Welcome to the final part of Ranking MLB Players by position. This last one was probably the most fun to write about.
This list is strictly predicting how these players will perform in 2023. Does that mean last year doesn’t matter? Absolutely not. Last season matters the most. However, this list also factors in how the players have performed since 2020, how much they progressed or regressed, and if 2022 was just an outlier.
Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Starting Pitchers of the 2023 season.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Nola, Spencer Strider, Dylan Cease, Julio Urías, and Carlos Rodon; who probably would have made this list if not for injury concerns.
10. Max Fried
We kick off this list with the 2022 NL Cy Young runner-up. He has been super consistent for the past couple of years. Last year he had a 2.48 ERA (Earned Runs Averaged Per 9 Innings), 2.70 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), 8.2 K/9 (Strikeouts Per 9 Innings), 1.55 BB/9 (Walks Per 9 Innings), and a 164 ERA+ (League Average is 100). Although fried is one of those pitchers whose name never really comes up in discussions for some of the best pitchers in the game, that will probably change this year.
9. Zack Wheeler
Wheeler finished 2nd in Cy Young voting in 2021. Though many people think he took a big step back in 2022, it is not nearly as big as they say it was. Wheeler finished with a 2.82 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 9.6 K/9, 2 BB/9, and 144 ERA+. And though he did not play well in the World Series, he still finished with a 2.78 ERA in the playoffs as a whole. The Phillies will be without Bryce Harper for the first half of the season, so they will rely on the pitchers to help out the offense a lot, and Wheeler will undoubtedly be up for the challenge.
8. Shane McClanahan
Tampa Bay’s left-handed pitcher comes in at number eight. He showed flashes of being great in 2021 and certainly capitalized in 2022. McClanahan had a 2.54 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 10.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, and 142 ERA+. He will be turning 26 next month, so the sky will be the limit with him. The Rays have a ton of competition with the Yankees and Blue Jays this year. McClanahan will surely be an X factor in big games.
7. Gerrit Cole
Cole nearly finished Cy Young in 2021 but took a step back in 2022. That said, it was not as bad as a lot say. Cole had a 3.50 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 11.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, and 111 ERA+. He also led the league in strikeouts and tied for first in games started. Even though there is reason to be pessimistic that he is regressing, he has the track record to give us the benefit of the doubt that he will bounce back in 2023.
6. Shohei Ohtani
The best player in the world is the sixth-best starting pitcher in the league. People are so hung up on the fact that he pitches and hits that they do not even talk about how elite he is on the mound. Last year he finished with a 2.33 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 11.9 K/9 (led the American League), 2.4 BB/9, and 172 ERA+. If there is one thing the league is hoping for, it is that the Angels finally make the playoffs this year. Even if they don’t, Ohtani will surely be excited to sign one historic contract next offseason.
5. Justin Verlander
After throwing six total innings in 2020 and 2021, Verlander returned and dominated in 2022. He had a 1.75 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 9.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and 220 ERA+. The main concern with Verlander is that he just turned 40, and even though he showed last year that he still has a ton left in the tank, age catches up to athletes quickly. Many also argue that some of his success last year was due to having a great defense behind him. With this being said, pitchers don’t put up 1.75 ERA seasons by accident; if he puts up a season remotely similar to how he did in 2022, then he will be Top 5.
4. Max Scherzer
Back-to-back Mets. If Verlander and Scherzer stay healthy, it will easily be the best one-two punch in the league. Even though Scherzer dealt with oblique and side injuries last year, he still threw enough innings and was fantastic on the mound. He had a 2.29 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 10.7 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and 169 ERA+. Even though he had two disappointing starts to end the season, he has earned most people’s trust to think he will still be a top 5 pitcher in 2023.
3. Sandy Alcantara
The NL East has some awesome starting pitchers. Alcantra was really solid for the first few years of his career but exploded in 2022. He had a 2.28 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, and 178 ERA+. He also led the league with six complete games, which is unheard of in today’s league. The Marlins do not have a ton to look forward to in their lineup outside of Jazz Chisholm, but if Sandy Alcantara is the man leading your starting rotation, it is something to look forward to once every five games.
2. Corbin Burnes
If we are talking as a whole and not a per-start basis, Burnes was the best pitcher in the world from 2020-2021. He had a 2.34 ERA, 1.74 FIP, 12.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 181 ERA+. He took a step back in 2022, but it was still a season literally all front offices would take. Burnes had a 2.94 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 10.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 134 ERA+. He will be only 28 by the end of the season, so there is a lot of reason to believe he will have a “bounce back” season in 2023.
1. Jacob deGrom
It killed me to write this paragraph as a Mets fan. Even though it was frustrating not being able to see him throw a ton the past two years, it was still awesome while his time with the Mets lasted. In his last three years, he had a 2.05 ERA, 1.80 FIP, 14.1 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and 198 ERA+. Even though these crazy numbers were only in 38 starts, I don’t think I have ever seen someone so dominant. The only doubt that people have about him is his health. But take injuries aside; there is no pitcher you would rather have than Jacob deGrom.
So this concludes our series of ranking the MLB players by position. So many players have a lot to prove in 2023. Between the banning of the shift, the new pitch clock, and many other new factors, the MLB in 2023 will be like no other season before.
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