2017 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotation (#16-30)

We continue our positional power rankings today. Dave Cameron’s introduction plus all the batting-related installments of the series can be accessed using the navigation bar above. Now, it’s time for pitchers. Specifically, I’ll cover the 16th- to 30th-ranked rotations. (Travis Sawchik will have Nos. 1-15 later today.)

First, the obligatory graph:

What we have here is a little bit of the leftover wheat from the top group and then a whole lot of chaff. I’m not even sure what chaff is and yet I’m certain that it accurately describes Jered Weaver at this point. Fear not, Padres fans, he was simply suffering through some dead arm (for what, the last two-plus years?!) when he posted that 2.44 ERA in the Cactus League. Wait nevermind, that 2.44 was his WHIP.

There is some fun in knowing that one or two teams within this set of rotations will emerge as top-10 rotations, just as the Blue Jays and Phillies did a year ago. Now the Phillies are already in the top 15 and the Blue Jays vacillated between 14 and 16 as the updates rolled through while I wrote this. My predictions to rise up are the Diamondbacks and Braves.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Aaron Sanchez 205.0 7.9 3.2 0.9 .302 73.7 % 3.69 3.86 3.4
J.A. Happ 181.0 7.8 2.8 1.2 .303 72.5 % 4.11 4.15 2.6
Marcus Stroman 169.0 7.5 2.4 0.9 .313 71.3 % 3.85 3.64 3.2
Marco Estrada 167.0 7.0 2.9 1.4 .277 71.6 % 4.31 4.62 1.9
Francisco Liriano 149.0 9.6 4.1 1.2 .310 74.3 % 4.11 4.22 1.8
Casey Lawrence 37.0 5.1 2.4 1.5 .312 67.9 % 5.20 5.04 0.2
Mat Latos 38.0 6.6 3.0 1.3 .309 70.2 % 4.77 4.69 0.3
Mike Bolsinger 9.0 8.5 3.5 1.3 .317 71.7 % 4.51 4.36 0.1
Conner Greene 9.0 5.8 4.6 1.4 .311 67.6 % 5.77 5.63 0.0
Ryan Borucki 9.0 5.8 3.8 1.6 .310 68.3 % 5.59 5.54 0.0
Total 973.0 7.7 3.0 1.1 .302 72.3 % 4.11 4.18 13.4

December 17, 2012: Noah Syndergaard traded by the Toronto Blue Jays with Wuilmer Becerra (minors), John Buck and Travis d’Arnaud to the New York Mets for R.A. Dickey, Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole.

Sorry, Jays fans. That’s mean, but just imagine a Thor-Sanchez-Stroman top three in Toronto. Aaron Sanchez converted to the rotation full time, packed on some muscle, and simply led the AL in ERA over 192 innings. Originally facing an innings limit, the Jays relented and kept Sanchez in the rotation all year. He leans heavily on an elite power sinker that befuddles lefties and righties with aplomb.

Hype on Stroman might’ve been a year early. It’s not like his 3.6 WAR was bad, but a 69% left-on-base rate (LOB%) pushed him to a 4.37 ERA despite skills that pointed something more in the mid-to-high 3.00s. He started missing more bats last year. If a league-average or better strikeout rate is now part of his game, he’s a stud in the making.

Fielding-independent pitching metrics indicate the other shoe is always about to drop for Marco Estrada because of his unorthodox profile, but his ability to induce weak contact can’t be ignored. Homers will always be part of his game, but this is a sub-4.00 ERA profile. J.A. Happ is another guy whom the projection systems don’t like as much as the results he’s been putting up the last two seasons. That’s understandable with a 34-year-old who had a 4.75 ERA from 2011 to -14, but discernible pitch-mix changes have turned him into a different pitcher.

The key to this rotation is actually Francisco Liriano, though. The 33-year-old southpaw regained his footing in a 49.1-inning run with Toronto, thanks in part to his former catcher, Russell Martin. Homers were a major issue for the first time since 2009 and Toronto won’t be easy on him compared to Pittsburgh, but he should still improve upon the 1.4 HR/9 from last year.

The top prospect who could debut in 2017 is Conner Greene, who’s produced just a nine-point difference between this strikeout and walk rates (K-BB%) in 368.2 minor-league innings. In other words, he isn’t likely to be a major factor without some big improvements. Veterans Mat Latos and Mike Bolsinger are around to eat some innings, but this team is relying heavily on their top five to deliver the goods in 2017.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Felix Hernandez 207.0 8.1 2.8 1.0 .304 73.1 % 3.79 3.87 3.2
Hisashi Iwakuma 176.0 7.0 1.8 1.2 .307 71.2 % 4.14 4.06 2.6
James Paxton 170.0 8.4 2.7 1.0 .313 73.4 % 3.71 3.65 3.1
Drew Smyly 168.0 8.7 2.6 1.3 .302 72.9 % 4.06 4.04 2.8
Yovani Gallardo 129.0 6.5 3.6 1.2 .310 71.1 % 4.63 4.63 0.9
Ariel Miranda 65.0 7.2 3.1 1.3 .301 72.1 % 4.38 4.53 0.7
Rob Whalen   18.0 7.2 3.9 1.3 .307 69.6 % 4.92 4.88 0.1
Chris Heston 9.0 6.4 3.4 1.2 .308 70.1 % 4.70 4.73 0.0
Dillon Overton 9.0 6.5 2.5 1.4 .307 69.9 % 4.74 4.68 0.1
Chase De Jong 9.0 7.3 3.0 1.3 .302 70.4 % 4.58 4.61 0.1
Total 961.0 7.7 2.7 1.2 .307 72.2 % 4.09 4.08 13.4

I can’t remember the last time that Felix Hernandez wasn’t the most intriguing arm in Mariners rotation, but that honor goes to James Paxton this year. He made mechanical changes that yielded both velocity and control and spurred a 3.19 ERA, 71 strikeouts, and a 7.9 K:BB ratio in his final 67.2 innings. Health has eluded the 28-year-old lefty throughout his career with last year’s 121 innings representing a career high in the majors. If he stays upright, there is massive upside and even normally conservative projection systems agree.

Meanwhile, Hernandez failed to go 200-plus innings for the first time since 2007. Injuries and underperformance have created a lot of questions surrounding the superstar arm. Can the changeup continue to be dominant as the fastball velocity continues to sink? Was 2016 the start of yearly injuries are just a blip after seven years without a DL stint? It’s worth noting that the DL stints in both 2008 and 2016 were lower-body and not arm related. The incredible skill and depth of track record are enough to still generate a solid 3.2 WAR projection, though that is down nearly two wins from last year’s 5.0 mark.

Hisashi Iwakuma did take 33 turns and log 199 innings last year, but the sharp drop in skills have many concerned about the health for the 36-year-old righty. Drew Smyly’s shoulder has been a major issue the last few years, but the Mariners felt his talent was worth betting on anyway. If he can slice into his gaudy 1.6 HR/9 from last year, his low-3.00s ERA from previous seasons is once again in play. Yovani Gallardo is hoping to rebound from a brutal 2016, but I mean who could’ve guessed that he’d struggle in Baltimore? Oh, everybody guessed that? OK then.

There isn’t a lot waiting in the wings prospect-wise, so they would turn to Ariel Miranda and Chris Heston if any of their top-five starters got hurt. Miranda might already be a better bet than Gallardo while Heston is a standard WYSIWYG arm.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Zack Greinke 182.0 7.9 2.2 1.1 .303 73.7 % 3.69 3.75 3.3
Robbie Ray 164.0 10.6 3.5 1.0 .323 75.2 % 3.64 3.54 3.3
Taijuan Walker 146.0 8.1 2.6 1.3 .303 71.4 % 4.22 4.21 1.9
Shelby Miller 139.0 7.4 3.1 1.1 .309 71.6 % 4.33 4.27 1.7
Patrick Corbin 138.0 7.3 3.1 1.1 .315 71.9 % 4.34 4.31 1.4
Braden Shipley 102.0 6.3 2.9 1.3 .312 70.2 % 4.77 4.71 0.6
Jorge de la Rosa 38.0 7.5 3.7 1.2 .313 72.1 % 4.46 4.53 0.3
Zack Godley 19.0 8.0 3.4 1.1 .314 72.7 % 4.23 4.26 0.2
Anthony Banda 9.0 7.7 3.4 1.1 .312 71.6 % 4.34 4.32 0.1
Total 938.0 8.0 2.9 1.1 .311 72.5 % 4.12 4.10 12.9

The Diamondbacks generated some buzz last year with mega contract for Zack Greinke and the trade for Shelby Miller, though the 2016 iteration of this column did its best to throw some cold water on the hype, slotting them 16th with 12.7 projected WAR. Despite a disappointing campaign that saw nary a single starter with an ERA below 4.00 (even removing minimum-start thresholds and looking at everyone with at least five), they are projected for virtually the same WAR and with a nearly identical middle-of-the-pack ranking.

Greinke and Patrick Corbin saw their projections go down after ugly 2016 seasons, Robbie Ray’s is up, and Taijuan Walker replaces Rubby de la Rosa. Those are the major changes, but it ends up being a wash on the bottom line. That said, there is upside if Greinke and Corbin get back on track while Walker and Shelby Miller take steps forward. Walker was having a breakthrough season before a disastrous second half, but then we learned he had 10 bone spurs in his foot, which no doubt played a major role in his 2.1 HR/9 over his final 10 starts.

Even Miller’s biggest detractors couldn’t have seen his meltdown coming last year. Everything just fell apart. His skills waned while his mechanics got completely out of whack, and he required a demotion to Triple-A. He seems to have corrected the mechanical issues that had him scraping his knuckles on the ground during his follow through, and there is some positivity surrounding him this spring. Their best bet at morphing into a contender is advancement of Miller and Walker.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Ray. The 25-year-old lefty fanned 218 batters last year, and while he only had a 4.90 ERA and 1.47 WHIP to go with them, you can’t really fake 200-plus strikeouts. In other words, there is real talent here. The question is, are we talking mid-to-high 3.00s or something even more? His batted-ball profile speaks to command issues that allow batters to consistently square him up when they aren’t striking out. Further development of a third pitch will be instrumental in determining whether this is a quality No. 4 or a budding No. 2 or 3.

Until Archie Bradley finds some semblance of control, it’s hard to see the growth coming. He’s only 24 with just 177.1 innings under his belt, so the D-backs will likely give him another shot at starting, but it’s looking more and more like a future reliever at this point, which is where he’ll start the 2017 season. Braden Shipley didn’t get the same prospect hype as Bradley, and Zack Godley was never a true prospect, and yet both seem like better bets to deliver positive value to team over Bradley. Anthony Banda is a great example of how not all No. 1 prospects are created equally. He’s there almost by default given the weak system.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Cole Hamels 206.0 8.5 3.0 1.1 .311 74.6 % 3.79 3.92 3.2
Yu Darvish 193.0 10.5 3.0 1.1 .318 75.3 % 3.54 3.42 4.4
Martin Perez 161.0 5.5 3.1 1.0 .312 70.3 % 4.49 4.45 1.6
A.J. Griffin 110.0 7.6 3.1 1.7 .301 71.3 % 4.91 5.02 0.7
Andrew Cashner   110.0 6.9 3.3 1.3 .316 70.1 % 4.81 4.65 0.8
Tyson Ross   95.0 8.1 3.7 0.9 .318 72.2 % 4.12 4.05 1.4
Dillon Gee 46.0 5.9 2.6 1.5 .313 69.7 % 5.01 4.95 0.3
Nick Martinez 18.0 5.5 3.1 1.4 .311 69.9 % 5.04 5.11 0.1
Connor Sadzeck 9.0 6.8 4.7 1.2 .315 71.1 % 4.98 5.06 0.0
Tyler Wagner 9.0 5.9 3.5 1.4 .312 69.9 % 5.19 5.23 0.0
Total 958.0 7.8 3.1 1.2 .313 72.3 % 4.24 4.23 12.6

The Rangers are remarkably top heavy, with Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels accounting for a full 60% of their projected WAR and about 42% of the team’s starter innings. They took gambles on Tyson Ross (thoracic outlet) and Andrew Cashner (biceps) hoping to spike some value there. Ross is out until May at the earliest and Cashner’s timetable is up in the air. That puts pressure on Martin Perez not only to eat up another 198.2 innings, but ideally do so while improving upon the 1.8 WAR from last season. The former super-prospect (five-time top 100) hasn’t quite panned out given the hype on his minor-league career, but his skills are in line with his prospect track record. The 25-year-old could step up some, but it’s hard to see where any major growth would come from for him.

Globe Life Park in Texas isn’t quite as home-run friendly as in year’s past, but home-run-generating machine A.J. Griffin had a 1.5 HR/9 in 282.1 innings with Oakland so his 2.1 mark in his Texas debut wasn’t too surprising. He has also struggled to stay healthy since his 200-inning season in 2013, so it’s tough to rely on him… and yet he’s a key part of the Rangers’ rotation to start the season.

Reinforcements are scant as they’ve dealt from their prospect depth to bolster this perennially contending club. Yohander Mendez blitzed through three minor-league levels and even got a sip of coffee with the Rangers (3 IP in September), so he will be in Triple-A knocking on the door, but the 22-year-old lefty needs more seasoning so a contending team may be reluctant to rely on him without a surge in development. Their stacked lineup and quality bullpen will be leaned on to make up for the shortcomings of the uncertain three-fifths of this rotation.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Sonny Gray   159.0 7.6 3.0 0.9 .313 71.7 % 4.01 3.88 2.4
Kendall Graveman 172.0 5.7 2.5 1.0 .312 69.9 % 4.44 4.35 1.6
Sean Manaea 161.0 8.1 2.8 1.1 .310 72.4 % 3.99 3.92 2.4
Jharel Cotton 152.0 8.6 3.1 1.1 .312 72.2 % 4.10 3.95 2.6
Andrew Triggs 128.0 7.3 2.7 0.9 .314 70.4 % 4.09 3.88 1.8
Jesse Hahn 93.0 6.1 3.7 1.0 .312 69.2 % 4.76 4.62 0.6
Raul Alcantara 56.0 5.9 2.4 1.4 .310 68.3 % 4.94 4.82 0.3
Daniel Mengden   9.0 7.6 3.4 1.1 .314 69.4 % 4.63 4.33 0.1
Paul Blackburn 9.0 5.4 2.9 1.3 .316 68.9 % 5.06 4.88 0.0
Chris Bassitt   9.0 7.2 3.4 1.0 .313 70.4 % 4.44 4.34 0.1
Total 949.0 7.2 2.9 1.0 .312 70.8 % 4.26 4.13 12.0

Three injury crosses before the season even starts, including your ace, is just what you need when you’re already operating on a shoestring budget with a tiny margin for error. I’m sure Billy Beane was like “I just wish we could up the degree of the difficulty here, that’d be so cool!” Sonny Gray is trying to bounce back from a dreadful 2016 that saw his ERA more than double and his innings count nearly cut in half. Injuries were obviously a major factor so the idea that a healthy Gray would rebound was sound… and then he got hurt again. He has added a strained lat to last year’s strained trap and forearm, and he’ll likely start 2017 on the disabled list.

The rest of the rotation is generating a good bit of excitement in Gray’s stead. Sean Manaea put up the most innings of his pro career (166.1) and showed why he was such a highly touted prospect with the Royals. In fact, he might’ve been a top five back in 2013 had he stayed healthy, but a hip issue pushed him to No. 34. Jharel Cotton has never generated the prospect hype of a Manaea, but his filthy plus-plus changeup was in full effect during a monstrous five-start run in September.

Kendall Graveman amped his sinker usage to 62%, but he’s looking to add even more to that in 2017. It’s far and away his best pitch. Andrew Triggs came out of nowhere with an impressive debut and has been generating some sleeper buzz as a back-of-the-rotation arm. Jesse Hahn surprisingly isn’t one of the injury crosses, but a poor spring has him on the outside looking in, with rookie Raul Alcantara in line to fill in for Gray while he’s out.

Daniel Mengden needed a foot surgery prior to spring training while Chris Bassitt is returning from Tommy John.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Kevin Gausman 172.0 8.3 2.7 1.2 .311 73.2 % 4.01 3.96 3.1
Wade Miley 169.0 7.2 3.0 1.2 .314 70.8 % 4.48 4.34 2.0
Dylan Bundy 148.0 8.4 3.2 1.3 .307 73.4 % 4.18 4.30 2.3
Chris Tillman   130.0 7.2 3.3 1.3 .304 71.2 % 4.52 4.55 1.3
Ubaldo Jimenez 103.0 7.8 4.1 1.2 .311 70.3 % 4.73 4.57 1.1
Tyler Wilson 83.0 5.9 2.4 1.4 .310 68.6 % 4.97 4.83 0.7
Mike Wright 73.0 6.1 2.9 1.5 .308 68.4 % 5.20 5.12 0.4
Logan Verrett 28.0 6.1 3.3 1.5 .310 69.0 % 5.24 5.14 0.1
Vidal Nuno 19.0 7.9 2.3 1.4 .302 74.1 % 4.13 4.34 0.3
Parker Bridwell 9.0 6.8 4.7 1.6 .310 67.8 % 5.87 5.68 0.0
Total 936.0 7.4 3.1 1.3 .309 71.2 % 4.51 4.46 11.3

This projection actually represents a substantial jump from Baltimore’s 2016 figures, and yet it’s still rather uninspiring outside of Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. This projection gives Gausman essentially a repeat, but it’s hard to ignore the potential for more when you see him at his best. Bundy was a complete wild card coming into last season. He was out of options and coming off essentially three missed seasons (65 IP in 2013-15), but he showed why he was such a highly rated prospect with a strong hybrid season that regularly showed flashes of his prospect brilliance.

Baltimore’s rotation is rounded out by a trio of innings-eaters who don’t inspire a ton of confidence (so, in true Orioles fashion, they’ll all overperform and send the team to the playoffs because why not!?). Wade Miley deserved a better fate after coming over to Baltimore, but a .389 BABIP and 64% LOB combo left him with a 6.17 ERA in 54 innings, compared to a 3.79 FIP. Chris Tillman has repeatedly performed above his preseason projections, but a balky shoulder has kept him from participating in any spring-training games and casts a dark cloud over his entire season outlook. I’m sure Ubaldo Jimenez will put up a stretch of solid starts at some point and give everyone cause for optimism. It probably won’t last.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jose Quintana 206.0 8.0 2.3 1.0 .313 73.6 % 3.73 3.69 4.4
James Shields 164.0 7.3 3.5 1.5 .311 70.7 % 5.02 5.01 0.9
Carlos Rodon   143.0 9.3 3.4 1.1 .317 73.9 % 3.91 3.88 2.6
Miguel Gonzalez 140.0 6.9 2.9 1.4 .309 70.5 % 4.77 4.77 1.2
Derek Holland 111.0 6.8 3.1 1.4 .308 70.6 % 4.84 4.83 0.9
Lucas Giolito 64.0 8.3 4.0 1.4 .314 72.0 % 4.71 4.72 0.5
Chris Beck 56.0 6.1 3.8 1.3 .313 69.1 % 5.17 5.08 0.3
Reynaldo Lopez 19.0 9.1 3.8 1.3 .316 71.9 % 4.53 4.39 0.2
Tyler Danish 19.0 5.6 3.5 1.4 .315 68.2 % 5.41 5.23 0.0
Carson Fulmer 19.0 8.3 5.4 1.5 .314 69.4 % 5.49 5.36 0.0
Dylan Covey 19.0 5.5 4.4 1.5 .310 67.6 % 5.76 5.67 0.0
Total 959.0 7.6 3.2 1.3 .312 71.5 % 4.53 4.50 11.1

Oh, wow: look at the White Sox with a 4.4-WAR arm headlining their rotation! Jose Quintana has the best projection of any pitcher in the bottom-11 teams (tied with Yu Darvish). The problem is that he makes up a whopping 40% of the entire rotation’s projected contributions. Worse yet is that budding star Carlos Rodon just had an MRI on his left biceps. While it revealed no structural damage, it’s a worrisome sign before the season even starts. At least they have James Shields and Derek Holland.

Joking aside, Shields almost certainly can’t be worse than the -1.4 WAR he gave the White Sox last year, and Holland likely won’t be relied upon too heavily. On the other side of the spectrum, super prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez both debuted in 2016 and could definitely make an impact beyond their projections, though there probably won’t be much incentive for the team to push that duo unless they came out of nowhere to make some noise. Regardless of their 2017 impact, the White Sox changed the fate of their organization in one fell swoop with the Adam Eaton deal. In addition to those two, they got former first-rounder Dane Dunning in the trade.

23. Royals
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Danny Duffy 183.0 8.4 2.7 1.1 .301 74.9 % 3.65 3.89 2.9
Ian Kennedy 181.0 8.3 3.0 1.3 .302 73.6 % 4.19 4.37 2.2
Jason Hammel 155.0 7.4 2.6 1.3 .304 72.4 % 4.30 4.42 1.5
Jason Vargas 148.0 6.6 2.3 1.3 .308 71.7 % 4.35 4.40 1.7
Nate Karns 148.0 8.5 3.7 1.2 .308 72.1 % 4.32 4.30 1.6
Travis Wood 46.0 7.4 3.6 1.2 .296 72.8 % 4.27 4.51 0.5
Chris Young   38.0 8.8 3.7 1.6 .305 73.0 % 4.69 4.77 0.3
Miguel Almonte 28.0 7.6 4.5 1.2 .309 71.9 % 4.66 4.79 0.2
Jake Junis 9.0 6.7 2.4 1.3 .309 69.6 % 4.61 4.53 0.1
Total 936.0 7.9 3.0 1.3 .304 72.9 % 4.19 4.31 11.0

Kansas City’s top-five starters are tabbed for 87% of their 936 projected innings, with none of their reinforcements forecast by our writers to earn more than 46 innings. Danny Duffy would hit a career high if he reached his projected 183 innings. One thing Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel will do is provide innings: they’ve averaged 188 and 171, respectively, over the last three years. Relying on Jason Vargas to stay healthy for 148 innings could be an issue, but Travis Wood wouldn’t be much of a difference. FIP says Nate Karns was the same pitcher in 2015 (4.09) and 2016 (4.05) despite a jump from 3.67 to 5.15 in ERA. Matt Strahm is likely to start the season in the bullpen, but it’s a starter profile and he could be in the rotation by the summer.

With a potential ace-in-the-making and two bona-fide innings-eaters, the Royals won’t have to over-rely on their bullpen to get through the season. However, even if the starters can outperform their projections, there simply may not be enough offense to make them a contender, but you can read about that in the other positional breakdowns.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jon Gray   181.0 9.1 3.1 1.1 .322 72.4 % 4.15 3.97 3.2
Tyler Chatwood 172.0 6.9 3.7 1.0 .315 71.9 % 4.42 4.47 2.1
Tyler Anderson 171.0 7.4 3.0 1.1 .317 72.7 % 4.22 4.25 2.5
German Marquez 130.0 6.9 2.7 1.3 .322 69.8 % 4.77 4.57 1.4
Kyle Freeland 110.0 5.6 3.0 1.5 .319 69.5 % 5.26 5.18 0.6
Chris Rusin   47.0 6.4 2.7 1.2 .321 70.9 % 4.56 4.44 0.6
Antonio Senzatela 38.0 6.4 3.0 1.4 .320 69.9 % 5.03 4.90 0.3
Jordan Lyles 28.0 5.9 3.6 1.1 .320 69.1 % 5.02 4.86 0.2
Tyler Matzek 28.0 8.2 9.5 1.3 .313 73.3 % 5.96 6.65 -0.2
Jeff Hoffman 9.0 8.1 3.5 1.2 .320 72.7 % 4.40 4.41 0.1
Yency Almonte 9.0 6.4 3.7 1.5 .320 69.5 % 5.41 5.32 0.0
Shane Carle 9.0 5.6 2.6 1.5 .320 68.8 % 5.26 5.07 0.1
Zach Jemiola 9.0 5.0 3.3 1.7 .319 67.5 % 5.93 5.77 0.0
Total 942.0 7.2 3.3 1.2 .319 71.3 % 4.61 4.55 10.9

The Rockies are actually building a little something here on the mound for the first time since… forever. OK, maybe that’s not fair: their 2009 starters produced a collective 16.8 WAR, good for third in the league. They had 12.1 WAR last year, a six-year high that included a franchise-best 7.4 K/9 mark. The excitement surrounding Gray after a 4.61 ERA speaks to the quality of his stuff. He needs to avoid the blowup start to cash in that potential. He had three starts of six or more earned runs while not finishing four innings in any of them, including a nine-run demolition in St. Louis. If he can take his home skills (27% K, 22% K-BB) on the road, a sub-4.00 ERA season is coming.

Tylers Anderson and Chatwood both had sub-4.00 ERA seasons, though Chatwood’s was a bit fraudulent. He was a nightmare at home (6.12 ERA) thanks to a paltry 6% K-BB rate. It only jumped to 8% on the road, but somehow yielded a 1.69 ERA. Chatwood keeps the ball down, but he doesn’t miss miss bats and walks too many. Anderson had an impressive debut, especially considering 12 of his 19 starts were in Coors. The former first-rounder sits at only 91 mph with his fastball, but that’s probably why he only used it 44% of the time, instead relying on his changeup (29%) and slider (26%). They may have a solid 2-3 WAR arm for the next few years here.

Beyond that, the Rockies are likely to lean on non-factors like Chris Rusin and Jordan Lyles or prospect arms. Three of their top-six prospects are starters expected to be in the majors this year. Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez debuted last year, while Kyle Freeland is now a darkhorse contender to break camp as the fifth starter. Either way, he’ll debut in 2017.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Junior Guerra 182.0 8.2 3.6 1.3 .305 72.5 % 4.34 4.41 2.2
Zach Davies 169.0 7.7 2.7 1.1 .313 71.6 % 4.18 4.06 2.6
Wily Peralta 141.0 6.8 3.1 1.2 .317 70.0 % 4.73 4.56 1.3
Matt Garza 118.0 6.4 3.0 1.3 .314 68.8 % 4.97 4.73 1.1
Jimmy Nelson 112.0 7.5 3.5 1.1 .312 70.2 % 4.57 4.51 1.3
Chase Anderson 94.0 7.3 3.0 1.5 .311 70.7 % 4.82 4.75 0.7
Tommy Milone 38.0 7.5 2.3 1.4 .310 71.2 % 4.42 4.33 0.5
Taylor Jungmann 37.0 7.8 4.8 1.2 .312 69.6 % 5.13 5.01 0.2
Brandon Woodruff 28.0 7.9 3.1 1.2 .313 70.7 % 4.44 4.28 0.4
Josh Hader 9.0 10.9 3.9 1.0 .316 74.6 % 3.71 3.66 0.2
Jorge Lopez 9.0 7.8 4.5 1.5 .311 69.7 % 5.25 5.16 0.0
Total 937.0 7.5 3.2 1.2 .312 70.8 % 4.56 4.47 10.4

Junior Guerra and Zach Davies were the only bright spots in the Brewers 2016 rotation, a group that posted 9.0 WAR last year (20th in MLB). Unsurprisingly, the pair is tabbed as the team’s best again in 2017. Guerra is a late bloomer (age 32) powered by an excellent splitter and a strong 93 mph fastball that he can run up to 95-96 when he needs it. Davies doesn’t have nearly that kind of velocity, sitting at 89 mph. Instead, he wins by commanding his four-pitch arsenal that features a plus changeup and three solid-average offerings: sinker, cutter, and curve. Low-velocity, changeup-first command arms usually draw Kyle Hendricks comps after his surprise breakout, and Davies was tabbed as the Most Likely to Hendricks over the winter (yes, we’re using Hendricks as a verb here).

The sharp drop-off to the rest of the group is why this team is in the midst of a rebuild phase. Jimmy Nelson appeared to have laid the foundation for something better in 2015 after showing off a new curveball that give him a legitimate third pitch, but it got worse in 2016 and became more of a show-me pitch instead of a true offering. It’s a fifth-starter profile at best. Wily Peralta might not even be that good. He’s a two-pitch arm who can’t handle lefties and nothing in his 647.1 career innings offers hope of any great development. Maybe it’s time to take his mid-90s heat and power slider to the pen.

There are reinforcements coming. Josh Hader and Brandon Woodruff are likely to debut in 2017 and Jorge Lopez is looking to get back on track after a vomit-inducing first season at Triple-A Colorado Springs. For those unaware, Colorado Springs is just as hard of an environment on pitchers as Coors Field. Hader wasn’t that much better in Triple-A from a results standpoint, but his 29% strikeout rate and 17-point K-BB% were much better than Lopez’s 17% and 3% marks. Woodruff made a colossal jump in strikeout rate en route to leading the minors with 173.

26. Twins
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Ervin Santana 198.0 7.2 2.9 1.2 .313 71.1 % 4.43 4.30 2.4
Hector Santiago 177.0 7.4 3.9 1.5 .305 71.4 % 4.92 5.05 1.1
Kyle Gibson 161.0 6.3 3.1 1.0 .316 70.0 % 4.56 4.39 1.7
Phil Hughes 141.0 6.3 1.5 1.4 .315 69.3 % 4.59 4.31 1.9
Tyler Duffey 111.0 7.2 2.4 1.2 .319 69.6 % 4.49 4.18 1.5
Jose Berrios 92.0 8.1 3.1 1.2 .316 70.8 % 4.43 4.24 1.2
Adalberto Mejia 65.0 7.2 2.9 1.4 .317 70.6 % 4.72 4.61 0.5
Total 945.0 7.0 2.9 1.3 .314 70.5 % 4.60 4.46 10.3

When four-fifths of a club’s Opening Day rotation is age 29 or older, it’s not exactly brimming with the fabled “upside.” The fifth starter is 24-year-old Adalberto Mejia, and he does have a tinge of intrigue, but as a command-and-control kitchen sink (throws four pitches) guy, it’s a back-end profile at best. The true upside lies with Jose Berrios. He’s no longer a prospect after 58.1 (horrible) innings at the big-league level last year.

Nothing went right for him. He was tipping pitches at times, but frankly the opposition didn’t need his help as they battered him all over the yard. If there’s positive spin to Berrios’s 2016, it’s that he still dominated at Triple-A for 111.1 innings, so it wasn’t a completely lost season. His mechanics were smoother in his WBC appearances and offer hope that 2016 was just rookie growing pains. The stuff remains elite.

Beyond that, their ace is a No. 3 (Ervin Santana) and the rest of their rotation is a group of essentially 4.5s masquerading as a Nos. 2-3-4 (Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson, and Phil Hughes). Santana has been a consistent 30-plus-start arm every year since 2010 save a PED suspension in 2015. Santiago’s 2016 was his first north of a 3.75 ERA (he had a 4.70), but the advanced indicators have been calling for it throughout his career (4.55 FIP).

Gibson put together two solid seasons in 2014-15 as he started delivering on his prospect hype, but then everything got worse last year and leading to a 5.07 ERA. Hughes spiked a career year in 2014 highlighted by elite control and strong command. The latter, which was a problem before the ’14 season, has once again abandoned him — as has his already meager swing-and-miss ability.

27. Braves
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Julio Teheran 181.0 8.0 2.5 1.2 .300 72.7 % 3.90 3.98 2.4
Mike Foltynewicz 152.0 8.7 3.2 1.3 .310 72.6 % 4.26 4.27 1.6
Bartolo Colon 162.0 6.2 1.6 1.2 .313 71.0 % 4.20 4.08 2.0
R.A. Dickey 162.0 6.7 3.1 1.2 .296 70.6 % 4.38 4.50 1.4
Jaime Garcia 131.0 8.0 2.7 1.0 .313 73.1 % 3.81 3.83 1.8
Matt Wisler 122.0 6.9 2.7 1.3 .306 69.8 % 4.65 4.52 0.8
Aaron Blair 28.0 7.7 3.8 1.2 .313 70.1 % 4.77 4.64 0.2
Josh Collmenter 9.0 6.3 2.8 1.3 .300 72.4 % 4.36 4.59 0.0
Max Fried 9.0 6.7 5.6 1.1 .308 71.1 % 5.09 5.30 0.0
Total 956.0 7.4 2.7 1.2 .306 71.6 % 4.22 4.22 10.3

This is the rotation of a team trying to win 70-something games in their new ballpark. Sure, they’d love to win more, but if they can manage 75 or so, it’s enough to be competitive in plenty of series and not drive away fans for being awful. With that in mind, they turned their attention to veterans this offseason. Three new acquisitions are expected to contribute substantially to their rotation: Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, and Jaime Garcia. Colon is also expected to be a major contributor at the dish. Colon has been a solid 2.5-3.0 WAR arm the last six seasons with a dreamy four-win season back in 2013. At 44, there’s some drop-off baked into the projection for him. No, not that kind of “baked,” Bartolo. Nothing to eat here.

The one staple for Dickey since his return as a knuckleballer has been innings with five straight seasons of 200 or more of then leading into last season, when he lasted only 169.2. The Braves would love to get at least 30 starts from Dickey, almost regardless of result. OK, let’s say regardless of result — as long as it’s south of a 5.00 ERA. Meanwhile, they would likely hope for nearly the opposite from Garcia. He has never pitched 200-plus innings and he has just two seasons of at least 30 starts, but if they can get 20-25 starts of his career levels (3.57 ERA, 1.28 WHIP), that’d be a win.

Julio Teheran rebounded off a weak 2015 and has logged 185-plus innings in each of the last four seasons. He’s easily their ace and, at 26 years old, he might have another level. Any progress would likely require sharp development of a third pitch. He has a 211-point platoon split favoring lefty hitters, so a changeup would be the best bet. It’d be more of a “re-development” of the changeup, as it was one of his best pitches coming up through the minors. He represents a good lesson in how fluid pitchers are with their arsenal, command, and delivery. We often think about how pitchers add or alter pitches for the positive, but pitches atrophy, too. Teheran’s definitely has since his prospect days.

Meanwhile, Mike Foltynewicz was a fastball and a big body as a prospect, but has developed his secondary arsenal over the past two seasons and showed some real promise in a career-high 123.1 innings last year. His control has evolved in each of his MLB seasons, but next is the command which still needs work (1.3 HR/9 last year; 1.5 career).

Matt Wisler has shown glimpses of his prospect upside in 265.2 MLB innings but doesn’t handle lefties and isn’t good enough with righties to offset the deficiency. His .857 OPS against left-handed batters is a decidedly not nice 69th out of 77 starters with at least 500 lefties faced since 2015. His age and pedigree will earn him consideration the first time the Braves need a fill-in starter, but the bevy of prospect arms making their way through the system will push Wisler if he doesn’t get a lot better.

None of the starters on Eric Longenhagen’s prospect list have a 2017 ETA.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Wei-Yin Chen 174.0 7.2 2.0 1.1 .303 73.1 % 3.83 3.91 2.3
Edinson Volquez 161.0 6.9 3.5 0.9 .305 70.8 % 4.20 4.22 1.6
Tom Koehler 138.0 7.0 3.7 1.1 .304 71.3 % 4.46 4.53 0.9
Dan Straily 141.0 7.7 3.4 1.3 .298 71.6 % 4.42 4.51 1.0
Adam Conley 129.0 7.7 3.7 1.0 .303 72.1 % 4.13 4.26 1.3
Jeff Locke   65.0 6.2 3.3 1.0 .306 70.0 % 4.49 4.46 0.5
Justin Nicolino 65.0 4.6 2.2 1.1 .304 68.7 % 4.55 4.52 0.4
Jose Urena 19.0 6.6 2.9 1.0 .305 69.8 % 4.32 4.27 0.2
David Phelps 19.0 8.5 3.2 0.8 .298 74.6 % 3.38 3.61 0.3
Jake Esch 9.0 5.7 3.4 1.2 .305 69.2 % 4.85 4.87 0.0
Kendry Flores 9.0 6.6 3.4 1.3 .308 69.4 % 4.90 4.87 0.0
Jarlin Garcia 9.0 5.9 3.2 1.3 .306 69.5 % 4.94 4.96 0.0
Total 938.0 7.0 3.1 1.1 .303 71.3 % 4.24 4.30 8.6

Considering for a moment just the on-field impact of losing Jose Fernandez, it conservatively represents four wins (~5.0 WAR for Fernandez replacing the 0.9 of Tom Koehler). That alone would slot them higher, at 20th. It’s hard to focus on the ramifications for a baseball team when a 23-year-old franchise player loses his life.

Newcomers Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily represent the key additions for the Marlins, though neither offer much outside of scarfing down a plateful of innings. Volquez has averaged 187 per campaign over the last five seasons, ranging from 170.1 to 200.1, while Straily set a career high with 191.1 last year. Straily could see his 1.5 HR/9 dip in Miami, but any ERA gains are likely to be offset by regression in both his BABIP (.239, career .255) and LOB rate (81%, career 74%). As for Volquez, who knows? His last four ERAs are 5.71, 3.04, 3.55, and 5.37 with a consistent K-BB% figure around nine points leaving him at the mercy of his HR/9, BABIP, and LOB rates.

The two righties are added to a group of solid-if-unspectacular arms that the Marlins hope is headlined by Wei-Yin Chen. The 31-year-old lefty is in the second year of a potentially six-year pact with the Marlins and looking to rebound from a disastrous debut with the club. Moving from Baltimore to Miami was supposed to help his biggest issue — home runs — but instead he allowed a career-high 1.6 HR/9. In addition to the near-5.00 ERA, he threw a career-low 123.1 innings, as a sprained elbow cost him nearly two months of time.

Last year’s iteration of this column for the Marlins tabbed Adam Conley as the upside candidate, and he’ll carry the mantle again. It’ll be almost by default, though, given that the 27-year-old is the youngest arm in the rotation. The would-be upside candidate is actually 31-year-old David Phelps, who saw 3-mph spike in velocity over his 59 relief appearances and five starts. The Marlins are dead set on keeping him in the bullpen for some reason. Hopefully they see fit to maximize his ability to go longer outings and give him 90-something innings, but he only tallied 86.2 last year, going more than an inning out of the bullpen just six times last year.

Jose Urena is the Hail Mary breakout candidate, as nothing in his 145.1 major-league innings suggests an impactful surge in performance, but a look under the hood shows a 95-mph fastball and a workable slider. The changeup needs a lot of work… OK, the whole arsenal needs work, but there are at least some positive elements for the young arm. He’s probably best suited for relief, but at 25 years old, he’ll get at least one more shot at starting.

Forcing Eric Longenhagen to write a prospect list for this team is a hate crime in 11 states, but he did it anyway and Jarlin Garcia is the only guy expected to reach the majors in 2017. He was given a 40 Future Value grade which tells you just about all you need to know.

29. Padres
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jhoulys Chacin 161.0 7.4 3.5 1.0 .313 70.9 % 4.35 4.21 1.9
Jered Weaver   156.0 5.9 2.6 1.4 .298 69.6 % 4.81 4.89 1.0
Clayton Richard 142.0 5.5 3.0 0.9 .314 72.2 % 4.21 4.35 1.2
Luis Perdomo 131.0 6.6 3.0 1.1 .321 69.6 % 4.66 4.43 1.0
Jarred Cosart 113.0 6.1 4.5 1.0 .308 69.7 % 4.81 4.79 0.4
Trevor Cahill 92.0 8.7 4.6 0.9 .313 72.9 % 4.12 4.19 1.0
Christian Friedrich   74.0 7.1 3.5 1.1 .311 70.5 % 4.52 4.41 0.8
Tyrell Jenkins 28.0 5.8 4.4 1.2 .307 69.9 % 5.10 5.18 0.0
Zach Lee 9.0 6.2 2.4 1.2 .310 68.2 % 4.65 4.39 0.1
Cesar Vargas 9.0 8.1 3.1 1.0 .313 71.5 % 4.07 3.93 0.1
Robbie Erlin   9.0 7.0 2.7 1.3 .308 68.7 % 4.71 4.49 0.1
Walker Lockett 9.0 6.2 2.3 1.2 .308 69.4 % 4.52 4.44 0.1
Miguel Diaz 9.0 6.8 4.4 1.3 .308 68.9 % 5.28 5.22 0.0
Total 944.0 6.6 3.4 1.1 .311 70.6 % 4.53 4.50 7.7

At least Joe Ross will come up and be a major factor the Padres at some point this season.

*San Diego Chicken whispers something in Paul’s ear*

Oh, they traded him? Well, that’s OK. They have this interesting shortstop prospect named Trea Turner, whose defense will aid the starters while his offense provides some much-needed run support.

*San Diego Chicken returns and exasperatedly whispers another something to Paul*

Both? For Wil Myers? Didn’t Turner put up a half-win less than Myers while playing just 73 games? OK, cool. Cool, cool, cool.

Sure, that might’ve been a lame joke, but I figured you were already in a laughing mood after seeing San Diego’s depth chart of starters. Hell, the guy projected with the most innings isn’t even going to be in the rotation to start the season. I’m inclined to give the Padres some love on that one, as I think it’s clear that Jarred Cosart isn’t a starter, but his fastball/curveball combo should yield results out of the bullpen. If he got back to the 94-95 mph, he might even be a late-inning option.

That clears the deck for your 2017 San Diego Padres ace… Jhoulys Chacin! Fun fact: Chacin’s 83.9 mph changeup is nearly a tick faster than Jered Weaver’s 83 mph fastball. There’s no way you thought we would get through this entire section without a reference to Weaver’s fastball, not a chance. Chacin hasn’t made 30-plus starts since 2013, but the Padres might see if Chacin can be the first pitcher to make 40 starts since 1987 (Charlie Hough) just to avoid trusting their other options.

The lone bright spot is Luis Perdomo, the Rule 5 pick from last year. He couldn’t outrun seven outings of five-plus earned runs (two of which were relief appearances), but still showed some promise when you consider that he was making the jump from High-A. He has a sinker he can run up to the mid-90s regularly and a swing-and-miss curve headlining his arsenal, leading to a 59% ground-ball rate. He supplemented those with a splitter he started trusting more in the final two months en route to a 4.20 ERA over his final 10 starts.

Trevor Cahill, Christian Friedrich, and Clayton Richard are reportedly having a race of sorts this year where the first one to a 2.0 K/BB ratio gets to skip a turn in Coors! League average was 2.6 K/BB among starters last year and hasn’t been below 2.0 since 2000.

30. Reds
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Scott Feldman 165.0 6.1 2.6 1.3 .306 69.6 % 4.65 4.64 1.3
Brandon Finnegan 170.0 8.2 3.9 1.4 .297 73.0 % 4.42 4.66 1.4
Robert Stephenson 121.0 8.9 5.5 1.4 .301 71.8 % 5.07 5.24 0.6
Cody Reed 108.0 8.3 3.1 1.3 .307 72.8 % 4.24 4.38 1.2
Amir Garrett 102.0 7.9 4.7 1.3 .303 71.6 % 4.77 4.94 0.6
Anthony DeSclafani   95.0 7.7 2.4 1.2 .305 72.9 % 4.05 4.14 1.3
Bronson Arroyo 68.0 5.0 2.2 1.8 .299 68.8 % 5.34 5.44 0.0
Homer Bailey   56.0 7.6 2.8 1.2 .309 70.7 % 4.37 4.27 0.7
Rookie Davis 28.0 6.5 3.0 1.5 .305 69.7 % 4.91 4.93 0.2
Sal Romano 19.0 7.2 2.9 1.3 .306 70.0 % 4.66 4.58 0.2
Tim Adleman 9.0 7.0 2.8 1.5 .300 71.0 % 4.64 4.77 0.1
Total 941.0 7.5 3.5 1.4 .303 71.4 % 4.61 4.72 7.5

In fairness to him, Scott Feldman is a perfectly fine fifth starter and the Opening Day start isn’t that meaningful, but it says something about a club’s rotation when he’s the one starting the season’s first game. It says you’re losing 90-plus games again and could lose 100, especially if Anthony DeSclafani’s elbow injury (UCL sprain) gets any worse. Cincinnati’s season got off on the wrong foot before it even started when Homer Bailey had bone spurs removed from his surgically repaired elbow on February 14th, pushing the start of his season to some time in June.

It’s a bit bleak for a club to endure injuries to two of their best starters before the regular season even starts, but unlike the Padres, they aren’t loading up their rotation with patchwork veterans. Yes, Bronson Arroyo joins Feldman as a starter, but then it’s youth as far as the eye can see, with Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, and Amir Garrett angling to break camp, while Rookie Davis and Sal Romano could be in position for summer call-ups.

Finnegan showed flashes of his potential in his first full season last year, with a handful of big strikeout games (including a season-high of 12) and a couple deep no-hit bids. Righties were an issue for the young southpaw, as they batted his fastball around the yard, but his changeup showed promise and improvement throughout 2016. Reed is another young lefty with plenty of stuff with which to work as he enters his first full season. Eno Sarris had a great piece on how his predictability contributed to an obscene 2.3 HR/9 rate in his 47.2-inning debut last year.

Stephenson and Garrett are X factors who could turn this team into a watchable loser if their prospect pedigree translated into major-league performance. Stephenson is a 24-year-old with 37 innings at the big-league level, so it’s not exactly Last Chance Saloon for him as a starter, but the reliever tag that some prospect analysts put on him earlier in his pro career is starting to look more prescient. Eric Longenhagen agrees.

Those unfamiliar with Garrett might be quick to write off the 25-year-old, but he’s late to baseball after pursuing a college basketball career, so he can’t be judged on the normal age-to-level scale of a standard prospect. The 6-foot-5 lefty has an impressive fastball that he can push to the mid-90s with regularity, and it’s backed by a solid arsenal of three potential 50-grade pitches. A good start in his second tour of Triple-A could yield a relatively early call and allow him to easily outpace his 19-inning projection.

Tim Adleman also exists.

We hoped you liked reading 2017 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotation (#16-30) by Paul Sporer!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

newest oldest most voted
Ghostofmeek
Member
Ghostofmeek

The Phillies aren’t on this list? The Phillies aren’t on this list! (Wipes tear from eye).