AL Central Preview | Ranking the Starting Pitchers

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-) – 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+) – Has the potential to be an ‘A’ type performer and returned very hot to the mound last year, but the Tommy John factor is always concern for worry.

Slowey (B) – 3.99 ERA last season and a very consistent contributor to the rotation.

Blackburn (B-) – Showed great poise in pressure situations late last season, could breakout this year.

Perkins (C+) – 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 – especially when you’ve broken a Sub-4 ERA in 6 of those seasons. He’s getting up there in age, but I’m not ready to give up on Buehrle.

Danks (A-) – 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 he’s 23 years old and a lefty and the White Sox have something special on their hands

Floyd (B) – 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 ’09, though, has looked sharp in spring training thus far.

Richard (C-) – I really just don’t see him panning out. A 6.04 ERA last season over 8 starts was rocky.

Colon (D+) – A 3.92 ERA last season is deceiving. Colon underwent surgery over the winter to remove bone chips from his right elbow. It’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+) – 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+) – Very similar to Meche except a better ERA last season and more youth. Can’t really see the downside here.

Bannister (C-) – Has had a rough spring training thus far and a 5.77 ERA last season doesn’t help.

Davies (C+) – Had a decent 2008 campaign. If he gains control of his pitches, he’ll have another fine year.

Hochevar (C) – A former number 1 pick, but a 5.51 ERA hurts. I’ll give him some benefit of the doubt because of his upside but there’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) – 2008 AL Cy Young Winner, no reason to expect a sharp decline in production.

Carmona (B-) – Had a rough 2008 season, but has played well in winter ball and is healthy, so there’s hope.

Sowers (C-) – The one time popular fantasy pick has sputtered. A 5.58 ERA with a low K/9 ratio hurts. Don’t expect much here.

Pavano (C-) – Hasn’t really played since 2004. I guess we can’t really gauge his performance on much, but that’s more than enough reason for worry.

Reyes (B-) – Reyes’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+) – Had a surprisingly poor 2008 campaign after being one of the top starters in baseball in ’07.

Bonderman (C) – Never had a season of sub 4.00 ERA over his six year career. Puts up big inning numbers, but that’s about it. Also has had some shoulder issues this offseason.

Jackson (R) (C) – 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 won’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 don’t expect much this year.


  1. I agree with you that the White Sox and Twins are at the top. However, a couple issues:

    1 – I like Scott Baker, but I think A- is too high, especially if that puts him on par with Mark Buehrle. Baker has yet to win more than 11 games in a season or pitch more than 173 innings. His ERA and peripherals were solid last year, and I think he is a solid B+ — so maybe I am nitpicking — but Mark Buehrle has been the most consistent pitcher in the AL this decade and deserves the nod over Baker, until the kid proves himself a little more. Mark has won at least 10 games every year since 2001 and has not pitched less than 201 innings. I realize you have a Twins bias, but come on…

    2 – I agree with Danks over Floyd for the White Sox, because while Floyd can be more spectacular, he is not as consistent. And the back end of the White Sox rotation is a question mark, but they will get better than D production no matter who ends up in there. Jose Contreras will likely be back for Opening Day (as far as I know) and immediately upgrades one position to at least a C+ or B-, and maybe higher. And if Colon can’t get it done, Jeff Marquez, Aaron Poreda, or one of the other hot young arms will get a chance until someone sticks. I think people are underrating the depth of the pitching in the White Sox organization.

    3 – I hate Justin Verlander and I hope he sucks again this year.

    4 – Cliff Lee will be interesting. Sent to the minors in 2007 then dominates in 2008. Which one will show up? He was deserving of the Cy Young last year, but I would not trade Mark Buehrle for him. I like consistency. Lee needs to bring it again for another year before I’m ready to anoint him the best in the AL Central.

    Nice breakdown though Tyler. The surprising staff could be KC. Meche and Greinke form an underrated 1-2 at the top.

    • Tyler George says:


      1. I will put Baker on par with Danks at an A-. Buerhle has been arguably the most valuable pitcher in baseball over that span, however, I won’t put him in the same class as right now as Lee (although I know you would disagree), so they all get A minuses. Its tough to deny Buerhle’s durability right now, but after so many 200+ inning seasons, its got to wear on him at some point. Call me crazy, but I actually kind of like Baker’s durability odds over Buehrle…I’m also born out of the school of thought where I throw out W’s and L’s, ERA is my driving formulaic statistic.

      2. Good points. I’m really down on Richard and Colon as you can tell. If Contreras can perform anywhere near his last few seasons, I would suspect those grades would even themselves out.

      3. You know I’m always happy when Detroit’s down.

      4. I’m completely fine putting Cliff Lee at #1 in the AL. Consistency or not, I’m not going to deny a 2.5 ERA over 220+ innings, thats beyond world class. I understand you would not trade Mark Buehrle for him, likewise I would probably not trade Scott Baker for him…just a differing of opinions on Lee and Buehrle, though I’ll take either on my fantasy team. Would you rank Buehrle ahead of Lee on your fantasy depth chart?

  2. Nice article Tyler and sorry about the Joe Mauer news on his back after the MRI. Sounds like they don’t know when he will be able to start action this year.

    Reports out of Arizona are Contreras and Colon have been throwing bullpen sessions and feeling healthy before, during, and after the low pitch count sessions. If Don Cooper the pitching coach is optimistic about them then I will be too. Minor leaguers were taking BP against Contreras and Colon as well and writer Scott Merkin said Colon made them look foolish.

    Both guys are supposed to throw an inning this weekend so only time will tell about these guys. It is possible they are both could be ready for the first week of the regular season, if they are healthy contributors is the question.

  3. Midnight Writer says:


    Much as I hate to admit it, you pretty much nailed down the Indians depleted starting pitcher staff.

    Typical of the Tribe — especially under the Dolan ownership — is, as soon as a player gets hot, it is time for a trade and finding new (and cheaper) prospects.

    Had Mark Shapiro not fired prematurely, C.C. Sabathia would have been around for the Indians’ surge which began, ironically, when Sabathia was already dealt to Milwaukee. (Of course, he will now bolster the Yankees’ pitching staff and do to us what he used to do to New York.)

    Come to think of it, Cleveland has also missed Bartolo Colon

    Cliff Lee should be fine, Sowers and Pavano will probably run hot and cold.

    But the key lies in Fausto Carmona, the winning pitcher in the famous “Bug Game” in 2007 in Cleveland against the Yankees. Unlike Joba Chamberlain, Carmona did not flinch when the Midgies, as they are called on the shores of Lake Erie, swirled about his face.

    Let’s hope that won’t be Carmona’s claim to fame, and that he returns to his form and jumpin’ fast ball this year.

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