We've heard a great deal about one specific rotation in this division, and rightly so, but that team isn't alone in employing an impressive group of starting pitchers. Beyond Philadelphia adding ace Cliff Lee, the biggest starting pitching acquisition in the division is probably Florida's Javier Vazquez signing, but even so there is some really good pitching in this division outside of Philadelphia. We'll take a good look at that today.
(And as a side note, if you think that I've missed someone who's likely to be a rotation candidate this spring, let me know in the comments. I don't think I missed anyone obvious, though.)
5) Nationals: Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, John Lannan, Tom Gorzelanny, Jordan Zimmermann, Yunesky Maya, J.D. Martin, Chad Gaudin
If you wanted to know how much the Nationals are going to miss Stephen Strasburg next season, this lineup should give you a pretty good idea. Zimmermann is really the shining beacon of hope here, as the club is hoping that he'll prove to be a solid sidekick to Strasburg come 2012. Gorzelanny and Maya give them a couple more potentially interesting long-term options, but for the most part this team's 2011 rotation is a solid reflection of what they expect to do next season, and it's not much.
4) Mets: Johan Santana, Jonathan Niese, Mike Pelfrey, Chris Young, R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee
This rotation looks a lot better with Santana at the top of it, but he's likely to begin next season on the disabled list while he rehabs his shoulder after surgery. Niese and Pelfrey should both provide solid innings; I like Niese a lot more than Pelfrey because he's a lefty and he misses more bats, but there's a ton of value in Pelfrey's durability and you could find teams with worse guys beyond their de facto ace. They added Young and Capuano over the winter, but I'm not really sure if those guys will make a positive impact considering that Young's pitched 198 innings over the past three seasons and that's nearly three times the action that Capuano has seen in the same period. You can envision this being a good rotation if Santana comes back strong, but there are numerous reasons to be skeptical.
3) Marlins: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Javier Vazquez, Chris Volstad, Alex Sanabia, Sean West
If Vazquez reverts to his 2009 form and a couple other things go right, this could end up being the best rotation in the division. It's a very long shot, but the upside is there and there's admittedly some value in that. I don't know if I'm alone here, but this rotation really intrigues me. Johnson is obviously a stud at the top, but the guys behind him could conceivably be pretty strong as well. Nolasco has been among the unluckiest pitchers in the game over the past two years in terms of ERA vs. FIP, but he routinely puts up elite K-BB marks. Sanchez finally put everything together last season and quietly emerged as a very solid No. 3 starter. And we already talked about Vazquez. With those four and an interesting trio of young starters in Volstad, Sanabia and West, it's not that crazy to wonder if the Marlins have contender potential.
2) Braves: Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Kenshin Kawakami, Rodrigo Lopez
Philadelphia's vaunted rotation has cast a shadow over the rest of the division, but the Braves still employ a rotation that could fairly be described as one of the best in the game. Hudson and Lowe give the Braves two durable veterans that keep the ball on the ground and suck up innings. Hanson gives them someone with ace potential and we've already seen how good Jurrjens can be when he's healthy. And beyond that very strong front four, there's an astonishing amount of depth. Minor is one of the top pitching prospects in the game, and they have three more MLB-quality starters behind him in Beachy, Kawakami and Lopez. They don't have the ability to dominate like the Phillies, but they could probably handle some injuries better.
1) Phillies: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley
This rotation is absolutely stacked. There's not much else to say other than noting the lack of depth, but even if you take out one of the front four this rotation is still quite strong. It's easy to forget that they're spending roughly $70 million on this group next season, but there's a huge difference between wasting $70 million and spending $70 million on a potentially dominant rotation.