Oct 5, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcherDavid Price
(14) pitches during the first inning in game two of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
1. Tampa Bay Rays- Ever since their remarkable run in 2008, the Rays have remained one of the best teams in the American League and have done it on the strength of their starting pitching. With the help of an excellent scouting department, the Rays have consistently developed top-of-the-line pitching and will enter 2014 in the same position. The Rays’ rotation will likely consist of David Price (10-8, 3.33 in 2013), Matt Moore (17-4, 3.29), Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76), Chris Archer (9-7, 3.22), and Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 5.17). Assuming that the Rays don’t pull the trigger on a spring training trade of David Price, they will enter the season with all five starters under age 30. This staff has the potential to be one of the best in the American League not only now, but for years to come.
2. Boston Red Sox- Nearly everything that could go right in the Red Sox’ 2013 season went right, and one of the most important factors was the dramatic turnaround in the starting pitching from 2012 to 2013. The Boston staff went from one of the worst staffs in 2012 to one of the best in 2013, due to bounceback seasons from nearly everyone as well as the midseason addition of Jake Peavy. The 2014 rotation projects to consist of Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75), Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74), John Lackey (10-13, 3.52), Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17), and Felix Doubront (11-6, 4.32). Despite not having the star power of the Rays’ rotation, the Red Sox have a very solid rotation in which all five starters can absolutely contribute. They also have some of the best depth in baseball, highlighted by a capable major leaguer in Ryan Dempster (8-9, 4.57) as well as a host of top prospects. The Red Sox should battle with the Rays for starting pitching supremacy in 2014.
3. New York Yankees- Here comes the drop off. After a pair of great rotations in Tampa Bay and Boston, New York headlines the rotations which have some potential but also have major questions, and lots of them. The Yankees suffered a disappointing 2013 season in both their offense and their starting rotation as they saw an off year for C.C. Sabathia and yet another lost season for the once-promising Michael Pineda. The Yankees’ 2014 rotation looks like it will consist of C.C. Sabathia (14-13, 4.78), Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.31), Masahiro Tanaka (24-0, 1.27 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the NPB), Ivan Nova (9-6, 3.10), and David Phelps (6-5, 4.98). The Yankees’ rotation does have the ceiling of being a pretty decent rotation; however, it hinges on whether or not Sabathia will bounce back, the performance of Tanaka in his rookie season, and who takes the fifth spot and how they do. Overall, there are just too many questions to give the Yankees the benefit of the doubt here.
4. Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles pitching staff, which had been a key factor in their playoff run in 2012, did not quite hold up as expected in 2013. Many of their breakout stars from the prior season regressed significantly in 2013 and played a big part in why the O’s finished just fourth in the division. The Orioles have done virtually nothing to fix this problem and will likely enter the 2014 season with a mediocre rotation of Chris Tillman (16-7, 3.71), Miguel Gonzalez (11-8, 3.78), Bud Norris (12-10, 4.18), Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 4.07), and Zach Britton (2-3, 4.95). The Orioles have a number of mid-rotation starters but nobody that really has the potential to become a #1 or even a #2 on their MLB roster right now, with the possible exception of Tillman. On the bright side, they do have two elite pitching prospects that will see the majors this year in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Perhaps those two can help usher in a new, bright era for the O’s.
5. Toronto Blue Jays- After topping this very same list before last season, the starting pitching became the focal point of everything that went wrong for the Blue Jays in 2013. Neither of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, or R.A. Dickey, their two high-profile starting pitching acquisitions, panned out the way that they expected them to. In addition, the Blue Jays dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness even amongst the pitchers already in their organization such as Brandon Morrow. Next season’s rotation full of tempered expectations will likely include R.A. Dickey (14-13, 4.21), Brandon Morrow (2-3, 5.63), Mark Buehrle (12-10, 4.15), J.A. Happ (5-7, 4.56), and Drew Hutchison (5-3, 4.60 in 2012– missed last year with Tommy John Surgery). However, for all the negatives one could say about the Blue Jays’ rotation, they do have a high ceiling. Dickey, Morrow, and Buehrle are all capable of being top-of-the-rotation starters and Happ and Hutchison have the chance to be solid mid-rotation starters. However, there’s a good chance that it doesn’t turn out quite like that.