Every major league club searches for top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers because that's how teams win pennants. Look at the six division leaders. In the National League, the Phillies have Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels; the Brewers have Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum; the Giants have Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. In the American League, the Yankees have CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon; the Tigers have Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer; and the Rangers have Alexi Ogando and C.J. Wilson. Every club is trying to find the next pitcher who can develop into the type of impact starter that puts it into a pennant race.
Besides the draft, international signings, free agency and trades, there are really only three other places you can find top-of-the-rotation starters:
1. The back end of your present rotation
2. Moving a pitcher from the bullpen to the rotation
3. Minor leagues
This piece will examine starting pitchers in the first category.
In recent years, we have seen several pitchers develop from the back to the front of their clubs' rotations, including Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves, Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds and Jaime Garcia of the St. Louis Cardinals.