlying skills remained intact. Velasquez recorded a 28.4% strikeout percentage and 8% walk rate in the first half, and a 26.3% K percentage and 8.5% walk rate in the second.

The 26-year-old Jerad Eickhoff isn’t too far behind the above names, coming off a 3-WAR season during which he generated an above-average pop-up rate (12.5% IFFB) and benefited from trading in sliders for more curves. He looks like a mid-rotation arm going forward.

The Phillies hope that trade-acquisition Clay Buchholz can enjoy more production and consistency in the NL East than its AL counterpart, though he’s had a rough spring. The league switch has greatly benefited players like A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova in recent years. Even if Buchholz and Jeremy Hellickson aren’t part of the Phillies’ next relevant team, they could help it by being flipped at the deadline for assets.

15. Angels
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Matt Shoemaker 193.0 7.9 2.0 1.2 .303 72.7 % 3.83 3.83 3.3
Ricky Nolasco 176.0 6.7 2.1 1.2 .304 70.0 % 4.27 4.13 2.0
Garrett Richards 161.0 8.4 3.2 0.8 .302 73.6 % 3.57 3.66 2.7
Tyler Skaggs 139.0 8.7 3.1 1.0 .305 73.7 % 3.72 3.79 2.1
Jesse Chavez 131.0 7.5 2.7 1.2 .303 72.1 % 4.17 4.19 1.5
Alex Meyer 94.0 9.2 4.0 1.1 .305 72.7 % 4.08 4.07 1.2
JC Ramirez 38.0 7.1 3.3 1.1 .304 72.0 % 4.21 4.33 0.4
Daniel Wright 9.0 6.1 2.5 1.3 .304 69.2 % 4.65 4.61 0.1
Vicente Campos 9.0 6.5 3.0 1.2 .302 71.5 % 4.44 4.64 0.1
Andrew Heaney   9.0 7.4 2.6 1.1 .304 72.7 % 3.97 4.08 0.1
Total 959.0 7.9 2.8 1.1 .304 72.3 % 3.95 3.96 13.4

Matt Shoemaker was on his way to a career year until he took a Kyle Seager line drive to his head, suffering a skull fracture. He seems to be over the frightening injury this spring. If he picks up where he left off,he’ll be an excellent pitcher. Shoemaker finished among the top 10 in swinging-strike (13.1%) and walk rate (4.5%) last season. In increasing his splitter usage (to 40.2%) last season, while also throwing a four- and two-seam fastball, he has an unusual but effective skill set similar to Tanaka’s in New York.

Garrett Richards owns a fastball that averages 96 mph and has recorded an 11% swinging-strike rate sine 2014. The problem is that he pitched only 34 innings last year due to an arm injury and elected not to have Tommy John surgery. We’ll have to see if his non-surgical approach is effective, but if he returns to his 2015 level, then the Angels will have another 3-WAR season on their hands.

With good fastball velocity for a lefty and his signature curve, Tyler Skaggs remains interesting after his return from Tommy John, but he must reduce his double-digit walk rate. At 34, Ricky Nolasco is still around and should absorb innings in the back of the rotation along with Jesse Chavez. Alex Meyer will probably begin he season at Triple-A. While he has bat-missing stuff, perhaps his 6-foot-9 frame will never allow him to find the strike zone consistently. For his career, Meyer has a 15% major-league walk rate and it remained at 14.%% in limited time last season. As is the question in regard to other Angels positional depth charts, have the Angels done enough to surround Mike Trout?

We hoped you liked reading 2017 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotation (#1-15) by Travis Sawchik!

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A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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Cheeseball
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Member
Cheeseball

Only a heartless robot could project Blake Snell for a better season than Marco Estrada.

I’m gonna project Marco Estrada to continue to be baffling to hitters and endearing to all true-born, right-thinking humans.

bosoxforlife
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Member
bosoxforlife

Let me second your comment and erase one of those negative votes. Only heartless robots could continue to denigrate consistent, high quality performance over that ephemeral nothingness known, far and wide, as potential.

terry mesmer
Member
terry mesmer

It’s worse than you think: FG projects Wade Miley to be worth 2.0 WAR compared to 1.9 WAR for Estrada!