Ranking the starting rotations for every MLB team

March 29, 2022 08:04 PM
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With the 2022 MLB season getting started next week, this is a good time to unveil my rankings of the 30 projected starting rotations. 

There was a ton of maneuvering this offseason by teams looking to bolster their starting pitching. Unlike recent seasons, however, I’m not sure if the rich got richer. It seems the Dodgers were poached and the Yankees and Red Sox stayed the course, which leaves a new No. 1 at the top of my rotation rankings. That team is the Mets, who just might have the best 1-2 starting punch in baseball history.

As you consider which teams might be playing into late October, note that both the Braves (my No. 5 preseason rotation in 2021) and Astros (No. 9) appeared in my top 10 in this space last year. Both World Series teams were in my top 10 in 2020 as well.

In this exercise, I’ve come up with each team’s combined starting-pitcher power ratings (based on the same numbers I use for my daily ratings at VSiN.com), derived from my individual pitcher ratings and their typical start length. I’ve used the depth charts offered by MLB.com as a guide for determining each team’s rotation (Nos. 1 through 5). The pitchers at the top of each team’s chart have a greater likelihood of getting more starts and innings, but for the purposes of this exercise, I’ve treated all pitchers equally in an effort to make depth the most important factor.

My power rankings are built exclusively for betting markets, meaning I tend to price pitchers based more on how the betting markets perceive them rather than actual statistics. In other words, I tend to put more emphasis on pitchers who command more respect from oddsmakers. A pitcher with a big arm who can overpower hitters with multiple dominant pitches is rated higher in my system than one that relies on craft and perhaps good fortune. I feel this line of thinking best reflects the markets that bettors face on a daily basis.

First, here are some specific highlights I found that might help you find value for season win totals, divisional odds or World Series futures. Let’s take a look at those:

— For the first time in three seasons, the defending champions are not the team with the best starting pitching depth, according to my numbers. Two years ago, my No. 1 rotation was the Nationals, but they had several key injuries and eventually missed the postseason. Last year, my top spot went to the Dodgers, but injuries and other off-the-field issues left the end-of-year rotation a shell of what it was on Opening Day. That’s what the Mets, my No. 1 rotation, must avoid in 2022, especially with Jacob deGrom coming off a season-ending injury last year. With the addition of Max Scherzer, this pitching staff, if healthy, should be dominant.

— The Dodgers take the No. 2 spot, but that ranking also hinges on everyone staying healthy. The numbers could be bolstered if Trevor Bauer ever emerges from his legal woes, but for now, the Dodgers have three top-line arms ready to anchor the rotation. Nos. 4 and 5 on the staff aren’t at the same level as in recent years, which could pose problems if Clayton Kershaw or Julio Urias run into problems ahead of them.

— The Brewers also have a dominant top three with Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, and at a fraction of the price. The Brewers check in at No. 3 on my list after beginning 2021 at No. 12.

— The other New York rotation might wind up being one to watch as well, with the Yankees rolling with Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery at the top ahead of Nestor Cortes Jr. and Jameson Taillon. They are banking on the healthy return of Luis Severino, who has only started three games since 2018 but has unlimited potential.

— Last year at this time, the Blue Jays had numerous question marks on their staff. This year’s group should be one of the best in the American League with the emergence of Alek Manoah last year, the midseason addition of Jose Berrios and the offseason adds of Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi.

— The White Sox boast a formidable staff, even after losing left-hander Carlos Rodon to the Giants. They still have five solid starters and should once again be a team to watch in 2022. 

— In addition to trading for some nice lineup pieces from Cincinnati recently, the Mariners also added Robbie Ray to the rotation. He was superb for the Blue Jays last year and could push the Mariners back to the postseason this year.

— Washington started the 2020 season ranked No. 1 on this list, fell to No. 11 in 2021 and check in at No. 28 entering 2022. With Stephen Strasburg expected to be out until May, this starting staff has the look of a bottom feeder.

Here are all 30 teams listed in order of their combined starting-pitcher power ratings, according to my numbers:

1. New York Mets

Average rotation starter rating: 34.2

Average start length: 5.58 innings (No. 8 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Only two pitchers started more than 18 games for the Mets last year, so this No. 1 ranking will hinge on the durability of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. Replacing Marcus Stroman with All-Star Chris Bassitt certainly cushions the blow. This team will contend for the NL East if they can get at least half of their starts from that top three. 

2. Los Angeles Dodgers 

Average rotation starter rating: 31.2

Average start length: 5.8 innings (No. 2 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: The Dodgers anxiously await the fate of Trevor Bauer and his legal concerns. Down Bauer and Max Scherzer, this is a leaner rotation in 2022. Manager Dave Roberts used an absurd 19 starters last year. Can Andrew Heaney and Tyler Anderson stabilize the Nos. 4 and 5 spots behind Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias?

3. Milwaukee

Average rotation starter rating: 30.8

Average start length: 5.48 innings (No. 11 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: If measured by production versus cost, Milwaukee undoubtedly has the top rotation in baseball. Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta form a phenomenal trio, but this franchise better reach its goals quickly as the window to keep all three at reasonable prices is closing. Remember the name Alan Ashby, a potential back-end starter with a huge arm as a lefty. Something is going right in the Brewers organization, as almost every pitcher they bring up throws in the high 90s with 3-4 pitches in the arsenal.

4. San Diego 

Average rotation starter rating: 26.8

Average start length: 5.12 innings (No. 19 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: The loss of Mike Clevinger prior to the start of last season was the first of many things to go wrong for the Padres. In a 2021 season of massive expectations, all of the main starting pitchers failed to live up. This team needs huge bounce-back years from Clevinger, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove. It’s a big ask, but all four have shown ace potential in the past.

5. Toronto 

Average rotation starter rating: 24.6

Average start length: 5.54 innings (No. 9 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Toronto’s pitching staff was its biggest question mark last season. No such worries in 2022, as this rotation should be solid, if not great. Kevin Gausman is a huge add from San Francisco and cushions the blow of Robbie Ray’s departure. Yusei Kikuchi, over from Seattle, should post better numbers with the Blue Jays lineup supporting him. Alek Manoah gets a full season to flash his dominant stuff.

6. San Francisco 

Average rotation starter rating: 24.4

Average start length: 5.28 innings (No. 14 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Substitute Carlos Rodon for Kevin Gausman and you have the makings of a stable offseason transition for the Giants, who emerged as one of the league’s best stories last year. This team had five pitchers start at least 21 games, a big reason for their amazing consistency. The one who posted the worst numbers, Johnny Cueto, has been replaced by Alex Cobb, who had an 8-3 record and 1.264 WHIP for an underachieving Angels team.

7. Philadelphia

Average rotation starter rating: 23.6

Average start length: 5.72 innings (No. 4 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Zack Wheeler’s emergence last season saved an otherwise ugly season for Philadelphia’s starting rotation. He struck out 247 in 213.1 innings. Usual ace Aaron Nola also posted good strikeout numbers but was hit harder than usual. Sole left-hander Ranger Suarez came on nicely in his first chance to start and should be a full-time rotation option in 2022. Overall, this staff has big arms capable of dominating hitters.

8. New York Yankees 

Average rotation starter rating: 22.6

Average start length: 5.06 innings (No. 22 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: For the first time in a while, the Yankees did not make an offseason splash for their rotation. Gerrit Cole is the ace and Jordan Montgomery showed the potential to be a solid No. 2. The Yankees may be putting a lot of eggs in the basket of Luis Severino, who hasn’t started more than three games in a season since 2018. Nestor Cortes Jr. and Jameson Taillon are back-end options who could be top options on other staffs.

9. Houston 

Average rotation starter rating: 22

Average start length: 5.74 innings (No. 3 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Gone is Zack Greinke, but hopefully back at full strength is Justin Verlander. Obviously, the Astros didn’t miss him too much a year ago, playing in another World Series, but his return is clearly the big story in this rotation. Verlander is a seasoned veteran who joins Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier in a group that has live arms and the potential to be overpowering.

10. Chicago White Sox

Average rotation starter rating: 18.4

Average start length: 5.24 innings (No. 17 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Few rotations could afford to lose Carlos Rodon without replacement and still be considered solid from No. 1 to No. 5. That’s where the White Sox sit heading into 2022, backed by high expectations again. Michael Kopech figures to grab the Rodon starts, but the overall performance of this staff hinges on Dallas Keuchel returning to his pre-2021 form.

11. Seattle 

Average rotation starter rating: 17.4

Average start length: 5.64 innings (No. 6 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: After a Cy Young season in Toronto, Robbie Ray lands in Seattle on a five-year contract. It was a huge move for the Mariners, who needed just one more piece last year to make their remarkable season even more special. They not only added Ray but some nice bats as well. Chris Flexen and Marco Gonzales are next in the Mariners rotation, both coming off solid 2021 seasons. Seattle is one of the few teams with a pair of top lefties. 

12. Cleveland 

Average rotation starter rating: 16.6

Average start length: 5.86 innings (No. 1 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: The Guardians saw their starting staff decimated by injuries last season, most notably Shane Bieber, who was only able to start 16 games. He is back atop the rotation for 2022 in an otherwise very recognizable roll call. Bieber is joined by Aaron Civale, Zack Plesac, Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie in what should be a solid group if healthy.

13. St. Louis 

Average rotation starter rating: 15.8

Average start length: 5.36 innings (No. 13 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: St. Louis checks in at No. 13 on this list, good for second in the NL Central. Unfortunately, the Cardinals rotation is 10 spots below the Brewers. The Cardinals will continue to rely on veteran Adam Wainwright, who won 17 games last year and provided stability for a staff in which no other pitcher started more than 21 games. The return of a healthy Jack Flaherty would give this ranking a boost. The only new name is lefty Steven Matz, who posted decent numbers in Toronto last year but doesn’t figure to get the same offensive support in St. Louis.

14. Atlanta 

Average rotation starter rating: 12.8

Average start length: 5.26 innings (No. 15 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Atlanta brings back essentially the same staff as the one that won the World Series last year. To repeat that feat, the Braves will need to get the same high-level production from their lineup and bullpen. It’s hard to call a rotation anchored by Charlie Morton star-studded, so we’ll say it’s above average. The lone departure is Drew Smyly, who had a good record despite mediocre stats. Can Kyle Wright perform as the No. 5 and hold down the fort until Mike Soroka returns?

15. Miami 

Average rotation starter rating: 11.6

Average start length: 5.24 innings (No. 18 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Miami managed to hang on to its three main starting pitchers. Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers all put up good statistical seasons in 2021 but all failed to post a winning record. Expect similar results in 2022.

16. Los Angeles Angels 

Average rotation starter rating: 10.2

Average start length: 5.26 innings (No. 16 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Shohei Ohtani has earned his spot atop the Angels rotation, and the franchise needs him to be at his best because there are big question marks below. The biggest, of course, is Noah Syndergaard, who has only pitched in two games since 2019. Michael Lorenzen comes over from Cincinnati, where he served in a bullpen role. He is an incredible athlete who throws gas and has shown the endurance to be a full-time starter. 

17. Tampa Bay 

Average rotation starter rating: 9.2

Average start length: 4.86 innings (No. 25 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Tampa Bay won 100 games last year despite no pitcher winning more than 10 and eight guys starting more than 10. The loss of Tyler Glasnow to Tommy John surgery in August was a killer blow to the Rays’ pennant chances, and they don’t figure to have him back in 2022. Left-hander Shane McClanahan was a pleasant surprise as a rookie but gets the top billing in his second season. Corey Kluber comes over from the Yankees as the No. 2.

18. Boston 

Average rotation starter rating: 6.6

Average start length: 4.98 innings (No. 23 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Surprisingly, the Red Sox didn’t manage to score any of the big-name pitchers on the free-agent market despite being desperate for one. Instead, Boston adds serviceable veterans in Rich Hill and Michael Wacha, replacing lefties Eduardo Rodriguez and Martin Perez (both of whom posted 4.74 ERAs last season). Hard-throwing Nathan Eovaldi heads this staff and has a couple of big arms behind him in Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck.

19. Chicago Cubs 

Average rotation starter rating: 5.8

Average start length: 5.46 innings (No. 12 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: What a difference a couple of years makes. Once a perennial playoff contender with a star-studded rotation, a lot has changed for the Cubs. Gone are former stalwarts Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish. They did add Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Drew Smyly this year, but those moves seem like stopgaps. Any rotation with Kyle Hendricks at the top can’t be ranked that highly.

20. Cincinnati 

Average rotation starter rating: 4.8

Average start length: 5.68 innings (No. 5 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: The Reds went all-in ahead of the 2021 season, but the plan failed as the team finished 12 games back in the NL Central. Gone this year are several key players, including starters Wade Miley and Sonny Gray, who combined for a third of Reds starts last season. In their place are a pair of lefties in Mike Minor, who struggled in Kansas City last year, and Nick Lodolo, a highly rated rookie who posted huge strikeout numbers in the minors. An inconsistent Luis Castillo heads the staff, followed by Tyler Mahle.

21. Colorado 

Average rotation starter rating: 4.6

Average start length: 5.52 innings (No. 10 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: The Rockies must have felt good enough about their rotation to barely touch it, replacing only Jon Gray with Chad Kuhl, formerly of the Pirates. German Marquez still leads the staff, followed by Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Austin Gomber. Unfortunately, this team went 74-87 last year and didn’t get better on the mound.

22. Oakland 

Average rotation starter rating: 4.4

Average start length: 4.48 innings (No. 28 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: It seems to be a rite of winter that teams such as Oakland see their rotations poached by bigger-market teams. This year’s big loss for the A’s is Chris Bassitt, who anchored the staff of a team that overachieved to the tune of 86 wins. Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea and Cole Irvin remain, but to maintain their success, Oakland will need to have others step up (such as Brent Honeywell or Daulton Jefferies).

23. Detroit 

Average rotation starter rating: 3.8

Average start length: 5.1 innings (No. 21 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: There were some times in 2021 when it looked like the Tigers had the makings of something special in the future. Starters Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, in particular, looked like promising building blocks. Those two will again be key pieces in the rotation, and after winning 77 games (their most since 2016), the Tigers added veterans Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Pineda. 

24. Arizona 

Average rotation starter rating: 3

Average start length: 5.6 innings (No. 7 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: If Arizona gets the best of all five of its pitchers this year, the franchise could be headed for a huge season. Madison Bumgarner, Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Luke Weaver have all been superb at one point or another. It’s not often that all the stars align, however.

25. Minnesota 

Average rotation starter rating: 0.6

Average start length: 4.66 innings (No. 27 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: After a huge 2020, I had the Twins ranked No. 10 in this space at the outset of 2021. What a difference a year makes. Sonny Gray, coming off a modest 2021 in Cincinnati, inherits the role of top dog, followed by Joe Ryan, who showed promise in five starts last year, then Dylan Bundy, whose career plummeted after leaving Baltimore for LA. Add Bailey Ober and Randy Dobnak and the ceiling for this rotation is not very high.

26. Baltimore 

Average rotation starter rating: -3.8

Average start length: 4.72 innings (No. 26 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Baltimore’s ace, John Means, threw a no-hitter in May and owned a sparkling 1.37 ERA after that start. His season ERA closed at 3.62. Not bad, but not dominant either. Means will be supported by journeyman Jordan Lyles and youngsters Bruce Zimmermann, Zac Lowther and Tyler Wells. It figures to be another overmatched season in the AL East.

27. Kansas City 

Average rotation starter rating: -4

Average start length: 5.12 innings (No. 20 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Kansas City swaps out Mike Minor for Zack Greinke as the former Royals ace returns home. That, in itself, would seem to be a great move. However, the problem lies with the rest of the staff. Brad Keller, Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic all underachieved in 2021. 

28. Washington 

Average rotation starter rating: -4.6

Average start length: 4.88 innings (No. 24 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: The formula for Washington’s rotation demise has been simple: Subtract Max Scherzer, factor in an oft-injured Stephen Strasburg, then substitute Patrick Corbin, who is now a shell of his former self. This pitching staff is no longer championship level. Corbin is supposedly the No. 1 until Strasburg returns, possibly in May. There’s some promise with Josiah Gray, but there’s little more to brag about. 

29. Texas 

Average rotation starter rating: -6.6

Average start length: 4.28 innings (No. 30 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: Texas starters went the fewest innings of any team last year. Only Kyle Gibson was productive, and on cue, he was traded to Philadelphia at midseason. In 2022, veterans Martin Perez and Jon Gray were added to the nucleus of Dane Dunning, Taylor Hearn and Spencer Howard. Could be a long year in Arlington. 

30. Pittsburgh 

Average rotation starter rating: -7.2

Average start length: 4.46 innings (No. 29 of 30)

Steve's thoughts: It’s one thing to be building a rotation and have your good pieces poached by better teams. That was the recent history of the Pirates. It doesn’t seem to be that way any longer, as the pieces aren’t worth poaching anymore. Atop this rotation now is an aging Jose Quintana, who is barely recognizable from his former self. Zach Thompson, Wil Crowe, Mitch Keller and JT Brubaker are the other starting options, none of whom have a positive power rating on my scale.

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