Ranking the Top 50 Starting Pitchers for the 2022 MLB Season

Which members of our starting pitcher rankings will claim the American League and National League Cy Young awards during the 2022 MLB season?

Can Jacob deGrom overcome another injury in a list of maladies that’s quickly becoming far too long? Will Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff again headline a devastatingly effective Milwaukee Brewers rotation? What can Shohei Ohtani do in the encore to his Ruthian 2021 efforts? Which young arms will fly up the rankings? What about the veterans returning from injury?

We’ve got you covered as we break down the best of the best set to take the mound in 2022.

This countdown of the 50 best starting options hinges on a combination of past results and future projections, weighing everything from ongoing injury concerns to potential progression/regression in an attempt to predict the expected level of play for the entirety of the 2022 season.

That last part can’t be emphasized enough.

These rankings are not moment-in-time snapshots. Nor do they predict the final level reached when the 2022 postseason field is determined. They account for expected volume and production during the whole campaign, relying on anecdotal observations and plenty of numbers, including the listed 2022 stats from Fangraphs‘ THE BAT projections.

You can view the division-by-division rankings below, which feature more fulsome profiles of each pitcher, as well as a list of those featured in them who failed to make the cut here:

Inside divisional top 10 but outside overall top 50 (listed alphabetically): Aaron Ashby, Milwaukee Brewers; Sonny Gray, Minnesota Twins; Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox; Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds; Steven Matz, St. Louis Cardinals; Lance McCullers Jr., Houston Astros; Bailey Ober, Minnesota Twins; Joe Ryan, Minnesota Twins; Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers; Jose Urquidy, Houston Astros; Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

50. Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Ian Anderson | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Age: 23

2021 Stats: 128.1 IP, 24 GS, 9-5, 124 K, 53 BB, 3.58 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 1.9 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 155.0 IP, 28 GS, 12-9, 144 K, 62 BB, 4.37 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 2.2 WAR

Ian Anderson rode an improved changeup and a fastball with more velocity (94.6 mph) to strong results during his age-23 season, and the best should be yet to come. If his curveball develops and he commands his pitches better, he could become the latest noteworthy pitcher in the Atlanta Braves system even if he isn’t there yet. Anderson still has plenty to prove, but the tools are there.

49. Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels

Age: 25

2021 Stats: 87.0 IP, 14 GS, 3-6, 94 K, 36 BB, 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1.5 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 143.0 IP, 25 GS, 10-9, 145 K, 56 BB, 4.18 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.1 WAR

Even though back injuries cut his efforts short and he had to work through a mediocre fastball, Patrick Sandoval displayed as much strikeout potential as any other up-and-comer in 2021. The 25-year-old was a whiff machine, particularly with his changeup, and joined Gerrit Cole and Corbin Burnes as one of only three pitchers to record at least 30 swinging strikes in a single start.

48. Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners

Age: 24

2021 Stats: 119.1 IP, 24 GS, 6-5, 128 K, 28 BB, 4.68 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 2.2 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 153.0 IP, 27 GS, 9-10, 158 K, 44 BB, 4.19 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.5 WAR

Logan Gilbert’s fastball is an elite pitch, and he showcased high-upside sliders, changeups, and curveballs during his journey through the minors. But those secondary offerings didn’t translate to the majors en route to a 4.68 ERA (driven up by a .293 BABIP and 67.9 LOB%), and his success in 2022 hinges on that changing. Even the tiniest amount of progress would allow his fastball to play up via the added unpredictability in his approach.

47. Luis Severino, New York Yankees

Age: 28

2021 Stats: 6.0 IP, 0 GS, 1-0, 8 K, 1 BB, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 0.2 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 133.0 IP, 23 GS, 10-7, 140 K, 35 BB, 3.69 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 3.0 WAR

A general soreness scare in spring training was exactly that: a scare. However, it’s still concerning given the injuries that have limited Luis Severino to 18 total frames since he posted a 3.39 ERA with 220 strikeouts over 191.1 innings in 2018. He’s poised to bring back the upper-90s heater and a knee-buckling slider, but this is still a mostly speculative placement based on the upside he could unlock if he can remain healthy for 100-plus innings.

46. Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals

Age: 26

2021 Stats: 78.1 IP, 15 GS, 9-2, 85 K, 26 BB, 3.22 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 0.9 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 118.0 IP, 20 GS, 8-7, 120 K, 43 BB, 3.95 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 1.9 WAR

Jack Flaherty’s shoulder is legitimately troubling, especially since he won’t be ready for the start of the season. But he’s only three years removed from a fourth-place finish in Cy Young voting and has one of the best fastballs in the majors when he’s healthy. He’s a strong candidate to move up significantly if he can outdo the volume expectations.

45. Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale | Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Age: 32

2021 Stats: 42.2 IP, 9 GS, 5-1, 52 K, 12 BB, 3.16 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 0.8 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 113.0 IP, 20 GS, 8-6, 136 K, 36 BB, 3.90 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.4 WAR

If Chris Sale’s slider is functioning as it did in 2019, when it had a 35.7% whiff rate and a 28.3 put-away percentage, that’ll be a clear indicator we’ve undersold the healthy version. If those numbers are sitting around the respective marks of 32.0 and 20.9% he posted over 42.2 innings in 2021, that’s when it should be clear the best version lies in the past. Sale thrived after his return from Tommy John surgery, but scalability questions remain.

44. Chris Bassitt, New York Mets

Age: 33

2021 Stats: 157.1 IP, 27 GS, 12-4, 159 K, 39 BB, 3.15 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3.3 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 165.0 IP, 29 GS, 11-10, 157 K, 54 BB, 4.18 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 2.5 WAR

Chris Bassitt just keeps overperforming, at least based on the underlying metrics, and at some point, we have to accept that as his reality rather than an unbelievable stretch of good fortune. Relying more on his slider and four-seamer rather than turning to his sinker and cutter as frequently worked in 2021, and that should at least ensure a high floor as he transitions to a tougher role with the New York Mets in a loaded NL East.

43. Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs

Age: 30

2021 Stats: 179.0 IP, 33 GS, 10-13, 158 K, 44 BB, 3.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 3.4 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 172.0 IP, 30 GS, 10-12, 136 K, 57 BB, 4.39 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 2.4 WAR

Excluding the 2020 campaign, which he opted out of amid the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Marcus Stroman has posted FIPs between 3.49 and 3.91 for six straight seasons. His diverse arsenal of pitches might lack an elite offering, but he can mix up that repertoire enough to fool batters and keep inducing soft contact for the Chicago Cubs, just as he’d been doing for the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets before.

42. Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox

Age: 26

2021 Stats: 165.2 IP, 32 GS, 13-7, 226 K, 68 BB, 3.91 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 4.4 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 166.0 IP, 31 GS, 12-11, 201 K, 73 BB, 4.24 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 2.8 WAR

Dylan Cease’s gaudy strikeout figures might seem like they should merit more love, as should the fact that his 3.91 ERA came with a .309 BABIP that helped explain the much-lower underlying metrics. But until he can display better command and go deeper into games — 32 starts should lead to more than 165.2 innings — he’s simply not efficient enough to earn more prominent placement. Case in point: He had a career-low 3.69 walks per nine innings last year.

41. John Means, Baltimore Orioles

Age: 28

2021 Stats: 146.2 IP, 26 GS, 6-9, 134 K, 26 BB, 3.62 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 2.5 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 164.0 IP, 29 GS, 10-12, 145 K, 41 BB, 4.54 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 2.1 WAR

One of the best ways to cure a pitcher’s home-run woes? Move the fences back. That’s usually a punchline, but it’s the reality for John Means after the left-field expansion at Camden Yards. He dealt with some lingering injury issues after posting a 2.79 ERA through his first 93.2 innings in 2021, and his changeup, slider, and curveball should all play well. This could be the season he puts it all together, especially with more room for flyouts to left field.

40. Jordan Montgomery, New York Yankees

New York Yankees starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery | G Fiume/Getty Images

Age: 29

2021 Stats: 157.1 IP, 30 GS, 6-7, 162 K, 51 BB, 3.83 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.3 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 160.0 IP, 30 GS, 12-10, 159 K, 51 BB, 4.08 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2.8 WAR

For Jordan Montgomery, the magic number was 11.1. His changeup sat 11.1 mph below a fastball that was far from overpowering in 2021, and that high-spin off-speed pitch racked up 11.1 runs above average behind an elite .187 xBA and .382 xSLG. Except for whatever reason, he chose to throw the dominant changeup less and the middling fastball more. If he course-corrects, the long-awaited breakout could finally arrive and match the underlying skills.

39. Framber Valdez, Houston Astros

Age: 28

2021 Stats: 134.2 IP, 22 GS, 11-6, 125 K, 58 BB, 3.14 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1.9 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 173.0 IP, 28 GS, 12-9, 157 K, 69 BB, 3.68 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.8 WAR

Framber Valdez can get by with mediocre command of his pitches and a fastball-changeup combination that often fails to impress because his curveball is just that excellent. It allowed more hits than ever in 2021, but that’s only because the stellar .125 batting average allowed (.156 xBA) couldn’t quite stack up against the .124 (.137 xBA) in 2020, .118 (.115 xBA) in 2019, and .098 (.110 xBA) in 2018. That hook has become one of the league’s best offerings.

38. Eduardo Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers

Age: 28

2021 Stats: 157.2 IP, 31 GS, 13-8, 185 K, 47 BB, 4.74 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 3.8 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 177.0 IP, 31 GS, 11-12, 178 K, 60 BB, 3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 3.7 WAR

Few pitchers got more unlucky last year than Eduardo Rodriguez. A horrible bullpen performance allowed 31.1% of his inherited runners to score, his sky-high .363 BABIP was well above his career average of .311 (which is already pretty darn high), and his 12.7 HR/FB% also outpaced his career average of 11.8%. That all helps explain why his fastball-centric approach still earns such high marks even with a 4.74 ERA in the immediate past.

37. Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox

Age: 32

2021 Stats: 182.1 IP, 32 GS, 11-9, 195 K, 35 BB, 3.75 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 5.6 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 167.0 IP, 29 GS, 12-10, 167 K, 42 BB, 4.07 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 3.4 WAR

A great curveball and an arsenal of passable supporting pitches helped carry Nathan Eovaldi to a fourth-place Cy Young finish last year. His 3.75 ERA was backed by a 2.79 FIP, 3.48 xFIP, 3.37 xERA, and 3.60 SIERA, largely because his .326 BABIP was unsustainably high and he flat-out refused to walk batters. But between his lengthy injury history and the lack of dominant stuff outside the hook, he feels more like a high-floor than a high-ceiling option.

36. Sean Manaea, San Diego Padres

Age: 30

2021 Stats: 179.1 IP, 32 GS, 11-10, 194 K, 41 BB, 3.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3.3 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 174.0 IP, 30 GS, 10-11, 176 K, 45 BB, 3.73 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 3.6 WAR

Sean Manaea’s sinking fastball, which featured a jaw-dropping 20.1 inches of vertical movement, finally became an unquestioned positive last year, largely due to velocity gains. It ticked up from 89.8 mph in 2019 and 90.4 mph in 2020 to 92.1 mph in 2021, leading to the most success the 30-year-old has enjoyed with the pitch. If he can maintain that while exhibiting the command on display early in spring, he might keep climbing the rankings.

35. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani | Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Age: 27

2021 Stats: 130.1 IP, 23 GS, 9-2, 156 K, 44 BB, 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.0 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 136.0 IP, 25 GS, 10-8, 158 K, 54 BB, 3.69 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.6 WAR

If Shohei Ohtani’s full set of skills were up for discussion, he’d rise right to the top of this list. But we’re not evaluating his hitting, and his performance on the mound is inherently limited by his workload. He stayed healthy throughout 2021 and still turned in just 23 starts and 130.1 innings, and it’s hard to see him doing much more even if he continues to stay clear of the injury imp. His outstanding sinker and whiff-inducing slider help him overcome a hittable fastball, but even further strides from the heater can’t overcome the inherent volume limitations.

34. Pablo Lopez, Miami Marlins

Age: 26

2021 Stats: 102.2 IP, 20 GS, 5-5, 115 K, 26 BB, 3.07 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 2.3 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 144.0 IP, 26 GS, 10-10, 140 K, 45 BB, 4.01 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.7 WAR

Pablo Lopez’s improved fastball velocity helped his off-speed stuff play up, and the hope is that the elevated level of respect the secondary pitches now demand will, in turn, help that fastball induce more swings and misses. If that happens or his changeup yields even better results (plenty of batters already chase it outside the zone), that could offset any concerns about his history of shoulder injuries and whether his success is scalable over a full workload.

33. Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks

Age: 26

2021 Stats: 121.1 IP, 23 GS, 4-10, 139 K, 49 BB, 4.30 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 1.5 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 163.0 IP, 28 GS, 9-10, 160 K, 61 BB, 4.37 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.3 WAR

Zac Gallen fell off the pace he’d set for himself in 2021, largely because his secondary pitches failed to pass muster as he struggled to stay healthy over 121.0 high-labor innings. He still earned double-digit strikeouts per nine innings and displayed pinpoint control of his fastball, which lends credence to the idea that he could resume that upward trajectory as a 26-year-old showing off increased fastball velocity in spring training.

32. Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres

Age: 35

2021 Stats: 166.1 IP, 30 GS, 8-11, 199 K, 44 BB, 4.22 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 2.9 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 168.0 IP, 29 GS, 11-11, 181 K, 53 BB, 4.32 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.5 WAR

Yu Darvish is still a strikeout artist with a lofty ceiling, but it might be tough for him to regain his prior levels given how much he struggled after the beginning of the MLB crackdown on sticky stuff. Over 14 starts from the beginning of July through the end of the regular season, he posted a 6.65 ERA (5.05 FIP) and 1.31 WHIP with a 4-10 record. He’ll obviously improve on those numbers, but by how much?

31. Blake Snell, San Diego Padres

Age: 29

2021 Stats: 128.2 IP, 27 GS, 7-6, 170 K, 69 BB, 4.20 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 2.1 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 158.0 IP, 28 GS, 10-9, 188 K, 76 BB, 4.21 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 2.6 WAR

Everything hinges on the changeup Blake Snell memorably put “in timeout” late in 2021. After he cut it out of his repertoire, he started looking like the Cy Young-winning pitcher of 2018, pounding the upper portion of the strike zone with fastballs and keeping his breaking balls down. That north-south approach helps mitigate command issues, which could be all he needs to make this admittedly cautious placement look foolish down the road.

30. Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Alek Manoah | Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Age: 24

2021 Stats: 111.2 IP, 20 GS, 9-2, 127 K, 40 BB, 3.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2.0 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 157.0 IP, 28 GS, 11-8, 173 K, 58 BB, 3.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.5 WAR

If the changeup is even acceptable — not even reaching the level at which it debuted in six shutout innings against the New York Yankees — then Alek Manoah will have true ace potential. His fastball and slider are both elite pitches, and he should gradually improve his command while continuing to induce softer contact that doesn’t lead to extra-base hits and keeps his BABIP naturally depressed. The upside here is palpable.

29. Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays

Age: 24

2021 Stats: 123.1 IP, 25 GS, 10-6, 141 K, 37 BB, 3.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2.5 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 148.0 IP, 28 GS, 10-10, 163 K, 53 BB, 4.01 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.8 WAR

Speaking of upside, Shane McClanahan might have even more. His slider is already a marquee offering, posting a 39.9% whiff rate during his first big league season despite a velocity dip toward the end of the year. If he can mix in an improved fastball, which feels like a fairly safe bet in a Tampa Bay Rays organization known for developing and cultivating pitching talent, he’ll take his go-to offering and mound presence and run straight toward stardom.

28. Joe Musgrove, San Diego Padres

Age: 29

2021 Stats: 181.1 IP, 31 GS, 11-9, 203 K, 54 BB, 3.18 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 3.3 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 177.0 IP, 30 GS, 12-11, 184 K, 61 BB, 4.08 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.0 WAR

Joe Musgrove seems to change his approach on a start-by-start basis, building everything around a curveball and slider that generate plenty of whiffs. But he’s consistently cut down on his four-seamer, and figuring out how to harness it is the key to looking even better in 2022 than in 2021. Musgrove has a high floor with a somewhat-limited ceiling (over a full season, not a single start), but that changes if the four-seamer starts blurring past more bats.

27. Mike Clevinger, San Diego Padres

Age: 31

2021 Stats: Did not pitch

2022 Projected Stats: 129.0 IP, 21 GS, 8-7, 137 K, 48 BB, 4.19 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.3 WAR

Mike Clevinger posted a 2.96 ERA (3.39 FIP) over 489.1 innings from 2017-20, looking every bit the part of an ace with a mid-90s fastball and a slider that treated bats like magnets with similar polarity. Oh, and he’s still just 31 years old. He’s also returning from Tommy John surgery that kept him to 41.2 innings in 2020 and none in 2021, and he got roughed up in his first spring start. This is a risky spot, but Clevinger’s talent should ultimately win out.

26. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 34

2021 Stats: 121.2 IP, 22 GS, 10-8, 144 K, 21 BB, 3.55 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 3.4 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 130.0 IP, 22 GS, 11-6, 140 K, 32 BB, 3.70 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 2.6 WAR

Clayton Kershaw still has a devastating slider that helps him overcome a low-90s fastball, and he’s continued to post impressive results even in the post-prime portion of his playing career. His 3.55 ERA was his worst number since his 2008 efforts as a rookie, and it was supported by a 3.17 xERA, 3.00 FIP, 2.87 xFIP, and 3.10 SIERA. He hasn’t topped 180 innings since 2015, though, and that’s the only reason the living legend sits outside the top 25.

25. Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo | Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Age: 29

2021 Stats: 187.2 IP, 33 GS, 8-16, 192 K, 75 BB, 3.98 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.7 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 179.0 IP, 30 GS, 12-11, 172 K, 71 BB, 4.13 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 2.5 WAR

Luis Castillo’s fastball-slider combination can blow away and wipe out hitter after hitter, but will his shoulder remain healthy enough for him to deliver it consistently? He’s already set to miss at least his first turn through the Cincinnati Reds rotation, and any issues with the throwing arm are cause for concern. But if he keeps taking the mound and ups his control a smidge, his stuff will play quite well for the cost-cutting Reds.

24. Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 31

2021 Stats: 192.0 IP, 33 GS, 14-16, 227 K, 50 BB, 2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 4.8 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 176.0 IP, 30 GS, 12-10, 202 K, 54 BB, 4.11 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 3.2 WAR

Kevin Gausman is due for regression given his unsustainable home-run prevention (plus the transition from Oracle Park to Rogers Centre) and an outlier fastball. It came out of nowhere in 2021, and the .257 batting average and .416 slugging percentage it yielded were significantly better than the expected numbers of .278 and .485, respectively. Fortunately for the Toronto Blue Jays, Gausman will be regressing from a sparkling 2.81 ERA and still features a splitter cemented as one of baseball’s best pitches.

23. Max Fried, Atlanta Braves

Age: 28

2021 Stats: 165.2 IP, 28 GS, 14-7, 158 K ,41 BB, 3.04 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.8 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 178.0 IP, 30 GS, 13-10, 166 K, 58 BB, 4.07 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 3.2 WAR

Max Fried may check in at No. 8 among NL East starting pitchers, but that just goes to show the overall strength of the rotation options in the division. Over the 28-year-old’s final 25 starts and 154.2 innings pitched, he logged a 2.44 ERA (3.09 FIP) and 0.98 WHIP while racking up 144 strikeouts and only 36 walks. Between that and his masterpiece against the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the World Series, he’s ready to take that next step.

22. Trevor Rogers, Miami Marlins

Age: 24

2021 Stats: 133.0 IP, 25 GS, 7-8, 157 K, 46 BB, 2.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 4.2 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 159.0 IP, 30 GS, 10-12, 175 K, 63 BB, 4.23 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 3.0 WAR

It’s easy to fall in love with Trevor Rogers’ fastball, which earned the No. 11 cumulative run value among four-seamers in 2021 while yielding a .219 xBA and .362 xSLG. His slider needs to develop into a quality No. 3 offering alongside the heater and a complementary changeup, but he has a strong chance to continue breaking out after posting a 2.64 ERA backed up by strong predictive metrics.

21. Jose Berrios, Toronto Blue Jays

Age: 27

2021 Stats: 192.0 IP, 32 GS, 12-9, 204 K, 45 BB, 3.52 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 4.1 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 189.0 IP, 31 GS, 13-10, 187 K, 56 BB, 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.4 WAR

Jose Berrios isn’t going to take that proverbial next step unless he can improve his changeup and curveball, both of which can bounce between putting away batters and hanging over the plate until they’re crushed into the upper deck. He might not need to ascend to that next tier to justify the Toronto Blue Jays’ investment, though. His fastball alone guarantees him a high baseline, and his success in earning a 3.52 ERA and 1.06 WHIP last year was legitimate.

20. Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Freddy Peralta | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Age: 25

2021 Stats: 144.1 IP, 27 GS, 10-5, 195 K, 56 BB, 2.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 4.0 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 161.0 IP, 29 GS, 13-9, 198 K, 65 BB, 3.78 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.4 WAR

Freddy Peralta arrived as a third ace for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2021, and a 2.70 xERA, 3.12 FIP, and 3.66 xFIP show that his sub-3.00 ERA wasn’t too fluky even if he benefited from some batted-ball luck. An upgraded slider, a premier four-seamer, and a strong curveball helped create the blueprint for success, and that approach shouldn’t change moving forward.

19. Carlos Rodon, San Francisco Giants

Age: 29

2021 Stats: 132.2 IP, 24 GS, 13-5, 185 K, 36 BB, 2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 4.9 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 144.0 IP, 25 GS, 10-8, 179 K, 53 BB, 3.49 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.9 WAR

Carlos Rodon had to work through some shoulder fatigue during the back half of the 2021 season, likely stemming from a four-seamer that exploded to 95.4 mph and rose as high as 96.7 mph in June before plummeting back to 92.9 mph in September. But that doesn’t diminish the magnitude of this breakout since the 29-year-old posted a scorching 2.37 ERA and 0.96 WHIP after logging ERAs north of 4.00 in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

18. Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants

Age: 25

2021 Stats: 148.1 IP, 26 GS, 11-3, 158 K, 36 BB, 3.03 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 4.1 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 168.0 IP, 30 GS, 12-10, 154 K, 54 BB, 3.66 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.8 WAR

Throw away the lack of elite track record and the possibility of batters having a better scouting report on his sinker-slider-changeup repertoire. Logan Webb’s 3.03 ERA was supported by a 2.72 FIP, 2.79 xFIP, and 3.13 SIERA, and he was even better after returning from the right shoulder strain that kept him out in June. Hitters can’t elevate the ball against him, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon even as he tries to handle an increasingly bigger workload.

17. Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves

Age: 38

2021 Stats: 185.2 IP, 33 GS, 14-6, 216 K, 58 BB, 3.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 4.6 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 152.0 IP, 27 GS, 12-8, 165 K, 55 BB, 3.94 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2.9 WAR

With a .173 xBA and .245 xSLG, Charlie Morton’s curveball carried more run value during the 2021 season than any MLB pitch other than Carlos Rodon’s four-seamer, Adrian Houser’s sinker, and Kevin Gausman’s splitter. He’s coming off a season with a luck-neutral 3.34 ERA, and there’s little reason to believe a decline is imminent since his secondary offerings already failed to register as distinctly positive pitches and the curveball is still so deadly.

16. Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners

Age: 30

2021 Stats: 193.1 IP, 32 GS, 13-7, 248 K, 52 BB, 2.84 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.9 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 178.0 IP, 30 GS, 12-11, 226 K, 74 BB, 4.12 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.0 WAR

The underlying metrics (3.60 xERA, 3.69 FIP, 3.36 xFIP, 3.21 SIERA) point to a middle ground between the Cy Young Robbie Ray claimed in 2021 and the previous struggles stemming from abhorrent command. That’s probably a fair expectation. He changed his approach last year, no longer nibbling away at the edges of the plate and trying to fool hitters outside the zone but instead overpowering them with his fastball and putting them away with the slider. He’s an entirely different pitcher now — and a much better one at that.

15. Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

Justin Verlander throws a pitch for the Houston Astros
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander | Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Age: 39

2021 Stats: Did not pitch

2022 Projected Stats: 136.0 IP, 23 GS, 10-7, 168 K, 38 BB, 3.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 2.9 WAR

Should we believe what we’re seeing in spring? Justin Verlander is back to throwing upper-90s fastballs and sliders that run away from contact, and that’s resulted in just five hits, three walks, and no runs allowed with 10 strikeouts in 8.2 innings spread out over three starts. That’s obviously a small — and potentially meaningless — sample, but it’s all we have to work with for a 39-year-old who underwent Tommy John surgery after just six innings in 2020.

14. Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox

Age: 34

2021 Stats: 157.0 IP, 28 GS, 11-6, 176 K, 45 BB, 2.69 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 4.2 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 178.0 IP, 30 GS, 13-10, 189 K, 60 BB, 4.08 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3.1 WAR

Lance Lynn might not be the most glamorous of the options in this range of the rankings, but his incredible fastball and strong secondary slider ensure that he can keep defying Father Time for at least another year. His 2.69 ERA isn’t too replicable because more inherited runners are sure to score this season, but he knows who he is and has an approach that will induce plenty of weak contact once he returns from surgery on his right knee.

13. Frankie Montas, Oakland Athletics

Age: 29

2021 Stats: 187.0 IP, 32 GS, 13-9, 207 K, 57 BB, 3.37 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 4.1 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 179.0 IP, 31 GS, 11-13, 190 K, 63 BB, 3.98 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 3.3 WAR

Frankie Montas doesn’t give up much hard contact, and what little is earned against him tends to be driven into the ground rather than lofted into the air. He rarely walks batters (2.74 BB/9) and features four-seamers, sinkers, and sliders that can look like obvious positives during any given outing. But the real selling point here is a splitter that held adversaries to a .135 xBA and .192 xSLG even as he flirted with 200 innings pitched in 2021.

12. Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox

Age: 27

2021 Stats: 178.2 IP, 31 GS, 11-9, 201 K, 52 BB, 3.53 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 4.0 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 180.0 IP, 30 GS, 13-10, 203 K, 62 BB, 4.03 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.3 WAR

Adding more frequency to his slider usage to counteract diminishing effectiveness with his fastball and changeup, which typically comprise an inordinate portion of his repertoire, Lucas Giolito managed to adjust and submit yet another strong season. Now, imagine what might happen if a fastball that still features plenty of spin and movement around the plate can get back to its old levels and pair with that new-and-improved slider.

11. Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins

Age: 26

2021 Stats: 205.2 IP, 33 GS, 9-15, 201 K, 50 BB, 3.19 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 4.2 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 189.0 IP, 30 GS, 12-11, 171 K, 58 BB, 3.86 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 3.5 WAR

If you factor out a 10-run disaster against the Colorado Rockies and an eight-run blowup against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sandy Alcantara had a 2.47 ERA in 200.1 innings. Once he made an approach alteration late in the 2021 season, he posted a 2.21 ERA and 0.88 WHIP from Aug. 11 on while throwing his changeup 18% of the time (23.5% for the full season) and slider 31% of the time (24.1% for the full season). This 26-year-old is legit, and then some.

10. Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola | Mark Brown/Getty Images

Age: 28

2021 Stats: 180.2 IP, 32 GS, 9-9, 223 K, 39 BB, 4.63 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 4.5 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 181.0 IP, 30 GS, 14-9, 198 K, 50 BB, 3.67 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 3.9 WAR

Don’t be fooled by Aaron Nola’s 4.63 ERA. It’s in no way indicative of how good he was and is. A .308 BABIP (see: terrible Philadelphia Phillies defense) and a 66.8 LOB% (see: terrible Philadelphia Phillies bullpen) held him back in 2021 even though he induced plenty of soft contact and used his elite curveball to strike out myriad batters. The 3.37 xERA, 3.37 FIP, 3.37 xFIP, and 3.26 SIERA are far better aligned with his actual talent on the mound.

9. Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

Age: 33

2021 Stats: 92.0 IP, 15 GS, 7-2, 146 K, 11 BB, 1.08 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 4.9 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 150.0 IP, 24 GS, 12-6, 217 K, 44 BB, 2.65 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 5.4 WAR

Relying almost entirely on his fastball and slider, Jacob deGrom supported his 1.08 ERA with a 1.54 xERA, 1.24 FIP, 1.61 xFIP, and 1.74 SIERA, all of which promote the idea he was having one of the best pitching seasons in baseball history. The only issue is that he made it just 68.0 innings before he was shut down, and those injury concerns are already popping up again. Availability is the biggest — and, really, the only — concern here. If you can stomach those worries, he’s the best pitcher in baseball.

Unfortunately for him and the New York Mets, the worries are already legitimate. Though he ranked above multiple pitchers yet to appear in the divisional rankings, the results on his recent MRI following a scratched spring start were less than ideal. Per ESPN‘s Jeff Passan, a stress reaction in his right scapula will force him to “miss a significant amount of time to start 2022,” and he won’t start throwing again until a month has passed.

Even 92 innings of deGrom led to the No. 9 WAR among all starting pitchers in 2021, hence the minimal drop down the rankings from the No. 1 spot he’d have otherwise occupied.

8. Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 25

2021 Stats: 185.2 IP, 32 GS, 20-3, 195 K, 38 BB, 2.96 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 5.0 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 177.0 IP, 31 GS, 14-8, 174 K, 48 BB, 3.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 3.8 WAR

Just imagine if Julio Urias’ fastball morphs from mediocre to distinctly above-average. He moved away from it for much of 2021 while also completely eliminating his slider, which allowed him to baffle entire batting orders with premier curveballs (.175 xBA and .273 xSLG) and changeups (.217 xBA and .278 xSLG). Throw in his top-notch control, and it becomes inordinately clear how effective he was once fully unleashed by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

7. Max Scherzer, New York Mets

Age: 37

2021 Stats: 179.1 IP, 30 GS, 15-4, 236 K, 36 BB, 2.46 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 5.4 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 172.0 IP, 28 GS, 13-9, 218 K, 52 BB, 3.55 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 4.1 WAR

Max Scherzer turned to his fastball and slider 66.2% of the time last year, and for good reason. His 94.3 mph four-seamer remained one of the better pitches in the majors, and his slider eludes bats rather routinely. Paired with a changeup, curveball, and cutter that all grade out as above-average pitches when he’s on top of his game, the veteran still enjoys ace status even if he’s slightly more susceptible to homers than he was at his true peak.

6. Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians

Age: 26

2021 Stats: 96.2 IP, 16 GS, 7-4, 134 K, 33 BB, 3.17 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.6 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 174.0 IP, 28 GS, 13-10, 216 K, 56 BB, 3.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 4.2 WAR

The fastball should return, and Shane Bieber still enjoys a devastating slider and a full complement of tertiary pitches. He might not reach the levels he posted during his Cy Young-winning efforts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, but he’s also better than he looked in 2021 even when he wasn’t hindered by the lingering effects of a rotator cuff injury. Bieber still has best-in-MLB upside when it’s all clicking.

5. Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

Zack Wheeler pitches for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler | Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Age: 31

2021 Stats: 213.1 IP, 32 GS, 14-10, 247 K, 46 BB, 2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.3 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 179.0 IP, 28 GS, 14-8, 181 K, 48 BB, 3.39 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.7 WAR

Having one pitch with double-digit run value over the course of a full season is tough enough. Zack Wheeler had three thanks to his slider (11), sinker (10), and four-seamer (14). He began turning to that slider, which yielded a .224 xBA and .344 xSLG, more than ever in 2021, fueling a breakout that helped him earn the second-place finish in Cy Young voting he has a solid chance to top in 2022.

4. Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 27

2021 Stats: 207.2 IP, 33 GS, 16-4, 212 K, 52 BB, 2.47 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 5.5 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 190.0 IP, 31 GS, 15-8, 187 K, 56 BB, 3.83 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.5 WAR

Walker Buehler doesn’t walk batters, which makes it downright unfair that anyone at the plate has to prepare for six distinct offerings. He routinely turns to four-seamers, cutters, sliders, and curveballs, and he’ll mix in sinkers and changeups enough that they could end any given at-bat. Even more unfairly, each one graded out as a distinctly positive pitch during a season in which Buehler’s spin rates dipped a bit following the crackdown on sticky stuff.

3. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

Age: 31

2021 Stats: 181.1 IP, 30 GS, 16-8, 243 K, 41 BB, 3.23 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 5.3 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 189.0 IP, 30 GS, 15-9, 247 K, 51 BB, 3.39 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 4.9 WAR

Even during his last nine starts after an adjustment to the MLB-wide crackdown on Spider Tack, Gerrit Cole submitted a 3.53 ERA (3.15 FIP) with 67 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 51 innings. He still boasts a fastball-slider combination as good as any one-two punch in baseball, gets plenty of whiffs with his changeup, and squeezes out called strikes with his curveball. Cole might not elevate the heater as effectively without a pristine spin rate, but he still has all the tools.

2. Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers

Age: 29

2021 Stats: 179.1 IP, 30 GS, 9-10, 211 K, 43 BB, 2.56 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 4.7 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 183.0 IP, 31 GS, 14-9, 199 K, 53 BB, 3.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 4.4 WAR

Brandon Woodruff’s four-seamer, which checks in at 96.5 mph, is his most noteworthy offering, holding batters to a .212 xBA and .349 xSLG with a 30.5 whiff percentage in 2021. But it’s far from his only strong pitch. His sinker induces a ton of weak contact, his sweeping curve fools plenty of hitters, and his changeup tunnels nicely with the fastball to help keep opponents off-balance. Good luck dealing with that arsenal.

1. Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers

Age: 27

2021 Stats: 167.0 IP, 28 GS, 11-5, 234 K, 34 BB, 2.43 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 7.5 WAR

2022 Projected Stats: 171.0 IP, 29 GS, 14-8, 217 K, 54 BB, 3.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 5.1 WAR

Corbin Burnes’ cutter-curveball-slider combination is patently absurd, and he might have another level to reach if he focuses on those three marquee offerings while cutting back on some of the other secondary stuff. That’s especially terrifying considering the reigning National League Cy Young winner posted a 2.00 xERA, 1.63 FIP, and 2.30 xFIP that already validate the idea he’s not going anywhere after reaching the top of the mound mountain.

All stats, unless otherwise indicated, courtesy of Baseball ReferenceFangraphs, and Baseball Savant.

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