2023 MLB Power Rankings: Who are the best starting pitchers?

Over the past few weeks, we have taken a look at our selections for the best MLB players at each position. We’ve now reached the starting pitchers, a tough one given the amount of talent in the league. So, who made our rankings for the best starters in Major League Baseball? Let’s take a look, starting with the ace of the Chicago White Sox.

Related: 2023 MLB Power Rankings: Who are the best left fielders?

10. Dylan Cease

We start off our rankings with White Sox RHP Dylan Cease. Cease emerged as the ace of the White Sox last season, as the 27-year-old struck out 227 batters and posted a 2.20 ERA over 184 innings. The 14-game winner finished last season in the top five in strikeouts, and his 497 strikeouts from 2020-22 ranked as the seventh-most in MLB, ahead of star pitchers like Yu Darvish and Luis Castillo.

The 27-year-old boasts a power slider, alongside a plus fastball and a good curveball. Cease will struggle with command from time to time, but his elite batted ball metrics and strikeout figures are indicators of one of the game’s most impressive starters.

9. Max Fried

Braves ace Max Fried has turned in back-to-back 14-win seasons for one of the league’s elite teams. The left-hander boasts a good fastball, coupled with one of the game’s best curves, a slider, and changeup. While Fried has never been an elite strikeout pitcher, the Braves lefty mixes his pitches quite well and induces weak contact a consistent basis. Fried has ranked in at least the top 10% of all pitchers in average exit velcoity in each of the last three seasons.

Fried had struggled with command at times throughout his career, but has found his form over the past two season. The 28-year-old’s 4.4% BB% ranked as one of MLB’s best in 2022. In addition to his prowess on the mound, Fried is also a solid fielder at his position. The Braves LHP has won a Gold Glove in each of the last three seasons.

8. Carlos Rodón

New Yankees LHP Carlos Rodón struggled throughout portions of his career, but put together two phenomenal seasons on the hill in 2021 and 2022. The former NC State ace struck out 185 batters over 132.2 innings with the AL Central champion White Sox in 2021. This past season, Rodón K’d 237 batters over 178 innings. That total ranked as the third-most in all of baseball in 2022.

A inconsistent track record, coupled with an lengthy injury history are the reasons why Rodón is not higher on this list. When healthy, Rodón boasts stuff that can be just as good, if not better, than some of the names ahead of the new Yankees left-hander on this list.

7. Shane Bieber

Guardians RHP and former AL Cy Young award winner Shane Bieber has been one of the game’s premier starters over the last four seasons. Bieber broke out in 2019, as the righty struck out 259 batters en route to a 15 win campaign. Bieber then performed the rare pitching triple crown in the abbreviated 2020 season, as the 27-year-old led MLB in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. This past season, the Guardians ace struck out 198 in 200 innings for the AL Central champions.

Over the last three seasons, Bieber has ranked among the top 15 in total strikeouts (454), and his 2.74 ERA over that span is the sixth-best out of all pitchers (min. 250 IP).

6. Shohei Ohtani

Not only is Shohei Ohtani one of the game’s elite hitters, but the Angels sensation can more than hold his own on the mound. Ohtani has been an impressive pitcher when healthy, but the 28-year-old had his best season on the mound in 2022. Ohtani struck out 219 batters last season, a total that was the sixth-best in MLB. The Angels RHP set a career-high in wins, as Ohtani won 15 for Anaheim in 2022.

Armed with a hard fastball, a devastating slider, and an elite split-change, it’s becoming more of a question of what Shohei Ohtani can’t do on a baseball field.

5. Justin Verlander

Former Astros RHP Justin Verlander missed most of 2020 and 2021 thanks to Tommy John surgery, but came back with a bang in 2022. Verlander led all AL pitchers in wins (18), ERA (1.75), ERA+ (220), and WHIP (0.83) for an Astros team that ended last year with a second World Series title. That performance earned Verlander his third Cy Young award. At the age of 39, the nine-time All-Star still boasted a strong fastball with above-average velocity, alongside two fantastic breaking balls.

The former AL MVP will spend 2023 with the Mets, and is set to headline one of the game’s best projected rotations with former Tigers teammate Max Scherzer.

4. Gerrit Cole

After signing a massive deal with the Yankees in the winter of 2019, Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole has been as good as advertised. Over the past three seasons, no pitcher has struck out more batters than Cole. Last season, the five-time All-Star struck out a league-leading 257 batters. That figure marked a new single-season record for the Yankees, as Cole broke Ron Guidry‘s record set in 1978.

A rotation headlined by Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón will look to push the Yankees to the franchise’s first World Series title since 2009.

3. Sandy Alcantara

Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara turned in a 2022 campaign that could only be summarized with one word: incredible. Alcantara won 14 games with the Marlins last season and struck out 207 batters over a league-high 228.2 IP. In an era were very few pitchers finish out games, Alcantara was an outlier last season. The 27-year-old had six complete games last season, three more than the pitcher who finished second in that category (Framber Valdez).

Alcantara’s arsenal includes a hard fastball, a changeup that’s arguably the best in the game, and an above-average slider. The Marlins ace will look to duplicate his amazing performance for Miami in 2023.

2. Corbin Burnes

Brewers RHP Corbin Burnes has been nearly unhittable over the last three seasons. Burnes recorded yet another impressive campaign in 2022, just one season after winning his first NL Cy Young award. Burnes struck out an NL-high 243 batters, and posted a sub-1.00 WHIP — 0.96 to be exact — for the second straight season. Since the start of 2022, Burnes is second in all of baseball in total strikeouts (565), ERA (2.62), and WHIP (0.96).

The 28-year-old right boasts a plus cutter and curveball, along with a changeup, sinker, and slider. Armed with a highly effective arsenal, the Brewers will lean on him, as well as Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta come the 2023 season.

1. Jacob deGrom

We cap off this list with new Rangers ace Jacob deGrom. The two-time NL Cy Young award winner has dealt with numerous injuries over the past two seasons, but has been simply sensational when on the mound. No pitcher in baseball has a higher K% (44.0%) and K/9 (14.3) since 2021 (min. 150 IP) than the former Met ace, who boasts one of the game’s hardest fastballs and arguably the best slider in the game. This past season, deGrom struck out an astounding 102 batters in just 64.2 IP.

The four-time All-Star now heads to Texas to join an improved rotation that is set to include Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, and Martín Pérez.

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