New No. 1 sits atop Starting Pitcher Power Rankings

New No. 1 sits atop Starting Pitcher Power Rankings

May 20th, 2023

Righties and lefties. Veterans and young guns. Flamethrowers and finesse artists. Strikeout machines and soft-contact specialists.

There’s more than one way to make it into the Starting Pitcher Power Rankings, and our latest edition features a diverse array of the game’s best arms. A panel of voters considered track record, season-long performance and recent success in making their picks.

Here are the results. (All stats are updated through Thursday’s games.)

1. Zac Gallen, D-backs (Last poll: 2)
He’s less famous than some other pitchers on this list, but is anyone better than Gallen these days? Our voters say no. And while the 27-year-old has been especially dominant lately, this is nothing new. Gallen entered Friday’s outing in Pittsburgh with a 2.50 ERA in 40 starts since the beginning of 2022, as well as a 3.01 mark in 90 career starts (ranking in MLB’s top 10 since 2019).

2. Spencer Strider, Braves (6)
The S in Strider is for strikeout. He has 86 of them in 51 2/3 innings, and his K-rate of 41.6% would be a single-season record for a qualifying pitcher. (No pitcher has reached 40% in a non-shortened season.) He does that while barely having a third pitch beyond his four-seamer and slider — Strider’s changeup has a 5.4% usage rate and seven K’s.

3. Sonny Gray, Twins (3)
Those struggles with the Yankees sure seem like a long time ago now. Gray has a 3.23 ERA since departing the Bronx in 2019, including an MLB-leading 1.64 mark through nine starts this year. One big key: zero home runs allowed.

4. Gerrit Cole, Yankees (1)
Is this the best version of Cole? On one hand, his whiff and strikeout rates are both lower than they’ve been since he was a Pirate in 2017. On the other, he’s keeping hits and runs off the board. Cole entered Friday leading the Majors in innings pitched (62 2/3), with a 2.01 ERA, and the Yankees are 8-2 in his starts.

5. Eduardo Rodriguez, Tigers (not ranked)
Before a slight hiccup on Wednesday against the Pirates, Rodriguez was on an astonishing roll. Over his previous six starts dating back to April 12, the lefty had allowed two earned runs across 41 2/3 innings, good for a 0.43 ERA. Batters hit .157/.192/.200 off him in that span, with 41 strikeouts and six walks.

6. Mitch Keller, Pirates (not ranked)
What a wild ride it’s been for Keller, who was a Top 50 Prospect, per MLB Pipeline, each year from 2017-20. Despite that, he posted a 5.77 ERA in his first 55 career games (53 starts) through last July 6, including a brief demotion to the bullpen last May. In 24 starts since that point? A 2.58 ERA. The 27-year-old shut out the Rockies on May 8 and then struck out 13 Orioles over seven scoreless innings on Sunday in Baltimore.

7. Shane McClanahan, Rays (9)
McClanahan’s start against the Brewers on Friday was his 50th since the 2021 All-Star break; in the previous 49, he went 26-11 with a 2.57 ERA. The lefty’s changeup has become an overwhelming weapon this season, inducing misses on more than half of opponents’ swings and limiting then to a .135 average (7-for-52) with 24 strikeouts.

8. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (5)
One might say Kershaw’s peak ended in 2017, his age-29 season, when he finished in the top five in NL Cy Young Award voting for the seventh straight time. Well, if that’s the case, here is what his post-peak era has looked like: 59-26 with a 2.80 ERA over roughly 700 innings, despite a number of injury issues. We should all hope to decline so gracefully.

9. Nathan Eovaldi, Rangers (not ranked)
He may not have been the free-agent starting pitcher Rangers fans were most excited to see their team acquire this past offseason, but Eovaldi has been the most reliable thus far. Since Texas placed Jacob deGrom on the IL in late April, Eovaldi has allowed three runs over a four-start span (0.83 ERA). That includes the first individual shutout any pitcher has thrown against the Yankees since 2015.

10. Joe Ryan, Twins (not ranked)
The Twins and their 3.15 starting rotation ERA (second in MLB) are the only team to get two pitchers into this latest edition of the rankings. Ryan was a steal for Minnesota, which acquired him (as a prospect) from Tampa Bay as part of a Trade Deadline deal for Nelson Cruz in 2021. While he doesn’t throw hard, the 26-year-old has racked up 57 strikeouts against only seven walks, thanks in part to a 99th-percentile chase rate.

Also receiving votes: Shohei Ohtani (Angels), Justin Steele (Cubs), Alex Cobb (Giants), Bryce Miller (Mariners), Tyler Wells (Orioles), Kevin Gausman (Blue Jays), George Kirby (Mariners), Logan Gilbert (Mariners), Bryce Elder (Braves)

Voters: Brett Blueweiss, Paul Casella, Doug Gausepohl, Thomas Harrigan, Sarah Langs, Travis Miller, Ricardo Montes de Oca, Brian Murphy, Sweeny Murti, Manny Randhawa, Efrain Ruiz, Shanthi Sepe-Chepuru, Andrew Simon, David Venn

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