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USA Today Sports Weekly Pitcher Rankings

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They've been doing rankings position-by-position each week this offseason, and this week's issue ranked starting pitchers.

Here's the article; among Cub starters, Carlos Zambrano ranked ninth and Mark Prior 18th.

Here's what they wrote about Prior:

When he's healthy, the right-hander is a rare blend of power (with a fastball in the upper 90s) and control. He struck out a major league-best 10.2 hitters per nine innings and no starter with at least 160 innings gave up fewer hits (143). Trouble is, Prior has had trouble staying healthy, making just 48 starts the past two seasons. First, he was rumored to be going to the Phillies for Bobby Abreu, then he was thought to be headed to the Orioles for Miguel Tejada, but will the Cubs really trade a pitcher this good?

Health, of course, is the key issue -- and in addition, there's the just-revealed information about Prior voiding the final year of his deal and becoming arbitration-eligible, which you can discuss in the diary on the right sidebar.

Finally, Barry Zito is ranked 15th. For anyone who doesn't think acquiring Zito could make the Cubs an instant winner -- I'd say having three of the top eighteen starters in the majors would make any team a formidable rotation. For comparison's sake, the White Sox, who won the World Series in large part due to the strength of their rotation, have their top three (Buehrle, Contreras, Garland) ranking 13th, 15th and 20th. Note that Greg Maddux even sneaks into the top 50 at 49th; that's roughly comparable to the White Sox' Freddy Garcia ranking 44th.

The article goes on to say something that we've been talking about here for quite some time, about Kerry Wood:

Bothered by an assortment of injuries since he hit the majors in 1998, Wood has rarely been healthy for an entire season. He has made just 32 starts the past two seasons and made only 10 in 2005 because of shoulder problems. He finished 2005 with 11 appearances out of the bullpen. Could he be a closer in the future?
Zambrano, Zito, Prior. That'd bring the Cubs to the top rank of starting rotations in baseball in 2006.