While wondering how much Mark Cuban is going to have to pay Matt Kemp next year after Kemp wins the Triple Crown, let's take a stroll through the league's 30 rotations ...
Ryan Vogelsong vs. Barry Zito. Actually this really isn't a battle, as the Giants have already said that Zito will return in a bullpen role, likely at June's end (doubleheader on June 28 would be perfect). With a 1.81 ERA, Vogelsong appears to be a lock for Comeback Player of the Year, and he may even get an All-Star nod considering Bruce Bochy is selecting the pitchers.
Rubby De La Rosa vs. Jon Garland. DLR averages nearly 96 mph with his fastball, while Garland ... doesn't. Garland (shoulder) can return in the next couple days, but we've yet to see anything definitive. Meanwhile, despite a couple hiccups, De La Rosa has looked impressive and will be able to make his next start after leaving his last one due to dehydration. That said, I'd look for DLR back in the bullpen once Garland returns.
The return of Corey Luebke to the rotation? With Dustin Moseley (shoulder) and Aaron Harang ailing, Luebke is probably going to get another chance to start. I like what Luebke offers (3.18 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 in relief), and he could be more than a serviceable NL-only league play when he's starting.
No openings in 'Zona? Barry Enright and Armando Galarraga did a lot of damage before they were shipped out, but this is now a pretty strong unit with Zach Duke pitching well before he got lit up on Monday and Josh Collmenter and his odd deliver resulting in a 1.12 ERA (Gibsonesque). If another starter is needed, look no further than top prospect Jarrod Parker, who general manager Kevin Towers thinks is close. Don't expect too much from the Tommy John survivor (2009), but come 2012, he's a guy to own.
Cook > Nicasio? Aaron Cook has had a pair of serviceable (3.97 ERA good, 6:6 K:BB not good) starts since returning from injury while Juan Nicasio was hit around a little by the Dodgers in start No. 3. Both pitchers probably stick around for now, but Esmil Rogers (back) could be in the mix at some point. Other than that, the Rockies don't have a lot of (decent) alternatives.
McClellan returns. Kyle McClellan is back from a hip injury to fill the No. 5 slot. He's been a nice find with a 6-2 record and 3.98 ERA. A 4.5 K/9 and 1.2 HR/9 should be mitigated by a 2.7 BB/9 and 2.0 GB/FB ratio. So, while I think he ultimately ends up with an ERA greater than 4.00, he's not going to blow up either. Lance Lynn was respectable enough in his two starts to act as the "No. 6 starter." Shelby Miller? Check back next year.
Wandy back, Lyles sticks. Jordan Lyles outpitched Aneury Rodriguez in what could have been "make or break" starts for both, so with Wandy Rodriguez (elbow) back off the DL, it's Lyles who stays in the rotation. The 20-year-old Lyles averages less than 90 mph with his fastball, but appears to have the poise and command to stick around for a long time. Just don't expect big strikeout numbers.
Volquez locked in, Wood in trouble? Edinson Volquez has seemingly turned things around with a 2.08 ERA in two starts. That could leave Travis Wood's job in jeopardy once Homer Bailey (shoulder) returns from the DL sometime in the next couple weeks. With Mike Leake sporting a 1.93 ERA in his last four starts, his job appears safe as well. That leaves Wood potentially the odd man out.
No room in Milwaukee? Three potential aces, a solid veteran innings-eater and Chris Narveson. I haven't ranked them, but Narveson would be near the top of the league's No. 5s with a 4.32 ERA, 8.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. So who's the potential No. 6? Perhaps the club stretches out reliever Sergio Mitre or goes with 29-year-old Sam Narron, but either way, the options are less than attractive.
Any hope in the Steel City? While Pirates fans dream of a Taillon/Cole/Heredia/McDonald/Rudy Owens rotation, the current version has been surprisingly good with a 3.63 ERA that ranks ninth in baseball. Charlie Morton has discovered his command, James McDonald has a 2.84 ERA in his last nine starts and Paul Maholm has a 3.12 ERA. Kevin Correia's eight wins mask a 4.1 K/9, and in the five-hole you have Jeff Karstens. It likely won't last, but even Karstens has a 2.94 ERA, so really no openings now, which is amazing. Brad Lincoln (7.7 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 in Triple-A) would probably be next in line.
Rodrigo Lopez or Doug Davis ... pick your poison. The Cubbies are set in the 1/2/3 slots, but with Randy Wells sporting a 6.50 ERA in slot four, there are really a couple openings. I see little hope for Lopez, Davis, James Russell and Casey Coleman, so are there other names to monitor? Andrew Cashner (shoulder) is probably looking at an August return, and the Cubs likely won't rush top prospect Trey McNutt from Double-A, but hey, Ramon Ortiz has a 4.48 ERA in Triple-A. Excellent.
It's all about Gee-sus. Dillon Gee is 7-0 with a 3.05 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Given that, who's the most vulnerable in the Mets rotation? Actually, the rest of the rotation is going pretty well right now, including Mike Pelfrey (5.11 ERA), who has back-to-back quality starts. Brandon Moore (3.92 ERA, 7.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9) would probably get the call from Triple-A in the event another starter is needed before Johan Santana (shoulder – August return?) gets back.
Kyle or Vance? Worley and Kendrick sounds like one of those law firms that help you out with disability claims, but here they are two pitchers battling to remain in the rotation once Joe Blanton returns from an elbow injury (July). Worley has the higher WHIP at 1.54, but also the much higher upside, though he'll never be anything more than a third or fourth starter. At some point the Phillies have to start molding you pitching talent, so expect Worley to get plenty of chances this year.
Three very good, two very bad. That's the Florida rotation, where, when healthy, Josh Johnson (elbow – out until July), Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco represent a playoff-ready 1-2-3. Then there's Chris Volstad (6.07 ERA) and Javier Vazquez (7.09 ERA) in the final two slots. Brad Hand (assume his parents were "Fast Times" fans) is filling in admirably for Johnson and could keep his job at the expense of Volstad or Vazquez once Johnson is healthy. There really aren't any other upper-minors pitchers worth mentioning.
Waiting for Strasburg. Well Nats fans, at least you have Stephen Strasburg's 2012 return forthcoming. That should make sitting through Yunesky Maya's starts a little more bearable. The Nats are set 1-4 with Jordan Zimmerman, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez, a group that has been surprisingly effective with none having an ERA greater than 3.67. Tom Gorzelanny (elbow) is about a week away, so he'll obviously replace the struggling Maya. Long term, I can't wait to see guys like Brad Peacock (12.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 2.33 ERA in Double-A), Sammy Solis and A.J. Cole join Strasburg and Zimmerman.
2 aces, 2 vets, and much, much more on the way. Ah, to be the pitching factory that is the Braves. Jair Jurrjens' lack of strikeouts probably keeps him out of the Cy Young race, but Tommy Hanson (third in ERA and seventh in strikeouts) might very well be there in the end. Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe are both solid mid-rotation pitchers still, and the Braves have a bounty of options in the five-hole: Brandon Beachy (oblique – due back in two weeks), Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. Short-term, the best option is probably Beachy. Long-term, clearly Teheran.
Learning on the job. Tyler Chatwood's rookie season has had its ups and downs, but that should be expected from a pitcher with just 75 minor league innings above Single-A ball. To show his progress, Chatwood had a 19:27 K:BB in his first eight starts (3.8 K/9, 5.4 BB/9), but in his last six starts, that ratio is 20:11 (6.0 K/9, 3.3 BB/9). Expect the strikeout rate to creep up a little more and the walk rate to remain about the same. Safe to say his job is secure given Scott Kazmir's 17.02 Triple-A ERA.
Cahill hurt? With a 1:10 K:BB in his last two starts and an ERA of 8.27 in his last four, Cahill clearly isn't himself. For the guy with a 2.02 ERA in his first 11 starts to fall apart so quickly is troubling. The A's dodged a bullet with Brett Anderson (elbow), but hopefully they don't have similar issues with Cahill. Tyson Ross (oblique) is about two weeks away and Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) a little longer than that. The other options (Josh Outman, Guillermo Moscoso, etc.) aren't all that appealing, but I do like Graham Godfrey (2.50 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 in Triple-A) a little despite a poor first start.
Seattle underrated? Seattle's starting five leads the American League with a 3.44 ERA, and the Mariners have a surprisingly good bullpen. I'm not sure there is a 1-2 punch I'd rather have the next five years than Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, but Erik Bedard, Doug Fister and Jason Vargas have all been far from chopped liver themselves. As someone is bound to get hurt (Bedard anyone? Odds?), it is worth looking at who would be next in line. It probably won't be Mauricio Robles given he's still yet to pitch this year (elbow) surgery, though a return is imminent. Erasmo Ramirez is intriguing, but he's just 21 and pitching in Double-A. As the club likely won't mess with success and turn relievers like Aaron Laffey back into starters, it would probably be someone like Blake Beavan, one of the prospects in last year's Cliff Lee deal, getting the call from Tacoma.
Cliff Lee who? The Rangers rode surprising seasons from starters like Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson (and Lee) to the World Series last year. This year, Lee is gone, but Alexi Ogando is playing the Lewis/Wilson role with a 2.71 ERA in 13 starts. David Bush made three starts when Matt Harrison was hurt, but there really aren't any openings . Should one open up, it's hard to see Bush getting another shot, so look for Neil Ramirez (3.49 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 in Triple-A) to get a look. Then there's always top prospect Martin Perez, but he's probably due for more seasoning and a 2012 look.
What's next, a Wade Townsend return? Remember him? Well, fellow Rice alum Philip Humber is among the bigger surprises of the year with a 2.95 ERA in 14 games (12 starts). Jake Peavy's latest DL stint still left Ozzie Guillen with a solid 1-5, but Peavy (groin) is due back in another week or so, leaving Ozzie with a tough decision. Maybe Peavy closes (Sergio Santos scuffling) for the rest of 2011, gets healthy and returns to the rotation in 2012? Unlikely, but with John Danks turning things around lately, there's no obvious scenario.
Carlos and Josh and Mitch, oh my! Justin Masterson and his 3.16 ERA have been a nice surprise. Then you have mediocrity, but occasional glimpses of brilliance in the aforementioned trio. Finally, there's the pitcher who was supposed to anchor the staff in Fausto Carmona but who actually has the quintet's worst ERA at 5.71 (and check out those last six starts). Alex White is out until mid-August with a finger injury, while it's highly unlikely 2010 first-round pick Drew Pomeranz will be rushed. More likely options are Triple-A pitchers Scott Barnes (3.97 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 4.3 BB/9) and Zach McAllister (3.13 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9). Nothing in the way of Pomeranz upside, but still AL-only worthy at least.
14/15 isn't bad. That's number of quality starts versus total starts for Justin Verlander. As for the rest of the Detroit rotation, it's been pretty stable. Max Scherzer has been highly inconsistent, but you don't give up on a guy in fantasy who can strike out 14 batters on any given night. The most vulnerable of the top five is probably Phil Coke due to his 4.7 K/9 (Brad Penny would take that) and overall lack of starting success. Andrew Oliver is still likely the "No. 6" starter, with top prospect Jacob Turner more of a 2012 guy.
Jeff Francis and the kids. With Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, the future is upon us. Danny Duffy has arrived from the pitching side, with much more to follow despite the unfortunate news about prospect John Lamb (Tommy John surgery). But NOW is what we're talking about here. Francis has a 4.00 ERA since the end of April, and while Duffy has promise, don't expect him to hit his stride until 2012 at the earliest. Felipe Paulino has looked very good in three starts with the Royals, averaging 95 mph with his fastball and posting a 1.29 ERA. Bruce Chen is worth using in AL-only formats, but other than that, good luck. I've already gone down the road with Luke Hochevar, Sean O'Sullivan and Kyle Davies. It wasn't pleasant.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Liriano. Liriano has tossed one no-hitter and in his last start, he was pretty close to another. Liriano's velocity may never return to his pre-surgery levels, and his .235 BABIP is a concern, but given his past success, perhaps you can live with the volatility. Scott Baker is having a very good year, but after that it's a lot of questions. Kyle Gibson is the team's top pitching prospect, and given his 74:17 K:BB in 71.1 innings in Triple-A, he's ready to go.
Promise AND production? By all accounts, the Orioles have an enviable stockpile of young pitching, and 2010 draft pick Dylan Bundy looks like a nice grab at No. 4 overall. Zach Britton will eventually settle in as a solid No. 3-4 though his 5.2 K/9 is rather low. Brian Matusz is probably the best of the bunch, while Jake Arrietta is the RH equivalent of Britton long-term. Chris Tillman's future will always be in question unless he can improve his control. Steve Johnson is interesting in Double-A, but there isn't much else at the upper levels for the O's.
Lackey no longer lacking? Josh Beckett is pushing Justin Verlander for an All-Star starter nod, but it's John Lackey's return that could be the difference for Boston his year. Lackey hasn't been great, but he's won his first two starts off the DL. That's a huge step forward after Lackey entered his June 5 return start with an 8.01 ERA. Felix Doubront (2.33 ERA) is probably the starter to get the call should the Sox need some new blood, likely in place of Tim Wakefield.
I'm not BartLARDo, I'm Bartolo. Bartolo Colon has been one of baseball's bigger stories – much of his gut left at the buffet table, pitching like it was 2005, and, oh yeah, that whole stem cell thing. (Side note: Can we get some stem cells for Frank McCourt's brain?). Even assuming Colon can maintain anywhere near his current pace, the Yankees need somebody to step up and join Colon and CC Sabathia to form an elite trio. It won't be Freddy Garcia or A.J. Burnett, and it certainly will not be Ivan Nova. Philip Hughes (shoulder) reportedly looks great in his rehab, but he's no sure thing. The Yankees have two of baseball's top pitching prospects in Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, but both are in Double-A and far from polished. The most likely scenario has the Yankees trading for a starter next month.
Paging Matt Moore ... The Rays are set 1-2-3, and though Wade Davis has a 4.81 ERA, he'll get plenty of rope given that seven-year deal. Alexander Cobb's time is running short given Jeff Niemann's (back) pending return, but sometime later this year, it could be Moore getting the call.
Drabek down, Stewart up. Kyle Drabek heads to Triple-A to work on his command and control, which means Zach Stewart (4.39 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9) gets the call from Double-A. Then there's Jesse Litsch, due back in 2-to-3 weeks from a shoulder injury. A bit longer term, don't forget about Dustin McGowan (shoulder). He may not have pitched in the big leagues since 2008, but he's reportedly hitting 95 mph in his rehab.
Regan, a four-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.
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