Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers, 16-30

For an explanation of this series, please read the introduction from Monday. All the posts in the series can be found here.

This series was a lot of work, but it was also fun to go through each organization and look at some of the interesting projections that ZIPS has spit out for various starters. The projections listed below are a combination of rate stats projected by Dan Szymborski’s system combined with my estimation of innings pitched and then a calculation of WAR based on the combination of my quantity estimate and Dan’s projection of quality. These aren’t intended to be exact projections, which is why we’ve rounded to the nearest half win, but I think they’re probably going to fair pretty decently – I did do my best to ensure that the total IP and WAR projections lined up very closely with league totals from last year, and I tried to figure out the seven or eight most likely starters for each franchise – the depth chart information isn’t always crystal clear for every team, so I had to make some guesses, but I think the selections are reasonable in most cases.

There were definitely some surprises once I finished the calculations and sorted from top to bottom. If this a purely subjective exercise based on my opinion, some teams would move around a decent amount, but I’ve tried to make it clear where I think the ZIPS rate stats might be too high or too low on a specific group, or gave an explanation for the thinking behind the IP total. Besides the shocker in the top five, I’m pretty comfortable with most of these, and think they line up with general consensus pretty well.

Since we’re covering so many players and it just got incredibly long, we’ve split this post in two, with the second post set to run in a couple of hours. But, enough ramblings, on to the rankings.

30. San Diego Padres

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Cory Luebke SD 160.0 3.1 8.2 0.9 2.0
Tim Stauffer SD 150.0 2.9 6.3 0.9 1.0
Clayton Richard SD 150.0 3.6 6.2 0.8 1.0
Dustin Moseley SD 150.0 3.1 5.2 0.9 0.5
Edinson Volquez SD 140.0 5.0 8.5 0.8 1.0
Robbie Erlin SD 75.0 2.0 7.5 1.1 1.0
Joe Wieland SD 75.0 2.1 6.3 0.8 0.5

Last year, the Padres rotation ranked 26th in WAR, and over the winter, they traded away their best starter. It may very well prove to be the right move in the long run, but for 2012, this rotation is pretty lousy. Luebke’s Major League numbers aren’t supported by his minor league track record, so he’s more solid starter than ace in the making. Petco may help keep the raw stats down, but make no mistake, San Diego’s starters are going to cost them games this year. The good news for Friars fans is that they’ve got a lot of good young arms on the way, and the sooner guys like Erlin and Wieland make it to the Majors, the better the team’s chances of competing will be. For this year, though, it probably won’t be very pretty.

29. Pittsburgh Pirates

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Charlie Morton PIT 130.0 3.6 5.9 0.6 1.5
James McDonald PIT 130.0 4.1 7.8 0.9 1.0
Brad Lincoln PIT 120.0 2.4 5.6 1.0 1.0
Kevin Correia PIT 120.0 2.7 5.4 1.2 0.5
Jeff Karstens PIT 120.0 2.1 5.3 1.4 0.5
Erik Bedard PIT 100.0 3.3 8.2 0.9 1.5
A.J. Burnett PIT 100.0 3.7 7.5 0.9 1.0
Jo-Jo Reyes PIT 100.0 3.3 5.3 1.2

I’ve listed eight guys on the depth chart, but I can’t project any of them for more than 130 innings, so it looks like the Pirates are going to do rotation-by-committee this year. Bedard and Burnett could provide some value when they’re on the mound, but ZIPS isn’t overly high on the younger arms in the rotation and doesn’t like the back-end guys at all. Morton’s still a bit of a wild card and McDonald may have more upside than is represented here, but the Pirates have essentially assembled a bunch of guys from the infirmary and are hoping that they can find five guys who can keep their arms attached all year.

28. Colorado Rockies

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Jhoulys Chacin COL 180.0 4.2 7.7 0.8 2.5
Jeremy Guthrie COL 180.0 2.2 5.2 1.1 2.0
Juan Nicasio COL 120.0 2.4 6.4 1.1 1.5
Drew Pomeranz COL 100.0 4.6 7.2 0.9 1.0
Esmil Rogers COL 100.0 3.6 6.2 1.1 0.5
Alex White COL 100.0 3.7 6.2 1.4
Guillermo Moscoso COL 75.0 3.3 5.9 1.2 0.5
Tyler Chatwood COL 75.0 4.7 4.6 1.1
Jorge de la Rosa COL 50.0 3.8 8.2 1.0 0.5

Young arms with upside like Chacin, Nicasio, and Pomeranz give the Rockies the makings of a potentially solid rotation… next year. In 2012, ZIPS is expecting these guys to be average at best, and then the rotation is basically filled with an innings-eater and a bunch of guys who might be okay or might be terrible. The Rockies will be playing mix-and-match all year, and the hope should be that they can find three or four guys to rely on for 2013. The experimentation is going to cost them wins in 2012, however.

27. New York Mets

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Jonathon Niese NYN 180.0 2.7 7.6 0.9 2.5
R.A. Dickey NYN 180.0 2.3 5.7 0.9 2.0
Mike Pelfrey NYN 180.0 3.1 5.0 0.8 1.0
Dillon Gee NYN 160.0 3.6 6.9 1.3 0.5
Johan Santana NYN 120.0 2.4 6.9 0.9 1.5
Chris Schwinden NYN 100.0 2.7 6.2 1.0 1.0

I like Jon Niese. I think he could turn into a really nice starting pitcher, maybe as soon as this year. But, even with some optimism there, if he’s your ace, your rotation needs some work. And the Mets rotation definitely needs some work. The back-end is amazingly thin, and the team desperately needs Johan Santana to stay healthy and pitch well in order to keep from having to rush too many kids to the big leagues prematurely. And, unfortunately for Sandy Alderson, the guys behind Niese aren’t exactly world beaters either. Dickey is okay, but Pelfrey’s not great, and those guys make up the middle of the rotation at the moment. Going forward, the Mets probably need to replace at least three of their five starters, and if Santana doesn’t bounce back, it gets even uglier. Good luck, Sandy.

26. Houston Astros

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Bud Norris HOU 190.0 3.3 8.6 1.1 2.5
Wandy Rodriguez HOU 190.0 3.0 7.8 1.0 2.5
Jordan Lyles HOU 160.0 2.7 6.2 1.0 1.5
J.A. Happ HOU 150.0 4.4 7.3 1.1 0.5
Livan Hernandez HOU 130.0 2.9 5.1 0.9 1.0
Lucas Harrell HOU 100.0 4.5 5.2 0.8 0.5

If I had to bet on one rotation finishing the year with the worst numbers, I’d probably bet on Houston. Their current group includes a couple of good arms, but Wandy Rodriguez has been on the block for a while and could easily end the year in another uniform. The Astros are in full-on rebuilding mode and won’t hesitate to use the season as an extended tryout camp, and that could lead to a second half rotation that is more experiment than attempt to really compete. If Wandy sticks around, their rotation will just be not good instead of awful, but the chances that he gets moved create serious potential for a league worst rotation in Houston this year.

25. Baltimore Orioles

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Jason Hammel BAL 180.0 2.8 5.9 1.1 2.0
Zach Britton BAL 180.0 3.5 5.6 0.9 2.0
Tsuyoshi Wada BAL 150.0 2.6 7.6 1.4 1.5
Wei-Yin Chen BAL 150.0 2.1 5.8 1.6 1.0
Tommy Hunter BAL 100.0 2.3 5.0 1.3 1.0
Brian Matusz BAL 100.0 3.5 6.6 1.4 0.5
Brad Bergesen BAL 50.0 2.8 5.1 1.3 0.5
Jake Arrieta BAL 50.0 4.4 6.4 1.3

The Orioles rotation is actually pretty tough to project. With both Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada, we’re basically just guessing. They could be good, they could awful, or they could be anything in between. Toss in Brian Matusz’s inconsistency, and 60% of the rotation could be essentially qualified as wild cards. ZIPS thinks Britton and Hammel will be roughly league average, so if the three coin flips come up positive, this rotation could be not awful, but if they all go the wrong way, then the Orioles will probably have the worst group of starters in the AL.

24. Chicago Cubs

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Matt Garza CHN 190.0 3.0 8.4 0.9 3.0
Ryan Dempster CHN 170.0 3.5 7.9 1.1 1.5
Chris Volstad CHN 165.0 2.8 5.7 1.3 0.5
Paul Maholm CHN 150.0 2.9 5.6 0.8 1.5
Travis Wood CHN 150.0 3.2 6.8 0.9 1.5
Randy Wells CHN 75.0 2.9 5.8 1.2 0.5
Jeff Samardzija CHN 50.0 5.3 7.7 0.9

I like what Theo Epstein did this winter, and I see more potential in guys like Wood and Volstad that what ZIPS is projecting, but regardless, this isn’t a very good rotation behind Garza, and ZIPS expects a pretty good sized step back from him as well. If you believe that Garza’s 2011 performance was more breakthrough than career year, you could bump this total up a bit, but even the rosiest projection is going to give the Cubs with a below average rotation this year.

23. Cincinnati Reds

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Mat Latos CIN 190.0 2.7 8.9 0.9 3.5
Johnny Cueto CIN 180.0 2.9 6.4 0.8 2.5
Mike Leake CIN 170.0 2.4 6.4 1.3 1.0
Homer Bailey CIN 160.0 2.8 7.1 1.0 1.5
Bronson Arroyo CIN 150.0 2.4 5.1 1.6 (0.5)
Jeff Francis CIN 100.0 2.1 5.2 1.1 0.5

When I ran the numbers and ordered by team total, I was shocked to see the Reds this low, but ZIPS is just not a big fan of Bailey or Leake, and top top it off, it hates Bronson Arroyo with the passion of a 1,000 burning souls. Of course, after watching him give up so many bombs last year, Reds fans probably feel the same way. Personally, I like Leake a lot more than ZIPS does, and I think Bailey could be quite a bit better than this as well, so I think the Reds are quite likely to outperform this projection. But, Latos doesn’t stack up with some of the other aces around the league, and the rotation has a lot of question marks at the back end. It’s possible that I’m just overrating Cincinnati’s starting pitching, and ZIPS is providing a needed reality check here.

22. Oakland Athletics

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Tom Milone OAK 180.0 1.8 6.5 0.8 3.5
Brandon McCarthy OAK 160.0 1.9 6.2 0.9 2.5
Brad Peacock OAK 140.0 4.2 8.0 1.0 1.0
Bartolo Colon OAK 100.0 2.6 6.4 1.1 1.0
Jarrod Parker OAK 100.0 3.9 6.8 0.7 1.0
Dallas Braden OAK 100.0 2.4 5.7 0.9 1.0
Tyson Ross OAK 100.0 4.6 6.0 1.0
Brett Anderson OAK 50.0 2.3 6.2 0.8 0.5

Okay, let’s talk about the elephant – ZIPS loves Tom Milone. Well, kind of. It projects a fantastic 3.28 FIP from him, thanks to a miniscule walk rate and decent enough strikeout and home run rates. However, ZIPS also projects a 4.02 ERA for him, so the system either thinks he’s going to post a crazy high BABIP or a crazy low strand rate. I’m guessing Milone is just the kind of pitcher that projection systems in general have trouble with, and he’ll underperform this projection. But, if you’re an A’s fan, you have to like the fact that ZIPS isn’t sure that going from Gonzalez to Milone is actually a downgrade. Besides the soft-tossing righty, however, the A’s have a lot of guys who are probably only going to spend about half a year on the team. Colon, Braden, and Anderson have health issues, while Parker and Peacock are both likely going to be on innings limits and might not break camp with the team anyway.

21. Kansas City Royals

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Luke Hochevar KC 180.0 2.9 6.0 1.1 2.5
Felipe Paulino KC 160.0 3.8 7.6 0.9 2.5
Jonathan Sanchez KC 150.0 5.2 8.3 1.0 1.5
Bruce Chen KC 140.0 3.2 5.9 1.1 1.5
Aaron Crow KC 100.0 4.5 8.1 1.1 1.0
Mike Montgomery KC 75.0 4.0 5.9 0.9 1.0
Danny Duffy KC 75.0 3.7 7.3 1.2 0.5
Jake Odorizzi KC 50.0 4.0 6.3 1.3

I’ll give them this – the Royals have depth. Paulino is projected to be the team’s best starter, and then the Royals can run out six guys who all project about the same on a rate basis, giving them seven arms who each have some value as a big league hurler. Depending on who they pick to fill out the rotation, Crow could end up back in the bullpen, which would free up innings for a guy like Duffy, but the alignment doesn’t look like it will matter too much – they’re going to run out a group of five starters that aren’t bad but aren’t good either. Before the Royals become legitimate contenders, they’re going to have to add a legitimate quality starter or two.

20. Arizona Diamondbacks

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Daniel Hudson ARI 190.0 2.4 7.6 0.8 3.5
Ian Kennedy ARI 190.0 2.7 7.9 0.9 3.0
Trevor Cahill ARI 190.0 3.1 6.4 1.0 2.0
Joe Saunders ARI 160.0 3.0 5.1 1.3 0.5
Josh Collmenter ARI 120.0 3.1 6.3 1.0 1.0
Trevor Bauer ARI 50.0 3.0 7.0 1.0 0.5
Tyler Skaggs ARI 50.0 3.9 7.1 1.2

Along with the Reds placement, this is the one that I expect to ruffle the most feathers. The D’Backs were one of just six teams to get 1,000+ innings out of their rotation last year, and with Kennedy and Hudson at the front end and Bauer and Skaggs on the way, it’s not like there’s age related decline to worry about. But, in reality, the D’Backs staff just overperformed last year relative to their talent levels, and ZIPS expects some real steps backwards in 2012. Replacing Collmenter and Saunders with the young kids could lead to some real improvement, but Arizona doesn’t have as much depth here as they think, and their front-end guys aren’t as good as their performances last year made them look. There’s certainly potential for a really good rotation in Arizona, but it might come in 2013 instead of 2012.

19. Toronto Blue Jays

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Ricky Romero TOR 210.0 3.4 7.3 1.0 3.5
Brandon Morrow TOR 170.0 3.8 9.6 1.0 3.5
Henderson Alvarez TOR 150.0 1.8 5.2 1.2 2.0
Brett Cecil TOR 150.0 3.1 6.3 1.5 1.0
Kyle Drabek TOR 100.0 5.3 5.4 1.3 (0.5)
Carlos Villanueva TOR 75.0 3.1 6.8 1.2 1.0
Jesse Litsch TOR 50.0 3.0 6.2 1.4 0.5
Dustin McGowan TOR 50.0 4.2 6.7 1.2 0.5

With Romero, Morrow, and Alvarez, ZIPS sees the makings of a strong rotation going forward, but the lack of quality at the back-end looks to be a real problem this year. That said, there is some talent there, and it’s not completely out of the question that a guy like Drabek could find the form that made him a real prospect a few years ago. If the Blue Jays want to contend for the second wild card, though, they’d do well to get a solid veteran who would raise the floor of what they could expect from their #5 starter, and keep an implosion from the young kids from ruining their season.

18. Atlanta Braves

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Brandon Beachy ATL 180.0 2.8 9.9 0.9 3.5
Mike Minor ATL 180.0 3.1 8.5 1.0 2.0
Jair Jurrjens ATL 160.0 3.0 6.1 0.9 1.5
Tommy Hanson ATL 140.0 2.8 8.9 0.9 2.5
Tim Hudson ATL 140.0 2.6 5.9 0.8 1.5
Julio Teheran ATL 100.0 3.4 7.2 0.8 1.0
Randall Delgado ATL 50.0 4.1 7.2 1.2

The issue here isn’t talent as much as it is health. Tim Hudson’s out for at least the beginning portion of the season, Jair Jurrjens has a litany of health issues, and Tommy Hanson remade his delivery in order to take some strain off his shoulder. The Braves have the depth to deal with a patchwork group, but they lack a true ace at the front, and Teheran and Delgado might not be ready to be more than stop-gaps at this point. Strong seasons from Beachy and Minor would certainly help stabilize things in Atlanta, but for this year, there are going to be a lot of questions that need answering.

17. Milwaukee Brewers

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Zack Greinke MIL 200.0 2.2 10.1 0.8 5.0
Yovani Gallardo MIL 195.0 3.2 9.5 0.9 3.5
Randy Wolf MIL 170.0 3.1 6.1 1.1 1.0
Shaun Marcum MIL 140.0 2.4 7.7 1.0 2.0
Chris Narveson MIL 140.0 3.6 7.3 1.1 1.0
Wily Peralta MIL 100.0 4.6 7.0 1.0 0.5

Greinke and Gallardo are a really good 1-2, but Marcum’s September collapse and miserable performance in the playoffs, combined with lingering shoulder problems, mean that this rotation falls off very quickly. Wolf is a nice #5 starter, but he’s penciled in as the #4 for the Brewers, and while Narveson is somewhat useful, they might want to make room for Wily Peralta sooner than later. Especially with Greinke in his walk year, the team would benefit significantly if he was able to claim a rotation spot at some point this year and pitch well enough to hold it for 2013.

16. Washington Nationals

Player TM IP BB/9 K/9 HR/9 WAR
Edwin Jackson WAS 200.0 2.6 6.8 0.8 3.0
Gio Gonzalez WAS 195.0 3.8 8.8 0.8 3.0
Jordan Zimmermann WAS 150.0 2.2 7.4 0.9 2.5
Stephen Strasburg WAS 120.0 2.7 9.2 0.6 3.0
John Lannan WAS 120.0 3.3 4.8 0.9 0.5
Ross Detwiler WAS 75.0 3.3 5.6 0.7 0.5
Chien-Ming Wang WAS 75.0 2.4 4.6 1.1 0.5
Tom Gorzelanny WAS 50.0 3.6 7.8 0.9 0.5

I was relatively conservative with the innings projections for Strasburg and Zimmerman, so if you think both can stay healthy and pitch something close to a full season, you could bump the Nationals up quite a bit here. Even just giving both of those guys an addition 30 innings would push Washington’s rotation into the top 10, so don’t get too upset over the placement here. There’s obviously a lot of potential here – how well their rotation performs basically depends on how many innings they can get from their young ace, and how quickly they can dump Lannan on someone else.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

87 Responses to “Positional Power Rankings: Starting Pitchers, 16-30”

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  1. maqman says:

    Not much there to argue about.

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  2. jackweiland says:

    Dempster 1.5 WAR? I’m taking the over on that every time.

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  3. Jason461 says:

    Wow on the Reds. Like you Dave, I expected them a fair bit higher (middle-of -the-pack-ish). ZiPS refusing to regress Leake’s HR rate has something to do with that projection.

    There is a big issue here though – as of now, Francis can opt out if he doesn’t make the team AND Chapman (yes, I know about Baker’s recent comments, Jocketty hasn’t echoed them as far as I’ve seen, though) is preparing as a starter. You have to at least give mention to these two things in a projection of the Reds starters.

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  4. Dekker says:

    Edwin Jackson will have a career low walk rate and better than average K/9 and HR/9 rates! Take it to the bank!

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  5. Los says:

    Can’t find a link to it online (haven’t really looked) but last week Neal Huntington stated that the Pirates would consider going to a 4-man rotation in April.

    I know you have to “consider” everything but I couldn’t help but laugh after reading Dave’s comment since I thought the same thing when i heard of a potential 4-man rotation.

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    • matt w says:

      It’s basically because they have a bunch of off-days and can go without anyone pitching on short rest. Also the guy who was supposed to be their most durable starter bunted a ball off his eye.

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      • Los says:

        Have you looked at the Pirates schedule? In the first 3 weeks they would 7 total starts that are on 3 days rest.

        Do you know how many total starts the Pirates starters (sans AJ Burnett since presumably his injury is the reason the pirates are contemplating the 4 man-rotation) have made on 3 days rest in their careers? 6 (all by Kevin Correia).

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  6. L.UZR says:

    Finally an accurate analysis of the Braves’ starting rotation.

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    • Dekker says:

      The last three years they ranked 6th, 3rd, 3rd in fWAR. Now they’re going to rank 18th? Curse the day they got rid of Derek Lowe!

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    • Dan Holland says:

      This is more like a worst-case scenario for the Braves.

      Hudson at 1.5 wins? What indicates that?
      Hanson at 140 innings? I know he has an injury history, but I’d be surprised if I didn’t see 170 innings and a low 3 FIP from him.

      I know Jurjens is not loved in this circle, and rightfully so with his low K% and highish BB%. But he always seems to outperform.

      I’m not sold that this is a bottom 1/2 rotation.

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      • some guy says:

        The BP really saved their bacon most of last season, not sure they’ll be able to pull off that trick this time without serious innings from the starters.

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      • Bronnt says:

        I can’t disagree with the possibility that Teheran and Delgado may not be ready, having watched them last year, though. And Teheran’s dropoff in K-rate last year isn’t all that encouraging. Hopefully he doesn’t get rushedt his year, and can spend perhaps another half season in AAA before he has to make a big league start.

        If the Braves so few innings from Hanson and Hudson as Dave has projected here, though, I would hope that they’d give a lot of innings to Kris Medlen. If they’re determined to actually have an open competition for that last rotation spot coming out of camp, he deserves as much consideration as either of the prospects.

        Beachy is also an issue for the projection systems. Give him 200 innings, and he might just give you a 5 WAR season. Or he might not. But it’s tough to call him, both in terms of innings and effectiveness. Perhaps the same can be said of Mike Minor, though that projection really does look solid to me.

        Projections are, of course, not infallible.

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      • Bronnt says:

        That’s true, some guy. Of teams that finished with winning records, the Braves got the fewest innings from their starters. Part of that issue is Fredi Gonzalez-he was always very willing to go to the bullpen early.

        But part of that was the Braves’ starters themselves. Mike Minor always had a tough time getting through the 6th inning effectively. Derek Lowe had issues getting through the FIFTH inning, especially late in the year. As a team, they very, very seldom had anyone give them an 8 inning start. Hopefully they can improve on that this year.

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      • BX says:

        ZIPS is an extremely upside-oriented projection system.

        We KNOW what we’re getting from the Braves rotation, for the most part. It’s one of the most stable in the league. There isn’t that much potential for it to break out, but its a near lock to be one of the best in the league.

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      • bstar says:

        Good points, Bronnt, about Minor and Lowes’ performances having more to do with bullpen usage than Fredi’s preferences. I’d add not letting Tommy Hanson to pitch into the eighth inning even one time last year to keep his innings down as another limiting factor in Braves’ starter fWAR. All seven times Hanson went 7 innings, he had given up zero or one earned run. Assuming he’s healthy and effective this year, look for Fredi to stretch him into the eighth and ninth a little more.

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    • JT says:

      This was a horrible analysis of the Braves rotation. I truly expected them to be in the top 5 or 6.

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    • bstar says:

      I’m glad to not see Atlanta in the top 5 or anything like that. And Dave did correctly point out the glaring hole at the #1 spot; to me, this is the biggest problem, with their depth being able to cover up their health issues for spots #2-5. I’m a little surprised, or saddened, to see these projection systems still counting on JJurrjens and Tim Hudson to regress EVERY single year. They’ve both made a habit of outperforming their peripherals throughout most of their careers. To know this and not mention it and just plop out low ZIPS totals for them is becoming increasingly lazy.

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    • Scott says:

      Except that it’s really not, Sure there are question marks but there are question marks on everyone.

      My breakdown of the Braves looks as the following.

      Hanson, not sure where the 140 innings is coming from, that’s lower than literally every projection on fangraphs site, ZiPS has him at 171, lowest is Marcel which is 145.

      Hudson, that projection is counting on him missing more time than projected, if he misses a month that’s what 5 starts 6 starts? If he makes 26 starts at 5 IP a start (much lower than you’d expect from him) that’s still more than 120 innings.

      I do agree overall with Jurrjens, Beachy and minor. I think Beachy and Minor will be excellent and I don’t know what to expect from Beachy. Who knows what can happen from the Braves rotation, but I would almost certainly bet on them coming up higher than that. Even if JJ or Hanson goes down, the Braves have 7 top of the rotation arms. No they lack an ace, but they have an amazing rotation regardless.

      Only knock I’d give on the Braves is that Fredi seems to have as much patience with his starters pitching through toughness as he does with HanRam’s evil dreds.

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    • Steve says:

      Nice to meet you, Philly / Met fan!

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  7. Will says:

    Why are you concerned with Zimmermann’s ability to stay healthy?

    The only reason he didn’t pitch 200 innings last year was because he was given an innings limit upon returning from TJ, and was shut down in September. But physically he was not in any way injured, and could have pitched 190+ innings.

    The Nats have been very open in saying that he will not be limited this year. Conservatively, I’d expect his IP to AT LEAST match last year’s 160 IP, but will much more likely be closer to 200.

    By all accounts (see 2011 stats), Strasburg is fully healthy again. For the same reasons at Zimmermann, he will be capped at 160 IP.

    It wouldn’t be outlandish to get 40 more innings from each of them at the expense of John Lannan.

    Aside from those concerns, Lannan will not get 120 IP. Because he still has a minor league option, he’s the odd man out of Detwiler, Wang and Gorzelanny. Your IP estimation is far too high. The 5th SP job will go to Wang then Detwiler before Lannan ever gets a chance, and Gorzelanny will not make any starts (barring some apocalyptic scenario where at least 4 of the other starters get injured at the same time), instead he’ll serve as a long reliever

    Therefore, I would assign the 320 IP between Lannan, Wang, Detwiler and Gorzelanny as:
    Wang: 125
    Detwiler: 125
    Lannan: 75
    Gorzelanny: 0

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    • baty says:

      I think it’s a concern for them to STAY healthy. It might be overly cautious, but you have 2 pitchers that had a significant surgery during their rookie seasons. They hadn’t yet accumulated a significant number of innings per season “pre-injury”, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that the organization might slow things down from time to time post-recovery, if even the smallest issues arises. Both have yet to be stretched towards a full workload, so how do we know for sure how they’ll react even at their healthiest?

      Strasburg maxed out with 120IP as a rookie (his career high).
      Zimmermann made it up to 160IP in 2011 (his career high).

      I would peg Zimmermann at around 185IP, and Strasburg at around 150IP, but I think it’s reasonable to be very conservative with what might happen this season.

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      • Will says:

        I think it’s overly cautious to assume a guy who had no injuries over the past 18 months will pitch fewer innings than in the previous season. That’s is conservative to the extreme.

        Jordan Zimmermann has been healthy since September 2010. He was limited by an arbitrary (though cautious) innings limit, which will not be imposed this year. I don’t understand why one would assume he will pitch less than that.

        For example, Adam Wainwright had TJ just last year (a whole year later than JZ and several months after Strasburg), and he himself is projected for 160 IP. What about Wainwright makes him likely to pitch so many more innings?

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      • baty says:

        Well, I think the initial reaction would be because Adam Wainwright had a few 200+IP seasons to his name before the injury. He’s already taken on the full work load, so you might expect a team to be less conservative with his rebound. Zimmermann and Strasburg, haven’t come close to a total like that.

        Teams play more into the conservative progression towards taking on a full work load nowadays with young pitchers, and while it is a very conservative estimate, I think most of these SP estimates (across the board) have been conservative. You could say that CC Sabathia’s IP estimate is on the conservative side.

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      • baty says:

        The other side of things would be how Josh Johnson was handled after his surgery. He had a short MILB rehab stint, put up about 90 MLB Innings to close the season, and the Marlins just about let him loose from there on out. His first full season back he racked up 210IP when his previous season high was 155IP as a rookie a few years earlier. Who knows how Washington will handle this situation.

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  8. Roger Goodell says:

    Milone is left handed

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  9. Zach says:

    Relieved to see that the Red Sox will be in the top half of the list.

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    • keyser soze says:

      Projections are not reality. I don’t agree the Red Sox are a top half starting rotation in their current state. Without seeing Dave’s analysis there would have to be a lot of pie in the sky dreaming going on in ZIPs that Beckett stays healthy and effective, that the Bard experiment pays off and that Lester/Buchholz recover their form from two seasons ago. Not sure what is expected from Aceves. Where is the depth if/when someone goes down? Good luck.

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  10. jcj5y says:

    It’s hard to believe that Zimmermann will actually pitch fewer innings than he did last season. The only reason that would happen is if he’s reinjured. I’d say that 180 is a conservative estimate. Strasburg’s limit is set at 160, and there’s no reason to think he’s going to be hurt again. If you’re being conservative, I’d go with 140, not 120. That’s 50 more innings for those two, and I’d still say you’re being conservative.

    The balance between Lannan and Wang is trickier, but I’d say Wang is somewhat more likely to take the larger share.

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  11. drewcorb says:

    I am amazed the Twins are not in the bottom half.

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  12. Eminor3rd says:

    The Royals two spots higher than the Reds blows my mind

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    • Los says:

      But they have Sweet Chen Music. That alone should raise them to the top 3 if not first overall.

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  13. William says:

    Surprised the sox made it to the to top half with 3/5ths of a rotation and zero pitching depth.

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    • AndrewYF says:

      I think it just goes to show how bad most teams’ rotations really are. Beckett, Lester and Buchholz are simply better than any top 3 on this list, save Milwaukee. In fact I think Milwaukee gets a bad rap here.

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  14. Franco says:

    I agree with the Mets placement and yet I think you’re off on saying Dickey will be just “okay.” The dude is a legit #2 starter on most teams once you throw out WAR/FIP since he’s a knuckleballer.

    That being said, I could see Santana’s health or a Gee/Schwinden plunge into replacement level territory to offset the under rated Dickey.

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    • Bubba says:

      Agreed. R.A. Dickey has thrown about 400 innings of low 3 ERA ball since breaking out with the Mets. Their rotation deserves to be ranked very low, but I definitely feel he’s being undervalued as a knuckeballer and would hope at least some mention of that is made somewhere.

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    • ror0071619 says:

      Gotta agree with this. And Dickey just “okay” ?!?!? You just outraged Mets fans everywhere and being Met fans we’re not too happy to begin with.

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    • acerimusdux says:

      Agree. Dickey projects to over 3.5 rWAR (4.9 last season); he’s easily the Mets #1. Niese, Santana, and Gee are just OK, and Pelfrey is probably their worst SP; he may end up around replacement level in a park that should be more neutral now for HR.

      So on the whole, even if that could bump the Mets up a spot or two, I think they are still worse than the Cubs, Reds, or A’s. So the overall ranking is about right.

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  15. bill says:

    Where are the Twins. Does Zips expect 2009 Baker, 2006 Liriano, 2010 Carl Pavano, and 2001 Brad Radke to show up?

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  16. Colin says:

    I’m willing to bet that Livan will be closer to 200 IP than 100 IP for the ‘stros. He got shut down early last year, not for injury, but so the Nats could look at others. (Of course this isn’t a ringing endorsement of his talents, but he still threw <170 innings). On a Houston team without much depth (especially if Wandy is traded), and a weak bullpen, he'll probably get left out there to eat innings. As "good" Livo shows up often enough, I'd be surprised if he throw less than 180 innings.

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  17. Bronnt says:

    Nothing really stuck out to me until those last two. For the Brewers, it’s strange to see Shaun Marcum’s projections. Right now, he’s potentially looking at missing a start or two from his shoulder soreness, but he’s projected for a meagre 140 innings. I also feel like the projections are conservative even for Narveson and Greinke. I’ll be interested to see who the bottom two teams are in the second half of this series.

    And with the Nationals, I really thought I’d see them higher. Dave explained the reasons that they’re as low as they ended up well enough, but it was surprising to see them there all the same.

    Looking forward to seeing the top 15 teams.

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  18. Spike says:

    not sure how the Twins and Mariners are in the top 15… and I’ll throw in the Tribe as pretty shaky after Ubaldo and Masterson. I’d def take the Nats, Brewers, Braves and Snakes over those 3.

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  19. gonfalon says:

    If JoJo Reyes pitches 100 innings for the Pirates this year, then something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

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    • sc2gg says:

      As a Jays fan, I really hope for the Pirates sake that Jojo doesn’t make the team. But since it’s the Pirates, and they’re in “Burnett is Hurt, PANIC!” mode, I see 100 innings of Jojo.

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  20. Greg says:

    Dickey is better than “okay”. His ERA- has been top 25 in baseball the past two seasons. For a unique pitcher like a knuckleballer, I’d have a little more faith in that than FIP or xFIP.

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    • bstar says:

      That’s what blind faith in peripherals and ignoring actual ERA(+ or -) will do for you.

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  21. samuelraphael says:

    B. Chen’s forthcoming 7 Win Season should shuffle this quite a bit.

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  22. Garold says:

    I’m very interested to see how Dustin McGowan pitches this year. The projection is low (and fair) due to his history but there’s a lot of talk in Jay’s camp about how filthy he has been. If he can stay healthy and if he has any semblance of control (2 big ifs), he could far outperform his projections.

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    • bluejaysstatsgeek says:

      The Jays rotation will be top 10 in MLB. Most systems understandably underestimate Cecil, but he should be 2.5-3.0 WAR this season. If McGowan falters in his comeback, there are plenty of fine arms in the minors dying for a chance.

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    • sc2gg says:

      Yeah, that’s what I was going to mention too, if noone else did – McGowan will do better than 40IP this year (unless his bad luck continues).


      He’s doing well. He’s talking about how this is a real training camp, instead of an injury recovery camp. Pretty certain everyone who’s a Jays fan is rooting for the guy, since he’s really had bad luck over the years. He was really good! Marcum & McGowan, The Jays Future! Remember that?

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  23. Person says:

    If you gave Zimmermann and Strasburg an extra 30 innings each where would the Nationals have ended up?

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    • Will says:

      Strasburg @150IP = 3.75 WAR
      Zimmermann @180IP = 3 WAR

      That’s an additional 1.25 WAR.

      Nevermind that #15, the Mariners, had 13 total WAR, while the Nats already have 13.5 WAR in the original list.

      The Nats staff would tally 14.75 total WAR, which would place them #9, between the White Sox (14 WAR) and the Giants (15 WAR).

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  24. adohaj says:

    Livan Hernandez only getting 130 IP THIS LIST IS CRAP

    Livan for HOF!

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  25. Will H. says:

    Last year, E.Jax, Gio, and Zimm totaled 10.7 WAR. You have them regressing to 8.5 WAR in about the same IP this year, even though all are in their prime and the first two had similar results in 2010. (Not to mention that you have Stras with 3 WAR in 120 IP when, career, he has 3.7 in just 82 IP. Of course I don’t think that is sustainable, but neither do I think he will decline from a 5.5 WAR/120 IP pace to just 3). And even Lannan has never delivered so little on a per IP basis.

    It isn’t just about adjusting Zimm’s and Stras’ IPs… clearly, the sort of decline these projections predict is waaay extreme. And why ZIPS anyway? Isn’t Steamer better with pitchers?

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  26. mentalmeat says:

    Great series of articles. For the pitchers it would have been helpful to display FIP or xFIP (not just WAR). To be sure, I understand that this is a team ranking.

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  27. Tim A. says:

    Big Baseball fan from Kansas City… and yes I will admit that I am a Royals fan as well (even though they have made it difficult for 20+ years.)

    I have to say that the Royals are ranked too high IMO.

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  28. BX says:

    Rational basis for irrational Tom Milone fandom?

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  29. Baron Samedi says:

    “Drabek could find the form that made him a real prospect a few years ago”

    So, like, June 2011?

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  30. Baron Samedi says:

    These are worse than the ones by the girl.

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  31. TK says:

    So basically Tim Hudson is going to replicate 2005, the worst season of his 14-year career, only he’s going to pitch 50 fewer innings?

    Seriously, the only time Tim Hudson has averaged 1.5 WAR per 140 innings was 2005. He’s also managed at least 2 WAR every season of his career aside from his TJ surgery season where he pitched 42 innings.

    Maybe the author knows something rest of us don’t about his injury?

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    • Toby Flenderson says:

      Projecting Derek Lowe in the AL to be worth 1 Win more than Hudson and Jurjens is crazy. I bet you couldn’t find 5 other people who really expect that to happen.

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    • bstar says:

      It’s just too easy a call for people who rely on FIP solely to always expect JJ and Hudson to underperform. C’mon, guys.

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    • Steve says:

      Also, Fangraphs predicts Kony will be overthrown in 2012.

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  32. Dreamin says:

    Disagree with ZIPS on the AZ rotation (I’d peg Hudson, Cahill and Saunders to be probably half a win better each), but they’re about the right ranking if ZIPS is the baseline to use.

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  33. Dave says:

    Orioles rotation worst by far… Royals after that with Oakland up there too (though they have a lot of upside)

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  34. gonfalon says:

    I like how Fangraphs’ player linker software automatically links to Johan Santa instead of Johan Santana at first. It’s like Christmas all year round!

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  35. Ryan C. says:

    The Brewers are way too low. Greinke is a legit ace and Gallardo is a solid 1/2. Marcum is a solid #3. Yes he has some issues but when he pitches is a very solid pitcher. Wolf is a good 4/5 and Narveson’s FIP was in the mid 3’s last year. Not to mention Wily Peralta and Michael Fiers should make an impact at some point.

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    • Bip says:

      I think the Brewers’ placement is far less controversial than the Reds, Nationals, Braves or DBacks.

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      • Enderkw says:

        I dont. Brewers should be top 10 once you correct for park/defense. Definetly better than Reds by a good bit.

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  36. jim says:

    there is no way jorge de la rosa only pitches 50 innings, he’s ahead on his rehab and should be back by july

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  37. Roll tide says:

    The twins ahead of the braves is a joke.

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  38. Steve says:

    Very quickly, FanGraphs is losing all credibility in my eyes. Atlanta that low? There’s no logical reasoning for such a low ranking for one of the most obviously talented and deep pitching staffs in the entire game. You, Mr Cameron, are either biased, blind, or simply don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Methinks you rely solely on projections (unwise move) and don’t rely so much on common sense. Which contrary to popular belief .. is a very important thing in both baseball .. and life.

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    • jim says:

      i think the actual quality is still there (though they could use jonah keri back something awful), but still, this “positional depth” series has, for the most part, been awful

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      • Steve says:

        Can’t say it’s all been bad, but good gahd … Do these guys even review their product and think it through before plopping it onto the interwebz? I get the feeling this was cobbled together either very hastily, with a biased objective, or simply the writer is … uh .. you get the idea.

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  39. Heyward says:

    It’s really interesting but makes me realize that I will put 0 stock in anything ZIPS projects from this point forward.

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  40. camisadelgolf says:

    Now that Arroyo’s over his case of mono, his velocity is now exceeding what it was the past couple seasons. I doubt ZIPS is accounting for that.

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  41. Made Up Statistics says:

    “Worst defense we’ve seen in a long time”. Based on…? Internet cliches most likely.

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  42. Nunya says:

    That may be one of the most poorly researched articles I have read on this blog.

    You have nearly every Padres pitcher regressing and the one that isnt will throw less innings, but have the same overall production according to WAR. Give me a break. Young pitchers progress and get better on average and the Padres are a young staff.

    Padres starters will end the season in top 5 in NL in ERA & tERA again. Their FIP will once again be the top half again as well.

    WAR has proven to be a complete BS stat with no predictive value.

    I know you love to throw it out there, but there is a reason that not one MLB TEAM uses WAR in their player evaluations. The simple fact is it has little if any value in measuring performance.

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    • pft says:

      WAR on FG is based on FIP, which is then converted to RAR and WAR. FIP is supposed to be pretty predictive of ERA.

      Pitchers of course have a lot of variance Y2Y.

      While teams may not use Fan Graphs WAR, I am pretty sure they have a similar metric which converts performance into wins. Teams of course have a lot more information including scouting and medical reports (on won players), and they have a better idea how much they plan on using a player.

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  43. Ender says:

    Brewers should be top 15. Marcum has some injury risk but this is the same soreness he has every season so no reason to cut him all the way down to 140 IP or Wolf down to 170 IP for no apparent reason. Estrada would likely be the #6 as well. They were a top 10 rotation last year once you cut out defense/park and it is only deeper going into this season.

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  44. jerbear1985 says:

    I cannot fathom the Brewers’ staff being in the bottom half in baseball, not by a long shot. Narveson and Greinke both pitched better than their ERA’s suggest, the defense behind them is improved, and Marcum had shoulder soreness last Spring and still pitched well during the season. If there’s an injury, Estrada is a competent fill-in and Peralta is not far off. I expected them to be in the top-10, not 17th.

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  45. Ender says:

    “FIP is supposed to be pretty predictive of ERA.”

    The problem is FIP is about the 7th or 8th best stat for predicting ERA. It is a pretty terrible choice to base WAR on but for whatever reason they have stuck with it. Even something else as simplistic as xFIP is better. Personally I think FIP is even worse than straight up ERA since it corrects for a couple things but not other things so it is stuck in the middle ground and tells you almost nothing about a pitcher, not how good his results were or how good he actually pitched.

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  46. Cam says:

    This would be a tough list to do for a lot of reasons. Good job.

    For the Jays, I’d argue that if Drabek is even getting close to that -0.5 WAR projection, he’ll be pitching in Vegas or New Hampshire. Also, with all the SP depth (if not necessarily high-end talent), I don’t think we’ll be seeing Villanueva or Litsch in the rotation at any point – we might be more likely to see Aaron Laffey, who’s been pitching pretty well so far this spring, or Deck McGuire/Chad Jenkins/Drew Hutchison.

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