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MLB rotation rankings 2023: Best starting rotations in baseball before Opening Day

Which MLB team has the best rotation? The return of Sportsnaut’s 2023 MLB rotation rankings aims to answer who has the best starting rotation in baseball. Following an active offseason, there is plenty of shakeups compared to last season’s list.

Depth and injuries obviously play a part in evaluating starting rotations across the league. The New York Yankees already lost Frankie Montas for months and Milwaukee Brewers’ Aaron Ashby is out indefinitely. Factor in some of the best pitchers in MLB carrying their own durability issues and things can change quickly.

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Let’s dive into our 2023 MLB rotation rankings before Opening Day. It will receive updates every few months, after the MLB trade deadline and before the playoffs.

MLB stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference

2023 MLB rotation rankings: Who has the best starting rotation?

Just Missed: Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox

10. Los Angeles Dodgers

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  • Los Angeles Dodgers rotation: Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Noah Syndergaard, Dustin May, Ryan Pepiot

The Los Angeles Dodgers had some of the best pitching depth in MLB last season, but things change. Walker Buehler (Tommy John surgery) is on the 60-day IL, while Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney left in free agency. It significantly depletes the wealth of arms in Los Angeles.

With that said, the Dodgers are still No. 10 in our MLB rotation rankings. Clayton Kershaw posted a 2.28 ERA last season, marking the second time in three years he delivered a sub-3 ERA and opponents have averaged a .210 batting average against him over the last 54 starts.

Alongside Kershaw, Julio Urias (2.16 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) and Tony Gonsolin (2.14 ERA, .172 BAA) can perform at an All-Star level. Dustin May is back, just on an innings limit, and Noah Syndergaard should thrive as an innings-eater who should keep his ERA around 3.8-4.2.

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9. Tampa Bay Rays

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  • Tampa Bay Rays rotation: Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs, Zach Eflin, Yonny Chirinos

The return of a healthy Tyler Glasnow, even if he is on an innings limit, is huge for the Tampa Bay Rays’ starting rotation. After years of leading the charge with the usage of openers, manager Kevin Cash doesn’t have to take the unconventional approach in 2023.

Shane McClanahan (2.54 ERA0, 30.3% K-rate) is coming off a phenomenal season and the 25-year-old southpaw will serve as the ace of Tampa Bay’s rotation. Behind him, Glasnow will be an All-Star if he replicates his 2021 numbers (2.66 ERA, 12.58 K/). Even former relief pitcher Drew Rasmussen (2.84 ERA in 2022) projects as a high-end No. 3 starter.

Zach Eflin and Keffreu S[romgs are the key names to watch. Eflin, signed in free agency, could be unlocked by the Rays’ organization with projects for a sub-3.8 ERA. As for Springs, a 2.70 ERA and 10.35 K/9 over his last 180 IP (207/45 K/BB) should be enough evidence to prove he’s a bonafide starter for an American League contender.

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8. San Diego Padres

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  • San Diego Padres rotation: Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo

An active offseason for the San Diego Padres saw Joe Musgrove (5 years, $100 million) and Yu Darvish (6 years, $108 million) land hefty contract extensions. With their co-aces locked up, San Diego ensures it will enter Opening Day in the top 10 MLB rotation rankings.

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Darvish (3.10 ERA, .205 BAA) and Musgrove (2.93 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) are locks to perform like front-line starts. Behind them, things get trickier. Blake Snell (3.38 ERA, 12.02 K/9) can be dominant, but his 5.22 first-half ERA and .418 SLG allowed the second time through the order highlight issues.

As for Michael Wacha, the 31-year-old didn’t sign until February and his 5.39 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP from 2019-’21 indicates last season’s numbers (3.32 ERA) won’t be repeated. He can function as a back-end starter, but there is trouble if injuries hit Darvish or Musgrove. As for the Padres’ pitching depth (Cole Hamels, Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo, Ryan Weathers), there is plenty.

7. Houston Astros

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  • Houston Astros rotation: Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia, José Urquidy, Lance McCullers Jr, Hunter Brown

The Houston Astros already were headed for a dive in the 2023 MLB rotation rankings after losing Justin Verlander. With Lance McCullers Jr. now sidelined through Opening Day by arm troubles, this pitching staff gets even shakier.

There is still a lot to like. Framber Valdez (2.82 ERA, 0.49 WHIP) is ready to handle being the Astros’ ace. Behind him, Cristian Javier (2.68 ERA, 11.59 K/9) and Luis Garcia (3.72 ERA, .220 BAA) are emerging warhorses. As for Jose Urquidy, a 3.81 ERA across his last 271.1 innings demonstrates his reliability for Houston.

Hunter Brown is the wildcard. The 24-year-old dominated the minor leagues in 2022 before earning a brief stay in the majors (0.89 ERA in 20.1 innings). With McCullers sidelined, Brown slides into a rotation spot. If he is in the running for Rookie of the Year, the Astros’ rotation will thrive. If he struggles and anyone else goes down, Houston has a problem.

6. Philadelphia Phillies

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  • Philadelphia Phillies rotation: Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker, Andrew Painter, Bailey Falter

While the Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation might not feature a perennial Cy Young candidate, there is a feeling of safety with this group. After struggling in 2021 (4.63 ERA), Aaron Nola rebounded last season (3.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) and can be trusted as the ace.

Behind Philadelphia’s Game 1 starter, Zack Wheeler sports an outstanding 2.82 ERA with a .612 winning percentage in three seasons with the Phillies. That gives skipper Rob Thomson a steady co-ace tandem. Behind the duo, Ranger Suárez and Taijuan Walker function as innings eaters.

Andrew Painter is the player who will vastly swing Philadelphia’s placement in the MLB rotation rankings later this season. Turning 20 in April, he is already under consideration for a spot in the starting rotation and he just added a cutter. He tore through Phillies’ minor-league affiliates last season and is now one of the best pitching prospects in MLB. If he’s ready, the ceiling for this pitching staff climbs considerably.

5. Toronto Blue Jays

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  • Toronto Blue Jays rotation: Alex Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, José Berrios, Mitch White, Yusei Kikuchi

Kevin Gausman earned every cent of the contract he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason. Covering 174.2 innings, he delivered a 3.35 ERA with a 10.56 K/9 despite making the move to the AL East. Meanwhile, Alex Manoah (2.24 ERA) made the huge leap that Toronto banked on entering the year.

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Fast forward to 2023 and there should be extreme confidence in Toronto’s trio. Chris Bassitt, one of the most underrated free-agent additions in MLB this offseason, will function perfectly as the No. 2 starter. it sets Toronto up to have a postseason rotation they can trust.

Here’s where the other shoe drops. If Jose Berrīos mechanical adjustments don’t work and he repeats his 2022 struggles (5.23 ERA, .286 BAA, 1.41 WHIP), the Blue Jays essentially have two holes at the back of their rotation. If Berrīos rebounds, though, Toronto will have one of the best MLB rotations in 2023.

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4. Milwaukee Brewers

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  • Milwaukee Brewers rotation: Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer, Wade Miley, Adrian Houser

If not for the Aaron Ashby injury, the Milwaukee Brewers likely snag the No. 3 spot in our preseason MLB rotation rankings. With Ashby sidelined indefinitely and Freddy Peralta carrying an injury risk, Milwaukee moves down.

The Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff tandem is sensational. Either Brewers’ starter can throw his hat into the ring for the NL Cy Young Award any given year. Come October, Milwaukee boasts two starters who it could have overwhelming trust to keep Game 1 and Game 2 close.

Peralta is excellent when healthy, but that wasn’t the case in 2022. Even after an injury-shortened campaign, the 26-year-old holds a 3.20 ERA, 10.93 K/9 and .176 batting average allowed over his last 39 starts.

After that, Milwaukee just trots out arms that can cover five or six innings. Eric Lauer (.3.69 ERA, 4.5 FIP) will regress, while Wade Miley and Adrian Houser are pure No. 5 starters. Overall, the Brewers’ rotation boasts the front-line stars you like and features dependable depth.

3. Atlanta Braves

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  • Atlanta Braves starting rotation: Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson

If the Atlanta Braves win another World Series, pitching will play a monumental part in the outcome. While Atlanta finished last season ranked ninth in starting rotation ERA (3.72), there are a lot of reasons to expect much more in 2023.

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Starting at the top with Max Fried, the 29-year-old southpaw thrived at keeping the ball in the yard (0.58 HR/9) and limiting base runners (1.01 WHIP) last season. He’s joined by Kyle Wright, who posted a 23.6% strikeout rate with a 3.19 ERA last season.

While the numbers might not be at the elite thresholds you see from some other top arms in our MLB rotation rankings, quality depth helps Atlanta stand out. Spencer Strider (38.3% K-rate, .179 BAA) emerged as a potential ace in 2022 and the back-end duo of Mike Soroka and Ian Anderson makes this one of the best MLB rotations in 2023.

2. New York Mets

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  • New York Mets rotation: Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Carlos Carrasco, José Quintana, Tylor Megill

Most teams who lose a future Hall of Famer, arguably one of the most dominant pitchers of our era, would plummet in MLB rotation rankings the following season. Thanks to owner Steve Cohen’s willingness to spend, New York won’t lose a step.

Jacob deGrom was replaced by Justin Verlander. While it’s a slight step back in terms of pure stuff and dominance, Verlander is a far better bet to stay healthy. Landing him also means New York boasts six Cy Young awards to headline their starting rotation.

Taking the place of Chris Bassitt is Kodai Senga. After dominating in Japan (2.25 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.18 K/BB), the 30-year-old now makes his way to the United States. He comes with some durability concerns, but the fastball and overall repertoire should help him function as a high-end No. 3 starter, especially in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.

The Mets’ rotation is also built with a wealth of depth, both in terms of upside and stability. Carlos Carrasco and José Quintana are above-average No. 4 and 5 starters for a World Series contender, especially with the likes of Tylor Megill and David Peterson behind them.

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1. New York Yankees – Best MLB rotation

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  • New York Yankees rotation: Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, Domingo Germän, Clarke Schmidt

The New York Yankees have the best MLB rotation in 2023, even after the injury to Montas. There’s an undeniable element of risk with this group, given the medical red flags with Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino. Our focus, entering Opening Day, is on the upside.

Over the last two seasons, Cole (3.37 ERA, 11.78 K/9) and Rodón (2.67 ERA, 12.13 K/9) have been two of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. Either starter could take the mound for multiple games in a World Series and come out as MVP for the champions.

Cortes is the feel-good story. After bouncing around the majors, he showed flashes of brilliance in 2021 (2.90 ERA, .216 BAA) before becoming an All-Star pitcher in 2022. With a 0.97 WHIP and .198 batting average allowed over his last 42 starts, there are no reasons to question his legitimacy.

Severino is the obvious name that fans will be watching closely. After pitching like a Cy Young candidate in 2017 (2.98 ERA, 10.71 K/9), he is now two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery. If the starter who delivered a 2.63 ERA in his final 24 innings appears, the Yankees will be No. 1 in the MLB rotation rankings for a while. If Severino suffers more arm troubles, with Montas already on the 60-day IL, then New York finds trouble.

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