Spring Training might be quicker than usual, but the offseason action has been relentless. To catch everyone up to speed, I’ve broken down every MLB team’s starting rotation and forecasted them with each team’s upcoming schedule. You may ask, why would you do this? The simplest answer is finding the best upcoming matchups for the lesser-known starting pitchers.
This way, we can maximize the end of our rosters and try to squeeze every last ounce of value that might be available on a waiver wire. Or, perhaps, drop a fringe-worthy pitcher early due to horrendous matchups ahead. Churning your roster at the correct times is key to in-season management. Think about it this way: do you really need to hold onto that pitcher if you’re not going to start him for several weeks ahead?
Indeed, we are ranking these matchups based on the opponent’s offense, and here are my offensive tiers to do so. Also, keep in mind that very few rotations are set in stone. Expect an update before Opening Day.
The usuals (HOU, LAD, BOS, TBR, TOR, CHW, and NYY) are all present. In 2021, all seven teams had a wRC+ north of 101. Being added to the bunch is PHI. Not only did PHI add sluggers like Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, but Rhys Hoskins will be back in the lineup as well.
ATL and SFG were powerhouses last year but dropped a tier. I dinged ATL for not having Ronald Acuña Jr., even though they’ve added Matt Olson and brought back Eddie Rosario. However, it’s a different story for SFG. Losing Buster Posey will hurt, and speaking of hurt, plenty of the team is already ailing.
NYM and MIL jump into the solid tier. On paper, the Mets spent a ton on upgrading a putrid offense. At the same time, MIL was a bit more sneaky by trading for Hunter Renfroe and signing a veteran presence like Andrew McCutchen to DH. Both lineups look primed for big games.
Texas spent a lot to sure up the middle infield with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Even trading for a power bat at catcher like Mitch Garver is a step in the right direction. Let’s see how they perform before taking a stance on this offense.
KCR could be the shocker here – at least to start. They were a subpar offense but had several exciting prospects to make things interesting if they break camp on the Opening Day roster. Plus, they still have Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield.
The rest (DET, WSH, and MIA) are just meh. They’ve added talent and shouldn’t be cellar dwellers anymore but are very unproven. Moving up to the fine tier is well within reach for them.
These are pretty self-explanatory teams that weren’t very good in 2021 and added nothing to the roster or dumped salaries.
Without further ado, let’s get into those matchups.
Note: (Off) means the team has an off-day before they play that team. For example, SEA (OFF) means they are off the previous day.
Arizona added pitching coach Brent Strom to help fix some rotation woes. Most notably, in 2021, the D-backs SPs had the seventh-worst K-BB%(11.8%) and fifth-highest ERA(5.20). Yes, he’s got a lot of work to do, and adding Zach Davies to the mix isn’t going to cut it.
On the bright side, Zac Gallen won’t need a trip to the IL as the season starts. The bad news is he’ll be behind and not quite stretched out. However, the good news is he’ll get an extra day with an early off before his start in Houston. Everything here is a hold your breath and a wait-and-see approach.
Atlanta’s likely going to start the season with a six-man rotation. For how long? That would be anyone’s guess. And given they don’t get a day off until a couple of weeks into the season – the strategy makes sense.
Fried, Morton, and Anderson have great starts and should make easy roster decisions.
Huascar Ynoa was electric in 2021, but a hand injury cost him much playing time. However, the team has a beautiful problem of plenty of options, which could mean Ynoa is limited to starting the season.
John Means is the only Orioles’ rotational piece worth rostering (without hiding your face). He flashes enough strikeout potential to be a viable streamer, but it’ll be a daunting task against the Rays, Brewers, and Angels. If you’re in a pinch and need to start a fifth SP, sure, start him and hope the pushed-back left-field fences stifle his 47% fly-ball rate.
Jordan Lyles was inked to a deal that solidifies him as the #2 SP in the offseason. While April isn’t the time to roster Lyles, he’s worth a look if he gets a few easy matchups in a row. He upped his slider usage by nearly 12%(2020 14%, 2021 26%), which is a good sign considering it had the 36th most drop and 79th spin rate among SP.
UPDATE – Tyler Wells added to the rotation.
Boston draws tough matchups with 13 of the first 20 games against top-tier offenses. Opening Day SP, Nathan Eovaldi, is probably a must-start based on where you drafted him. Also, he’s shown the ability to keep the basepaths clean (4.6% walk rate) with a K-rate slightly over 25%. You knew he’d face tough opponents in the AL East, don’t shy away now.
Nick Pivetta is a pass for me; it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he shoves, but there’s been far too much meltdown in his past to trust. Avoid!
Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, and Tanner Houck should round out the rotation. However, we don’t know who’ll be slotted where yet. The key will be to pick up whichever SPs end up with early April starts against the Tigers and Twins. If Houck’s on your waiver wire right now, pick him up ASAP.
UPDATE – Houck moved to #3, and Rich Hill slides into the #5 spot.
Adding some infield defense to the Cubbies appeals to groundball pitchers like Marcus Stroman and Kyle Hendricks. However, Hendricks draws a matchup inside Coors and against the Brewers and Rays – no thank you. Stroman gets the obvious nod as a must-start.
Wade Miley and Alec Mills are easy passes. Tough matchups and lack of ability to collect strikeouts on a team that struggled to win games consistently. Drew Smyly is on a one-year deal to prove he’s got something left in the tank. Although, he’s only viable in a daily transaction league because there’s no reason to start him inside Coors Field or against Atlanta.
UPDATE – Wade Miley shut down for 10 days. Hendricks named the Opening Day starter with Steele to follow.
Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, and Dylan Cease are must starts. While on the opposite side, Dallas Keuchel is a complete pass, as he will rely on balls in play to get deep enough in games to pick up a win. The bullpen will be rested after an off day, which should mean a short leash against the Mariners.
Currently, the stars are aligning for Michael Kopech to start the season in the rotation. This would be fantastic news for anyone rostering him already – especially with decent enough matchups to begin the season. The only pause for concern will be how LaRussa handles Chicago’s fireballer. Will he get an early hook to preserve innings, or will they let him throw six innings? We shall see.
UPDATE – Lance Lynn is out four to six weeks. Velasquez becomes the #5 starter.
Oh brother, what a tough spot for Reds’ SPs. April comes hard with away games at Atlanta, Dodgers, Padres, and eventually at Coors Field. To make matters worse, home games at Great American Ball Park. On top of that, Luis Castillo, Mike Minor, and Justin Dunn all go down with injuries.
This opens the door for Sanmartin, Greene, and Lodolo to try and secure a rotation spot when the staff gets healthier. The skills are there for any of them to toss a gem. However, very tough matchups on the road are not a place to take a stand. Wait-and-see, but be ready to pounce if one of them dominates.
UPDATE = Lodolo will get skipped for Mahle to face CLE after the off day. Lodolo will make his debut after Mahle(still vs. CLE), and then the rotation re-aligns with Sanmartin.
Shane Bieber hasn’t looked himself in Spring Training – albeit a small sample. There is still time for him to regain his mojo, and a more manageable first start at Kauffman Stadium should be an easy decision. If he still looks terrible after @KCR, we could have a significant issue starting him against @CIN, vs. CHW, and @NYY.
Outside of Bieber, the rest of the staff could scuffle with tough matchups. I would suggest shelving the rest of the staff until May. Yes, that would be a tough pill to swallow if you’ve already drafted. However, this is precisely why you’re here. Find those streamers to bridge the gap, if possible.
UPDATE – McKenzie is expected to piggyback in relief for his first outing.
The lone bright spot is Austin Gomber. The southpaw felt “pretty much 100%” in the most recent reports and had a typical offseason. Two of his first three starts are away games(@TEX, @DET), followed by home games against a sub-par Cubs offense, so he becomes a very enticing option. Gomber should be a pickup and potential start candidate.
Rockies’ SPs should rarely start for you during home games, making it exceedingly tricky to roster them. Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela are not necessarily bad pitchers; they just pitch in a very hitter-friendly environment against a few top-tier offenses. Lastly, we’ll need to see something from Chad Kuhl before rostering him. Don’t do it; wait and see.
UPDATE – Kyle Freeland was named the Opening Day starter.
Michael Pineda won’t be ready to start on the MLB roster. So, Tyler Alexander will start in his place while Pineda ramps up. Alexander has some easier matchups after BOS. But those could be Pineda’s, or Detroit could switch to a six-man rotation as they did for part of 2021.
If you drafted Eduardo Rodríguez, it might not be advantageous to start him until late April. Although, if you’re in a pinch, at least the games will be in one of the best parks to suppress his pesky HR issues.
This rotation looks quite different from in 2021, with Lance McCullers Jr. shut down and the re-emergence of Justin Verlander. The McCullers’ injury opens the door for
Cristian Javier Jake Odorizzi. While many assumed Javier would capture the #5 spot, he’ll operate out of the pen as a multi-inning RP. With an easy matchup, Odorizzi is fine, but no way should you start him against the Blue Jays.
For the rest of the rotation, you’re starting with confidence that they won’t hurt you regardless of matchups. When you add how dynamic they are on offense, the four SPs should be a set-it-and-forget-it for the time being.
UPDATE – Odorizzi bumped to #2, and Framber Valdez will start Opening Day.
Greinke winds up back with the Royals, and this is a decent landing spot for him. The deep fences should help cut down the spike in HRs he encountered last year. Sure, strikeouts won’t be there, but he’ll eat up innings and possibly a W.
Keller, Singer, Bubic, and even Hernández become early streaming candidates of note. While they might not strike out the world, the first few weeks are ugly for some of your fringe SPs, and this quartet might be a sound solution to your blues.
UPDATE – Bubic pushed up to #3, Hernández to #4, and Singer to finish the rotation.
Los Angeles Angels on Anaheim
The Angels are no strangers to a six-man rotation, and the only projected starter to throw at least 130 innings in the previous season is Shohei Ohtani. With that in mind, expecting any starters to go deep into games is false hope.
Noah Syndergaard’s velocity isn’t where we would expect. Perhaps he can get ramped up for that key starts vs. BAL and CLE. If the velocity isn’t back by mid-April, I’d be very wary of putting him in been those matchups.
You made early investments to roster Buehler and Urías. Don’t back out now, and start them at Coors Field. Even Kershaw should get the nod. No need to over-think.
Where it gets fun is #4 and #5. Andrew Heaney gets two of his first four starts with an added day of rest and a few good matchups. He’ll be a starter for you until May, as long as he can keep the ball in the yard.
Tony Gonsolin looks to be the front-running as the #5 SP. While last year was disappointing and injury-riddled, the arsenal features a slider and splitter with SwStr% over 19 percent. Just don’t let the four-seamer get punished, and he’s got an excellent chance to help you for most of April.
There are a lot of exciting arms in Miami these days. Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers are locks, which means you’re starting them regardless of the matchup. Additionally, they’ve got tougher ones, so fingers crossed.
Pablo López has looked sharp in Spring Training, but it’s Spring Training. After that long layover with his injury, probably best to wait and see how he performs. Also, how deep will the Marlins let him go in games?
Luzardo and Hernandez are essentially wild card plays. The last time we saw Luzardo on the mound, he fanned 11 Phillies. Fast-forward to Spring Training, and Luzardo is touching 99-MPH with the fastball. Hate their matchups but love the skills. Very tough calls for these two.
Wowza! What an excellent start for the Brewers’ rotation – especially their big three. Outside of Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta, we’re looking at three arms (Adrian Houser, Eric Lauer, and Aaron Ashby) for the #4 and #5 spot. Lauer was recently a scratch-start but looked back on track for Opening Day. Additionally, reports have the team trying to stretch Ashby out, which doesn’t exactly mean he will enter the rotation. There’s a good chance he’ll be on the outside looking in
Gray and Bundy were brought in to revamp the staff. However, Bundy was atrocious in 2021, and we’ll need to see it before we believe it with him. On the other hand, Sonny Gray comes to a much better ballpark for pitching and a better defense. Start Gray with confidence.
Lewis Thorpe will sadly not make the rotation as the Twins brought in Chris Archer. Expectations for Archer shouldn’t be very high since he only pitched 19 innings in 2021. Oh, and he’s running into the Dodgers and Red Sox to begin his season. The best approach is wait-and-see how his pitches look before starting him against DET.
Scherzer and deGrom are no brainers.
Chris Bassitt upgrades to a better team that’ll help boost his win total. He should see the benefits of this early with a few easier matchups to start his 2022.
Much like Bassitt, Carrasco’s early matchups play in his favor. Also, he had offseason surgery to clean up a bone spur. The whole arsenal fell off in 2021, and he’ll need his slider to return to form for success. However, he only pitched 53 innings last year, and his first start could be short. Target starting him against the Diamondbacks, not the Nationals.
UPDATE – Megill added to the rotation, deGrom out. Sorry.
You’re starting Gerrit Cole regardless of matchup -aces gonna ace! And Jordan Montgomery is smooth sailing after two treacherous matchups at home against Boston and Toronto. Save yourself any headaches and find a streamer for Monty’s first two starts.
Where things get really interesting is with Luis Severino and Jameson Taillon. While both have shown stretches of greatness, they’ve faltered in staying on the field. They’ve got the matchups, but I’d be staying away from those first starts at Camden Yards until we see what they’ve got in the tank. And that leaves Nestor Cortes Jr. as an option, and he should provide everything needed for an early-season advantage with great matchups and a locked-in role.
Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas are outstanding talents on a team looking to unload. The Athletics got significantly worse this offseason, which will lessen the chances for wins. Wait till after Philly and Tampa to start them.
Aaron Nola is the confirmed Opening Day starter. Unfortunately, that bumps him up into a few more challenging opponents. But as they say, aces gonna ace!
The more extensive news from Phillies camp is the potential unavailability of Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. While both are expected to be ready on April 7th, it’s more likely that they’ll be handled with kiddie gloves. Wheeler is an easy start, but Eflin requires more time monitoring.
Kyle Gibson didn’t perform the same from the minute he put on a Philly uniform, and his ERA was nearly two runs higher than his time in Texas. However, he’s not a bad pitcher to take an early chance with outside of a Coors Field game.
It sounds as if Ranger Suárez has cleared his visa issues and will be ready for Opening Day.
UPDATE – Wheeler moved down to allow extra time. Don’t expect him to start in your Thursday-Sunday lineups.
The schedule makes a bevy of the Pirates’ arms intriguing. This might be your team for stream-happy managers looking for decent matchups. The first two starts for the rotation will be in spacious parks, against offenses that don’t usually put up crooked numbers.
The crown jewel of this rotation for April might just be Mitch Keller. Getting three games in PNC with an away game in Wrigley could be what is needed to get his career back on track. This could be his time to shine!
UPDATE – JT Brubaker named Opening Day starter.
The Padres’ season begins with nearly three weeks of play before any days off. That’s not excellent news for a rotation that isn’t the most durable. Furthermore, Clevinger and Martínez didn’t throw a pitch in the MLB last season.
Musgrove, Darvish, and Snell are must-starts vs. nearly any opponent.
Where the rotation gets interesting is Mike Clevinger. He’s only pitched 41 innings in the last two years, and shades of him reaching the 200 inning plateau again are long gone. The Padres need him, but they need him healthy too. It’ll be challenging to see him go past five innings for quite a few starts.
We are unsure how well(or poor) Nick Martínez will look, and the skills could translate well or crash and burn. We wish him the best of luck, but those first few matchups scream-stay away.
Logan Webb gets the nod on Opening Day. The sinker doesn’t get punished, and the curveball/changeup gets swung at a lot outside the zone. He should be able to build on a terrific 2021 campaign with decent matchups.
Overall, the Giants get plenty of spots for the entire rotation. Newly acquired Carlos Rodón sees MIA and CLE before a pair of up-and-coming offenses. He’s a tremendous early-season SP because of his ability to tally strikeouts with fewer innings of work.
Seattle gets a few early days off that’ll help keep the bullpen fresh. This would be another team that could limit the early innings for SPs and instead utilize all those outstanding RPs.
The #5 SP for Seattle is a two-person race between Matt Brash and George Kirby. Both have been lights out in Spring Training, but Brash has the inside track for the spot. The early start @CHW could spell disaster, but it’s smooth sailing from there. Skip his first start and toss him in for TEX, KCR, and @MIA.
The injury to Jack Flaherty makes this staff look very top-heavy. He will miss some time, and those starts will go to Jake Woodford. He’s got minimal strikeout potential and two unsavory matchups right away—no need to grab him off the wire to begin the season.
Mikolas and Hudson combined for less than 60 IP, and ten games started. So, the Cardinals probably won’t be pushing them too hard out of the gates. One good note for the Cardinals is Mikolas was hitting 94 MPH on the fastball. They’ll need him to eat innings as the season shakes out. Both will likely be strong stream candidates throughout the season, but I wouldn’t call the waiver wire priorities.
I love the matchups for Wainwright. He’s been very good at home, and he’ll want to give the fans at Busch Stadium a show every time he pitches.
Update – Jordan Hicks was named the #5 starter.
The Rays have never been shy about limiting their starters to five innings, and 2022 shouldn’t be much different. Given Tampa’s ability to construct a stout bullpen and produce runs, five innings of work are all a starter might need. But predicting the Rays’ plan is usually impossible.
Shane McClanahan has all the tools to put up a monster season. His slider is beautiful and generates enough whiffs rates. Start him every time, even vs. BOS.
Drew Rasmussen is an interesting case. Tampa traded for him and then converted him to an SP. As a reliever, the strikeouts were plenty, but soon as he became a starter, they vanished. Instead, he induces a world of ground balls. Either way, get all his April starts on your team. The Orioles, Athletics, and Cubs are some of the worst offenses in the MLB.
Kluber, Yarbrough, and Patiño are probably the recipients of not allowing SPs to go three times through the order treatment. Becau.se they may not go deep enough in games to pick up the win, I’d avoid it unless it’s a favorable matchup.
The Rangers re-vamped their infield defense, which is something that always makes me perk up when evaluating rotations. Furthermore, this rotation could be helpful if you can dance around the tougher matchups(@TOR, vs. LAA, and HOU). The only actual “off-the-table” arms would be Martín Pérez and Dane Dunning; neither is worth the risk.
Taylor Hearn could be one of the better early season streamers of note. Last season, Hearn started in the bullpen before incorporating a sinker in the arsenal and winding up in the rotation. Also getting a few promising starts, and penciled in as the #5 is A.J. Alexy. Much like Hearn, Alexy finished 2021 in the Texas rotation. However, his inability to throw strikes could lead to a quick dismissal from the rotation.
UPDATE – Spencer Howard becomes the #5 starter with decent matchups ahead.
Toronto’s rotation is one of the best we’ve seen in years. However, April’s schedule is a brutal one. Still, you drafted most of these arms at a premium and will likely need to start them. Hyun Jin Ryu gets a more tantalizing first pair of starts, but oof, that’s a lot of red! With all the additions to this Blue Jays lineup, it’ll be too challenging to leave #1-#4 on your bench. But I’d have to wait and see on Yusei Kikuchi before tossing him in my lineup.
The Nationals don’t get a day off until the end of April. This should make the projected rotation schedule relatively straightforward, except for Stephen Strasburg not ready until May. With Strasburg out, that bumps Josiah Gray out @PIT and home vs. ARI. Instead, we get a couple of good matchups for Paolo Espino and Erick Fedde. No, thank you!
UPDATE – Joan Adon was added to the rotation, and Espino is out.
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)