See the first entry on pitching for an explanation of the method being used here.
#1: Dodgers. Brett Anderson (#69 overall, 2.0 WAR)
Finally, a chink in the Los Angeles armor: while #1-4, their rotation is almost as good as anyone, it's as shallow as a Hollywood after-party. Anderson has been solid when healthy, with a career ERA+ of 112; but the last part is what matters, since there are serious questions about his health. Over 2011-2014, he has averaged only eight starts and 52 innings per year. Potential alternative, Brandon Beachy, is little better. He's Hudsoning, i.e. rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery, and last threw a major-league pitch in August 2013. If there's bad luck with health here, the Dodgers' campaign could quickly be thrown into significant disarray.
#2. Rockies. Kyle Kendrick (#92, 1.6)
This is a late addition, Kendrick having been signed by the Rockies earlier this month to a one-year $5.5 million contract, after I drew up the initial chart; he will probably be their #3 or 4 in reality, but the difference at the back end is not hugely significant. Kendrick allowed 25 home-runs last year, pitching for the Phillies, and that's not a good omen for Coors. Still, the intent is to eat innings in a season where Colorado aren't seriously expected to contend, and allow prospects like Eddie Butler and Jon Gray time to develop. Or in the former's case, show health,since both his regular campaign and AFL season were impacted by shoulder soreness. Never a good sign.
#3. Padres. Odrisamer Despaigne (#138, 0.5)
There figures to be a battle for the fifth spot in San Diego's rotation this spring with Brandon Morrow the other leading contender, and Robbie Erlin + Matt Wisler the other contenders. Morrow is expected to have the best numbers over 200 innings, but has made only ten and six major-league starts in 2013 and 2014 respectively, so health is a reasonable concern. Despaigne came within four outs of the Padres' first no-hitter against the Mets, and had a sparkling 1.83 ERA over eight home starts. Elsewhere, however: not so much. 1-6 with a 5.31 ERA on the road - and he never pitched in Coors. He did lose twice to the Diamondbacks at Chase, however.
#4. Giants. Ryan Vogelsong (#139, 0.5)
The indications are that it won't actually be Vogelsong, with the Giants making another effort to get Tim Lincecum back in the rotation. Given Timmeh is being paid $18 million this year, makes sense they'd want more than long relief, and he projects at 1.4 WAR over 200 innings, which would be a better, two-star option. But as McC note in that link, the trends have all been the wrong way for Lincecum and even they aren't optimistic about him rediscovering his mojo. Doubt we'll see him the opening series, so I'm sure Paul Goldschmidt is hoping Lincecum sticks around at least long enough in the Giants rotation for the four-game set in San Francisco, beginning April 16.
#5: Diamondbacks. Josh Collmenter (#144, 0.4)
Collmenters gets severely downgraded because his numbers have consistently outperformed his peripherals, in particular Josh's strikeout rate. Last year, he struck out only 5.8 per nine innings, ranking him 75th among the 88 qualifying pitchers in the majors. More balls in play = more hits, but last year, Collmenter's BABIP was only .271. While not too far off his career mark (.277), that may not be sustainable. On the other hand, he was "anti-clutch", pitching better with the bases empty (OPS .641) than with RISP (.731), and that may help negate BABIP regression. Let's hope Josh is one of those who can do well, without missing a lot of bats.
Given our raft of candidates, it's worth looking at other names, who didn't pitch enough innings to make the top five and qualify for a slot. Leading these is Patrick Corbin, who projects to be worth 3.1 WAR, which would make him a five-star candidate if he delivered on that. However, we can basically forget any chance of getting the necessary 200 innings from him, and I'm just hoping he shows he's healthy enough to be relied upon in 2016, rather than for great things this year. Chase Anderson projects at 2.1 WAR over 200 IP, and Vidal Nuno 1.8, both solid three stars. However, the projections don't give Archie Bradley or Bronson Arroyo enough innings to extrapolate reasonably.
Virtually every team in the division has uncertainties at this spot, with the projections not necessarily an accurate predictor of who will open the season in that position. Collmenter could end up as our Opening Day starter come April, though I would be happier if he started getting more strikeouts. I think our rotation may be the weakest in the division on Opening Day, but through a combination of those returning from injury and those coming up through the farm system, it's probably going to be better at the end of the year than the beginning. Still, here's hoping to a less-frigid start than 2014, when our rotation had a 6.29 ERA through the first 31 games to the end of April.