Red Sox

Ranking the top 20 MLB starting pitchers for 2023

Red Sox

Major League Baseball is loaded with elite pitching talent. That much is evident in our list of top 20 pitchers heading into the 2023 season. All 20 are capable of winning a Cy Young award this year, along with several other pitchers who didn't crack the top 20.

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Here's the full list:

20. Shane McClanahan, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

2022 stats: 12-8, 2.54 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 38 BB, 194 SO, 166.1 IP (28 starts)

McClanahan took a step forward in his sophomore season and was the ace of the Rays rotation with Tyler Glasnow out due to injury. He earned his first All-Star selection and finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting. He could skyrocket up this list if he can get closer to the 200-innings mark consistently.

19. Zac Gallen, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

2022 stats: 12-4, 2.54 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 47 BB, 192 SO, 184 IP (31 starts)

Gallen might not have the household name that others on this list do, but that should change this year. The Diamondbacks ace was arguably the best pitcher in baseball during the second half of the 2022 season with a 1.49 ERA. That helped him place fifth in NL Cy Young voting and if he carries that momentum into 2023, he's a solid dark-horse candidate for the award.

18. Luis Castillo, RHP, Seattle Mariners

2022 stats: 8-6, 2.99 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 45 BB, 167 SO, 150.1 IP (25 starts with Cincinnati Reds and Mariners)

Castillo is coming off the best season of his career during which he excelled with both the Reds and the Mariners. He enters his first full season with Seattle and will be the ace of a deep starting rotation. If that changeup is working, there aren't many pitchers with more dominant stuff.

 

17. Alek Manoah, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

2022 stats: 16-7, 2.24 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 51 BB, 180 SO, 196.2 IP (31 starts)

Manoah built off his strong rookie season with a Cy Young-caliber 2022. He placed third in the voting and earned the first of what should be several All-Star nods in his career.

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Alek Manoah is coming off a dominant second season in Toronto.

16. Framber Valdez, LHP, Houston Astros

2022 stats: 17-6, 2.82 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 67 BB, 194 SO, 201.1 IP (31 starts)

Valdez set an MLB single-season record with 25 consecutive quality starts during the 2022 campaign. He followed that up by being nails for the Astros throughout their World Series run. The 29-year-old will take over as Houston's ace following the departure of Justin Verlander.

15. Spencer Strider, RHP, Atlanta Braves

2022 stats: 11-5, 2.67 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 45 BB, 202 SO, 131.2 IP (31 games, 20 starts)

Strider burst on the scene as a rookie last season and quickly proved himself as one of the game's most dominant pitchers. He placed second in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind teammate Michael Harris II and will earn some Cy Young votes in 2023 if he can duplicate his production as a starter over the course of a full season.

14. Gerrit Cole, RHP, New York Yankees

2022 stats: 13-8, 3.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 50 BB, 257 SO, 200.2 IP (33 starts)

There's no denying Cole has some of the most dominant stuff in the game when he's on. The strikeout numbers (league-leading 257 in 2022) prove it. However, the Yankees ace has struggled to keep the ball in the park. He allowed a league-high 33 homers last season and 30 the year prior. Cole has finished top five in Cy Young voting five times in his career and could finally win the award if he cuts down on the hard contact.

13. Shane Bieber, RHP, Cleveland Guardians

2022 stats: 13-8, 2.88 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 36 BB, 198 SO, 200 IP (31 starts)

Bieber isn't going to blow a fastball by anyone, but he doesn't need to. The 2020 Cy Young award winner baffles hitters with his devastating breaking stuff, including a nasty curveball. The Guardians can count on Bieber for a quality start every fifth day.

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Other than the abbreviated 2020 season, Shane Bieber set a career-best with his 2.88 ERA last year.

12. Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

2022 stats: 11-13, 3.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 29 BB, 235 SO, 205 IP (32 starts)

Nola's bounce-back 2022 season helped the Phillies clinch a playoff spot and cruise to a World Series berth. The 29-year-old finished top five in Cy Young voting for the second time in his career and if he maintains his elite command, he has a strong chance to win the award this year.

11. Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox

2022 stats: 14-8, 2.20 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 78 BB, 227 SO, 184 IP (32 starts)

Cease is a strikeout machine who could end up with multiple Cy Young awards on his résumé by the time his career is over. He finished second in the voting last season, but he'll have to improve his command to take home the hardware. His 78 walks led the major leagues.

10. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

2022 stats: 17-7, 2.16 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 41 BB, 166 SO, 175 IP (31 starts)

Urias' ability to avoid hard contact resulted in an NL-best 2.16 ERA and 194 ERA+ last season. The 26-year-old southpaw finished third in Cy Young voting and even earned some recognition on the MVP ballot.

9. Max Fried, RHP, Atlanta Braves

2022 stats: 14-7, 2.48 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 32 BB, 170 SO, 185.1 IP (30 starts)

Fried was the 2022 NL Cy Young runner-up and is a good bet to finish in the top three again this year. He established himself as the Braves' ace with a 2.48 ERA and 2.70 FIP in 185.1 innings of work. He also earned his first All-Star nod and third consecutive Gold Glove award.

 
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Max Fried is a perenial Cy Young contender and the ace of a stacked Braves rotation.

8. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

2022 stats: 12-7, 2.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 34 BB, 163 SO, 153 IP (26 starts)

Wheeler has proven himself as one of the game's pitchers over his last three years in Philadelphia. The 32-year-old has posted an ERA under 3.00 in each season with the Phillies and was a huge part of their 2022 World Series run. He placed second in Cy Young voting behind Corbin Burnes in 2021 and is a candidate to win his first award this season.

7. Carlos Rodon, RHP, New York Yankees

2022 stats: 14-8, 2.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 52 BB, 237 SO, 178 IP (31 starts with San Francisco Giants)

Rodon revived his career in 2021, when he placed fifth in Cy Young voting with the Chicago White Sox. He duplicated his efforts last season with the San Francisco Giants and will play a significant role in the New York Yankees' success in 2023. Rodon's history of shoulder issues is a concern, but he has established himself as a bonafide ace when healthy. If he avoids the IL, he'll form a scary 1-2 punch with Gerrit Cole.

6. Corbin Burnes, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

2022 stats: 12-8, 2.94 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 51 BB, 243 SO, 202 IP (33 starts)

Burnes was on track to win his second consecutive Cy Young award before his second-half slide. Despite that rough patch, it's clear the 28-year-old is one of the most dominant hurlers in the game today. He'll be in the Cy Young conversation again in 2023, but don't be surprised if he ends the season in a different uniform as he said his relationship with the Brewers was "definitely hurt" in arbitration.

5. Shohei Ohtani, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

2022 stats: 15-9, 2.33 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 44 BB, 219 SO, 166 IP (28 starts)

Don't let Ohtani being one of the best hitters in baseball distract you from his brilliance as a pitcher. In fact, the Japanese marvel may have been even better on the mound last season. He placed fourth in Cy Young voting and second on the MVP ballot, and his pitching WAR (6.2) trailed only Dylan Cease (6.4) and Sandy Alcantara (8.0). We're witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

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Once could argue Shohei Ohtani is the best pitcher and hitter in baseball.

4. Max Scherzer, RHP, New York Mets

2022 stats: 11-5, 2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 24 BB, 173 SO, 145.1 IP (23 starts)

Scherzer is the model of consistency for starting pitchers. If you take out the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the 36-year-old hasn't posted an ERA below 3.00 since 2014. He has arguably been the best pitcher in the sport for the last decade and could add a fourth Cy Young award to his collection in 2023.

3. Jacob deGrom, RHP, Texas Rangers

2022 stats: 5-4, 3.08 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 8 BB, 102 SO, 64.1 IP (11 starts with New York Mets)

deGrom would be the undisputed No. 1 pitcher in the league if not for injuries. The two-time Cy Young award winner is on another level when healthy, but that just hasn't been all that often in recent years as he hasn't pitched more than 92 innings in a season since 2019. Despite the injury concerns, the Rangers signed deGrom to a five-year contract worth $ 185 million during the offseason as part of their starting rotation overhaul. It's a big risk, but one that will pay major dividends if deGrom can stay on the field.

 

2. Justin Verlander, RHP, New York Mets

2022 stats: 18-4, 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 29 BB, 185 SO, 175 IP (28 starts with Houston Astros)

Verlander has found the fountain of youth. The 40-year-old right-hander won his third Cy Young award and second World Series title last season with Houston. Even more impressive, he did so after missing the 2021 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. The Mets will hope age doesn't finally catch up to Verlander after signing him to a two-year, $ 86.6 million deal over the offseason.

1. Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Miami Marlins

2022 stats: 14-9, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 50 BB, 207 SO, 228.2 IP (32 starts)

Alcantara's 2022 numbers were something out of a video game. Not only did the 27-year-old post the fifth-lowest ERA and a WHIP under 1.00, but he also was a workhorse who led the majors in innings pitched. He tossed six complete games, which hadn't been done since Red Sox southpaw Chris Sale accomplished the feat in 2016. His exceptional season was convincing enough to earn him the top spot on the list heading into 2023.

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Sandy Alcantara is the rare modern workhorse who dominates while consistently going deep into games.