Deepest Rotation in Baseball

 When it comes to sports the old rendition that universally proves true is: offense gets you in the playoffs but defenses wins championships. So with that in mind and opening day right around the corner, I feel like now is as good as any to take a look at the upcoming baseball season or more specifically, what I believe to be the deepest rotation in baseball. Funny thing is, its right in my backyard with the Tampa Bay Rays. From top to bottom, the Rays have the deepest rotation in the American League, if not all of baseball. They are a legitimate five deep with three more capable starters waiting in the wings. From the veteran leader James Shields to the hotshot rookie Matt Moore, this rotation has everything you’d ever want from a Major League starting five.


Number 1 Starter – James Shields


The wily veteran of the staff at the tender age of 30, he’s called the “hammer” for a reason. Last year, he enjoyed a career year going 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA, with 225 strikeouts, a major league high 11 complete games all-culminating in his first All-Star selection. Shields is known for his nasty changeup that drops like an absolute rock making even the best of hitters look like golfers, swinging at air. He follows that up with his 4-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s with a falling action that strays away from righties and in on lefties. In addition, he has a cut fastball that he mixes in that slides left and right depending on the placement. Finally, he rounds it out with a curveball that he drops every few games that tucks well over the plate. All told, he is the ace of the staff with the ability to shutdown any lineup on any given day.


Number 2 Starter – David Price


The budding superstar of the staff Price is just entering his prime at 26 years of age. The 2-time All-Star has famous for winning and saving postseason games before a regular season game, has finally realizing his potential and ascending to the elite of the game. Coming into the league as the number 1 overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, Price had a lot of hype surrounding him and he’s rise to meet those high expectations. Last year, coming off a season where he started the All-Star game and finished second in Cy Young voting Price might have what some consider a down year with a 12-13 record, sporting a 3.49 ERA and 218 strikeouts. However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that Price had an even better year than the previous. He lowered his walk rate to 2.5 batters per 9-innings and The pitch he most relies on is his running fastball that can slide both left and right and can go up to 100 mph. He throws it on average 70 percent of the time, often relying a little to heavily on it. The second pitch in his repertoire is his curveball, which he has learned how to harness and use as a weapon on lefties to get a surprise strike. He follows that up with an over-the-top changeup, which he uses, to great effect to mystify hitters when they’re cheating on his fastball. Finally, there’s the pitch he came out of college with, his slider. While early in his career, this pitch was his out pitch but as time has passed he’s lost a feel for it, only using it when he’s at his best. All told, Price is a bona-fide All-Star with a chance at the Hall-of-Fame when it’s all said and done.


Number 3 Starter – Jeremy Hellickson


Hellboy as they call him had a hell of a year. The reigning rookie of the year is coming off a fantastic year where he sported a 13-10 record, 2.95 ERA and 150 strikeouts. With his outstanding year, he’s moved up the staff from number 5 starter to number 3. Its not that Hellickson does any one thing amazingly, he just does everything well. From his breezy 92 mph fastball to his cutting slider, Hellickson just makes everything look easy. But with all that goodness, there are some warts. For one thing, his strikeout rate is pretty low at 5.2 strikeouts per 9 innings and an insanely low BABIP or batting average on balls in play of .223. All told, whatever we see from Jeremy Hellickson this year, he has great things in his future.


Number 4 Starter – Matt Moore


The rookie rockstar. The rookie made a loud statement last postseason holding the eventual AL champs scoreless for 7 innings on the way to leading the Rays to there only postseason victory. The 2-time minor league strikeout champ and reigning minor league player of the year for his ability to pound the strike-zone with 3 elite pitches, Moore is ready for the big show. He brings a heavy heater with more movement than a jackrabbit with the ability to go up to 98 and higher. He follows that with a 12-6 curveball that he uses to breakdown hitters as it drills down from right to left. Finally it all comes together with his change up with a nice fade action and circle slide. Bring it all together and you have a prospect destined for greatness. I expect great things from a full year from Moore. He is the total package, a left-hander with control and elite stuff, who can put this rotation over the top.


Number 5 Starter – Jeff Niemann


The giraffe is back! Though he again battled the injury bug last year, he still managed to scrounge together very respectable numbers of an 11-7 record with a 4.06 ERA and 105 strikeouts. At 6-9, he uses his tall frame to throw his fastball down on a plane making it seem as though its exploding out of his hand as hitter have a hard time getting up on the ball. He compliments it with a curveball the swirls in on lefties and away from righties. Finally, he has his reliable change-up, which can dip in and out of the strike zone at his so choosing. Well he does nothing spectacularly, when healthy, he has come to be very reliable with a craftiness to get out of any trouble. Crafty is a good word to describe Niemann as he uses his intelligence to out maneuver any opponent he faces.

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