Ian Kennedy is once again projected to be the No. 1 starter in the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation. However, can Kennedy handle the role with several other top notch pitchers behind him?
The 28-year-old Kennedy followed up his sensational 2011 season, in which he went 21-4 with a 2.88 earned run average and 198 strikeouts, with a drop off in 2012. The right-hander still pitched well this past season, but it certainly was not ace material. He posted a 15-12 record with a 4.02 ERA and 187 strikeouts in the exact same amount of starts he had the previous year (33). After a few good off-season acquisitions, the Diamondbacks have high expectations for the 2013 MLB season, and they will need Kennedy to return to form if they want to be competitive in the National League West.
Arizona acquired starter Brandon McCarthy in December and signed him to a two-year, $15.5 million deal. McCarthy will most likely sit in the second spot in the rotation and his numbers last year indicate this is where he should pitch for the Diamondbacks this season. McCarthy went 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 18 starts for the Oakland Athletics in 2012. The 29-year-old missed Oakland’s magical postseason run after he got hit in the head by a line drive that fractured his skull on Sept. 5.
The one player on the team that could take the ace role away from Kennedy is Wade Miley. The 26-year-old had an outstanding season this past year in which he led the team in wins (16) and wins above replacement (3.3) while he also had the best ERA (3.33) among all starting pitchers. Miley proved in his first full season that he is certainly someone that is capable of leading the team, but it might be too soon to give him the job of the No. 1 pitcher. The Diamondbacks should wait to see how he performs in his second full year before they try and push him to become the ace.
I believe there is certainly a competition in Arizona’s spring training to see who can be the leader of the rotation, but I do not think anyone outside of Kennedy will be named the ace. Many of the players on the team still look up to him and there is no reason why he cannot have another stellar performance like he had in 2011. Miley is great and McCarthy will be a nice addition to the starting five, but this is still Kennedy’s team.
With that being said, if Miley can top his numbers from last year and once again be the statistical leader among the starters, then the Diamondbacks will have to seriously contemplate who will be the ace of the team in 2014.