There’s no doubt about it, the MLB is a pitcher’s league right now. Strikeouts, fastball velocity, and even no-hitters are at all-time highs in MLB history. Thus, making a list of the Top 10 MLB Starting Pitchers is no easy feat. In fact, it was the hardest list that I had to make. There will be some aces left off of this list, but the rest of the MLB is just too good. In the spirit of MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Now, here’s Overtime’s Top 10 MLB Starting Pitchers.
10. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Despite a devastating Achilles injury in 2015, Adam Wainwright is just too good to be left off of this list. The lanky 6’7″ hurler has only posted an ERA greater than 3.00 once since 2009 and made a surprisingly effective comeback from injury this past season. Wainwright is an innings-eater, only posting less than 200 innings pitched in 2012 and 2015, which were years with injuries.
Wainwright excels at placing his pitches with pinpoint accuracy rather than overwhelming velocity, which limits his walks and augments his ground ball rate. While he is 34 years old, there are few pitchers that I would rather have than “Waino”.
9. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
The energetic righty for the Nationals, Max Scherzer is a perfect number 9 on this list. While his peaks are sky-high, including 2 no-hitters in 2015, he also went through a very rough stretch where he was roughed up repeatedly in June and July. The Nationals are paying Scherzer $212 million, but he is worth it.
Scherzer is baseball’s best righty strikeout pitcher; his 95 mph fastball and wipeout slider are his main weapons of choice. If the Nationals can improve a little bit, Scherzer’s stock will rise even higher.
8. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
One good-but-not-great season from King Felix was good enough to bump him down 6 spots from last year’s list. It’s not that Hernandez was bad in 2015, but rather that his competition was just so good. Hernandez gave up 23 home runs, which saw his ERA skyrocket to 3.53. His strikeouts fell, his walks rose, and just seemed like a different man on the mound at times.
Still, Hernandez’s stats are among baseball’s top starters, and we’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to 2015. He is a power-throwing workhorse in a pitcher-friendly park with a Cy Young on his mantle, which bodes well for 2016.
7. David Price, Boston Red Sox
Boy, David Price sure does love going to rivals of the New York Yankees! The ace of the Tampa Bay Rays for 5 and a half years, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers where he continued his strong play for parts of two seasons. A huge trade to the surging Toronto Blue Jays made Price even better, as he was the last piece of the puzzle that Toronto needed to be almost unbeatable.
Price then signed with the Red Sox this offseason for a whopping 7 year, $217 million deal. The fireballing southpaw is a good fit for the Red Sox, even if they did overpay for his services. He is a true five-pitch pitcher that is adept at getting grounders and flyouts depending on the situation. Price will be an integral part for the Red Sox in 2016 and beyond.
6. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
The Cuban Defector, Jose Fernandez missed most of 2014 and 2015 due to Tommy John Surgery, but was lights-out when he was toeing the rubber. The procedure did little to his electric stuff, as he posted numbers similar to his stellar rookie campaign of 2013. His offspeed stuff has improved every year, and his fastball is always unhittable.
Fernandez is worthy of at least this spot when healthy, but we’re willing to slot him here now that his injuries should be behind him. If Fernandez can stay healthy, the baseball world is his to conquer.
5. Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
Greinke was an expensive risk for the D-Backs to take on, but if the squad wants to contend, they need an ace like this. Greinke is a powerful workhorse righty who posted one of baseball’s best seasons ever in 2015. His 19-3 record, 1.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, are outstanding, but try this on for size: Greinke allowed 1 earned run or less in 21 of his 32 starts in 2015!
Greinke needs to live up to the hype in Arizona, where the fanbase is starving for a winning team. Now that the D-Backs have the pieces to contend, it’s time to deliver.
4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
If there’s one stat that can sell you on the dominance of Chris Sale, perhaps it’s this one: he strikes out 1 out of every 3 batters that he faces. Sale has a deceptive delivery and high-velocity stuff, which combines to put away 33% of batters that he faces. There are few more intimidating pitchers in the league than Sale, who bears a resemblance to Randy Johnson on the mound.
Sale is impossible for lefties to hit due to his windup, and he has stellar control for such a wild setup. The White Sox are praying that his left elbow doesn’t give, because if it stays healthy, they’ve got a top 5 starter for years to come.
3. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
This may seem like a very high spot for a man only two years removed from a 5.15 ERA, but Keuchel’s fantastic transformation into baseball’s best ground-ball pitcher has earned him this ranking, as well as a Cy Young. There are signs in his stats that perhaps last year was an outlier, but they are trumped by the eye test. Watching Keuchel render the powerful Yankees and Blue Jays completely useless multiple times in 2015 cemented his status as a top-5 pitcher.
Coming off of a Cy Young, Keuchel’s stock is higher than ever. It will be interesting to see if he can handle the pressure, but all signs are pointing to yes. Keuchel looks to be the real deal for Houston.
2. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Chicago sure has got it good with pitchers. While the South Siders have Chris Sale, the Cubbies’ Jake Arrieta is even better. The 6’4″, 225 lb righty made some mechanical changes before 2014, and has had absolutely stellar seasons since. His run in 2015 from the All-Star Break on was something that we have never seen in baseball before: 12-1, 0.75 ERA, a no-hitter, and 113 strikeouts in 15 games was perhaps the most dominating stretch by any pitcher ever.
Still, Arrieta needs to prove that 2014 and 2015 weren’t flukes, much like Keuchel does. For now, the number 2 spot is his, but he could move even higher if he keeps this up.
1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
What is there to say about Clayton Kershaw? The 3-time Cy Young and 2014 NL MVP is definitely the best pitcher in baseball. His delivery throws hitters off of their timing, and his hammer 12-6 curveball is an excellent compliment with his 94 mph fastball. Kershaw has the best control and makeup in the game, and he is one of only 34 men to ever have a 300-strikeout season.
What Kershaw is for the Dodgers is something that is rarely seen. To see a pitcher take over hitters like he does is a true talent. The Hall of Fame will surely have a Kershaw plaque on display in the next 20 years.