Here is the first spot I’ve combined positions to do a team rank and it was tough. The reason I did it this way is there are so many variables that can come into play here and due to many different factors the order of the starters will be different among each team so I just grouped the rest of the starters together. I had a very difficult time ranking the staffs of Boston, New York and Tampa but am now happy with the way I have it ranked.
1. Tampa Bay: James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price and Andy Sonnanstine
I put Tampa #1 on the list because of their youth and promise mixed with very good major league results already posted by James Shields, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine. The wild card here is David Price, if he is who he is supposed to be Tampa’s rotation is far and away #1 having 3 potential aces in Kazmir, Shields and Price. However he is young and unproven and may still start the year in AAA because TB has Howell and Niemann who are out of options and if sent to AAA would have to clear waivers. Sonnanstine will likely have a bit of a decline as he’s more of a soft tosser, but he’s still a serviceable #5.
2. New York: AJ Burnett, Chien-Mang Wang, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain
Clearly on paper the Yankees have the best 2 through 5 starters but I had to bump them behind Tampa Bay due mainly to age and propensity for injuries. Burnett as we Jays fans know is very injury prone but pretty darn good when healthy. Wang is coming off an injury filled 2008 so it is unknown what to expect from him. Pettitte is aging which can lead to injuries especially in the post-PED MLB and Joba has ace stuff but in his first year as a full time starter again it is unknown what to expect. The positive for the Yanks is if injuries to take down some of their starters they have two more then capable prospects in Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy ready to step in. If the stars align this rotation will be the tops in baseball but there are way too many question marks to put them #1 in my opinion.
3. Boston: Dice K, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny
The Red Sox fall to 3rd on the list because after Dice K and Lester their #4 and 5 starters don’t hold up to the Yankees/Rays. Their top 3 are outstanding but you never know what to expect from a knuckleballer and Penny is coming off injuries though doing OK this spring in limited action. If Penny isn’t ready prospect Justin Masterson may get some starts, he has a ton of potential and will at the very least be in the bullpen mix. Another name to throw into the hat for starting duties on Boston is John Smoltz but he won’t be ready to start the season and coming off injuries and aging will not help his comeback.
4. Toronto: Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, any 2 of Scott Richmond, Matt Clement, Brad Mills, Casey Janssen, Dustin McGowan, Ricky Romero
Here is where it got a little easier. After the top 3 in the AL East the Jays easily rank a distant 4th. Litsch has done well in his short career, though I think he could be poised for a bit of a fall off in stats he hasn’t shown signs of it statistically. Litsch is better as a #3 starter on a decent team and a #4 or 5 on a good team but with the pitching thin Jays he’s #2. Purcey has a ton of upside and will hopefully be a very serviceable starter for the boys in blue though I think he’s more of a #4 or 5 starter right now until he proves more. After those 3 it’s a bit of a crap shoot, I think we’ll see Clement and Richmond in those spots right away though I think that Janssen will be in there at some point. McGowan should not be rushed back so we may not see him until August/September time to ensure health. Mills hasn’t pitched above AA so he should get some more minor league time in my opinion and Romero needs to do something now or he’ll be a labeled a bust (if he isn’t already).
5. Baltimore: Koji Uehara, Rich Hill, Adam Eaton, Danys Baez
As weak as I feel the Jays rotation is after Doc the Orioles is even worse and they don’t have anyone even close to as good as Halladay to be their ace. Uehara is an unknown, Hill is a reclamation project, Eaton is unspectacular and Baez may not make the rotation. Also in the mix are Mark Hendrickson and Radhames Liz. If the sight of this rotation wasn’t bad enough both Uehara and Hill are nursing injuries and may not begin the season. On the positive side Baltimore has Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz down on the farm working their way up.
The tally so far:
New York: 38
Tampa Bay: 36