2017 Fantasy Baseball: AL East Rotation Rankings
We come to our next series as we approach the beginning of the season. This time, we are taking a look at starting rotations. Just like with the lineups, we are looking at past performance assuming the top five guys last the season. That last happened back in 2001 when the Mariners won more games than any regular season team in history. However, everyone loves rankings, so we are donating our two cents worth.
Just like with the lineup series, we are basing our rankings on three Baseball Prospectus statistics. The first is their version of wins above replacement (WARP). That indicator tells us much the same as the position players. It is a mixture of quality and quantity. The second is a BP creation called deserved run average (DRA). It is essentially their ERA estimator assuming normal rates for balls in play and home runs per fly ball. It also calculates normalized left on base percentages and other indicators. The final statistic is total average against (TAVA) which is essentially the mirror image of the same statistic for hitters. For pitchers it ends up being the batting average version of DRA (average is .260).
WARP: 9.2 (9th)
DRA: 4.16 (13th)
TAVA: .261 (12th)
The Orioles ended up dealing Yovani Gallardo and his contract away and replaced him with a full season of Wade Miley. So, there really aren’t any new faces in Baltimore. The funny thing is that these rankings would look good in the National League. That’s why you always have to have a frame of reference. Essentially, they are hoping Dylan Bundy shows up and finally starts asserting himself.
The Orioles have been linked to Jason Hammel this offseason, but the Mark Trumbo signing might prevent them from doing that. Yet, as we move closer to Spring Training the price for all remaining free agents drops precipitously. They could end up being a match. Adding Hammel would make them a middle of the road rotation.
As we saw with the lineups, the gap between the top and bottom in the American League is much more narrow than it is in the National League. One key performance here or there could vault the Orioles into the wild card hunt. From there, anything can happen, so they would be smart to add another arm like Hammel.
Boston Red Sox
WARP: 20.4 (1st)
DRA: 3.29 (1st)
TAVA: .241 (1st)
The Red Sox sent shock waves around the sport when they dealt Yoan Moncada and other prospects to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Sale. Sale might not be the best pitcher in the American League, but he is in the conversation. Pairing him with defending Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello and perennial candidate David Price gives the Red Sox the top three man group in baseball. They also traded Clay Buchholz to the Phillies for low level prospects.
The Red Sox have one of the more enviable decisions coming up in Spring Training. They can go with Steven Wright in the fifth starter spot and probably count on fairly steady performance. They can also go with Eddy Rodriguez and roll the dice that he will become something special. It will be an interesting battle to watch in Spring Training.
Championships are never won on paper, but every once in a while the season goes according to plan. The Cubs can attest to that. On paper, the Red Sox seem like a cinch to make the playoffs and from there they are pretty well set up with their rotation. As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men…
New York Yankees
WARP: 12.3 (6th)
DRA: 3.45 (5th)
TAVA: .257 (9th)
This has to be a first for a Streinbrenner owned Yankees team. They are going into the season with a couple of significant free agents to their name. None came in the rotation. That is a bit of a surprise given the fact that they have an opening or two at the bottom of the rotation. Luis Severino and Chad Green hope to hold down those last two slots. Both have shown some promise, but they are proven commodities.
The Yankees are probably better off going with younger arms, but the lure of the veteran might be too much for them to overcome. They have also been linked to Jason Hammel and that move would make some sense given the uncertainty at the bottom of their rotation. That would help their WARP rating, but it probably wouldn’t move the needle otherwise.
It seems a bit disjarring to see the Yankees going with a youth movement, but that’s the way they seem to be rolling. It doesn’t necessarily move the needle in January, but no one wins championships in January.
Tampa Bay Rays
WARP: 10.5 (8th)
DRA: 3.89 (8th)
TAVA: .256 (8th)
The Rays have not made any significant changes to their top five starters, but they pulled off a coup when they traded Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers in exchange for Jose De Leon. He was the Dodgers number two prospect and he already got his feet wet in September. So, he should make it into the Rays’ rotation before the end of the season. He’s the kind of prospect that could move the needle.
The Rays got a really good haul for Forsythe and that could entice them to deal one of their rotation arms for more prospects. Teams have been hot to trot to get Chris Archer, but he is signed to a very team friendly contract. If they find a taker for Jake Odorizzi they could get some decent prospects for him as well.
The Rays are one of the league’s have nots and given their position in the middle of the pack, it seems a good time to barter off as many of their expensive pieces as possible so they can build for a future run.
Toronto Blue Jays
WARP: 8.4 (12th)
DRA: 3.98 (9th)
TAVA: .241 (1st)
The R.A. Dickey experience has officially ended with his signing in Atlanta. However, that is probably a good thing at this point. Francisco Liriano takes his place full-time and he has a lot more upside. The numbers above reflect the three-year average for the performers, but at least a couple of them had much better seasons last year. They may not be the best rotation out there, but they may be the deepest.
The Blue Jays are loaded and ready to go after adding Jose Bautista back into their lineup. They are virtually out of money and have no more room to add anything if they wanted to. They just have to hope that a few pitchers continue their progress from 2016.
The best lineup in baseball doesn’t need the best rotation in baseball to win games. They just need a group of pitchers that can keep them in the game and give them an opportunity to win games. This group should do that.