Milwaukee Brewers:Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narverson. As good as this group was last season, it ranked just sixth in the National League in rotation ERA. The main issue is that Gallardo's 3.52 ERA was the best on the staff, and he had just the 39th-best ERA among starters with at least 162 innings. Gallardo and Greinke may improve, but it's also possible Marcum and Wolf will regress.
Tampa Bay Rays:James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Wade Davis/Jeff Niemann. The Rays led the AL with a 3.53 rotation ERA in 2011 and will be adding über-prospect Moore this year. That said, keep in mind: (A.) The Rays play in a pitcher-friendly ballpark; (B.) They have one of the best defenses in the majors to help out; (C.) Hellickson lived off an impossible-to-repeat BABIP of .224, the lowest average a starter has allowed since 1988; (D.) Shields was awesome with a 2.82 ERA, but he's also one season removed from leading the AL in hits and home runs allowed.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks:Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, Joe Saunders, Josh Collmenter. The D-backs' rotation ERA in 2011 was 3.84, but as I pointed out yesterday, that included 31 starts from scrubs at the bottom of the rotation who combined for a 6.07 ERA. As is, thanks to the durability of Kennedy, Hudson and Saunders, who all topped 200 innings, Arizona still ranked second in the NL in starters' innings. They've replaced those bottom feeders with Cahill and I also like that they have depth in the wings with prospects Trevor Bauer and Wade Miley. Nobody survives with just five starters, and it's that depth that I think gives Arizona the slight edge over division rival San Francisco.
4. New York Yankees:CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett/Phil Hughes/Freddy Garcia. While it's true that Brian Cashman improved the rotation last week with the acquisitions of Kuroda and Pineda, keep in mind that the Yankee rotation was actually pretty good last season, and that was with Burnett and Hughes combining for a 5.36 ERA over 46 starts. The main reason this group doesn't rank higher: Pineda and Nova haven't proven they can handle a 200-inning workload, as Pineda threw 171 innings and Nova 165 as rookies.
3. Texas Rangers: Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz. Let's be clear here: Lewis may have been tabbed as the Opening Day starter, but Darvish is expected to be the ace of this team. The Rangers didn't shell out more than $100 million for a No. 3 starter. The Texas rotation was vastly underrated last season, as it posted a 3.65 ERA (third in the AL), despite pitching in the best hitting park in the AL. The concerns are that Feliz is moving from the bullpen and remains a bit of wild card, both in production and durability; remember, Alexi Ogando made the same move in 2011 and was fatigued by the end of the season. Harrison also threw over 200 innings between the regular season and playoffs, so we'll have to see how he rebounds from the heaviest workload of his career. But having depth with Ogando and Feldman helps alleviate some of those concerns.
2. Los Angeles Angels:Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana, Jerome Williams. Weaver, Haren and Santana averaged 234 innings in 2011 and now they've add Wilson to the mix. He threw 223 innings for the Rangers. The last team with four starters to pitch 220 innings? The 1997 Atlanta Braves. That team won 101 games. Wilson could have a monster season -- after all, he posted a 2.31 ERA on the road last year and allowed just six home runs in 18 starts. Pitching behind Weaver and Haren should take away some of the pressure of the big contract. Yes, Williams is a bit of a question mark in the five-hole, but while they traded away Tyler Chatwood the Angels still have power arm Garrett Richards as depth.