Ranking Every MLB Team's Rotation in 2020
The 2020 MLB season promises to be its most unpredictable campaign ever. However, if there’s one constant in baseball it’s that pitching is king.
The teams that have the best starting rotations in baseball are usually in a position to compete for championships. After all, the Washington Nationals won the World Series last year with the incredible trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin leading their staff. In an effort to figure out what teams have a leg up over the competition, let’s look at our ranking of all 30 MLB rotations for the 2020 season.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last year, the Pirates had five starters who made at least 17 starts, with four of them posting an ERA over 5.00. To make matters worse, Pittsburgh can’t even hope for the possibility of Chris Archer having a bounce-back year, as he’ll miss the 2020 campaign due to injury.
On the bright side, the Pirates can hope for Jameson Taillon to return from an injury-plagued 2019 season. Pittsburgh’s rotation is based on hope. They hope that Joe Musgrove can continue to be solid. They hope Trevor Williams and Steven Brault can be better. They hope youngster Mitch Keller can prove himself to be a capable major leaguer. Of course, heading into the season, there are a lot of questions and few answers.
29. Baltimore Orioles
Things were a disaster for the Baltimore rotation in 2019, although there are a few reasons for optimism in 2020. First, Alex Cobb is healthy and expected to return after missing most of last year due to injury. He might not be an ace, but he can be a solid mid-rotation starter.
The Orioles also got a breakthrough performance from lefty John Means last year while they remain high on Asher Wojciechowski. Baltimore is also taking a chance on veterans Tommy Milone, Wade LeBlanc and Hector Velazquez. If one or two of those veterans can put together a decent season, it’ll help the Baltimore rotation from becoming a disaster.
28. Miami Marlins
There’s a little reason for optimism with Miami’s rotation after Sandy Alcantara pitched like a potential ace last year despite losing 14 games. Caleb Smith has proven to be a solid if unspectacular starter who should provide a little stability. The key, however, will be Jose Urena, who has pitched like a frontline starter in the past but was so bad in 2019 that he was demoted to the bullpen.
It’s also time for the Marlins to get a little more from young starters like Jordan Yamamoto, Pablo Lopez, and Elieser Hernandez.
27. Kansas City Royals
Kansas City’s rotation has some nice pieces but is a long way from being an above-average rotation. A lot will hinge on the development of Brad Keller and Jakob Junis. Lefty Danny Duffy is reliable but no longer an ace. The Royals will need Keller and Junis to step up and lead the rotation. That could leave Duffy and Mike Montgomery to play complementary roles. In fairness, that can be a solid quartet if everything comes together. Unfortunately, the Royals lack depth beyond those four starters.
26. Detroit Tigers
Surprisingly, the Tigers have plenty of potential in their rotation this season. The trio of Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris was halfway decent last year, and all three are young enough to improve. Meanwhile, the Tigers are hoping to get former Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer back from Tommy John surgery. If healthy, Fulmer has the stuff to lead the rotation.
Veteran Ivan Nova should provide some stability in the back-half of the rotation, especially with Jordan Zimmermann likely sidelined for the season. It’s not a great rotation, but it should be good enough to avoid being the worst in baseball.
25. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco rotation isn’t going to be the same in 2020 without Madison Bumgarner leading the way. The hope is that Johnny Cueto can fill the role of ace after returning from Tommy John surgery in 2019. The Giants will also need a strong effort from Jeff Samardzija, who posted a 3.52 ERA last season after a disastrous 2018 campaign.
From there, San Francisco’s rotation is filled with questions. Veterans like Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly and Trevor Cahill are in the mix but far from locks to pitch effectively. The same is true for youngsters like Logan Webb, Andrew Suarez and Tyler Beede, who all had an ERA over 5.00 last season.
24. Seattle Mariners
On paper, things don’t look that great for the Mariners, although the Seattle rotation has a little more talent than most folks realize. Marcos Gonzales isn’t a prototypical ace, although he won 16 games on a bad team in 2019 thanks to a solid 3.99 ERA.
The Mariners are also hoping for more out of Yusei Kikuchi now that he’s had a year to adjust to the big leagues. The rest of Seattle’s rotation offers few guarantees but a lot of upside. Taijuan Walker and Kendall Graveman are both coming back from Tommy John surgery, although both are quality starters when healthy.
The Mariners also have youngsters Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn in the mix. They have a chance to give the Mariners a big boost in 2020.
23. Boston Red Sox
With David Price being traded and Chris Sale sidelined by Tommy John surgery, Boston’s rotation could be in some trouble. The Red Sox don’t even have Rick Porcello around to stabilize things. All of the pressure is on Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi to carry the rotation. Meanwhile, the likes of Martin Perez and Ryan Weber will help fill out the back half of the rotation. Granted, Rodriguez and Eovaldi are more talented than the top two starters on most teams, but depth could be a huge problem for the Red Sox, even in a short season.
22. Colorado Rockies
The Colorado rotation is more or less calling for a do-over in 2020. Led by pitchers Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland and German Marquez, this group was surprisingly good in 2018. However, things were a disaster last season, especially for Freeland and some of the guys filling spots in the backend of the rotation.
The good news is that the Rockies know their starters can be better than they were a year ago. Gray and Marquez should be reliable, but it’ll be up to Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman to improve upon last year’s performance. Otherwise, the Rockies will have a hard time being competitive.
21. Milwaukee Brewers
Of the seven pitchers who made more than 10 starts for Milwaukee last season, just two are still with the club. Fortunately, those two are Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser, who both had ERAs under 4.00 last year.
There is also plenty of experience with the Brewers signing veteran Brett Anderson and trading for Eric Lauer, who was starting to establish himself in San Diego. The likes of Brent Suter, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta also have starting experience, although the Brewers would prefer them to be in the bullpen.
Overall, Milwaukee’s rotation looks solid, although it could be lacking high-end arms that can help the Brew Crew compete for the NL Central crown.
20. Philadelphia Phillies
After signing Zack Wheeler, the Phillies have a formidable tandem at the top of the rotation along with Aaron Nola. That duo could easily become a trio if Jake Arrieta can come back healthy after an injury-riddled 2019 campaign. If all three pitchers live up to their potential, the Phillies could come close to matching up against some of the other rotations in the NL East.
Depth could be an issue with Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez being asked to fill out the last two spots in the rotation. If one of Philly’s big three falters, things could fall apart quickly.
19. Los Angeles Angels
If healthy, the Angels could have a solid and somewhat deep rotation. Health has held back the Angels' rotation for the past several years. Andrew Heaney and Shohei Ohtani both have the stuff of frontline starters, although Heaney has a history of injuries while Ohtani is returning from Tommy John surgery.
The additions of Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran should give the Angels more stability, as both are durable mid-rotation starters. Unfortunately, Teheran has become a question mark after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
On the bright side, Griffin Canning is healthy heading into the season while Matt Andriese provides depth if they need it. The Angels are also high on youngsters Dillon Peters and Jose Suarez, who could get a chance if injuries hamper the starting rotation yet again.
18. Toronto Blue Jays
While the Blue Jays wait for their young arms to mature, they’ve revamped their rotation with veterans in hopes of competing in 2020. The rotation will be led by Hyun Jin Ryu, who was close to winning the Cy Young Award in the National League last season.
Veterans Matt Shoemaker and Tanner Roark will help provide a solid supporting cast beyond Ryu, as will Chase Anderson if he recovers from an injury suffered during summer camp.
Young pitchers like Trent Thornton, as well as Japanese import Shun Yamaguchi, will also contribute to Toronto’s rotation is necessary, giving the Blue Jays a considerable amount of depth.
17. San Diego Padres
Most fans aren’t yet familiar with Chris Paddack, but he’s the ace of San Diego’s staff after he went 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts last season. Dinelson Lamet and Joey Lucchesi also look like reliable middle of the rotation starters, giving the Padres a young trio to anchor their rotation.
The hope is that veterans Garrett Richards and Zach Davies can help round out the rotation so the Padres don’t have to dip further into their pool of young arms. Both have frontline stuff when healthy, which means San Diego’s rotation has a higher ceiling than most people realize.
16. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are accustomed to having one of the best rotations in the National League, and there’s every chance that will be the case again this season. Yu Darvish managed to stay healthy last season while also keeping his ERA under 4.00. He should be ready to lead Chicago’s rotation along with Kyle Hendricks, who continues to be one of the most reliable starters in baseball.
The X-factors are lefties Jon Lester and Jose Quintana, who both won 13 games last year but posted modest numbers. The good news is that Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills should be solid options at the back end.
Overall, the Cubs will have a deep rotation, although Lester and Quintana will decide if Chicago’s rotation has a chance to be elite in 2020.
15. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta figures to have a youthful rotation in 2020, especially with Mike Soroka starting on opening day. Soroka is fresh off a 13-win season in 2019 in which he posted a 2.68 ERA. Obviously, the Braves hope he’ll be just as good this season. They’ll need more out of Mike Foltynewicz, who has been a frontline starter in the past but had an up-and-down 2019 campaign.
The Braves are also excited for the two young lefties in their rotation: Max Fried and Sean Newcomb. Fried won 17 games last season while Newcomb posted a 3.16 ERA in 2019, albeit while pitching mainly in relief. Nevertheless, both should provide quality depth in Atlanta’s rotation.
With Cole Hamels sidelined by an injury at the start of the season, there is some uncertainty about the final spot in Atlanta’s rotation if Hamels isn’t quick to recover.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks
Despite a bit of turnover over the last year, Arizona’s rotation is looking deadly heading into 2020. The D-Backs have a new ace in Madison Bumgarner, who will pair with Robbie Ray to lead the rotation.
Arizona has a slew of young arms who all pitched well and flashed high upsides in 2019. Luke Weaver, Zac Gallen and Alex Young all look like they could be stalwarts in the rotation for a long time to come. Veteran Merrill Kelly also ate up a lot of innings in 2019 and gave the Diamondbacks a steady presence in the middle of the rotation.
The Diamondbacks should be able to survive Mike Leake sitting out the season, and if the young arms continue to perform, Arizona’s rotation could be among the best in the National League this year.
13. Chicago White Sox
Look for Chicago’s rotation to take a huge leap forward in 2020. For starters, the White Sox already have a young ace in Lucas Giolito, who can be even better than the 3.41 ERA he posted last season.
The White Sox also signed Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez in the offseason, giving them two veterans who should be reliable from one start to the next. The X-factors will be young starters like Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease. Both have been inconsistent in their big-league careers thus far, but if they start to show more consistency, both have a lot of upside. If one or both has a breakout season the way Giolito did last year, Chicago’s rotation could be something special in 2020.
12. Oakland Athletics
Pitching has driven Oakland’s success in recent years and that figures to be the case again in 2020. Naturally, there are a few uncertainties. For starters, lefty Sean Manaea is expected to be the ace. He sat out most of 2019 after shoulder surgery but was outstanding last September after his return.
Frankie Montas is another key figure who missed most of 2019, although he sat out after getting suspended for PEDs. Like Manaea, Montas was outstanding when he was on the mound last year, giving the A’s an elite tandem leading the rotation if both can pitch up to their potential.
Mike Fiers and Chris Bassitt should be two solid mid-rotation starters after both had an ERA under 4.00 last year. The A’s also have a pair of young lefties in Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk who have high upside but little experience in the majors. If at least one of them can prove to be ready for the majors, Oakland could have a top-10 rotation.
11. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals will likely need their pitching staff to carry them this season, so it’s a good thing that their rotation is in great shape. Jake Flaherty and Dakota Hudson were both outstanding last season, combining for 27 wins. They will be expected to replicate those kinds of performances this season. Fortunately, they have plenty of help behind them.
Carlos Martinez returned to the St. Louis rotation after pitching out of the bullpen last year. Miles Mikolas is back, although the Cards need him to pitch better than the 9-14 record he had last season. Last but not least, veteran Adam Wainwright will help round out the rotation. Wainwright might not be able to replicate his 14 wins and 4.19 ERA from a year ago, but the veteran still knows how to get batters out.
10. Houston Astros
Losing Gerrit Cole to the Yankees will hurt, but the Astros anticipated that when they traded for Zack Greinke last summer. It’ll now be Greinke and Justin Verlander leading Houston’s rotation. The Astros will also get Lance McCullers Jr. back in the rotation, giving them an excellent No. 3 starter if he’s healthy.
However, Houston has some questions about the last two spots. Jose Urquidy showed potential during the second half of 2019, although he’s largely unproven in the majors. Other youngsters like Framber Valdez and Josh James might get a chance as well. But like Urquidy, they are unproven in the big leagues at this point.
If Verlander, who has a hurt forearm, is out for an extended period of time then the Astros' rotation would drop considerably down the list.
9. Texas Rangers
Trading for two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber figures to be a gamechanger for the Rangers. Plus, we can’t forget the outstanding seasons Lance Lynn and Mike Minor had for the Rangers in 2019. Those three could do some serious damage this season, although Kluber has some questions given his age and a lost 2019 season.
That being said, the addition of veterans Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles should round out the Texas rotation with reliable veterans. If those five pitchers can stay healthy for 60 games, the Rangers will have a chance to win any game they play.
8. New York Yankees
Signing Gerrit Cole over the winter is more than enough to give the Yankees a top-10 rotation. New York does take a slight hit with Luis Severino missing the season, although the team did fine without Severino for most of 2019.
Behind Cole, the Yankees still have Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, who are both frontline starters on their best day. JA Happ isn’t quite as good, but if he’s the No. 4 starter, the Yankees will take it.
Finally, Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Loaisiga will help fill out the back half of the rotation until New York’s younger arms are ready. Between Cole at the top and a fair amount of depth, New York’s pitching is almost as impressive as its lineup.
7. Minnesota Twins
Few teams are as comfortable with their five starters heading into the 2020 season as the Twins. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi are back after leading the top of the rotation in 2019. The Twins took a slight risk by signing Rich Hill in the offseason, but thanks to the delay in the start of the season, he’s healthy and ready to go. Minnesota also added Kenta Maeda and Homer Bailey. Bailey is solid if he’s healthy while Maeda is far better than most team’s No. 4 starter, giving the Twins impressive depth. In those five starts can stay healthy for 60 games, the Twins will be tough to beat in the AL Central this year.
6. Tampa Bay Rays
Granted, the Rays like to use “openers,” they won’t be doing that on days Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow start. If Glasnow can pick up where he left off last year and Snell rediscovers his Cy Young form from 2018, both are good enough to be in the Cy Young conversation in 2020. Let’s not forget that Charlie Morton was 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA last year. That’s a dynamic trio, especially considering how different each pitcher is from one another.
Even if the Rays end up using openers, back-end guys like Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough are rock-solid starters. Tampa’s rotation is one with multiple aces and few weaknesses.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
To be frank, the Dodgers don’t have the same kind of depth in 2020 that they’ve had in recent years. That being said, not many rotations can come close to matching Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler in the top two spots. Young lefty Julio Urias also has high upside despite his career going off track due to injuries in recent years.
There’s also nothing wrong with Alex Wood being a mid-rotation starter. However, Los Angeles doesn’t have a ton of depth beyond those four starters. If there are injuries to the rotation, the Dodgers might struggle to run away with the NL West the way they usually do.
4. New York Mets
The Mets lost Zack Wheeler in free agency and Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery, but they remain in great shape. Obviously, it helps to have Jacob deGrom, who has won the last two Cy Young Awards in the National League. But Marcus Stroman is more than capable of being the No. 2 starter after a strong 3.77 ERA in his 11 starts with New York last year. Steven Matz also came on strong during the second half of 2019 and has frontline stuff.
The saving grace for the Mets was signing Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha as their end-of-the-rotation starters. Neither was at their best last season, which is a concern. However, both can still be reliable mid-rotation starters if they can bounce back, giving the Mets one of the deepest rotations in baseball.
3. Cleveland Indians
In the last year, the Indians have traded both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, yet their rotation remains one of the best in baseball. Mike Clevinger is the new ace, at least he is until Shane Bieber takes that title away from him after going 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA last year.
Cleveland also has Adam Plutko, Jefry Rodriguez and Zach Plesac to round out the rotation with a slew of young starters who are on the rise. The kicker is that Carlos Carrasco is healthy after being diagnosed with cancer in 2019. He was a frontline starter for most of the past decade, so if he’s healthy, Cleveland will have an abundance of quality arms in the starting rotation.
2. Cincinnati Reds
NL Central teams better look out for Cincinnati’s starting rotation this season. To be fair, there are minor questions about Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer. Gray was brilliant in 2019 with a 2.87 ERA, but he's struggled to put together back-to-back seasons like that.
Bauer, meanwhile, was 2-5 with a 6.39 ERA after being traded to the Reds last summer. But if both pitchers are at the top of their game, they can go toe-to-toe with almost any duo in baseball. Plus, the Reds have Luis Castillo, who was 15-8 with a 3.40 ERA, so he’s capable of carrying the load if Gray or Bauer struggles.
Veterans Anthony DeSclafani and Wade Miley will take the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation, although both are far better than back-end starters. If those five are anywhere near their best, this could be the best rotation in baseball this year.
1. Washington Nationals
The trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin is unmatched by any other team in baseball. Strasburg has put his injury-marred past behind him and was brilliant last October. Scherzer is still pitching close to a Cy Young level just about every year. Finally, Corbin was 14-7 with a 3.25 ERA last season, and he’s the team’s No. 3 starter. Even Anibal Sanchez had an ERA under 4.00 next season, so it’s not like there’s a huge drop-off behind the three aces.
Even with some uncertainty with the No. 5 spot, the Nats' tripod of aces are more than enough to give the Nationals the best rotation in baseball.
Photo: Getty Images / Lines Illustration