2017 Fantasy Baseball: AL Central Rotation Rankings
The rotation series is very similar to the lineup series we completed last week. We take the projected top five starters in the rotation (according to rosterresource.com) and calculate their three year average in three Baseball Prospectus statistics. Obviously, the idea is to give a sort of power rankings and not actually predict who will have the best and worst rotations. Obviously, fielding has not been factored into these rankings.
The three statistics we will be using includes BP’s own wins above replacement statistic (called WARP) with a three year average being employed. The second one is their ERA estimator called “deserved run average” (or DRA). It estimates ERA based on batted ball statistics, home ballpark norms, and left on base rates. Finally, we get total average against. TAVA is more results based, but we look at more than simply batting average against. We also consider the rates of extra base hits, the walk rates, and the strikeout rates. Double play percentage also comes into play here. .260 is considered to be the league average for TAVA.
Chicago White Sox
WARP: 9.0 (10th)
DRA: 4.24 (14th)
TAVA: .264 (14th)
For every yin there is a raging yang. Chicago’s DRA would place them eighth in the National League. Here, only the Twins are worse (by a considerable margin). The Sox traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox for a bounty of prospects. They are attempting to do the same for Jose Quintana, but they may be overplaying their hand. Derek Holland takes the spot of Sale in the rotation. Yeah, I know you are just trying to contain your excitement.
When you rebuild you really have to go whole hog in order for it to be successful. Quintana is a nice pitcher, but he is miscast as a staff ace. Furthermore, his presence (or lack of presence) really doesn’t change the results here. That being said, he could bring three or four prospects in return and raise their overall prospect ranking considerably.
The White Sox aren’t bad enough to finish in the cellar, but it will be interesting to see if they will be able to barter off another veteran or two before the season is over. If James Shields can return to some sense of normalcy then they could have a half-way decent rotation. He could also serve as another piece to dangle at the deadline.
WARP: 17.7 (2nd)
DRA: 3.40 (2nd)
TAVA: .241 (1st)
There are no changes for the Indians as they are the returning AL Champions. The Red Sox have more big names than the Indians, but they have just as many big arms. Corey Kluber was a Cy Young award candidate last year and won the award in 2014. The key will likely be the development of Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. If they join Kluber and Carlos Carrasco this team could right back to the World Series in October.
Josh Tomlin stuck out like a sore thumb at times last season. No team has gone an entire seasons with only five starting pitchers since the 2001 Mariners. Often the difference between winning and losing is not who is in the starting five, but pitchers six, seven, and eight that make the difference. The Indians could use a decent veteran they can stash for later use.
The Indians take a backseat to no one when it comes to starting pitching. They may have a slightly better bullpen than the Red Sox, so they could have the edge overall. Team fielding will probably spell the difference between the two squads.
WARP: 10.8 (7th)
DRA: 3.99 (10th)
TAVA: .247 (4th)
The AL Central has been fairly stable as a group and the Tigers are no different. Unfortunately, that may not be good news. Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann are solid enough, but they will need to rely on youngsters Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris to pick up the slack. Anibal Sanchez used to be a good pitcher back in the day. Those were simpler times when people still listened to CDs and cellular phones still flipped.
Give the Tigers some credit, they know that Sanchez needs to be replaced. They’ve been looking for his replacement for a couple of seasons now and they simply can’t find him. Until they develop some more pitching, they are destined to fight for second place and a very so-so division.
The Tigers are in the worst spot you can be in sports. They have an expensive team that is just not quite good enough. They could continue to go further in debt (and into luxury tax mode) and add that one piece destined to get them over the top. They could stand pat and hope for some out of context good performances. They could sell some expensive pieces and start over. Neither is an appetizing option at this point.
Kansas City Royals
WARP: 4.7 (14th)
DRA: 4.11 (12th)
TAVA: .261 (12th)
Covering tragedy is a tricky business. The Kansas City Royals lost an exciting young pitcher, but the players on the team lost a friend. His family lost a loved one. So, when we address a situation like Yordano Ventura you must tread lightly. In purest baseball terms, he will be replaced by Matt Strahm. He was average in limited duty last season. Ventura was more or less average over the past three seasons, but he seemed capable of so much more. Now, we will never know. Secondary to that, the Royals added Nate Karns in exchange for Jarrod Dyson. The move is a yawner, but it does give them a little more depth.
Lest we forget this team won the World Series in 2015. How soon we forget. Even with Ventura, the Royals pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. The once great bullpen is also in shambles. They decided to sign Danny Duffy long term, but they would have been better off dealing him for prospects. Now, they have a rotation full of decent guys that will collectively get them nowhere.
The Central is a top heavy division. With the White Sox and the Twins circling the drain the Royals should be good for a third place finish. That and three bucks will get you a large cup of coffee at Starbucks. Like the Twins and White Sox, the Royals would be better off bartering off their remaining talent to make another run a few years down the road.
WARP: 1.3 (15th)
DRA: 5.29 (15th)
TAVA: .273 (15th)
There is last and then there is really last. The Twins are more than one full run separated from 14th place in DRA. They are nearly seven wins removed from 13th place in WARP and nearly ten points in TAVA from 14th place. They are ostensibly the same rotation that finished in last place in 2016. When you are that far removed from contention it’s not as simple as merely adding a new guy and seeing your placement rocket up the standings.
Embrace the suck. The club should do whatever it takes to deal Brian Dozier and Ervin Santana immediately. Doing so would likely combine to give them five or six new prospects they can build around for the future. Otherwise, it will be another long season with little to no reward.
Hector Santiago and Jose Berrios were sub replacement level performers over the past three seasons. Odds are better than they will be at least replacement level moving forward. So, they have that going for them. Maybe Phil Hughes rediscovers the magic from 2014. Kyle Gibson could continue to improve and Ervin Santana could rediscover his best self. In other words, hope springs eternal. The odds are clearly not in their favor though.