clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ranking the AL East: Pitchers

New, 42 comments

After looking through each position in the American League East yesterday, today I turn to the pitching staffs across the division.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After spending yesterday going through the position players in the American League East, it’s time to do the same with the pitchers. As a quick reminder, rosters will be determined by roterresource.com, and I'm looking just at 2015 value. Here is a look at what I’m using for Boston’s roster.

SP1: Rick Porcello

SP2: Wade Miley

SP3: Justin Masterson

SP4: Clay Buchholz

SP5: Joe Kelly

CL: Koji Uehara

SU: Junichi Tazawa/Edward Mujica

Let’s get started.

SP1

The competitors: Porcello, R.A. Dickey (TOR), Chris Tillman (BAL), Masahiro Tanaka (NYY), Alex Cobb (TB)

Cobb

Tillman

Porcello

Tanaka

Dickey

As a quick note, Roster Resource had C.C. Sabathia as New York’s number one, but I thought that was a little ridiculous so I switched him with Tanaka on my own. On talent alone, Tanaka would have been number one, but I have him ranked so poorly because of his health issues. It appears there’s a decent chance he’ll need Tommy John sooner rather than later. Alex Cobb and Chris Tillman have proven to be a couple of the most underrated pitchers in the game. While I like Rick Porcello and I think he’s more of the 2014 pitcher than the earlier versions of himself, I can’t bring myself to rank him higher than three on this list, and if Tanaka was healthy, the Red Sox ace would be fourth.

SP2

The competitors: Miley, Mark Buehrle (TOR), Wei-Yin Chen (BAL), C.C. Sabathia (NYY), Drew Smyly (TB)

Smyly

Miley

Chen

Buehrle

Sabathia

I’m also a big Wade Miley fan, and think he’ll be a fine player for the Red Sox. A lot of his struggles in 2014 were due to a poor defense in Arizona (especially in the outfield), and a tough pitchers park out there. For as a big of a fan of Miley that I am, though, I’m a bigger fan of Smyly. He has a great track record, and while most of that is out of the bullpen, he was outstanding in his first full season starting in 2014. Sprinkle in a little Tampa Bay magic, and he has to be the lone SP2 ahead of Miley for me.

SP3

The competitors: Masterson, Drew Hutchison (TOR), Bud Norris (BAL), Michael Pineda (NYY), Chris Archer (TB)

Archer

Pineda

Masterson

Hutchison

Norris

Considering how inconsistent Masterson has been in his career, it’s hard to put a finger on what to expect from him. If he pitches to his highest potential, he could be number one on this list. If he pitches to his floor, though, I could just as easily put him at number five. Splitting the difference seems reasonable. Archer continues the run of strong, young, underrated Rays pitchers atop their rotation. Pineda has had some injury problems, but he should be healthy heading into spring training, and he has the talent to be a dominant pitcher, which he showed for much of last year.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

SP4

The competitors: Buchholz, Marcus Stroman (TOR), Miguel Gonzalez (BAL), Chris Capuano (NYY), Jake Odorizzi (TB)

Stroman

Gonzalez

Odorizzi

Buchholz

Capuano

Take all of the inconsistencies that I was talking about with Masterson and multiply them by 1,000,000 for Buchholz. He’s an enigma wrapped in an enigma, and no one knows what to expect from him. Because of this, Capuano is the only pitcher I feel comfortable ranking him ahead. Stroman was terrific in his rookie season, and gave us every reason to believe he can keep it up. Gonzalez has continued to post surprisingly good results despite mediocre peripherals. Odorizzi has never put together a season like Stroman, but he’s a young pitcher with a lot of talent whose peripherals suggest improvement in 2015. I couldn’t, in good conscience, put Buchholz ahead of any of these players despite the fact that it's not impossible for him to be the very best pitcher in the division.

SP5

The competitors: Kelly, Daniel Norris (TOR), Kevin Gausman (BAL), Nathan Eovaldi (NYY), Alex Colome (TB)

Gausman

Kelly

Eovaldi

Norris

Colome

This was the hardest slot to rank for me, as its a strange smorgasbord of swingmen, unproven youngsters and underachievers. Gausman has the most experience of the three young arms in this group, and arguably the highest ceiling. The only thing holding him back is Buck Showalter’s apparent grudge against him. I put Kelly second despite not being as high on him as many people. It’s more about the pitchers behind him than being overly confident about Kelly, though he should still be a solid back-end starter. Norris and Colome both have the potential to jump ahead on this list, but take the bottom spot because they are rookies who some project to end up in the bullpen eventually.

SP Depth

BAL

BOS

TB

NYY

TOR

While the Red Sox have a large stable of potential back-up starting arms, many of them are young and unproven. Baltimore, on the other hand, has Ubaldo Jiminez as their sixth starter. While he’s been extremely shaky in the past, his stuff is still very enticing for a sixth starter. Along side him is the ridiculously talented Dylan Bundy. That kind of ceiling is hard to beat, even for a team with Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, Brian Johnson and now Robbie Ross. Tampa Bay’s ace in the hole will be Matt Moore, but he won’t be ready to return until at least mid-May. The same goes for the Yankees and Ivan Nova. Toronto’s sixth best starter is Aaron Sanchez who, while very talented, almost certainly fits better in the bullpen.

CL

The competitors: Uehara, Brett Cecil (TOR), Zach Britton (BAL), Dellin Betances (NYY), Kevin Jepsen (TB)

Betances

Uehara

Cecil

Britton

Jepsen

There’s a couple of things holding me back from putting Uehara in the top spot here. The most important is age. He’s entering his age-40 season, and although I’m expecting a similar caliber of play, I’m also expecting it will be at a lower frequency. He needs to be rested throughout the season. The other reason is that Betances, on top of being younger, is also coming off an insane season. Seriously, if you haven’t before, go to his Baseball-Reference page. It’s 2013 Koji-esque. These two are neck-and-neck for the top spot in the division, and the bottom three are clearly a step or six behind.

Set-up Men

The competitors: Tazawa/Mujica, Aaron Sanchez/Aaron Loup (TOR), Darren O’Day/Tommy Hunter (BAL), Andrew Miller/Adam Warren (NYY), Brad Boxberger/Grant Balfour (TB)

NYY

BOS

BAL

TB

TOR

Everyone who knows me knows that the only pitcher I’m a bigger fan of than Junichi Tazawa is Andrew Miller, and his presence is enough to put New York’s set-up man atop this list. Miller has proven to be dominant in his shift to the bullpen, and I’m expecting more of the same in New York. Warren, for his part, has been very good as well. Still, Tazawa and Mujica could provide plenty of value coming in ahead of Uehara. O’Day and Hunter are very close to overtaking them for the two-spot, with it coming out virtually a tie in my eyes.

Rest of Bullpen

BAL

TB

BOS

NYY

TOR

While I have a ton of confidence in the back of Boston’s bullpen, I’m not as sold on the rest of the group. I like the idea of Workman finally shifting to a relief role full time, as he could excel there. The addition of Varvaro should help offset the loss of Burke Badenhop (who could still come back). The big concern is the lack of a big lefty on the roster. Craig Breslow and Robbie Ross are fine, but I would’ve preferred if they spent a little more capital to bring back a better strikeout southpaw.

Team

SP1

SP2

SP3

SP4

SP5

SP Depth

CL

Setup Men

Rest of Bullpen

AVG

AVG PP

Aggregate AVG

BOS

3

2

3

4

2

2

2

2

3

2.6

2.3

4.9

TOR

5

4

4

1

4

5

3

5

5

4.0

2.5

6.5

BAL

2

3

5

2

1

1

4

3

1

2.4

3.2

5.6

NYY

4

5

2

5

3

4

1

1

4

3.2

3.1

6.3

TB

1

1

1

3

5

3

5

4

2

2.8

3.9

6.7

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with how the Red Sox pitching staff graded out. By average position, Boston ranked second behind Baltimore, and right ahead of Tampa Bay. All three were separated by almost negligible margins, though. I’d probably say the Rays are in better shape, as their top three starters are much better, and the eventual return of Moore will put them over the top. Still, for a team that had to rebuild close to their entire pitching staff, they rank surprisingly well. Looking at how each team ranked across the roster, I’m fairly confident in saying the Red Sox are, on paper, the team to beat in the AL East.