During the regular season, as our beloved regular readers know quite well, the Official Power Rankings drop every Monday morning. We just rank the teams as a whole, subjectively, based upon many factors. Here in the spring, there's still craving for my rankings -- I mean, I can't blame anyone -- so we'll rank certain aspects of teams. Last week, it was the lineups, or, more specifically, the offenses.
This time around, we'll rank the top 10 rotations. These are but the rankings of one man, so obviously they are subjective and we're going to have disagreements (a life where everyone agreed with everything would be incredibly boring anyway). I'm looking for a strong 1-5 rotation with at least one ace, ideally multiple, at the top. This is just for this season, so any injuries lingering into the regular season count and if there are workload concerns for this coming season, that certainly makes an impact as well.
1. New York Mets
This isn't without question marks. There's no such thing as a rotation without questions these days, if there ever was in the first place. A lot of the questions revolve around the age of the co-aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, but both are pretty decent bets to remain strong and among the best pitchers in baseball. Kodai Senga has been the best pitcher in the Japan for the past handful of seasons, including last year with a 1.89 ERA in NPB. He won't have to deal with the pressure of being an ace here, as he's the three. Carlos Carrasco and José Quintana have been frontline starters before and though they'd be miscast in such a role these days, they are perfectly suitable back-end guys here. The depth in case of injury is David Peterson and Tylor Megill.
There are nitpicks here if you want, but let's remember if we're going to do that with this team, we have to be equally as aggressive with every other team. For me, it's the best rotation in baseball.
2. New York Yankees
Gerrit Cole is the best pitcher in baseball who hasn't won a Cy Young and he could be the top dog in any given season. Carlos Rodón now has two straight ace-like seasons under his belt and had a full-season workload in doing so last year. He's as strong a two as you'll find this side of the Mets. Nestor Cortes had a 2.44 ERA (159 ERA+) and 0.92 WHIP last season and he's the third starter. Hello! He should be able to work up into the 170s in innings this time around, too.
That's a ridiculous top three, but then the questions start.
Luis Severino is extremely talented, but how many innings can he give? He only threw 18 combined 2019-21 and then 102 last year. Frankie Montas is already hurt and will miss a big portion of the season. Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt are next up.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
There's an argument to be made that Corbin Burnes has been the best pitcher in baseball from the start of 2020 through last season. In that time, he has a 2.62 ERA (156 ERA+), 0.96 WHIP and 11.9 K/9. He worked over 200 innings last season, too, so there aren't workload concerns anymore. Brandon Woodruff is capable of 200 ace-like innings. Freddy Peralta had an injury-plagued 2022, but he was a deserved All-Star in 2021. Remember how good Eric Lauer was at the beginning of last season (2.38 ERA through 10 starts)? Injuries cost Wade Miley most of 2022, but he's back in Milwaukee where he was great for 16 starts in 2018.
The Brewers might lag behind the New York teams a bit, but not by much. I wouldn't argue if someone had them No. 1. Line them up 1-5 against anyone and they hold their own.
4. San Diego Padres
Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish are capable of Cy-caliber work in 200 innings. Even if they don't achieve the run prevention necessary to finish as aces, the floor is high with these two. Blake Snell has actually won a Cy Young. He's been inconsistent since joining the Padres, but he had a 2.19 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 78 innings after the All-Star break last year. Something appears to have clicked. Speaking of which, Michael Wacha resurrected his career last season and given that he's just 31 years old, there's no reason to believe it was a one-off. There's a lot of talent in the mix for the five spot, too, and it's possible the Padres use a six-man rotation. It's a good combination of top-shelf upside with down-rotation depth.
5. Houston Astros
They were second in rotation ERA and first in WAR last season, but they lost Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Part of the plan to mitigate that loss was a full season of Lance McCullers, Jr., but he's dealing with a forearm injury and won't be ready to start the season. It's worrisome and depth will be tested early. Still, with Framber Valdez at the top, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia and José Urquidy to follow along with rookie Hunter Brown possibly stepping in for McCullers, there's plenty to love here.
A fully healthy McCullers would've had them at least in the four spot, maybe higher, but there's enough question now to drop them ever slightly.
6. Philadelphia Phillies
In Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, the Phillies boast a pair of aces who can both handle a huge workload. Last year was the first full season in the rotation for Ranger Suárez and he went 155 1/3 innings while battling inconsistency. His flashes are so good, though, and I like a big step forward this season. The ship has sailed on Taijuan Walker ever becoming a consistent, frontline starter, but he's only counted on to serve as the fourth here. He's plenty above league average in that slot.
The five is a question mark for a bit, but at some point, it's possible Andrew Painter sticks. He's an immensely-talented 19-year-old righty who stands 6-foot-7. It'll take some time, as he only made five starts above Class A last year (2.54 ERA with 37 strikeouts against two walks in 28 1/3 Double-A innings), but the talent moves the needle for the Phillies here in these rankings.
I'm not sure the upside is the best rotation in baseball here, as it is with a few teams below, but Nola and Wheeler raise the floor with their reliability.
7. Atlanta Braves
Southpaw Max Fried is an obvious ace and Spencer Strider sure pitched like one last year. It'll be interesting to see how Strider fares in his sophomore campaign as a rotation full-timer. In all likelihood, he'll be great again, though he only threw 131 2/3 innings last year, so he'll have a workload ceiling. Kyle Wright isn't as good as his record was last year, but he's more than capable in a mid-rotation role when you slot him behind Fried and Strider. I'm a big Charlie Morton fan, but he lost exactly a run in ERA (3.34 in 2021 and 4.34 in 2022) and is now heading to his age-39 season. He looks like a great fourth starter, but there's reason for concern that he might lose his battle with Father Time this year. The five spot brings plenty of talent blended with question marks, such as with Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka.
The Braves are one of many teams here that could have the best rotation in baseball this season, though there's also a chance they fall out of the top 10.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers had the best rotation ERA in all of baseball last year and the upside suggests they could finish right there again. That said, with Walker Buehler recovering from Tommy John surgery while Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney are gone, there will be a lot of tests to pass. Julio Uriás is close to a sure thing. So is Clayton Kershaw, but with his age, career workload and history of back injuries, there's concern. Can Tony Gonsolin repeat his 2022 season? If so, how many more innings can he work than the 130 1/3 from last year? What will Noah Syndergaard provide? How much can Dustin May give them in his first full season post-TJ? There's a realistic chance the Dodgers repeat in having the best rotation ERA in baseball, but there are plenty of question marks.
9. Tampa Bay Rays
Shane McClanahan is a bona fide ace and his injury during a season with a big increase in workload turned out to be minor. After going to nearly 175 innings, including the playoffs, there shouldn't be any training wheels this year. It'll be interesting to see how much workload Tyler Glasnow can shoulder this year in his first full season since having Tommy John surgery, because it's possible these two are top-three Cy Young finishers (remember, I'm talking about the best-case scenario). Drew Rasmussen was very good in his time in the rotation last year and lefty Jeffrey Springs was even better. Zach Eflin gets added to the mix and we'll watch the Rays work their magic on him.
If anything, this might be too low. There's so much potential.
10. Texas Rangers
This is a tough one. The upside is enormous, to the point that it's possible the Rangers' rotation leads the majors in WAR, ERA, whatever you want to pick this season. Things could also fall apart. Jacob deGrom has already dealt with an injury issue since the signing, but his upside is a unanimous Cy Young winner. We've seen what the best version of Nathan Eovaldi can be. Martín Pérez was an All-Star last season while posting a 2.89 ERA in nearly 200 innings, but he had a 5.15 ERA from 2018-21. Andrew Heaney was great for the Dodgers last year when he wasn't injured, but that was an issue and it has been a lot. I remain convinced Jon Gray is capable of a huge season, but we've yet to see it.
If everyone is healthy and firing on all cylinders at the same time, this group is stellar, capable of being the best in the majors. How often will that be, though, if ever?
Others in the mix: Blue Jays, Giants, White Sox, Mariners, Guardians, Marlins