MLB: Top 5 Pitching Rotations Ahead of The 2021 Season

Pitching was important in last year’s MLB 60-game season. A full season of 162 games is planned for this upcoming season and pitching once again will play a vital role in each team’s success.

The decision to not have the designated hitter in only the American League will play a role in pitchers having more success. MLB also decided to go back to its format of five postseason teams beginning with a win-or-go-home wild-card game.

If you ask me, the best pitching is in one league — the National League. The very best of the league’s pitching rotations are found by following these simple directions. Start east and stay west.

Here are the top five pitching rotations in the league for this season.

Washington Nationals starting rotation
Photo Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

5.Washington Nationals

The Nationals rotation will be comprised of players who had a rough going last season. They will have to prove themselves two years removed from the franchises’ first World Series title. Washington suffered a disappointing 5.09 team ERA, putting them at the bottom of the league.

So why did they struggle? Strasburg threw a total of five innings. Corbin saw velocity on his pitches drop.

The pitching rotation will look like this: Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Stephen Strasburg, Jon Lester and Joe Ross. Scherzer took a dip in his usual production but remains one of baseball’s toughest competitors.

Ross opted out before the season but has shown flashes of improvement in spring training. Lester signed with the team in the offseason after a 3-3 season a 5.16 ERA with the Chicago Cubs.

The team’s rotation shows a nice balance of right-handers in Scherzer, Strasburg, and Ross mixed in between lefties Corbin and Lester. The trio of Scherzer, Strasburg, and Lester each pitched in a World Series. Having that experience will help. Both Scherzer and Strasburg have more strikeouts in their career than innings pitched.

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

4. New York Mets

The New York Mets will be led by two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. He turned his third straight sub-2.45 ERA season in 2020 and led the National League in strikeouts.

The Mets will look to newcomer right-hander Carlos Carrasco to solidify a solid rotation. He went 3-4 with a 2.94 ERA with the Cleveland Indians before being traded in the offseason.

Marcus Stroman was traded in 2019 from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Mets. He decided not to play in 2020 because of the pandemic. He was considered an ace for the Blue Jays staff and will have less stress to perform well thanks to a deep rotation.

Left-handers David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi are at the back end of the rotation. During the 2020 MLB season, Peterson had a strong showing in nine starts, finishing with a 6-2 record and a 3.44 ERA. He will look to build on a promising rookie campaign. Lucchesi has spent three years in the majors, all with the San Diego Padres. He has a career 18-20 record with a 4.21 ERA.

You can’t forget about Noah Syndergaard who hopes to rejoin the rotation in June. No timetable is set as he recovers from his elbow injury. Currently, he is listed on the 60-day injured list. Thor has been a solid starter and it will be interesting to see how and when they use him.

MLB Winter Meetings
Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

3. San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres made it very clear they wanted to compete during the 2020 MLB offseason by making trades for right-hander Yu Darvish and left-hander Blake Snell. Both pitchers are Cy Young candidates almost every season and have World Series experience. The duo will be the driving force behind the Padres’ starting rotation.

In last year’s MLB pandemic-shortened season, Darvish was 8–3 with a 2.01 ERA. He led the National League in wins and was second in ERA, walks per nine innings pitched, and home runs per nine innings pitched. Snell was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA. He became the first player in World Series history to strike out nine or more batters in fewer than five innings pitched. The nine strikeouts set a franchise postseason record.

Behind the pitching prowess of Darvish and Snell will be a trio of right-handers in Dinelson Lamet, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Paddack. All three will have to push through growing pains.

Although a short season, Lamet had a strong 2020. He struck out 93 batters in 69 innings and registered a 2.09 ERA. Musgrove went 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA. He struck out 55 batters in 39.2 IP, allowing just 17 earned runs. Paddack went 4-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 59 innings.

Atlanta Braves
Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

2. Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves pushed the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers to the brink of a seven-game series in the NCLS last year. I expect nothing less again this year. So, why are the Braves ahead of the Nationals, Mets and Padres pitching staff? The simple answer is depth and MLB experience.

The Braves rotation has a solid mix of young talented and proven veteran arms. Left-handed Max Fried is the ace and continues to grow each season. He will be followed by a trio of right-handers in Mike Soroka, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson. Southpaw veteran Drew Smyly completes the five-man rotation.

Fried, Soroka and Anderson bring a nostalgic feel to Braves fans much like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery did in the 90s. These young arms will be given an opportunity to continue to grow both physically and mentally. That can only help the Braves when postseason play begins.

Having Morton, who has World Series experience, will be a valuable commodity to the young pitching staff. Smyly, who has bounced around different teams and leagues, will add a veteran presence in the clubhouse.

The options don’t end with five starting rotation guys. A trio of right-handers in Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and Huascar Ynoa all are battling for the final fifth slot. Each will get their opportunity throughout the season to prove themselves although Wright leads the group at the moment. Veteran Josh Tomlin and Touki Toussaint are also valuable options should injuries arise for Atlanta.

<img src="×576.jpg" alt="MLB Playoffs
Photo Credit: USA Today Images

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s hard to argue with results. Last year the Los Angeles Dodgers put it all together to win their first World Series title since 1988. This year, it appears the rich keep getting richer.

The Dodgers rotation will include Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, David Price and Julio Urias. The rotation is a solid combination of three lefties in Kershaw, Price and Urias mixed in with right-handers Bauer and Buehler. Much like the Braves, Los Angeles has a proven stable of arms to call upon. The final spot in the rotation could easily be filled with Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, or Urias. All three pitched in the rotation last year and each made his case for why he belongs.

Kershaw finished the 2020 playoff campaign with a 2.93 ERA in five starts. He’s always in the conversation for the Cy Young award and is a proven veteran.

Bauer signed the largest contract in league history and is the reigning National League Cy Young winner. He went 5-4 with a league-best 1.73 ERA with two complete games and two shutouts.

Buehler has proven himself a valuable commodity in his four short seasons as a pro. He has a career 24-9 record with a 3.15 ERA. Last season he went 1-0 in eight games with a 3.44 ERA.

Price will be the question mark in the rotation. The 2012 Cy Young award winner did not pitch during the 2020 season. During the 2019 season, he was placed on the injured list on August 5 for a triangular fibrocartilage cyst on his left wrist. He has not pitched since and has tossed just four innings in spring training.

Urias went 3-0 last season with a 3.27 ERA in 10 starts. May earned a 3-1 mark with a 2.57 ERA in 12 games. Gonsolin recorded a 2-2 mark with a 2.31 ERA in eight starts. All three players will contribute as the Dodgers look to continue their dominance in the NL.

Do you agree with Michael’s top MLB pitching rotation picks? Let us know.

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