2024 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotation (No. 1-15)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, we looked at the teams in the bottom half of the league’s rotations. Now to close out the positional power rankings, we look at the game’s best.

The ever-changing landscape of pitching is present throughout the upper tier of the rotation rankings. With fewer workhorses across the league, rotations are often relying on upwards of eight guys to make a significant impact, as teams now understand that the six-month grind will churn their staff and could leave their April and October iterations looking very different. The margins are tiny, with the top three teams separated by fractions of a win and the next 11 split by a mere 1.6 WAR. Six of the teams ranked 16-30 last year have graduated into the upper class, but a key injury or an overperforming prospect from one of clubs in this year’s bottom tier could be enough to flip things drastically.

The last-minute Blake Snell signing pushed the Giants up quite a bit and I’m sure Jordan Montgomery will take a team up at least 2-3 spots on his own when he finally lands. The National League rules the roost when it comes to starting pitching, with only six Junior Circuit clubs making the cut, though I’m sure Ben Clemens had fun writing about some of the upstart American League teams that could find themselves in this space next year if all goes according to plan. Of course, when does it ever all go according to plan? Injuries will play a key role for many teams and likely make at least a few of these rankings look silly by season’s end. But this is what our snapshot looks like in late March, so without further ado…

2024 Positional Power Rankings – SP 1-15

It feels like the no. 1 rotation in baseball should have more stability at the top, or maybe at least one starter surpassing 4 WAR, right? Maybe it seems rougher than it is because Yamamoto lasted just an inning in his MLB debut over in Seoul. While it wasn’t on display in his debut, he has brilliant command of a deep arsenal that gives him a sky-high ceiling. Yamamoto came over as one of the best to ever do it in Japan, and once he works out the kinks, he should be one of the most electric arms in the game. Behind him is Glasnow, an oft-injured 31-year-old who has never thrown more than 120 innings in a big league season, and Miller, a 24-year-old wunderkind entering his second season in the majors.

The strength of the Dodgers’ next four boosts them to the top. It’s almost like a pair of tag teams, with Paxton and Stone ready to rock in April and hopefully get the club to the Buehler and Kershaw returns. Stone sputtered in a 31-inning debut last year, but he has the stuff to make a significant contribution to their rotation this year and leveraged a fantastic spring training effort (21.6% K-BB rate) to secure the fifth starter spot. Paxton posted a 4.50 ERA and 4.68 FIP in his 96 innings last year, though the Dodgers are no doubt hoping the 35-year-old lefty’s 2024 results hew more closely to his 3.77 xERA and 3.98 xFIP.

Buehler and Kershaw are obviously ace-viable arms working their way back from injury. Buehler had Tommy John surgery in 2022 and the team is taking its time with his return. He is up to 97 mph in bullpens, with an expected debut sometime in late April or early May. Kershaw isn’t expected back until the second half after undergoing shoulder surgery this offseason. He should be able to ramp up with some regular season work, just in time for the playoffs.

The Dodgers’ Opening Day and October rotations could look drastically different, but they’ll be loaded with premium talent either way. With just one guy projected to eclipse 150 innings, they really do work as a collective, slotting in one stud after another throughout the six-month grind. And there’s even more on the way should injuries work against them, with Sheehan, Grove, Hurt, Knack, and Ryan either already having some big league experience or sitting on the cusp of a debut.

The Phillies are the antithesis of the Dodgers, leaning on a pair of premium aces for nearly 60% of their projected WAR in the rotation. They’re also happy to live by the old adage: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. too, They re-signed Nola to a seven-year, $172 million deal early in free agency this winter and then inked Wheeler to a three-year, $126 million extension just this month. Even with a 3.61 ERA, his first ERA north of 3.00 in a Phillies uniform, Wheeler had an amazing season and has been nothing short of a premium ace in his four years with the club (3.06 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 21.3% K-BB rate in 629.1 IP). Nola is the homegrown stud who has undoubtedly put together a fine career, but it hasn’t been without hiccups, at least from an ERA standpoint. He had his second mid-4.00s ERA in the last three seasons, despite maintaining a healthy 19.8% K-BB rate last year. In both of those campaigns, it was the homers that sank him, including a career-high 1.49 HR/9 last year. His skills are still top flight and as such, I side with the projections over last year’s ERA.

There is a heavy burden on the duo to remain elite, as only three other starters have an innings projection north of 50 innings. After a strong summer showing suggested he can be the legit no. 3 the Phillies need behind the aces, Sánchez is one of my picks to click this year. Walker and Suárez are sort of righty/lefty versions of each other – solid fourth starter types who deliver more good than bad when healthy and pitching. Walker is dealing with a shoulder issue late into spring training, which opens the door for Turnbull. After battling injury and underperformance over the last three seasons, he’s in search of his first triple-digit innings output since 2019. With top prospect Andrew Painter on the shelf until 2025, reinforcements are scant, leaving Abel as the Phillies best chance at a prospect contribution this year. Otherwise, they’ll likely turn to the waiver wire or the trade market should needs arise in-season.

Strider promptly cast aside any durability and arsenal depth concerns with a brilliant sophomore campaign. His ERA did rise by over a run, but his 2.86 SIERA and 2.85 FIP aren’t concerned. He easily led the league with a blistering 29.2% K-BB rate in 186.2 innings. Fried quietly has the third-lowest ERA since 2022 (min. 250 IP), with only injury able to slow him down last year after an incredible 2022 effort. The lone lefty in the rotation, Fried needed a buddy, so Atlanta traded for Sale. The soon-to-be-35-year-old will need to shave the home rate down a bit, as a 1.31 HR/9 saddled him with a 4.30 ERA despite a sharp 22.6% K-BB rate and 1.13 WHIP in 102.2 innings. Morton’s 14% K-BB rate last year was his lowest since 2015, but a 9% HR/FB rate kept his ERA in the mid-3.00s. He might be third in the rotation by order, but he is more of a fourth or fifth starter by quality at this juncture. Still, he can be plenty valuable to the Braves if he logs a fourth straight season of 30-plus starts.

López is getting another chance to start. Will his filthy stuff finally translate in consistent 4-6 inning stints? On an interesting note, this is the first time he will be without Lucas Giolito. The pair were traded together twice and then the Guardians selected both off waivers after the Angels flamed out last August. Elder is a strong sixth starter option. He showed the ability to eat up plenty of quality innings last year, logging 1.8 WAR in 174.2 innings. Smith-Shawver and Waldrep are both Top 100 prospects who could make an impact. Meanwhile Ynoa, Vines, and Dodd are a trio of 26 year olds on the 40-man who offer some depth, though the Braves would likely enter the trade market if they were in a position where they had to rely on any of those guys for an extended period of time.

Luis Castillo 194 9.5 2.7 1.0 .286 74.4% 3.46 3.63 3.8
George Kirby 191 8.4 1.5 1.1 .292 73.1% 3.56 3.60 3.7
Logan Gilbert 190 8.6 2.2 1.2 .287 73.8% 3.69 3.87 3.0
Bryce Miller 139 8.0 2.3 1.3 .286 71.4% 4.11 4.25 1.6
Bryan Woo 114 9.2 2.8 1.2 .284 71.1% 4.07 4.17 1.5
Emerson Hancock 57 7.1 3.2 1.3 .287 70.4% 4.58 4.80 0.3
Levi Stoudt 8 6.7 3.6 1.4 .289 70.4% 4.87 5.15 0.0
Austin Voth 8 8.5 3.1 1.4 .293 73.7% 4.28 4.51 0.1
Cory Abbott 9 8.5 4.2 1.5 .286 71.2% 4.81 5.02 0.0
Total 909 8.6 2.4 1.2 .288 72.8% 3.81 3.94 14.0

I wrote up the no. 16-30 rotations last year, and Seattle was one of a few I thought had a great shot to wind up on the 1-15 side this year. The Mariners got 86% of their starts from their top five in 2023 and if health cooperates, they could actually improve upon that figure in 2024. They run three studs at the top who could feasibly deliver a combined 600 innings, and follow that trio up with Miller and Woo, a pair of up-and-comers who showed a lot of promise in their debuts last season, though Woo will start the year on the IL with elbow inflammation. Castillo, Kirby, and Gilbert are all viable Cy Young candidates, leaning on premium command to drive their success, with Kirby the best of the bunch on that score after a major league-low 2.5% walk rate last year. Castillo is the most dominant of the three, while Gilbert is essentially Diet Kirby.

Castillo’s home run rate spiked last year, so maybe it wasn’t just Cincinnati causing his long ball issues, but his 77% LOB rate was his best mark in a full season and when paired with a 20.3% K-BB, he was able to mitigate the damage of those extra homers. There’s a world where Kirby boosts his strikeout rate back up to at least the 24.5% mark we saw in 2022, if not higher. Elite control artists don’t always pile up the strikeouts because they simply don’t have to — they are often able to promptly end at-bats with a weak contact out. Kirby’s 3.73 pitches per plate appearance was tied for 11th-best last year and his 71% strike rate was tops in the league. That said, he is consistently refining and improving his arsenal, so he might start generating more whiffs as he continues to develop. Gilbert posted a 24.5% strikeout with control metrics similar to Kirby’s at 3.99 pitches/PA and a 67% strike rate. He has a bit more of a home run issue than Kirby, which might prompt him to chase strikeouts more as a way of curbing the round-trippers.

Both Miller and Woo need to deepen their arsenals to take on lefties, but there is tangible upside if they do. To that end, Miller has been cultivating a splitter this spring to give him a weapon against lefties. It’s too early to say how good it will be, but the early returns have been positive. Woo’s injury isn’t expected to be a long-term issue. Hancock, who will be asked to fill in while Woo’s on the shelf, can definitely be a capable backend starter, but the star has dimmed a bit on the sixth overall pick from 2020.

The Twins have become a bit of a pitching force in recent years and they have a type: great strikeout and walk rates, but prone to home runs. Ryan, Ober, Paddack, and Varland all fit that mold, while experiencing varying degrees of success. López is the ace version of the model, as his 1.11 HR/9 over the last two seasons is way better than what we’ve seen from the rest of the group. Ober is a stone’s throw away from Ryan and could match him this year, with both looking like strong no. 2 starters. Meanwhile, Paddack and Varland are essentially mid-tier (ranging from third to fifth starter types depending on the home run allowance) versions of that profile. Homers don’t hurt as much when you’re keeping the bases relatively clear, which is why all five of these guys can be really good at their best. If any of the Twins’ top three can put together a sub-1.00 HR/9, there is Cy Young candidate upside.

Even newcomer DeSclafani fits the mold, if only as a fifth or sixth starter, but he’ll unfortunately start the season on the IL as he deals with a forearm strain. None of the four prospects who could make an impact this year exhibit the same control as the guys currently in Minnesota’s rotation, but Festa and Canterino have shown impressive stuff throughout their minor league careers, so if they can rein things in a bit, there is real upside there. Woods Richardson and Headrick look more like spot starter/swingman types.

Logan Webb 202 7.9 2.0 0.8 .304 72.2% 3.42 3.37 4.2
Blake Snell 164 11.4 4.2 1.0 .290 76.4% 3.45 3.64 2.9
Kyle Harrison 134 10.3 4.3 1.2 .291 72.6% 4.15 4.27 1.5
Alex Cobb 131 8.0 2.7 0.8 .315 72.3% 3.76 3.62 2.3
Jordan Hicks 100 10.2 4.7 0.9 .302 73.2% 3.89 3.98 1.3
Keaton Winn 60 8.0 2.9 1.1 .300 70.7% 4.15 4.16 0.7
Robbie Ray 38 9.9 3.2 1.4 .295 74.9% 4.06 4.27 0.4
Mason Black 24 8.7 3.3 1.1 .296 71.5% 4.20 4.26 0.3
Tristan Beck 20 7.8 3.0 1.2 .300 70.6% 4.42 4.40 0.2
Spencer Howard 8 9.3 3.4 1.2 .298 71.9% 4.26 4.20 0.1
Total 881 9.3 3.3 1.0 .300 73.1% 3.77 3.81 13.9

What a difference a week makes! When I first started laying out my capsules for this piece, the Giants were nowhere to be found, but one Cy Young winner later and they’ve zoomed up the list. San Francisco now has a dynamic righty/lefty combo headlining their rotation. The workhorse Webb is one of the safest bets there is to log 200 innings this year, while Snell is excellent on a per-inning basis, even as he’s averaged just 135 innings per season over his career (excluding 2020).

From there, things get a bit dicey. Harrison was the 27th-ranked prospect on our Top 100 and flashed his upside across seven big league starts last season, though he seemed to trade off some of his dominance for improved control. His 23.8% strikeout rate was 12 points lower than his Triple-A mark, but he cut his 16.3% walk rate in half. Given the small sample, I’m inclined to think he’s still a live-armed lefty who will miss plenty of bats while doling out an above-average number of free passes.

Hicks has been one of the most electric arms in baseball throughout his five seasons in the majors, averaging 100.4 mph on his fastball. Of course, with that velocity has come wildness that has resulted in a 12.8% walk rate over his 243.1 career innings. It was a shock when the Giants announced that they would try him out as a starter, bringing up some key questions: Can he rein in those control issues? Will he consistently reach five innings in his starts? And how many total innings can they realistically expect after he barely eclipsed 60 innings each of the last two seasons? Cobb will begin the season in an all too familiar spot: the IL. He is already working his way back from a hip issue, but the Giants are taking their time with him.

Winn got a late start to his spring, debuting on March 18, but he remains in line for the fifth starter spot after a solid 42.1-inning debut last season (16% K, 14% SwStr, 1.04 WHIP). Ray could essentially serve as a pseudo-deadline acquisition as he works his way back from a Tommy John surgery last May. Carson Whisenhunt, the the other Top 100 pitching prospect in the Giants organization, could make a summer impact if he does well in Triple-A and finds another pitch to work with his excellent changeup. Beck will be out for at least two months following surgery for an aneurysm in his upper right arm. He might be around for the summer, if he is at all this year.

Dylan Cease 174 10.4 3.8 1.1 .292 73.3% 3.91 3.92 3.0
Joe Musgrove 172 8.7 2.3 1.1 .289 73.8% 3.62 3.91 2.8
Yu Darvish 174 8.9 2.4 1.3 .284 70.7% 4.04 4.07 2.8
Michael King 139 10.6 3.4 1.2 .289 75.5% 3.67 3.92 2.4
Jhony Brito 95 7.2 2.8 1.2 .288 71.2% 4.23 4.46 1.1
Matt Waldron 73 7.1 2.8 1.4 .288 69.6% 4.64 4.76 0.7
Randy Vásquez 60 8.0 3.6 1.2 .288 71.6% 4.29 4.57 0.7
Pedro Avila 16 8.2 3.9 1.1 .290 71.2% 4.34 4.57 0.1
Robby Snelling 8 7.2 3.6 1.3 .285 70.8% 4.58 4.80 0.1
Jay Groome 9 7.6 4.7 1.2 .286 70.2% 4.86 5.09 0.0
Total 919 9.0 3.0 1.2 .288 72.5% 3.98 4.14 13.8

While they are coming off vastly different seasons, Cease essentially functions as a Blake Snell replacement for the Padres from a projection standpoint. The Juan Soto trade acquisitions – King, Brito, and Vásquez – paired with projected improvement from Darvish is expected to cover the losses of Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo. Of course, that is only a plan — there are no guarantees. Musgrove had a bumpy spring and then didn’t look much better during the Seoul Series, but that’s a combined 8.2 innings of work that I refuse to get overly concerned about, especially with positive reports about his shoulder all spring. We are just a year removed from premium Darvish and that ace upside is still there. His core skills weren’t far off from 2022, so if he can keep the homers in check, a sub-4.00 ERA is likely.

The Padres traded two of their Top 100 pitching prospects (Drew Thorpe, Jairo Iriarte) in the Cease deal, both of whom could’ve made some noise this year, leaving only 20-year-old Dylan Lesko. And while I won’t say it’s impossible for him to reach the majors this year given the accelerated timelines we’ve seen in recent years, it is unlikely. Of course, Snelling is also 20 years old and we have him getting a shot of espresso late in the year, with eight projected innings. Waldron is actually still in the mix for the fifth starter role, and both he and Avila got some big league burn last year. Groome is a former first rounder from 2016 trying to make good on his promise, but the 25-year-old struggled mightily in Triple-A last year, with an 8.55 ERA and 6.91 FIP across 134.2 innings. Adrian Morejon is still just 25 years old himself and could give San Diego some innings, though his star has undoubtedly dimmed; he’s amassed just 75.2 big league innings across five seasons in the majors.

It feels wild that a 42-point BABIP improvement for Gausman still resulted in a .321 mark, tied for second-highest in baseball in 2023. He has a career mark of .315, so this feels like more than just some bad luck. Pair that with a balky shoulder in spring and I’m a bit nervous about his outlook. The Steady Eddie aesthetic of Bassitt and Berríos (save Berríos’ wild 2022, at least) puts them in line to put up a combined 5-6 WAR in some fashion. Kikuchi had the best home run suppression span of his career in 18 starts to close out last season, allowing just 0.74 HR/9, which fueled a 3.54 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 96.2 innings. If he can stay at or around that mark, which is well below his 1.65 career rate, then he makes for a good the lefty complement to Bassitt and Berríos, but I’m skeptical and think his ERA will hew closer to his projected FIP than the solid 4.17 mark we have on the docket. The computers are smarter than me, though, so take that for what it’s worth.

Manoah came into camp in fantastic-looking shape and was generating some buzz about a rebound only to be felled by a shoulder injury after his first start. He is already working his way back as of this writing, but he is undoubtedly the biggest question mark in the Jays rotation. Francis’ starter conversion could be a bit of a game-changer. He will open the season in the rotation thanks to Manoah’s injury and at 28, I’m not sure they will have any limits on him if this turns out to be a successful gambit. Tiedemann remains in the mix for a rotation spot, though even if he breaks camp with the big league team, I do wonder how many innings the Blue Jays will give the 21-year-old lefty. Tiedemann spanned four levels last year but totaled just 44 innings, plus another 18 in the Fall League. Rodriguez is the X-factor here, coming over from Cuba by way of Japan. He didn’t pitch in 2023 apart from the WBC and hasn’t reached a triple digit innings total since 2019, so he might make his impact more as a multi-inning reliever than a true starter.

Jesús Luzardo 177 10.2 3.1 1.2 .297 73.8% 3.82 3.84 3.2
Braxton Garrett 132 8.3 2.5 1.1 .305 72.0% 4.00 4.02 2.0
Edward Cabrera 116 9.6 4.4 1.1 .292 71.7% 4.27 4.38 1.4
Trevor Rogers 116 9.1 3.1 1.1 .302 72.0% 4.05 4.01 1.8
Eury Pérez 113 10.0 3.1 1.2 .289 73.2% 3.88 3.91 2.0
Max Meyer 90 8.3 3.6 1.1 .301 71.6% 4.28 4.28 1.2
A.J. Puk 78 10.4 3.1 1.2 .302 73.5% 3.87 3.84 1.5
Ryan Weathers 25 7.7 3.5 1.2 .301 71.6% 4.48 4.56 0.3
Bryan Hoeing 9 6.6 2.6 1.2 .305 69.4% 4.56 4.48 0.1
Total 856 9.3 3.2 1.1 .299 72.5% 4.03 4.05 13.5

The Marlins are a rotation in flux right now, so these innings totals could look wildly different by season’s end. They will be without ace Sandy Alcantara all season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, a rash of new injuries have pushed Meyer, Puk, and Weathers into the Opening Day rotation. Garrett and Cabrera are throwing and working their way back as of March 25, but the Fish are going to be cautious with Pérez, who is battling right elbow inflammation and is limited to playing catch as of this writing. This is a deep group that might wind up with seven guys reaching triple digit innings and no one eclipsing 150.

Luzardo is completely fine, so he could definitely reach his projection, but last year was the first time he threw north of 100 innings in the majors. Meyer was a surprise to make the roster after missing all of 2023, and I doubt the team will turn him loose innings-wise until 2025. Puk is starting for the first time in the majors after making tremendous strides with his control last year; he has looked incredible this spring. The Marlins aren’t expected to limit the 28-year-old lefty either, so if he stays healthy, he could be a major contributor for them.

The Fish are lefty-loaded to the point where if Garrett returns first and takes Meyer’s spot, they will be running five southpaws! It’s hard to identify a single X-factor in this group, as they all have a particular sort of intrigue and cache, but if pressed, I’d look to Rogers. I really became a fan of his during his breakout 2021 season, but injuries have undercut him since then and he threw just 125 combined innings in 2022-23. He could replicate his 2021 (20.2% K-BB in 133 IP), though likely with something closer to his 3.37 xERA than the 2.64 ERA he put up thanks to an unsustainable 5% HR/FB rate. I was surprised that Weathers is still just 24 years old. He debuted back in 2021 at age-21, so he’s that classic post-prospect hype guy who could really surprise. A sharp 24.3% K-BB rate in 18 spring innings secured him the job and he won’t be under a tight innings restriction after accumulating 137.3 across Triple-A and the majors last year.

There are some high-upside arms in the Reds rotation, but will they be able to find consistent success in Coors Lite a.k.a. Great American Smallpark? Greene has ace-level stuff if he can harness it and improve both his command and control. His career 1.63 HR/9 is a much bigger concern than the 9.3% BB rate and his home park is a primary culprit (2.2 HR/9 in 100 IP). At the same time, his 30.7% strikeout rate is fourth in baseball since 2022 (min. 230 IP) and underscores why there is so much excitement surrounding the 24-year-old righty. Perhaps a more realistic first step is simply staying healthy enough to take 30 turns in the rotation, even if there are only incremental improvements in his home run and walk rates.

Lodolo is another homegrown stud with electric stuff and a homer problem. He has a 29.3% K rate in his 137.7 career big league innings, but he also has a 1.5 HR/9, thanks in large part to a silly 2.6 mark in his seven starts prior to injury last year. He is still working his way back from that leg injury and as such will look toward a mid-April debut this season. The dream is for these two guys to be a dynamic righty/lefty 1-2 punch atop a Reds rotation that leverages the support of an exciting young lineup to bring the team into a new era of contention.

Abbott did everything he could to keep the Reds in the hunt last summer in his 21 starts. He did his best work at home, with a 3.51 ERA/1.03 WHIP combo compared to 4.29/1.65 on the road. A flashy 26.1% K rate was his biggest asset while he battled standard rookie command and control issues as evidenced by his 9.6% BB rate and 1.32 HR/9. The Reds would love to see him take a step forward, but even just more of the same would be helpful in the middle of their rotation. Ashcraft is a great example of how the nastiness of a pitcher’s stuff doesn’t automatically translate to success. His upper-90s sinker is really GIF-able when it’s dipping and diving all over the place, but he doesn’t miss nearly enough bats to succeed in today’s game (17.8% K, 9.6% SwStr rates), so he’s been trying to refine his arsenal for more swing-and-miss. After a horrendous eight starts from early May to late June (12.82 ERA in 33 IP) last year, he closed with a solid 12-start run during which he posted a 2.56 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, though he still only managed a 12% K-BB rate in those 77 innings. Can he round into a consistent mid-rotation arm or is he destined to remain a volatile backend starter?

Williamson stepped up with a huge July-August run (3.15 ERA in 60 IP) that came in clutch during the team’s flirtation with the playoffs, but he ran out of gas a bit in September, managing to go at least five innings just once in his final four starts while posting a 5.89 ERA. The Reds brought in Montas and Martinez to lighten the expectations on Williamson and some spring shoulder soreness will delay the start of his season.

Montas missed virtually all of 2023 due to shoulder surgery, amassing just 4.1 innings between Triple-A and the majors at the end of the season to show he was once again healthy. The last time we saw a fully healthy Montas, he was excelling in Oakland before getting dealt to the Yankees, where injury took over. It’s a solid one-year dice roll for the Reds and I don’t expect them to limit his volume too much as long as he’s healthy. Phillips, Richardson, and Spiers all debuted last year and will serve as the primary backfill behind the top seven. I’d add Chase Petty to the mix as well, though his fastball-slider combo could accelerate his path to the majors via the bullpen.

There were rumors that the Astros were in heavy talks with Blake Snell just before he landed in San Francisco. That would’ve done similar things to the placement of this unit as it did for the Giants, likely vaulting the ‘Stros into the top 5. Instead, their top-heavy group sits just outside the Top 10. Valdez is the league’s premium lefty workhorse. He fell just two innings short of a second straight 200-inning season, but he did reach 31 starts again and bumped his K-BB rate up to 17.7%. Verlander spent the spring working back from a shoulder issue, but the good news is that this was just the planned return from his offseason program as opposed to a new injury. That said, he’s 41 years old and coming off a pretty substantial eight-point drop in his K-BB rate last year, landing at just 14.8%.

The Astros will need the Javier/Brown combo to come through if they are going to return to the playoffs for an eighth straight season. Javier showed the fragility of a two-pitch arsenal, as both his fastball and slider had extended fallow periods, and he just didn’t have anything else to consistently rely upon. If we split the difference between 2022 and 2023, it’s essentially his 2021 output, which would be a great result for Houston. Brown is a favorite of mine and carries the upside to really transform this rotation. All he needs to do is curb the home runs, which sat at 1.5 HR/9 last year (10th highest among starters with at least 150 IP), and let his 18.5% K-BB rate (21st best) do the rest. That’s easier said than done, but he never showed problems with homers coming up through the minors and does a good job keeping the ball down.

McCullers and Garcia could give the rotation a jumpstart later this summer, but the Astros will have to rely on their already scant depth early on as Urquidy joins Verlander on the shelf, meaning Blanco and last year’s surprise standout France will start the season in the no. 4/5 roles. Blanco looked great in spring, and if he can hold onto his control gains (7.3% walk rate in spring; 12.4% in 58 career IP), then the team might have something with the 30-year-old righty for the first couple months as everyone gets healthy.

France is your classic kitchen sink fifth starter and was even able to eat a 10 earned-run nightmare late last season and still post a sub-4.00 ERA in 136.1 innings. Arrighetti is one of the Astros’ top pitching prospects and was in the mix to break camp until the end of spring; he should make his big league debut at some point this season. He has some decent upside, but will need to rein in his walk rate to make a substantial impact.

Marcus Stroman 165 7.4 2.9 1.1 .292 72.1% 4.03 4.24 2.0
Carlos Rodón 159 10.5 2.8 1.2 .282 72.5% 3.81 3.77 3.1
Clarke Schmidt 153 8.3 3.0 1.3 .292 71.0% 4.39 4.47 1.8
Nestor Cortes 135 9.0 2.6 1.4 .280 72.8% 4.02 4.19 2.2
Gerrit Cole 99 9.9 2.4 1.3 .283 74.9% 3.62 3.79 1.8
Luis Gil 82 10.6 4.6 1.3 .282 73.1% 4.30 4.46 0.9
Will Warren 35 7.8 3.4 1.2 .291 70.6% 4.36 4.49 0.4
Clayton Beeter 25 9.2 4.2 1.4 .283 71.2% 4.59 4.78 0.2
Chase Hampton 26 8.3 3.2 1.5 .284 71.3% 4.65 4.76 0.2
Luke Weaver 8 8.5 2.8 1.5 .293 70.7% 4.63 4.58 0.1
Total 887 9.0 3.0 1.3 .286 72.3% 4.08 4.20 12.7

I am stunned the Yankees maintained a top 15 spot with Cole’s projection essentially getting cut in half. He is slated to miss at least two months with nerve inflammation in his elbow and will have to build back up after that, so his absence could be upwards of half the season. The precariousness doesn’t end there, as Rodón managed just 64.1 underwhelming innings last season and didn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence with his five starts this spring. The Yankees would be thrilled if he reached this projection, but at the very least, they are hopeful he can reach 150 innings. All of a sudden, the newcomer Stroman is in position to be their ace, though he is coming off back-to-back seasons falling shy of 140 innings. The groundball machine thrived in New York as a Met and will look to replicate that success atop the Yankees rotation and post his fifth straight sub-4.00 ERA campaign.

There is still a path for the Yankees to withstand the Cole loss and it likely involves all three of Cortes, Schmidt, and Gil bearing some of the weight. Cortes will be looking to stay healthy after just 63.1 innings last year and Schmidt will hope to take another 32 turns through the rotation and improve upon his 4.64 ERA, while the 26-year-old Gil will try to post a starter’s complement of innings after a 2022 Tommy John limited him to four minor league innings last year. He won the fifth starter job after a big spring and has been drawing comparisons to the high-end range of a former Yankee who shares his name: Luis Severino. With a premium fastball and nasty slider, Gil has major strikeout potential and could substantially outperform his projection. Beeter and Warren battled Gil for that fifth starter job; Beeter still made the team in the bullpen while Warren will return to Triple-A to await his opportunity. Warren has the short-term upside and Hampton has the long-term upside as both made the Top 100 with 50 Future Value grades.

Gallen had a remarkable 2023 campaign, setting a new career high in innings with 210 and finishing third in the NL Cy Young race. He was instrumental in Arizona’s World Series run, but he did add another 33.2 postseason innings to his ledger, and the additional wear on the arm has raised some concerns about how he will follow things up this year. A meager 3.2% K-BB in spring training has fueled that concern a bit, but I’m here to quell those fears by noting Gallen had a whopping 0% K-BB in 2023 spring training. That doesn’t mean he won’t experience a hangover effect, just that his spring isn’t the best indicator one way or the other. After a nice 2022, Kelly was even better in 2023, matching his WAR total in 23 fewer innings (177 in 2023) thanks in part to a career-high 25.9% K rate. Innings are the safest bet with Kelly over his career, though nothing is guaranteed on the mound, especially at age 35.

Rodriguez joins the D-backs after a career year in Detroit, but his debut will be delayed thanks to a strained lat that landed him on the IL late in spring training. The ERA estimators believe he was more like the low-4.00s ERA guy we’ve come to know over the years, but a career-best .225 AVG against helped him make the most of his 15.3% K-BB rate, which is essentially league average (14%). The trio of veterans will lay the foundation, but two young arms – Pfaadt and Nelson – will likely be instrumental in determining how far this team goes in 2024. Pfaadt battled a massive home run issue (2.06 HR/9) in 96 regular season innings before shaving it down to just 1.23 in the playoffs and emerging as one of their best starters during that magical run (3.27 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 22 IP). If the home runs return, Pfaadt might not spend the entire season in the rotation, but if he can just get to a 1.1-1.3 level, the upside is rich.

Nelson was a spring standout, boosting his fastball velocity a bit (sitting 95-96 mph, touching 97) and experiencing a big strikeout surge (30.2% K and 15% SwStr rates in 20.1 IP). Perhaps just as interesting is his 55% groundball rate in spring, up from just 37% in 2023. Reinforcements are light beyond that, with the likes of Henry, Jarvis, Mena, Cecconi, and Walston looking like swingman-types. It would be a surprise if any of them delivered more than fifth starter viability for a couple weeks at a time.

Justin Steele 177 8.4 2.7 1.0 .299 73.7% 3.67 3.86 3.2
Shota Imanaga 169 9.3 2.5 1.1 .297 73.9% 3.70 3.75 3.4
Kyle Hendricks 152 6.6 2.2 1.4 .298 70.2% 4.60 4.67 1.6
Jameson Taillon 141 7.8 2.4 1.4 .293 70.3% 4.52 4.52 1.6
Jordan Wicks 113 7.6 3.1 1.2 .293 71.0% 4.38 4.48 1.2
Javier Assad 56 7.3 3.5 1.2 .293 71.9% 4.42 4.71 0.6
Ben Brown 33 9.3 3.8 1.1 .292 72.3% 4.14 4.25 0.5
Hayden Wesneski 26 8.4 3.2 1.3 .292 70.7% 4.38 4.40 0.3
Cade Horton 16 7.7 3.2 1.3 .290 70.1% 4.56 4.58 0.2
Drew Smyly 9 8.9 2.9 1.4 .295 72.7% 4.30 4.42 0.1
Total 891 8.0 2.7 1.2 .296 71.9% 4.17 4.26 12.6

Steele parlayed a huge control boost and an NL-best 0.73 HR/9 into down ballot Cy Young consideration in 2023. The 28-year-old lefty is a true two-pitch guy (fastball, slider), which normally breeds a standard platoon split, but Steele was actually quite a bit better against righties, with a 151-point platoon split (.637 OPS v. righties). For his career, he has just an eight-point split, favoring his work against lefties, so he has been able to avoid getting hurt by righties despite the lack of depth in his arsenal. Yamamoto was the bigger draw coming over from Japan, but Imanaga is pretty good, too. He will likely go as far as his home run rate takes him, as there is concern that the long ball could be a problem for him, but he has legitimate strikeout stuff that he’s already flashed in spring training, with a nasty 46.3% K rate in 9.2 innings. Hendricks had his first sub-4.00 ERA in three years despite the same 11% K-BB rate we’ve seen in all three, suggesting it was mostly the 9% HR/FB rate (his lowest mark since 2016) and why it’s still best to follow the ERA indicators with him.

Taillon’s injury and ineffectiveness from Smyly cleared the path for Wicks and Assad to make the rotation. Taillon is already throwing bullpens as he recovers from a back injury but will likely be sidelined until mid-April. He has made at least 29 starts each of the last three seasons and if he makes that mid-April timeline, he has a chance for a fourth straight such season. I have a slight personal lean toward Wicks over Assad, though I understand why the projections have them virtually the same on a per-inning basis. Wicks has flashed more swing-and-miss potential with his arsenal this spring, and I’m skeptical that Assad can repeat his 20.9% K rate if that 8% swinging strike rate doesn’t make a sharp improvement.

Wesneski couldn’t build on some hype coming into last year, but I’m not totally out on him. As is the case with so many pitchers, his success will ultimately come down to his home run suppression, after a hideous 2.01 HR/9 in 89.1 innings last year. Brown’s upside is in the bullpen as his arsenal plays up there and he doesn’t have a good enough fastball to consistently start. Horton has just 88 pro innings under his belt after being drafted in 2022, peaking at Double-A last year. He needs more time to develop, but he could be a summer boost to their rotation if he builds on what he did last season.

Nathan Eovaldi 170 8.1 2.6 1.3 .295 71.7% 4.18 4.27 2.3
Jon Gray 160 8.8 3.0 1.2 .295 70.6% 4.31 4.26 2.3
Dane Dunning 158 7.7 3.1 1.2 .302 71.0% 4.47 4.55 1.7
Andrew Heaney 124 9.3 3.2 1.5 .294 71.7% 4.49 4.58 1.3
Max Scherzer 111 9.9 2.4 1.5 .287 74.0% 3.96 4.11 2.0
Michael Lorenzen 72 7.5 3.1 1.3 .294 69.5% 4.66 4.65 0.7
Tyler Mahle 35 9.2 3.0 1.3 .290 72.4% 4.20 4.29 0.5
Cody Bradford 25 7.7 2.3 1.5 .290 71.7% 4.44 4.57 0.3
Jacob deGrom 27 12.8 2.0 1.1 .290 78.2% 2.87 2.76 0.9
Owen White 8 6.9 3.7 1.4 .293 69.3% 5.00 5.12 0.0
Jack Leiter 8 8.8 4.6 1.4 .290 70.8% 4.92 5.08 0.0
Total 899 8.7 2.9 1.3 .295 71.6% 4.29 4.35 12.1

The reigning World Series Champions seem to be approaching their rotation in four to six week increments. Similar to the Dodgers, though admittedly at a lower level, their end-of-season rotation could look quite a bit different than the five they leave spring training with, as their two best potential starters are currently on the shelf in deGrom and Scherzer. Eovaldi is always a safe bet for an IL stint or two, but he should be good when he’s on the mound, with a 3.74 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 484 innings since 2020. I realize he’s 32 years old and nearly a decade into his career, but I still think Gray can reach a new level. He still hasn’t had a fully unencumbered season outside of Coors, but if he can stay healthy for 30-plus turns, we could see career-bests in ERA and WHIP (currently 3.67 and 1.13, respectively). It’s gotta happen, right? RIGHT?!

Dunning has been rocking a new forkball in spring training which has helped him put up a 30% swinging strike rate in 11 innings of work. Any and all small sample caveats apply, but it is notable for a guy who has a career 10% mark. Even if he just adds a few points to his 21% career K rate, it could help him deliver another sub-4.00 ERA in 150-plus innings. The projections are fair, but the upside is there. Heaney quietly delivered 147.3 solid innings last year but has yet to post back-to-back seasons of at least 100 innings in his career. Will this be there? Lorenzen was a late-spring signing but reports as of late March suggest he could make the rotation right away. If the health gods smile upon the Rangers, Lorenzen could find himself in the swingman role, but if not, then they will likely lean on him for a triple-digit innings output.

Scherzer had surgery on a herniated disc that took him out of the World Series early and will cost him at least the first couple months of 2024, but the Rangers got good news in March that an early-June return is on the table. They likely won’t push the 39-year-old too hard in the regular season as they have designs on the postseason, where having Scherzer would be very useful in a potential repeat run. deGrom will likely be more of a trade acquisition at best, as he’s working his way back from Tommy John surgery in June. If they can get even a month of work out of him prior to October, they would no doubt be thrilled by that. Mahle is also returning from Tommy John and has a second half target for his return. While not the impact of a Scherzer or deGrom, a healthy Mahle would be a nice addition late in the season, especially if he looks anything like the guy we saw in Minnesota (3.16 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 23% K-BB in 25.2 innings). Bradford will fill the swingman role for the Rangers initially and is already slated for at least one start early on, as they have a stretch of 17 straight games without a day off in April. He stepped up with some key bullpen innings for them in the playoffs last year and could find himself in that same bullpen role this October if the Rangers indeed make the playoffs.

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