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Sizing up the AL East starting rotations and where the Yankees fit

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How do the five AL East starting rotations stack up?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The AL East lacks a clear top team entering the season, and the division's starting pitching are no different. Each team enters 2016 with a bevy of question marks in their starting rotation. The Blue Jays lost David Price and are left with mediocrity. The Orioles staff is filled with middle-to-backend starters. The Rays and Red Sox have bonafide aces, but then some concerns, and the Yankees staff is filled with injury questions.

The division has no clear favorite, and it's not a stretch to say it's up for anyone to win. Whichever team gets the most production and health from their starting rotation will have a huge leg up on the field. Here's how each team's rotation breaks down.

Blue Jays

Projected Rotation: Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez

In the Mix: Jesse Chavez, Drew Hutchison

FanGraphs 2016 Steamer Projections:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Marcus Stroman 186.0 7.6 2.3 0.9 .305 71.8 % 3.72 3.64 3.3
R.A. Dickey 204.0 6.1 2.9 1.3 .288 71.7 % 4.34 4.75 1.1
Marco Estrada 163.0 6.9 2.7 1.5 .280 73.9 % 4.25 4.77 0.8
J.A. Happ 148.0 7.6 2.8 1.2 .303 72.1 % 4.14 4.16 1.7
Jesse Chavez 133.0 7.8 2.7 1.2 .306 71.8 % 4.14 4.09 1.7
Drew Hutchison 83.0 7.9 2.7 1.3 .308 70.8 % 4.38 4.28 0.9
Aaron Sanchez 28.0 7.1 4.3 0.8 .295 72.8 % 3.98 4.27 0.3
Chad Jenkins 19.0 5.3 2.5 1.3 .303 69.8 % 4.76 4.86 0.1
Arnold Leon 9.0 6.3 2.8 1.4 .306 68.7 % 4.94 4.84 0.0
Total 973.0 7.1 2.7 1.2 .297 72.0 % 4.16 4.31 9.9

The Blue Jays have what should be the best offense in baseball, but the rotation is far more questionable. David Price was great last season down the stretch, and helped stabilize the staff. The reigning division champs will surely miss their former ace. The Jays will rely on Stroman to be their lead man. He's certainly capable of being an ace, but he's far from a sure thing, having pitched less than 160 innings in his big league career.

Marco Estrada had a great 3.13 ERA last season, but he's unlikely to repeat that. He had a 4.40 FIP, doesn't strike out many batters, and gives up too many home runs. J.A. Happ was a solid add, the veteran lefty posted a 1.85 ERA over 11 starts in Pittsburgh down the stretch, but he's nothing more than a 3 or 4 starter, and R.A. Dickey is a backend veteran starter who will throw 200 innings at around a 4.00 ERA.

Chavez and Sanchez figure to battle for the last rotation spot with Chavez likely being the safer option. Sanchez struggled as a starter last season, but was dominant out of the bullpen. Overall, the Blue Jays rotation is deep with seven guys who could prove to be serviceable starters. The problem for the Jays is that outside of Stroman, none are all that good, as evidenced by their peripherals. However, with an offense as potent as the Blue Jays, they could be good enough.

Orioles

Projected Rotation: Chris Tillman, Yovani Gallardo, Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman

In the Mix: Mike Wright

FanGraphs 2016 Steamer Projections:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Chris Tillman 192.0 6.7 3.1 1.2 .295 71.5 % 4.34 4.49 1.8
Yovani Gallardo 176.0 5.9 3.2 1.1 .304 71.3 % 4.36 4.47 1.7
Kevin Gausman 160.0 7.7 2.9 1.1 .303 72.4 % 3.98 4.00 2.4
Ubaldo Jimenez 147.0 8.0 3.8 1.1 .302 71.6 % 4.24 4.26 1.7
Miguel Gonzalez 102.0 6.5 2.9 1.4 .295 71.5 % 4.62 4.87 0.5
Tyler Wilson 74.0 5.7 2.6 1.4 .304 68.3 % 4.95 4.88 0.4
Odrisamer Despaigne 47.0 5.5 2.7 1.3 .301 68.2 % 4.84 4.84 0.3
Dylan Bundy 19.0 7.7 3.3 1.1 .299 72.9 % 4.02 4.19 0.2
Mike Wright 9.0 6.1 2.9 1.3 .302 69.7 % 4.76 4.82 0.1
Parker Bridwell 9.0 7.0 4.7 1.4 .304 69.2 % 5.30 5.30 0.0
Total 935.0 6.8 3.1 1.2 .300 71.2 % 4.38 4.46 9.0

Filled with no top talent, the Orioles' rotation figures to be the worst in the division. The late signing of Gallardo definitely helps, but he's more of an innings-eating 2 or 3 starter than an actual ace. Tillman is still promising, but he was just terrible last season, posting a 4.99 ERA. He did battle injuries, but he's a huge question mark in 2016.

Gausman has a nice repertoire of pitches and has shown some promise. He's a possible breakout candidate, but he's far from a sure thing. As for Jimenez and Gonzalez, well they're just not very good anymore. The Orioles weak rotation is the worst in the AL East in my mind, and it's the main reason I see them finishing in the cellar of the division this season.

Rays

Projected Rotation: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, Erasmo Ramirez

FanGraphs 2016 Steamer Projections:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Chris Archer 196.0 9.3 3.0 0.8 .302 74.7 % 3.23 3.26 4.1
Jake Odorizzi 180.0 8.3 2.7 1.1 .294 74.5 % 3.63 3.83 2.5
Drew Smyly 160.0 8.9 2.6 1.1 .294 76.1 % 3.48 3.72 2.4
Erasmo Ramirez 138.0 6.8 2.6 1.1 .297 70.9 % 4.12 4.21 1.3
Matt Moore 120.0 8.3 3.7 1.1 .300 72.7 % 4.12 4.27 1.0
Alex Cobb 58.0 7.7 2.7 0.8 .301 73.3 % 3.48 3.58 1.0
Blake Snell 37.0 8.8 4.6 1.0 .300 72.8 % 4.12 4.24 0.3
Matt Andriese 28.0 7.1 2.2 0.9 .303 72.4 % 3.66 3.72 0.4
Jacob Faria 19.0 8.1 3.5 1.0 .303 72.5 % 4.03 4.12 0.2
Taylor Guerrieri 9.0 7.1 2.8 1.0 .300 71.8 % 4.01 4.12 0.1
Total 946.0 8.3 2.9 1.0 .298 73.7 % 3.68 3.81 13.4

Tampa Bay has one of the more overlooked rotations, and perhaps teams, in baseball. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees are generally viewed as the division's top three teams, with the Rays and Orioles behind. I, however, think the Rays are closer to the top trio than they are to Baltimore. Chris Archer is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Jake Odorizzi, a former top prospect, was very effective last season, and may live up to the hype.

Drew Smyly battled injuries in 2015, but was great when healthy, and a breakout season could be on the horizon. The lefty has a 3.24 ERA over almost 400 career innings, and he strikes out nearly a batter per inning. Erasmo Ramirez was one of the most improved starters in baseball last season, and he'll only get better. Baseball Prospectus' projections give him a 66% chance to improve from last season, and a 33% chance to breakout.

The Rays don't have a solid fifth starter, but not many teams do. They do, though, have four young, promising starters who have already shown they can be successful in the bigs, and will likely only get better. Also, with Alex Cobb due back around midseason, this is a dangerous rotation that could be the best in the division.

Red Sox

Projected Rotation: David Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly

In the Mix: Roenis Elias, Henry Owens, Steven Wright

FanGraphs 2016 Steamer Projections:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
David Price 213.0 9.1 1.8 0.9 .310 75.3 % 3.14 3.05 5.0
Rick Porcello 191.0 6.9 2.0 1.0 .312 70.1 % 4.00 3.75 2.8
Clay Buchholz 167.0 7.7 2.4 0.8 .311 71.2 % 3.77 3.58 2.8
Eduardo Rodriguez 140.0 7.4 2.6 1.0 .308 72.1 % 3.90 3.86 1.9
Roenis Elias 128.0 7.4 3.6 1.0 .307 70.6 % 4.37 4.34 1.0
Joe Kelly 38.0 7.5 3.2 0.8 .313 71.6 % 3.99 3.90 0.5
Brian Johnson 37.0 7.3 3.7 1.0 .304 71.0 % 4.34 4.38 0.3
Henry Owens 37.0 7.7 4.2 1.1 .300 72.2 % 4.38 4.54 0.2
Steven Wright 9.0 6.5 2.8 1.2 .302 70.9 % 4.36 4.41 0.1
Brandon Workman 9.0 6.9 3.2 1.3 .309 69.7 % 4.74 4.59 0.0
Total 969.0 7.7 2.5 0.9 .309 71.9 % 3.84 3.74 14.7

Last year's strategy of "we're all the ace," turned into "We're all not very good." The good news for Boston fans, though, is that this season should be better. Adding Price is huge. He's a bonafide ace, and an innings-eater. Overall, he's one of the best pitchers in baseball, and has proven he can do it in the AL East. It's fair to claim adding him and Kimbrel, combined with their already good offense, makes them the division favorite. However, I think the rest of the rotation should still be a concern.

Clay Buchholz's ERA has been up and down over the span of his career, and he's a huge health risk. Rick Porcello is coming off a season in which his ERA was almost 5.00, but his peripherals do suggest there are better things to come this season after posting a 3.23 xFIP in the second half. Eduardo Rodriguez is a promising young lefty, but there's plenty of risk attached to him as well. He's battling a knee injury and isn't a lock to be ready for the season. He's also had an up and down minor league career.

Joe Kelly and Roenis Elias will fight for the fifth starter spot, but neither should be counted on. Kelly's velocity hasn't led to the expected results, and Elias has control issues with mediocre results–he posted 4.14 ERA and 4.52 FIP last season. So while the Red Sox rotation will certainly be better than last season, and Steamer projects them to be the best staff in the division, it's still a risky group.

Yankees

Projected Rotation: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, CC Sabathia

In the Mix: Ivan Nova

FanGraphs 2016 Steamer Projections:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Masahiro Tanaka 185.0 8.3 1.8 1.2 .296 73.5 % 3.58 3.65 3.5
Michael Pineda 153.0 8.1 1.5 1.1 .308 72.3 % 3.60 3.44 3.2
Luis Severino 151.0 8.3 3.0 1.1 .299 73.2 % 3.81 3.95 2.3
Nathan Eovaldi 151.0 7.4 2.6 1.0 .313 70.9 % 4.08 3.88 2.4
CC Sabathia 133.0 7.3 2.6 1.3 .310 69.9 % 4.54 4.37 1.4
Ivan Nova 102.0 6.6 2.8 1.1 .306 70.0 % 4.41 4.44 1.0
Bryan Mitchell 38.0 7.3 4.4 1.1 .308 69.7 % 4.82 4.75 0.2
Luis Cessa 28.0 6.3 2.7 1.4 .308 68.5 % 4.92 4.75 0.2
Tyler Olson 19.0 6.5 3.2 1.2 .296 71.6 % 4.35 4.61 0.1
Total 960.0 7.7 2.4 1.1 .305 71.5 % 4.02 3.98 14.3

The Yankees rotation has as much potential as any in the division, but they also have a ton of risk. Tanaka is an ace with nasty stuff when he's healthy, but the problem has been avoiding the DL as Yankee fans know. Pineda, meanwhile, has arguably the most upside of anyone in the rotation. He strikes people out, barely walks anyone, and has the pitching repertoire of an ace. All the peripherals, like his 2.95 xFIP from last season, suggest a breakout is coming, but we're still waiting.

Severino is loaded with potential, but his 4.37 FIP from 2015 indicate regression is likely. And as much as we're all expecting a breakout season from Eovaldi thanks to his strong second half, velocity, and new splitter, he too has concerns. He's been extremely hittable throughout his career, and the Yankees will want to keep an eye on his health after he missed most of September with right elbow inflammation.

The Yankees rotation could be the best in the division if things break their way. However, if injuries and inconsistencies get the better of them, that surely won't be the case.

You can determine for yourself who has the best rotation in the division. These projections order them Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, but other projections differ. Personally, I think a case can be made for the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays, with Toronto and Baltimore a tier below.

There are plenty of questions surrounding the AL East this year. Asking who has the best rotation is just one of many.