The Top 5 NL Rotations
With the season less than a week from beginning the baseball world is ready for the 2015 season to begin. Pitchers dominated the game in 2014 and the trend of numbers shows every indication it should continue this season.
And as Spring Training has started, we have seen several pitchers elect for Tommy John surgery. One injury or one addition could change everything.
5. Atlanta Braves
Look for the Braves to take another step back this season after trading every valuable asset in hopes of being ready in 2017. The step back will not be due to their rotation, however. Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis have all left-town. Yet the team managed to land former top-prospect Shelby Miller in the process.
- Julio Tehran
- Alex Wood
- Shelby Miller
- Mike Minor
- Wandy Rodriguez
Tehran and Wood are the most important pieces returning in the rotation that had lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy from injury. On-top of those pitchers leaving town after injury the team lost Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang. Tehran and Wood boasted ERA’s under 3.00. The potential of Miller, who was disgruntled with the Cardinals organization and is just 24 cannot be overlooked. Minor showed flashes of brilliance in 2013, but spent a portion of last year dealing with an injury.
4. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals 2015 season is beginning to look like the 2014 season in which the club had an excess in starting pitching. However, the 2014 season led to trades of John Lackey and Justin Masterson due to all the injuries.
The Cardinals are going to be hesitant to trade any of their starters until more of the season plays-out. The 5th rotation spot is between Carlos Martinez, Marco Gonzales and Jaime Garcia. It isn’t out of the question that the club could look to use a 6-man rotation given the injuries of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and that Martinez has yet to be stretched out as a starter for a full season.
- Adam Wainwright
- Lance Lynn
- Michael Wacha
- John Lackey
- Carlos Martinez *
- Marco Gonzales, Jaime Garcia **
If it wasn’t for Clayton Kershaw the Cards ace, Wainwright, might be holding a Cy Young award. Wainwright managed to pitch through pain in the post-season, but it was evident that he was not himself. The rotation boasts proven talent and potential, but many questions. The health of Wainwright and Wacha will be the biggest concerns. The NL Central is a tough division and they will need these two to be healthy long-term. Lynn graduated into the upper-echelon of pitchers, but has been criticized for disappearing in the clutch. If he continues to grow he will be a true number 2 starter. The rotation is formidable, but it comes with too many questions to rank the team higher.
3. San Diego Padres
The Padres have had a decent rotation for the past couple seasons, despite injuries and lack of star-power. Their offense has been terrible and one of the big reasons the club cannot win games. Yet, the new GM AJ Preller completed a major overhaul and the team is ready to win now.
- James Shields
- Tyson Ross
- Andrew Cashner
- Ian Kennedy
- Brandon Morrow
Yes, they pitch in a very friendly ball-park for pitchers. But, they have tremendous depth across the board. Ian Kennedy had a bounce back year in 2014 and managed to total over 200 strikeouts. He is listed as their number four starter. Tyson Ross is a very capable pitcher but the rotation solidified when James Shields came to town. While Shields was awful in the post-season he has been a work-horse with a fantastic change-up. Now that the Padres have some offense this rotation could pick-up many wins.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers also have a new front-office and will look to improve on the NL West Division Championship and look for some post-season success, especially against the Cardinals. The team has improved defensive and they improved their rotation which was thin last season.
- Clayton Kershaw
- Zack Grienke
- Hyun-Jin Ryu
- Brandon McCarthy
- Brett Anderson
The rotation boasts the best pitcher in all of baseball in Kershaw. Zack Grienke has been putting up solid numbers and if he wasn’t pitching behind Kershaw, more people would be talking about him. His ERA has been under 2.75 each season with the Dodgers and managed to put up over 200 strikeouts last season while only issuing 43 walks. Ryu isn’t the strikeout machine but has fantastic control. McCarthy and Anderson have question marks for the club, both coming off improved seasons, both being unreliable in the past. But, the new Dodgers front-office saw something in those pitchers.
The Dodgers got much better defensively and they improved their clubhouse relations. These pitchers could have even better performances in 2015.
1. Washington Nationals
The Nationals had the best rotation in baseball before acquiring Max Scherzer. After doing so they only have one guy that wasn’t considered the ace of a staff, Doug Fister, and he pitched like an ace or close to one in 2014.
- Max Scherzer
- Jordan Zimmerman
- Stephen Strasburg
- Doug Fister
- Gio Gonzalez
The Nationals are loaded in the rotation. Tanner Roark would make a fantastic number 4 or 5 starter on any team. Yet, he doesn’t have a spot in the rotation. Gio Gonzalez is a two time all-star and was voted third in the Cy Young voting in 2012. He is listed as the number 5 starter in the rotation. Doug Fister isn’t a strikeout machine but boasts wonderful control and pitched to the tune of a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts for the Nationals last season.
Those pitchers should be Number 2 or 3 in many rotations. But, the three men in front of them are big-name pitchers. Stephen Strasburg might have been the biggest name on the team, or at-least the rotation last season. He ended up with a 3.14 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 242 strikeouts over 215 innings and just 43 walks. He wasn’t even the best pitcher on the team last year. The soon-to-be free agent, Jordan Zimmerman was the best on the club in 2014 with a 2.66 ERA, 182 strikeouts in 199.2 innings pitched and a league best 1.3 BB/9. And then the club went ahead and added Max Scherzer to the already formidable rotation. The former Cy Young award winner has come off back-to-back seasons of over 200 innings pitched with at least 200 strikeouts. He has won 39 games over the past two seasons and has been one of the most durable starters in the MLB.
While a great rotation doesn’t always equate to championships (see Braves of the 90s and the recent Phillies teams), it helps a team reach the playoffs. An injury to a star pitcher can be devastating. A rookie or young pitcher finding himself can cause a team to skyrocket to the top. Make no mistake, the Nationals have the best rotation in all of baseball, not just the National League. Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher, but there will be others looking to take the Cy Young.
NL Cy Young Winner: Clayton Kershaw – There will be no voter fatigue when it comes to Kershaw. His defense got better around him. The Cardinals have had their way with Kershaw throughout his career and especially the playoffs. But, he is a competitor and those rough outings will only make him better.
- Johnny Cueto – He had a remarkable season with the Reds and will enter his free agency year. He will be looking for the next big contract. If it wasn’t for Kershaw, Cueto would have been talked about much more often.
- Michael Wacha – Wainwright is still the ace of the staff, but Wacha has something to prove after an injury plagued 2014. He is healthy and ready and will have a great season.
- Stephen Strasburg – He has handled coming off TJ surgery as great as anyone could. He has been a lights-out performer and the competition between Scherzer and Zimmerman will make them all better. But, Strasburg will be dominate this season.