Every team in the MLB has at least one solid starting pitcher that they can build their rotation around. Some teams have paid their way to have two to three ace-caliber arms (Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals) and some teams have built their way to having two to three ace-caliber arms (Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets).
In just the National League alone, the starting pitching ranks are stacked, as teams have put a higher focus on developing their rotations over other aspects of their ball clubs. Division-wise, the NL East seems to have the best set of arms available on their five teams, with the NL West and Central divisions not far behind.
By division, here is the breakdown of the best starting rotations, compiled of entrants from almost every team in each division. The idea here is to put together the best possible starting rotation of current starting pitchers per division, so there will be three five-man rotations created.
National League East
1 – Max Scherzer, WAS
2 – Jacob deGrom, NYM
3 – Patrick Corbin, WAS
4 – Aaron Nola, PHI
5 – Stephen Strasburg, WAS
Sorry to both the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins, but this division is run by three teams when it comes to starting pitching. The Nationals are the obvious favorites here in this category with three entrants on the list, but both the Mets and Phillies could each have entrants on this list too.
It was somewhat difficult to leave Jake Arrieta off of this list, but it was even more difficult to not find a spot for Noah Syndergaard within the best five. Arrieta is a solid pitcher who turned his days with the Chicago Cubs into a large payday from the city of brotherly love, but he is not a different level compared to these five.
Thor is one of those players who could be interchanged with others, as he is that good. Both he and Aaron Nola seem to be on similar paths, but going with Nola gave the list a bit of flair and opened it up to not just be comprised of two teams.
From the Braves, Julio Tehran and Mike Foltynewicz are the leaders of that rotation and are very solid, but again not on that level to make the list. The Marlins, on the other hand, only sport one quality arm at the moment in Jose Urena, but with the recent acquisition of Sixto Sanchez in the J.T. Realmuto deal with the Phillies, could have the division’s best rotation in a few seasons.
National League Central
1 – Jose Quintana, CHI
2 – Miles Mikolas, STL
3 – Jameson Taillon, PIT
4 – Jhoulys Chacin, MIL
5 – Chris Archer, PIT
This list is a mess, solely because there are obvious omissions due to injury. Yu Darvish and Jon Lester from the Cubs would both make this list, and Alex Wood from the Cincinnati Reds would be in the discussion as well towards the bottom of the list.
Due to current injuries, this is how the division looks in terms of starting pitching, and it comes off as being the weakest in the NL. Both Jose Quintana and Miles Mikolas are solid options at the head of the list, but both have had up and down seasons so far in 2019.
Jameson Taillon, Jhoulys Chacin, and Chris Archer are all wild cards, as their 2018 seasons were either really solid (Chacin) or middle of the road quality (Archer, Taillon). All of these options could rise up the list if they have a solid 2019 season, but they could also slip down or even off if they do not have that good of a season this year.
The Central, as competitive as it is, does not have the type of starting pitching options that other NL foes have at their disposal, so offense and bullpens take the cake in terms of the focuses of these franchises. While starting pitching is important, teams like the Brewers showed last year that in order to win, starting pitchers do not have to go long in a game nor do they actually have to start the game.
National League West
1 – Clayton Kershaw, LAD
2 – Madison Bumgarner, SF
3 – Zack Greinke, ARI
4 – Walker Buehler, LAD
5 – Kyle Freeland, COL
The second-consecutive division that has four teams represented in this list, the NL West is a strong division in terms of starting pitching, but again would be better if healthier. The likes of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill are currently on the Injury List and would be vying for spots on this list.
The Dodgers have built up their team on solid pitching and young, controllable position players, and both Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler are helping to bookend the rotation. While Kershaw is scheduled to pitch against Cincinnati on 4/15 and come off the injury list, Buehler has been holding down the rotation in his absence, helping build off of his strong 2018 season for Los Angeles.