I was really disappointed by Baker last year. Not only did he come out of the gate with poor mechanics, leaving the ball up where he could get shelled for 7 HR in his first 2 appearances, but even when he was good, he couldn't pitch deep enough into games. He should have made the necessary adjustments coming into 2010, where I expect him to do what he did for the final 4 months of 2009, but with more IP.
Expected line: 3.80 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 1.0 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7.3 K/9
2. Nick Blackburn
Blackburn is really the team's #5 starter, but his remarkably consistent work over his first 2 full seasons (plus the fact that, after Baker, he's the only member of the rotation who has had 2 full seasons recently) finds him getting the ball for the second game. There's something about him that enables him to exceed his peripherals. Yes, he gives up a lot of contact, but it's often very weak contact, so he's generally able to avoid big innings, and his pinpoint control keeps him from giving away first base. The most important thing for him is to keep the ball in the yard; he had 2 starts last year in which he allowed 3 HR, but he allowed just 19 bombs over his other 31 GS. He should benefit from the Twins' improved IF defense. There will be some rough stretches, but he'll be pretty good for a back end guy.
Expected line: 4.30 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 1.0 HR/9, 1.8 BB/9, 4.4 K/9
3. Carl Pavano
That he took every turn last year and nearly accumulated 200 IP was a tremendous achievement for Pavano. His ERA wasn't pretty, but a lot of that can be attributed to an uncommonly high BABIP. On the plus side, he posted the best K/BB rate of his career, and should also see gains as a result of having Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy up the middle. The advanced metrics say his ERA should have been under 4.00 last year, so we'll look for things to head in that direction in 2010. The biggest thing for him is to just stay healthy.
Expected line: 4.40 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9, 1.8 BB/9, 6.4 K/9
4. Kevin Slowey
I hold Slowey to a particularly high standard. I guess it's because his control is so good, I can't understand why he ever puts the ball where it can be hit hard on a 2-strike count. But he does. If he can start doing less of that this year, he should be one of the stronger #3 guys in the league. At least the wrist doesn't seem to be bothering him, or if it is, it didn't show up in his spring numbers.
Expected line: 3.90 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9, 1.5 BB/9, 7.3 K/9
5. Francisco Liriano
I've been on Liriano's winter ball revival since mid-December. I think it's for real. It made me crazy that Gardy waited so long to commit to his role in the rotation. Liriano is the key to the whole season. He'll begin the year as the 5th starter, but he'll finish it as the Ace.
Expected line: 3.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 0.7 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 9.5 K/9