Starting rotation: New York Mets
Sorry Washingon, this one belongs to the Mets. Anchored by 2018 NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, the Mets may have the most talented trio in baseball. deGrom along with Noah Syndergaard give the Mets a 1A, 1B, and 1C trio of aces at the top of the rotation. The three pitched to a combined 2.88 ERA in 2018 while striking out 603 batters. Wheeler was a top 3 pitcher post-All-Star break and led the majors with a 1.68 ERA in the time frame. The Mets knew they were getting a future ace in Wheeler when they traded Carlos Beltran to acquire him in 2011 and while it may have taken time, Wheeler has learned to attack the strike zone and has finally stayed healthy.
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The patience has certainly paid off with Wheeler and Sandy Alderson’s genius should be appreciated now more than ever. Alderson has either drafted or acquired all 5 of the Mets starting pitchers and the Wheeler/Syndergaard trades could go down as two of the best in Mets history when it’s all said and done.
Steven Matz is the biggest X-Factor for the pitching staff in 2019. The southpaw only pitched in 71 starts over four seasons due to various injuries. Matz seemed home run-prone at times and has often been the week link in the rotation. Matz occasionally shows flashes of ace-potential. If he could stay healthy and pitch more consistently then the Mets are a significantly better team.
Mickey Callaway has stuck with Jason Vargas as his 5th starter. The right-hander pitched to a 3.27 ERA while striking out 23 in four September starts and will look to build off his late-season success after a trainwreck start to the season.
Max Scherzer is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. In 2018, he struck out 300 batters and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting. Scherzer has won the award three times in the last six seasons. Stephen Strasburg is a formidable two behind him if healthy. However, injuries held him to just 130 innings pitched in 2018.
The Nationals made the biggest splash in the free agent pitching market by signing Patrick Corbin to a 6 year $140 million contract. The lefty’s 2.47 FIP was third in baseball ahead of teammate Max Scherzer. Corbin was able to command the strike zone and overpowered hitters with his slider/sinker combo. In 2018, Corbin threw his slider 41.3% of the time, more than he ever had in his career. The increasing usage of his slider paid off for Corbin as he enjoyed the highest K/9 (11.07) of his career and made his first All-Star team since 2013.
After these three, their depth drops off. Joe Ross can be an effective number four in his return from Tommy John Surgery but the road to recovery is different from everyone. It took Zack Wheeler three seasons to breakout post-surgery. Aníbal Sánchez is 34 years old and should not be seen a somebody who can pitch deep into games, despite a 2.83 ERA in 2018. Erick Fedde could see himself inserted into the rotation if things go south in the Nation’s Capital. The Nats will try to patch up their rotation after trading away Tanner Roark and losing Gio González to the Yankees.
The Phillies rotation should be seen as a top 10 at the least. Aaron Nola is coming off of a 10 WAR season and could have been in the discussion for MVP. Jake Arrieta will aim to bounce back to Cy Young form after an up-and-down 2018 season. Further down in the rotation, the Phillies have a couple of young right-handers in Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta; both of whom have the potential to be consistent starting pitchers for a team that looks to contend to for a World Series. Vince Velasquez has displayed the stuff to strikeout 200 batters in a season. He needs to lower his pitch count and attack the strike zone early. Jerad Eickhoff was held to just 5.1 innings pitched in 2018.
The Atlanta Braves rotation took a major hit when the injury to Mike Foltynewicz was announced. Folty is coming off of the best season of his career. He threw a career-high 183 innings and struck out 202 while only walking 68. Foltynewicz will hopefully return to the Braves rotation within the opening month of the season. 28-year-old Julio Teheran would likely make his 6th opening day start. Tehran had mixed success in 2018 but struggles with control and giving up the long ball. Aside from them, the rotation will likely feature Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, and 22-year-old Touki Toussaint. Atlanta is position player heavy and their lack of pitching depth is their apparent weakness which could ultimately hold them back from the playoffs.
Miami’s pitcher of the future will likely begin the year in AA. 20-year-old Sixto Sanchez is ranked the number 7 RHP prospect in the majors and was part of the haul Miami sent over for J.T Realmuto. Sanchez has a 75 grade fastball (on the scouting 20-80 scale) and can throw hard deep into games. He will work on developing his secondary pitches at the minor league level. José Ureña will anchor the major league staff; he led the Marlins in most pitching categories in 2018. Dan Straily and Wei-Yin Chen are the Marlins’ only other starters with significant major league experience on the roster. Miami had the highest team ERA in the National League and gave up the second most home runs in the National League last season.