How do NL West rotations stack up?
Teams may have five-man rotations, but as recent history shows, a club needs more than five starters to get through a full season.
That’s why front offices value depth and dependability almost as much as high-end talent when it comes to putting together their pitching staffs.
With that in mind, here’s an early look at the five starting rotations in the National League West.
• NL West position-by-position: Catcher | Middle INF | Corner INF | Outfield
The best: Dodgers
It’s true that Clayton Kershaw isn’t quite the pitcher he used to be and the loss of Hyun-Jin Ryu hurts, but the Dodgers have the best starter in the division in Walker Buehler, and they’ve got young up-and-comers that have front-end stuff. Kershaw and Buehler anchor the rotation, and David Price, reportedly acquired alongside Mookie Betts, gives Los Angeles two former Cy Young Award winners.
After that, it’s more wide open. The most accomplished candidate for one of the final spots is Alex Wood, but he’s coming off a back injury that limited him to one win in 2019. Jimmy Nelson, another bounceback candidate, missed all of '18 and most of '19 with right shoulder and elbow injuries. Julio Urías has the most talent, but a left shoulder injury in '18 and a suspension in '19 under MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy make him a wild card.
Then there are top pitching prospects Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, although the Dodgers often have rookies begin the season in the Minor Leagues to manage their innings so they have arm strength left for October.
The rest (in alphabetical order)
Injuries and ineffectiveness tested the D-backs' pitching depth in 2019. While that may have weighed them down at times last year, it also gave them an opportunity to give some of their younger pitchers some valuable experience. Add in the free-agent signing of Madison Bumgarner and the decision not to deal pending free agent Robbie Ray, and the Arizona rotation is deep with intense competition expected for at least the final spot.
Provided he’s past a right elbow injury that ended his season last May, Luke Weaver enters Spring Training with a rotation spot, as does veteran Mike Leake, who will be counted on to provide innings. Fifth-spot candidates include right-handers Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, along with lefty Alex Young, who are all coming off good seasons. Righties Taylor Clarke, Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener are among the young pitchers who provide additional depth and insurance.
After losing franchise icon Madison Bumgarner to the D-backs, the Giants will be leaning on veterans Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to lead a starting staff that ranked 13th in the National League with a 4.77 ERA last year. Cueto will be entering his first full season after Tommy John surgery, but he could replace Bumgarner’s production at the top of the rotation if he’s healthy. San Francisco bolstered its depth by bringing in two newcomers -- Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly -- on one-year deals, but it'll be counting on both to improve on their mixed results in 2019.
Tyler Beede and Logan Webb showed flashes of promise as rookies last season, and they will aim to further their development under Gabe Kapler’s new coaching staff. They will be the favorites to round out the Giants’ rotation, though Webb is expected to be on an innings limit, which could hurt his chances of making the Opening Day roster. Tyler Anderson, Dereck Rodríguez, Andrew Suárez, Shaun Anderson and Conner Menez will also come into camp as starters, as will San Francisco's No. 6 prospect, Sean Hjelle, who could be ready to debut later this summer.
The Rockies' rotation led the National League with 932 innings pitched in 2018, when the team made the postseason, but the staff saw its ERA balloon to 5.87 in '19. It will be largely the same hurlers working in '20. Righties German Márquez and Jon Gray are coming off solid years, but Colorado sorely needs lefty Kyle Freeland (fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting in '18) to shake off last season's slumps and injuries (blister on left middle finger, left groin strain). The club also needs its group of talented but inconsistent hurlers -- righties Antonio Senzatela (double figures in wins two of his three seasons), Jeff Hoffman, Chi Chi González, Peter Lambert and Tim Melville -- to take the next step.
The Padres entered the offseason with serious question marks in their rotation. But they couldn’t line up on any major trades, and the price tags were too high on a handful of free agents. The club instead turned its focus to the offense and the bullpen, leaving the starting five mostly intact. Coming off an excellent rookie season, Chris Paddack should sit toward the front of the rotation, while Dinelson Lamet and Garrett Richards -- both of whom returned from Tommy John surgery last year -- are back to full strength. Zach Davies and Joey Lucchesi are favorites to round out the starting five, but San Diego has a number of young arms who could make a push. That includes top prospects MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño, who are long shots for the Opening Day roster but expected contributors in 2020 nonetheless.