Earlier today, Meg Rowley closed out the position players with an examination of the game’s designated hitters. Now we turn our attention to pitching. First up? Paul Sporer on the bottom half the league’s rotations.
The American League is firmly projected to have worse starting pitching than the National League, with nine of the 15 lowest-ranked teams AL squads and a deficit of 20 projected WAR. This group contains four legitimate playoff contenders in the AL, including the 2020 pennant-winning Rays. In fact, the Rays are one of three 2020 division winners on this list. Two of my favorite breakout rotations are also in the bottom half; I think at least one of them will break into the top half by season’s end. For instance, the Tigers’ trio of mega prospects could push them well beyond their projections if things coalesce quickly for them. Which rotation do you have exceeding expectations from this list? Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, we covered the game’s position players as part of our positional power rankings. Now we move to the pitching side, starting with the bottom half (16-30) of the starting rotation rankings.
The latter half of the starter rankings are almost evenly split between the leagues, leaning 8-7 toward the National League. But five of the last seven are from the American League with each division represented at least once, furthering the notion that the AL is a league of haves and have-nots for at least another season. (Of those five, only the Toronto Blue Jays are seen as having an outside chance to compete and that’s due more to their offense than anything else.)
Keep in mind that the short season tightens things up quite a bit, too. Consider last year’s rankings, where the 16th-ranked Reds were projected for 10.6 WAR, three wins clear of the 24th ranked Brewers. This year the Cardinals slot 16th with a 4.7 mark, just 0.7 wins better than the 24th ranked Red Sox. A single over- or underachiever could sway things substantially for their team. Prospects might be the biggest needle-movers if they can secure roles; Mitch Keller (58) and Brady Singer (31) are the only Top 100 arms projected for 30-plus innings, while Matt Manning (28), Spencer Howard (24), Nate Pearson (21), Tarik Skubal (17), Casey Mize (14), and Sixto Sanchez (7) will battle for starts once the season gets underway.
The Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies, and Diamondbacks are seen as playoff dark horses (or frontrunners in some cases) based on their rosters as a whole, but if you had to select a rotation in the 21-30 range that could lead its team into a postseason berth, which one would you pick? Focus solely on the staff, avoid citing Trout & Co. or the Baby Blue Jays overcoming their rotation deficiencies, and let me know your favorite in the comments! Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, we covered most of the position players as part of our positional power rankings. Earlier today, Meg Rowley covered right fielders, before Kiley McDaniel took you through the 16th-through-30th ranked rotations. Now, we get to the good stuff.
The American League comes out firing on the top 15 list with the first three entrants made up of the reigning kings of the West and Central, as well as this year’s projected East champion. The Senior Circuit takes over from there, with seven of the next nine rotations, including two from the East and three from the Central divisions. Those staffs have been the talk of the offseason, as the top four in the NL East are all contenders to win the division while all five NL Central clubs could carve out a realistic scenario that finds them atop the group and headed to the playoffs.
The ever-dwindling workloads of starters are made clear as just six pitchers are projected for 200-plus innings; meanwhile, six clubs have just one (or fewer) arms tabbed for even 180 frames. The No. 2 ranked team doesn’t get anyone to 175, yet their depth is on display with six guys who could capably put up 100-plus innings. On the other end, some teams made this list purely on the strength of their top five, so any injuries could be catastrophic to their season outlook.
It’s probably a safe bet that at least one of the arms on here with a sub-70 inning projection ends up delivering 130-plus in a breakout campaign, but without a crystal ball to identify which injuries will create such a path, it’s hard to know exactly who that will be right now. My guesses would include Domingo German, Seth Lugo, Jordan Lyles, and Jerad Eickhoff. Last year’s were Walker Buehler, Jack Flaherty, and Zach Eflin, which perhaps means that I should include prospects Forrest Whitley and Alex Reyes, but they almost feel too easy.
Who is your favorite breakout pitcher on these 15 teams, and which is your favorite team in the 11-15 range to break the top 5?
After Craig Edwards and Rian Watt surveyed the current state of second and third basemen yesterday, our positional power rankings continue today with catcher.
The catching position hit an 11-year low in wRC+ (84) and also dipped below 50 WAR for the first time in that same span (49.9). Just two guys topped 4.0 WAR, and neither Yasmani Grandal (4.9) nor J.T. Realmuto (4.8) reached a full 5.0 wins. Compare that to just five years ago, when five guys had at least 5.0 WAR and two of them rounded to eight wins: Yan Gomes (5.3), Rene Rivera (5.3), Russell Martin (6.5), Buster Posey (7.8), and Jonathan Lucroy (8.1). Part of the issue is that teams are much more open to splitting the duties among multiple players, which makes it tougher for even the top end to generate big numbers. In 2014, there were 23 catchers with at least 400 plate appearances, but that figure dipped to just 15 a year ago.
The 2019 pool has already lost a stalwart with Salvador Perez needing Tommy John surgery, although he hasn’t topped 1.0 WAR since 2014 and has surpassed an 89 wRC+ just once in that same time frame (103 in 2017). The position is aging and hasn’t backfilled with prospects quickly enough to replace the old guard. Looking at those top performers from 2014, we see that they are all still playing but managed just a combined 6.9 (nice) WAR despite four of the five logging at least 350 plate appearances.
Do not fret, though, the backfill is on the way! Danny Jansen debuted last year but will play out his rookie season in 2019. Francisco Mejia has essentially had sips of coffee each of the last two years and still holds rookie eligibility. Meanwhile, 10 other catchers made it into our Top 100 Prospects list, including three in the Top 50: Keibert Ruiz for the Dodgers (15), Sean Murphy for the Athletics (35), and Joey Bart for the Giants (41). Read the rest of this entry »
Starting pitching might be the most interesting aspect of this positional power rankings series, given how much impact it has on a team’s season. Jay got you warmed up with 16th- through 30th-ranked rotations this morning. Now here is a graphical look at the top 15:
The mainstays atop the list aren’t going to shock you. It’s the cream of the crop, including both of last season’s World Series entrants, within the top three. Two American League teams open up the list then the National League has four of the top six; of the American League’s top five, three come from the East division. Perhaps most shocking of all is the Rockies landing in the top 15, as they’ve developed a nice group of arms. The two Pennsylvania-based teams could have enough pitching to make some noise this year, and a fourth AL East team sneaks in right near the end.
Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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.
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