15) Philadelphia Phillies
2019 Stats: W/L 49-52, 4.64 ERA, 4.91 FIP, 7.6 fWAR
The Phillies starting rotation was the team’s biggest weakness in 2019. In order to fix the issue, the Phillies opened up their wallers and signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year deal. Throughout his time with the New York Mets, Wheeler flashed his tremendous upside but was never able to fully harness it. In five seasons with the Mets, Wheeler is 44-38, with a 3.77 ERA, and 726 strikeouts in 749.1/3 innings. The Phillies are paying him $118 million to be the team’s number two starter and are hoping they can get more out of him, then the Mets were able to.
He will join Aaron Nola, the ace of the team. After placing third in NL Cy Young voting in 2018, Nola took a step back in 2019. He went 12-7, with a 3.87 ERA, and 229 strikeouts. His 4.03 FIP was decent but nowhere near his mark of 3.01 from 2018. With Wheeler in the mix, Nola no longer has to carry the staff by himself. Expect for the 27-year-old to bounce back.
Rounding out the rotation is Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and either Vince Velasquezor Nick Pivetta. Arrieta is far gone from his 2015 NL Cy Young form, but when healthy he can still eat innings. His 2019 season ended early, due to having surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. With the season delayed because of COVID, Arrieta has had extra time to recover.
14) Minnesota Twins
2019 Stats: W/L 67-39, 4.19 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 16.6 fWAR
The Minnesota Twins rotation as solid in 2019, but during the off-season, they went through plenty of turnover. Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez both left in free agency, while Michael Pineda has 36 games left on his 60 game suspension. In their place are veterans Homer Bailey, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda, who will be joining Jake Odorizzi and José Berríos.
Berríos is the ace of the team and coming off of a solid 2019 season. He went 14-8, with a 3.68 ERA, and 195 strikeouts. The 26-year-old will benefit from the shortened season due to the fact that over the last few seasons, he tends to fall off after the All-Star break. While Gibson and Perez both walked in free agency, the Twins were able to re-sign Odorizzi, who posted a 3.51 ERA the year prior. He will slot in as the team’s number two starter.
What holds the Twins rotation from moving up any higher is the backend. Kenta Maeda who was acquired in the Mookie Betts blockbuster had a decent 2019 season, but might be more suited for the bullpen. He went 10-8, with a 4.04 ERA, and 169 strikeouts. However, in the 2019 NLDS against the Nationals, Maeda was untouchable when coming out of the bullpen. He was used entirely in relief, appearing in four games and allowing zero runs. He struck out seven while only allowing one hit. Rich Hill is 40 and only appeared in 13 games last season due to an arm injury. When healthy, Hill is productive but, has battled injuries the last few years. Homer Bailey rounds out the rotation and posted a 4.57 ERA in 2019. This is a huge step up from the previous four seasons, where Hosmer finished with a 6.09, 6.43, 6.65, and 5.56 ERA respectively. Has he finally turned the corner or was this merely a case of flash in the pan?
13) Chicago Cubs
2019 Stats: W/L 41-47, 4.18 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 15.7 fWAR
The Cubs rotation took a hit before the season even started. Jose Quintana* is on the IL with a thumb injury from doing dishes. This is not a typo.
In the meantime, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, and Jon Lester will lead the rotation in his stead. Lester regressed in 2019 and has seen his FIP rise above a 4.00 the last three seasons. After finishing ninth in NL Cy Young voting in 2018, he went 13-10, with a 4.46 ERA, and 165 strikeouts. Over the last three years, Kyle Hendricks ERA has gone up (3.03, 3.44, 3.46), but at the same time, his FIP has gotten better (3.88, 3.78, 3.61). The 30-year-old has been the team’s most consistent pitcher over the last few years and the Cubs will lean heavily on him in 2020.
Yu Darvish is the team’s wild card. After signing a six-year deal with the team in 2018, Darvish has gone 7-11, with a 4.16 ERA, and 278 strikeouts. He missed the majority of the 2018 season due to arm and elbow injuries. While he looked more like his former self in 2019, Darvish
Rounding out the rotation is Tyler Chatwood and Jose Quintana’s replacement, Alec Mills. The two are in a difficult position
12) Arizona Diamondbacks
2019 Stats: W/L 56-51, 4.23 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 11.0 fWAR
Arizona completely revamped their rotation since their 2017 playoff run. Robbie Ray is the only starter from Arizona’s playoff team still on the roster. Despite losing all of that talent (Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke), the front office has done a great job of keeping the staff competitive. Arizona’s front office struck gold this off-season when they signed playoff legend, Madison Bumgarner, to a five-year deal. Bumgarner is finally healthy after missing time due to injuries in 2017 and 2018. Last season he went 9-9, with a 3.90 ERA, and 203 strikeouts. His 3.90 FIP backs his recent success.
Joining Bumgarner in the rotation is strikeout artist Robbie Ray. Ray will be the team’s number two and is coming off of another solid season. In 2019 he went 12-8, with a 4.38 ERA, and 235 strikeouts. Ray has recorded 200+ strikeouts in three of the last four seasons and will form a quality one-two punch with Bumgarner. Rounding out the rotation is Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver, and Merill Kelly. Kelly and Weaver provide plenty of depth while Gallen is the deal-breaker. Gallen was acquired last season in a trade with the Marlins and in 80 innings between the two teams, had plenty of success. He went 3-6, with a 2.81 ERA, and 96 strikeouts. Now it is time to see if Gallen can improve on his successful first stint in the majors.
11) St. Louis Cardinals
2019 Stats: W/L 55-50, 3.78 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 10.8 fWAR
St. Louis returns their entire 2019 starting rotation. Adam Wainwright is 38 and no longer the ace of the team. That title belongs to Jack Flaherty. After posting a 4.46 ERA in his first 18 starts, Flaherty turned it on after the All-Star break, posting a .91 ERA in the second half of the season. The 24-year-old finished 2019 11-8, with a 2.75 ERA, and 231 strikeouts.
Rounding out the rotation is Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, and Carlos Martinez. Due to the season being delayed, Mikolas was given extra time to recover from the forearm injury he suffered back in February. St. Louis will be happy to have the innings eater at full strength. Hudson is the team’s wild card. Last season, he went 16-7, with a 3.35 ERA, and 136 strikeouts. However, he posted an ugly 4.93 FIP. 2020 will tell if last year was a fluke or not for the 25-year-old.