In preview of the upcoming season, here are my rankings for this years AL Central starting pitchers. The Twins and White Sox are the class of the league with guys like Baker, Liriano, Buehrle, and Danks leading the way. The Indians and Royals have some solid pieces in place, while the Tigers have a lot of work to do.
Minnesota Twins – Average: 3.04 (B)
The Twins have quite a young and productive rotation headed up by Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano. The rotation is very well rounded, having decent contribution from the backend. The only question remaining for this staff is: Can they pull a repeat performance in 2009?
Baker (A-) â€“ 3.45 ERA last season was enough to become the opening day starter. Young and healthy, there is no reason to expect a decline in production this season.
Liriano (B+) â€“ Has the potential to be an â€˜Aâ€™ type performer and returned very hot to the mound last year, but the Tommy John factor is always concern for worry.
Slowey (B) â€“ 3.99 ERA last season and a very consistent contributor to the rotation.
Blackburn (B-) â€“ Showed great poise in pressure situations late last season, could breakout this year.
Perkins (C+) â€“ A solid left handed contributor to the rotation. Expect some level of inconsistency here, but certainly a fine fifth starter plug.
Chicago White Sox – Average 2.7 (B-)
A great rotation from 1-3, which is exactly what you want in place when your playoff bound. You just need to get their first. Buehrle, Danks, and Floyd are excellent pieces to build this squad around, you just need to fill it out better than Richard and Colon.
Buehrle (A-) – You simply cannot beat 8 straight seasons of 200+ innings pitched â€“ especially when youâ€™ve broken a Sub-4 ERA in 6 of those seasons. Heâ€™s getting up there in age, but Iâ€™m not ready to give up on Buehrle.
Danks (A-) â€“ A 3.32 ERA last season is top notch: seems to be really trying to improve on his abilities, declining playing in the WBC. Add that heâ€™s 23 years old and a lefty and the White Sox have something special on their hands
Floyd (B) â€“ Started off strong but slightly fizzled at the end of the season. Gave up a number of home runs last season which potentially could turn into a higher ERA in â€™09, though, has looked sharp in spring training thus far.
Richard (C-) â€“ I really just donâ€™t see him panning out. A 6.04 ERA last season over 8 starts was rocky.
Colon (D+) â€“ A 3.92 ERA last season is deceiving. Colon underwent surgery over the winter to remove bone chips from his right elbow. Itâ€™s a gamble that few teams wanted a part of.
Kansas City Royals – Average 2.58 (C+/B-)
Meche has quietly become a very good starting pitcher, while Greinke is just waiting to breakout (could be a candidate for the Yankees in 6 years – just needs have some shoulder problems and they’ll be ready to sign). However, Davies and Hochevar have some work to do. But all in all, a decent staff.
Meche (B+) â€“ A second straight sub-4 ERA season coupled with a lights out finish to last year makes him a great opening day candidate for the Royals.
Greinke (B+) â€“ Very similar to Meche except a better ERA last season and more youth. Canâ€™t really see the downside here.
Bannister (C-) â€“ Has had a rough spring training thus far and a 5.77 ERA last season doesnâ€™t help.
Davies (C+) â€“ Had a decent 2008 campaign. If he gains control of his pitches, heâ€™ll have another fine year.
Hochevar (C) â€“ A former number 1 pick, but a 5.51 ERA hurts. Iâ€™ll give him some benefit of the doubt because of his upside but thereâ€™s a lot of questions here.
Cleveland Indians – Average 2.56 (C+/B-)
They do boast the 2008 AL Cy Young winner, but unfortunately thats about it. They have a lot of guys needing to refind themselves before we call this squad ‘good’. The potential’s there, just big odds against them coming around all at once.
Lee (A) â€“ 2008 AL Cy Young Winner, no reason to expect a sharp decline in production.
Carmona (B-) â€“ Had a rough 2008 season, but has played well in winter ball and is healthy, so thereâ€™s hope.
Sowers (C-) â€“ The one time popular fantasy pick has sputtered. A 5.58 ERA with a low K/9 ratio hurts. Donâ€™t expect much here.
Pavano (C-) â€“ Hasnâ€™t really played since 2004. I guess we canâ€™t really gauge his performance on much, but thatâ€™s more than enough reason for worry.
Reyes (B-) â€“ Reyesâ€™s elbow problems seem to have been mitigated this spring. He could actually have a decent year.
Detroit Tigers – Average 2.36 (C+)
Probably the most underperforming staff in baseball last season as Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson completely fell off the map. Expect Verlander to regain some form as his talent is undeniable. Beyond that, the rotation doesn’t have much promise. Galarraga could suprise some people, but don’t expect much out of Jackson and Miner.
Verlander (B+) â€“ Had a surprisingly poor 2008 campaign after being one of the top starters in baseball in â€™07.
Bonderman (C) â€“ Never had a season of sub 4.00 ERA over his six year career. Puts up big inning numbers, but thatâ€™s about it. Also has had some shoulder issues this offseason.
Jackson (R) (C) â€“ Still young at 25, but not quite sure where the upside is, especially with a rough finish to 2008. ERA numbers pretty high over the last two seasons.
Galarraga (B) – 3.73 ERA last season is solid for a fourth starter in the Major Leagues. He wonâ€™t strikeout many and occasionally is prone to giving up the long ball, but the goal is to minimize runs and Galarraga seemed to be able to do that last season.
Miner (D+) – Gives up more than a hit an inning, though sports a mediocre ERA. Has had some decent seasons, but donâ€™t expect much this year.