By Brandon Gutierrez

Note: This is my opinion and all 5 of these team’s rotations are stacked.

5. New York Yankees

The Yankees return with the same staff as they had in the last game they played in last year. Luis Severino leads the staff after finishing 3rd in last year’s A.L. Cy Young award race. Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery follow. Tanaka is hoping he can start from where he left off in the second half of 2017. In the second half last year, he posted a 3.77 ERA, 10.73 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 1.06 WHIP, 3.41 FIP. Compare that to the first half where he checked in at a 5.47 ERA, 9.09 K/9, 2.38 BB/9, 1.37 WHIP, 5.04 FIP. Sonny Gray rebounded from a 2016 filled with injuries and logged in a 3.55 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and a 3.90 FIP.

Pitchers Who can Help Throughout the Season:

Yankees #1 pitching prospect Chance Adams should make his major league debut in 2018. Chad Green was discussed as a possible starter, but he has been  pushed back to the pen. He could possibly make a few spot starts if needed to.

Concerns:

Sonny Gray has been injury prone throughout his career. He has battled a strained forearm, strained lat and strained shoulder. CC Sabathia is 37 and will turn 38 in June.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw, no explanation needed. Many people believe that the Dodgers do not have someone to back up Kershaw, but Rich Hill is that man. Over the past two years Rich Hill has posted a 2.78 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 1.049 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 149 ERA+. Although this is limited to only 245.3 innings, he has been great throughout those innings.

Some people are concerned that the Dodgers are too “left handed heavy,” but Dodger left handers handled right-handed batters quite well last year. Kershaw held right-handed hitters to a .570 OPS in 2017. Hill limited them to a .583 OPS, Alex Wood held them to .625 OPS. The only left hander in the Dodgers staring rotation that was more vulnerable to right-hander was Hyun-Jin Ryu who checked in at a .730 OPS.  In 2017 these four pitchers against right handed-hitters combined to post a 2.60 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.03 WHIP and a 3.35 FIP. The Dodgers are pretty comfortable heading into 2018 with 4 of their 5 starters being left handed.

Pitchers Who can Help Throughout the Season:

Dodgers #1 prospect Walker Buehler can help the Dodgers’ rotation. The Dodgers are optimistic 21 year old Julio Urías can appear in 2018 following shoulder surgery last year. Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling can provide starts if needed to.

Concerns:

Clayton Kershaw has landed on the DL twice the past two years with back problems. In 2017, Alex Wood had two separate cases of shoulder inflammation. Although Rich Hill has had great seasons the past two years, he is 37 and has battled shoulder and arm problems throughout his career. The blister problems seem like a thing in the past, but you never know.

3. Houston Astros

Veteran Justin Verlnader leads the pack followed by Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers. After trading for former All Star Gerrit Cole, many people believed the Astros had the best rotation in baseball. They are not quit there yet, but they do have a lot of good things going for them. Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers are one of the best 1 to 3 combo in the game. Last year the trio combined to post a 3.44 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 3.64 FIP. Charlie Morton had a breakout year posting a 3.62 ERA, 10.00 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 3.46 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 109 ERA+. They are deep, there’s no other way to put it.

Pitchers Who can Help Throughout the Season:

Astros #1 pitching prospect Forrest Whitley was recently suspended for 50 games for violation of minor league’s baseball drug program. If he can comeback strong, there could be a possibility for a September call up. But some major league options include Brad Peacock, Collin McCough.

Concerns:

Charlie Morton is heading into his age 34 season and has only topped 170 innings once in his career. Lance McCullers was put on the DL twice last year with two separate cases of back discomfort. Can Gerrit Cole rebound from elbow problems in 2016? He was healthy in 2017 and logged in 203 innings. But he wasn’t the same, he had career highs in 4.26 ERA, 4.06 WHIP and a 15.9% HR/FB rate.

One unusual stat line that could be a concern for the Astros in the first half, is Justin Verlander’s 1st and 2nd half splits over the past two years.

2016 First Half: 4.07 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 3.85 FIP, 9.20 K/9, 2.53 BB/9

2016 Second Half: 1.96 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 3.10 FIP, 10.93 K/9, 1.96 BB/9

2017 First Half: 4.73 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 4.29 FIP, 8.43 K/9, 4.39 BB/9

2017 Second Half: 1.95 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 3.37 FIP, 10.75 K/9, 1.87 BB/9

It’s unexplainable, he was not put on the DL during both years. Maybe he was hiding a an injury in both years? Who knows.

2. Washington Nationals

The Nationals arguably have the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Last year both combined to post a 2.51 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 2.81 FIP. Scherzer is coming off his second NL Cy Young award in a row. Stephen Strasburg topped 170 innings for the first time since 2014. You can also argue that the Nationals have the best 1-3 with Gio Gonzalez. In 2017 he posted a 2.96 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.93 FIP. Combine him with Scherzer and Strasburg and they combined a 2.67 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 3.20 FIP (better than Houston). As of right now, it appears the 4 and 5 spots belong to Tanner Roark and A.J. Cole. Roark in 2016 posted a 2.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 3.79 FIP, but he did not replicate that in 2017 and posted a 4.67 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.13 FIP. Cole started 8 games last year with the Nationals last year.

Pitchers Who can Help Throughout the Season:

Nationals #4 prospect Erick Fedde can make some big league starts this year. He started 3 games last year in which he got rocked giving up 5 home runs in 15 innings. But small sample size.

Concerns:

Stephen Strasburg is always a concern. He’s had elbow surgery twice (2013 and 2010) with one of them being Tommy John. He has been on the DL every year of his big league career.

1. Cleveland Indians

Led by two time Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, the Indians have the best rotation heading into the 2018 season. Carlos Carrasco has been good the past two seasons. Over the past two seasons Carrasco has pitched a 3.30 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3.36 FIP. Trevor Bauer started off slow but was better in the second half. In the second half, Bauer posted a 3.01 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 3.68 FIP. Mike Clevinger had a 3.11 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.85 FIP. Josh Tomlin is likely to be the 5th starter.

The Indians have the same staff as last year. The same staff that led all other starters in a combined 23.4 WAR. The same staff that was second in ERA (3.52) and first in FIP (3.34).

Pitchers Who can Help Throughout the Season:

Danny Salazar is expected to be back sometime in April. Ryan Merrit will make some starts for the Indians like he did last year.

Concerns:

Keep the drones away from Bauer.

Kluber did have back discomfort last year and did miss some time but he obviously rebounded just fine. If it happens again this year, it’ll become a bigger concern.

Just Missed:

Chicago Cubs

Arizona Diamondbacks

Sources

Mlb.com

Baseball Reference

Fangraphs

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