After the Yankees acquired Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, I nearly tweeted out something along the following lines: "Congratulations, Yankees, you now have the second-best rotation in the AL East." Upon further review, though, I decided to hold off. While I really wanted to claim that the Rays still have the best rotation in the East, I didn't want to make the mistake of underrating Pineda or Kuroda in the heat of the moment.
So to go about answering the title of this post, I decided to enlist the help of preseason projections. The ZIPS projections still haven't been released for every team, so I took the average of the three projections available on FanGraphs: the Bill James, Roto Champs, and the Fan projections. Two of these projections tend to be optimistic like woh, but by using the same standard of comparison across both teams, theoretically that should balance out.
So if you view these numbers as a general estimate, the Rays and Yankees have a similar talent level in both their rotations, although the Yankees have a slight advantage in Innings Pitched due to Jeff Niemann's injury history and Matt Moore's youth. There are a number of caveats to these projections, though.
- Will Matt Moore be the best pitcher on the Rays staff during his rookie year? I love Moore, but that projection seems wildly optimistic.
- How will Pineda (a flyball pticher) fare in New York? He'll likely be great, but if his homerun rate spikes a bit, he could end up falling short of these projections.
- How will Kuroda adjust to the American League? It's not always a smooth transition for pitchers, and he's moving from one extreme to another: a pitcher's park in the NL West to a hitter's park in the AL East.
- Which team has more depth in case of injuries? My instinct is to say the Rays, but the Yankees actually have some viable fill-in options. If any Rays starter goes down, they can turn to Alex Cobb or Alex Torres; if the Yankees suffer a few injuries, they have Phil Hughes and Dellin Betances. The Rays have an edge, but this is also decently close.
If nothing else, the Rays edge out the Yankees in upside. While both rotations project around the same, it's not exactly a stretch to think that at least one of Price, Hellickson, or Moore could break out this year. Meanwhile, the Yankees could get big years from Pineda or Nova -- and maybe a bounce-back from Burnett? -- but I still think there are more questions about them than about the Rays' young trio.
Anyone else out there already excited for the first Pineda-Moore matchup? The season can't come soon enough...