AL West Positional Rankings Part III: Pitching
by Jim Turvey
The last few weeks we have been looking at the AL West positional rankings, in particular, how the AL West infielders and outfielders stacked up. Today we’ll take a look at each team’s pitching. As noted last time, we’ll only be looking at the projected starter per ESPN’s depth charts, and may sometimes not be the player who ends up with the most starts, or relief appearances come regular season. Let’s begin:
Front of the rotation
1) Felix Hernandez; Hisashi Iwakuma
2) Yu Darvish; Martin Perez
3) Jered Weaver; C.J. Wilson
4) Jarrod Parker; Sonny Gray
5) Scott Feldman; Brett Oberholtzer
Seattle’s two aces were worth a combined 12.2 bWAR last season, with Iwakuma actually outpacing Hernandez 7.0 to 5.2. Iwakuma has great peripherals, and although he will turn 33 early in the season, the Mariners should expect strong results again from their top two pitchers. Felix will start the season as a 27-year old, which is incredible given that he has pitched in the Major Leagues for nine seasons now. He is one of the most consistent pitchers in all of baseball, having made at least 30 starts each of the last eight seasons, and finishing with an ERA+ over 100 each of the last seven seasons. If the Mariners have any hope of competing in the AL West this year it will be thanks to these two.
The Rangers sit in second mostly thanks to Yu Darvish. Perez went 10-6 with a decent ERA last season, but he has regression written all over him, with an ugly WHIP, and very low strikeout rate. Darvish, however, is coming off a near Cy Young season in which he led the Major Leagues in strikeouts, strikeouts per nine, and fewest hits per nine. He has struck out over 11 batters per nine innings in his two years in America so far, and really this gif sums up his nastiness perfectly.
Weaver and Wilson both seem to be on the down side of their career arcs, but are still extremely serviceable pitchers. As a duo they are likely better than Darvish and Perez, but neither pitcher is nearly on Darvish’s level. While health is not an issue for Wilson, Angels’ fans will be putting a lot of faith in Weaver’s extended health, a dangerous wish for sure.
Parker and Gray represent the two pitchers who have the most upside in the division. Parker has been primed to be the A’s future ace for a few seasons, and it seems as though he may not be up to the task. Gray, however, has all A’s fans nervously excited that they may have stumbled into the A’s next big thing. His high strikeout rate, minimal hit rate, and strong postseason performance all have A’s fans thinking a sophomore slump may not be on the way.
Scott Feldman has exactly one season in his career in which he was worth more than one win, per bWAR, and that was back in 2009. That’s all that really needs to be said about the shit show that is the Astros’ rotation.
End of the rotation
1) Garrett Richards; Tyler Skaggs; Hector Santiago
2) Scott Kazmir; Dan Straily; A.J. Griffin
3) Erasmo Ramirez; Taijuan Walker; James Paxton
4) Matt Harrison; Alexi Ogando; Nick Tepesch
5) Jerome Williams; Jarred Cosart; Brad Peacock
Skaggs and Santiago were two extremely important acquisitions this offseason for the Angels. Santiago has an excellent strikeout rate, and if he can find a way to cut down on his walks, could easily become a top of the rotation starter. Skagss was a huge prospect who has struggled in Arizona the last two years. However, the risk is more than worth it for the Angels, as he was twice a top 15-prospect in all of baseball before his debut.
The A’s always have excellent rotational depth, and 2014 will be no different. While Straily and Griffin are penciled in at four and five right now, Tommy Milone and Drew Pomeranz are waiting in the wings should injuries or inefficiencies start to become a problem. Scott Kamzir will arguably be the most interesting storyline in Oakland this season, as Billy Beane has bet on the career rejuvenation of Kazmir to last a couple more seasons.
The Mariners’ young back of the rotation has boatloads of potential, but has yet to produce at the level many think possible. James Paxton has twice been a Baseball America top 100-prospect, and he has had the most success at the Major League level so far, albeit in limited time. Taijuan Walker was twice a top 20-prospect by Baseball America, and his stuff looks to be the best on the staff behind their two aces. If you’re looking for star potential late in a fantasy draft, these two Mariners could be very intriguing.
Like the A’s, the Rangers also have strength in numbers, as Tommy Hanson, Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, and Derek Holland (half-way through the season) are all likely to make some starts along the way this season. Of the bunch only Holland is a truly above average starter, and thanks to his dog-walking accident, the Rangers will be without his services for a good chunk of the season.
Once again, this is so ugly for Houston.
1) Joakim Soria; Tanner Scheppers; Neal Cotts
2) Jim Johnson; Ryan Cook; Luke Gregerson
3) Chad Qualls; Jesse Crain; Matt Albers
4) Ernesto Frieri; Dane De La Rosa; Joe Smith
5) Danny Farquhar; Charlie Furbush; Yoervis Medina
Ron Washington has put a strong emphasis on the bullpen ever since his arrival in Texas, and the attention he has paid has made their bullpen one of the strongest in baseball. They are an extremely hard bullpen to project because there are so many arms that deserve crunch-time innings.
Billy Beane also put a huge emphasis on the A’s bullpen this offseason, bringing in Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson, and the A’s now have as much bullpen depth as any squad in baseball. Due to Beane’s reputation as a pioneer, many are now wondering if relievers are the new market inefficiency that Beane has discovered. I think it is more likely that he just wants to build a strong bullpen for October, but who knows with Beane?
For all the crap given to the Astros’ rotation so far, the bullpen is actually quite strong. Jesse Crain won’t duplicate his 2013 campaign, but his ERA has dropped each of the last five seasons, with an ERA+ of 177 over the last four seasons. Qualls is getting up there in age, but is coming off one of his best seasons of his career, and returning to Houston where he has spent the most time of his career to date. Matt Albers is now on his fourth different team of the last two plus seasons, but his 144 ERA+ over that span speaks for itself. Yay, Houston!
The Angels’ bullpen is no slouch, but just in comparison to the rest of the division they are slightly behind. Frieri is one of the shakier closers in the division, and may struggle to hold onto his spot all season.
I have a feeling the excellent Mariners’ rotation is going to be really pissed off when the bullpen continually blows games for the Mariners this season, just a hunch.