MLB Top 30 Starting Pitchers for 2023

Baseball is in the midst of a Golden Era for starting pitching, with more teams featuring standout aces than ever before. Here are the top 30.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 08: Sandy Alcantara #22 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch during the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at loanDepot park on June 08, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

We have spent the last few weeks ranking all of the top players at the top positions in the game, but it all culminates with this, which is by far the deepest position in baseball. There are so many great starting pitchers in the game today, that we could make a whole separate list of 10 to 15 honorable mentions and that still might not be enough to get everyone.

The game is loaded right now with talented arms, who can carry their teams for stretches where they are simply unhittable. Today, we are going to examine the top 30 starting pitchers in baseball, where every guy listed is capable of being an ace in 2023.

Medically DQ’ed: Walker Buehler – RHP – Los Angeles Dodgers

2022 Stats: 12 GS, 65.0 IP, 4.02 ERA, 58 K, 17 BB, 3.80 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 1.0 fWAR, 95.4 vFA

Walker Buehler is one of the best pitchers in the game, which is why he is featured on this list as our lone honorable mention. Buehler may miss all of this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but there is no doubting his abilities once he returns to the mound.

Ad – content continues below

30. Joe Musgrove – RHP – San Diego Padres

2022 Stats: 30 GS, 181.0 IP, 2.93 ERA, 184 K, 42 BB, 3.59 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 3.5 fWAR, 92.9 vFA

2023 quick take: Since arriving in San Diego in 2021, Musgrove has a 3.06 ERA over 362 innings. He features a four-pitch mix with his slider as his primary pitch. He’s dependable and is in line for another great season for the Padres.

29. George Kirby – RHP – Seattle Mariners

2022 Stats: 25 GS, 130.0 IP, 3.39 ERA, 133 K, 22 BB, 2.99 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 3.0 fWAR, 95.4 vFA

2023 quick take: Kirby has a special mix of command and bat-missing stuff. His 1.88 FIP in the second half was third-lowest behind Spencer Strider and Justin Verlander. The best is yet to come for Kirby.

28. Yu Darvish – RHP – San Diego Padres

2022 Stats: 30 GS, 194.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 197 K, 37 BB, 3.31 FIP, 0.95 WHIP, 4.2 fWAR, 95.0 vFA

2023 quick take: Believe it or not, Yu Darvish will turn 37 years old this season, but last season proved that some things get better with age. The Padres had the confidence to lock up Darvish through his age-41 season, extending him for six years this offseason.

Ad – content continues below

27. Triston McKenzie – RHP – Cleveland Guardians

2022 Stats: 30 GS, 191.1 IP, 2.96 ERA, 190 K, 44 BB, 3.59 FIP, 0.95 WHIP, 3.6 fWAR, 92.7 vFA

2023 quick take: This is the most important season of McKenzie’s young career as he needs to prove his 2.96 ERA from last season was no fluke, especially considering all of his peripheral stats were over 3.50.

26. Brandon Woodruff – RHP – Milwaukee Brewers

2022 Stats: 27 GS, 153.1 IP, 3.05 ERA, 190 K, 42 BB, 3.08 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, 3.5 fWAR, 96.4 vFA

2023 quick take: Over his last 400+ innings, Woodruff has a 2.84 ERA. He’s become one of the most dependable starters out there and with a healthy 2023, he should be able to climb back up this list.

25. Clayton Kershaw – LHP – Los Angeles Dodgers

2022 Stats: 22 GS, 126.1 IP, 2.28 ERA, 137 K, 23 BB, 2.57 FIP, 0.94 WHIP, 3.8 fWAR, 90.8 vFA

2023 quick take: Will Clayton Kershaw throw more than 150 innings ever again? Maybe not, but it really doesn’t matter because when he’s on the hill, the 35-year-old comes right at hitters with a slider and fastball combination that’s one of the best in the game.

Ad – content continues below

24. Logan Webb – RHP – San Francisco Giants

2022 Stats: 32 GS, 192.1 IP, 2.90 ERA, 163 K, 49 BB, 3.03 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 4.2 fWAR, 92.4 vFA

2023 quick take: Sophomore slump who? Webb found a way to limit damage in his second season and now has a 2.96 ERA over the last two seasons. In order for Webb to take the next step, he’ll need to find his slider from 2021 that got hitters to whiff on 47% of swings.

23. Kevin Gausman – RHP – Toronto Blue Jays

2022 Stats: 31 GS, 174.2 IP, 3.35 ERA, 205 K, 28 BB, 2.38 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, 5.7 fWAR, 94.9 vFA

2023 quick take: On the surface, Gausman was unlucky in 2022 with an ERA nearly a full point above his FIP, but he allows a lot of hard contact, which leads to a home run rate well above league average. Regardless, he’s proven in back-to-back years that he has the upside to be an ace.

22. Alek Manoah – RHP – Toronto Blue Jays

2022 Stats: 31 GS, 196.2 IP, 2.24 ERA, 180 K, 51 BB, 3.35 FIP, 0.99 WHIP, 4.1 fWAR, 93.9 vFA

2023 quick take: Alek Manoah could hold a UFC heavyweight title belt and throw 200 innings for the Jays this season and I wouldn’t bat an eye. He induces soft contact at an elite level. The next step for him is getting more whiffs on his frisbee slider.

Ad – content continues below

21. Zac Gallen – RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks

2022 Stats: 31 GS, 184.0 IP, 2.54 ERA, 192 K, 47 BB, 3.05 FIP, 0.91 WHIP, 4.3 fWAR, 93.9 vFA

2023 quick take: Gallen put up a 1.49 ERA and 2.07 FIP in the second half of 2022. He has as much helium as anyone coming into 2023.

20. Luis Castillo – RHP – Seattle Mariners

2022 Stats: 25 GS, 150.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, 167 K, 45 BB, 3.07 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 3.7 fWAR, 97.1 vFA

2023 quick take: Castillo has finally escaped the confines of Great American Ballpark and is poised to improve on his best season to date. Ground balls and strikeouts, Castillo is as good as anyone when his changeup is on.

19. Cristian Javier – RHP – Houston Astros

2022 Stats: 25 GS, 148.2 IP, 2.54 ERA, 194 K, 52 BB, 3.16 FIP, 0.95 WHIP, 3.4 fWAR, 93.9 vFA

2023 quick take: The arrival of Cristian Javier as a potential ace was one of the biggest surprises of last season. He has an invisible fastball and a nasty slider, which is more than enough to keep hitters at bay.

Ad – content continues below

18. Framber Valdez – LHP – Houston Astros

2022 Stats: 31 GS, 201.1 IP, 2.82 ERA, 194 K, 67 BB, 3.06 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 4.4 fWAR, 94.0 vFA

2023 quick take: No one induces more ground balls than Framber Valdez making him one of the highest-floor arms in baseball, but don’t let that fool you, he also has one of the best curveballs in the game.

17. Shane McClanahan – LHP – Tampa Bay Rays

2022 Stats: 28 GS, 166.1 IP, 2.54 ERA, 194 K, 38 BB, 3.00 FIP, 0.93 WHIP, 3.5 fWAR, 97.0 vFA

2023 quick take: McClanahan took a big step forward in his second season as he leaned more on his changeup and curveball. The big test for him will be going over 180 innings, which he should be able to do if he stays healthy.

16. Tyler Glasnow – RHP – Tampa Bay Rays

2022 Stats: 2 GS, 6.2 IP, 1.35 ERA, 10 K, 2 BB, 2.96 FIP, 0.90 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR, 97.6 vFA

2023 quick take: When Glasnow is healthy, he’s arguably a top-five pitcher in baseball, but he’s never thrown more than 111.2 innings in a season and is already dealing with an oblique strain that is going to keep him out past Opening Day.

Ad – content continues below

15. Julio Urias – LHP – Los Angeles Dodgers

2022 Stats: 31 GS, 175.0 IP, 2.16 ERA, 166 K, 41 BB, 3.71 FIP, 0.96 WHIP, 3.2 fWAR, 93.1 vFA

2023 quick take: Urias is arguably the best pitcher in baseball at inducing soft contact. Last season he held the second-lowest hard hit rate against among starters and is a near lock for an ERA under three, despite what stats like FIP will tell you.

14. Shane Bieber – RHP – Cleveland Guardians

2022 Stats: 31 GS, 200.0 IP, 2.88 ERA, 198 K, 36 BB, 2.87 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, 4.9 fWAR, 91.5 vFA

2023 quick take: Even at 91 MPH, Bieber turned in his best season yet. He increased the usage of his slider to keep hitters off of his fastball and his curveball is still one of the nastiest in the game. It’s hard to question Bieber even at a lower velocity. Let’s just hope he adds a tick or two.

13. Aaron Nola – RHP – Philadelphia Phillies

2022 Stats: 32 GS, 205.0 IP, 3.25 ERA, 235 K, 29 BB, 2.58 FIP, 0.96 WHIP, 6.3 fWAR, 92.9 vFA

2023 quick take: Nola bounced back from his struggles in 2021 behind elite command, which led to a career-low home run per fly ball rate. The peripheral stats think there is even more potential growth ahead for Nola in 2023.

Ad – content continues below

12. Spencer Strider – RHP – Atlanta Braves

2022 Stats: 20 GS, 131.2 IP, 2.67 ERA, 202 K, 45 BB, 1.83 FIP, 0.99 WHIP, 4.9 fWAR, 98.1 vFA

2023 quick take: The two-pitch flamethrower with one of the best sliders in baseball proved that he can dominate even the best competition. The expectation is for Strider, who only has 131.2 MLB innings under his belt, to end up much higher on this list in 2024.

11. Max Fried – LHP – Atlanta Braves

2022 Stats: 30 GS, 185.1 IP, 2.48 ERA, 170 K, 32 BB, 2.70 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, 5.0 fWAR, 94.0 vFA

2023 quick take: Sporting a 2.68 ERA over the last three seasons, Fried is a ground ball and soft contact extraordinaire that has developed a full five-pitch mix. He’s the Braves’ ace until further notice, but Spencer Strider is banging on the door.

10. Gerrit Cole – RHP – New York Yankees

2022 Stats: 33 GS, 200.2 IP, 3.50 ERA, 257 K, 50 BB, 3.47 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 3.3 fWAR, 97.8 vFA

When Cole signed his nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees in 2020, I would have never expected him to put up back-to-back seasons with an ERA over three, but here we are. There are a couple truths that we must acknowledge about Cole.

1. He is a much more talented pitcher than the way he’s performed the last two seasons.

Ad – content continues below

2. He gives up far too much hard contact, which leads to blow up starts and too many homeruns.

If Cole is to return to being a top-five pitcher in baseball, he is going to have to find a way to limit hard contact. If one thing is for certain, he has the talent to do it.

9. Dylan Cease – RHP – Chicago White Sox

2022 Stats: 32 GS, 184.0 IP, 2.20 ERA, 227 K, 78 BB, 3.10 FIP, 1.11 WHIP, 4.4 fWAR, 96.9 vFA

There was not a pitcher that improved his stock more last year than Dylan Cease. The stuff was there in 2021. With a fastball that reaches 100 MPH and a nasty slider and curveball combo that both possessed whiff rates over 40%, we knew Cease was onto something. The issue was that when hitters did make contact, it was consistently very hard, so despite a 32% strikeout rate, Cease compiled a 3.91 ERA and 3.42 FIP in 2021.

Coming into 2022, Cease knew he had to adjust to keep hitters off balance, so he made the same change that Ohtani made and increased the usage of his best pitch, his slider, making it his primary offering. His hard hit rate against dropped more than 7% to 31.2%, which was the third-lowest hard hit rate among starters.

The final evolution for Cease is finding a way to minimize walks, but regardless, his 2.20 ERA and 2.70 xERA in 184 innings last year prove that Cease is an ace with more in the tank.

Ad – content continues below

8. Carlos Rodón – LHP – New York Yankees

2022 Stats: 31 GS, 178.0 IP, 2.88 ERA, 237 K, 52 BB, 2.25 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, 6.2 fWAR, 95.5 vFA

Carlos Rodon is one extremely special pitcher. It all clicked for him in 2021 when he gained 4 MPH on his fastball from 2019 and finally looked like the Carlos Rodon that was drafted third overall out of NC State. He went on to put up a 2.37 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 133 innings and entered free agency after the season.

Because Rodon’s velocity had waned in the final months of the season, and the White Sox failed to tender him a qualifying offer, teams expressed clear concern about his many shoulder problems. This forced Rodon to sign a two-year deal with the Giants with an opt-out after one season.

Rodon would have to prove 2021 was the real deal and that he could stay healthy for a full season and he did exactly that and more. He threw a career-high 178 innings and had the lowest FIP among qualified starters. Off the back of his pure dominance, Rodon opted out and signed a six-year, $162 million contract with the New York Yankees.

He may be leaving the friendly confines of Oracle Park, but for a pitcher with a mix of confidence and dominance like Rodon, he should fit right in at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, Rodon will have to wait a bit to make that impact, as he is reportedly set to miss the start of the season with a forearm strain. Hopefully this is not a precursor for more to come with Rodon.

7. Shohei Ohtani – RHP – Los Angeles Angels

2022 Stats: 28 GS, 166.0 IP, 2.33 ERA, 219 K, 44 BB, 2.40 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, 5.6 fWAR, 97.4 vFA

Ad – content continues below

Shohei Ohtani is such an incredible hitter that I think it takes away our appreciation for how incredible he is on the mound. Last season, Ohtani’s 6.0 bWAR was third-most by any pitcher behind Dylan Cease and Sandy Alcantara. He had the fourth-lowest FIP and fifth-lowest xERA in baseball, while proving that he has the stamina to pitch every five days en route to 166 innings over 28 starts.

Ohtani is the first pitcher on this list thus far that made changes to his repertoire going into 2022 that allowed him to dominate. Despite Ohtani averaging over 97 MPH on his four-seamer, it doesn’t miss bats with frequency and cannot be leaned on as a primary pitch, so Ohtani flipped the scales and increased his slider usage from 22% in 2021 to 37% in 2022.

In turn, he decreased his fastball usage from 44% to 28%. For context, his slider had a 38% whiff rate and a .165 BA against last season, which allowed his fastball to perform its best. Ohtani also mixes in a devastating split-finger that had a 49% whiff rate, but he only threw it 11% of the time.

It’s quite possible that we haven’t seen Ohtani at his best on the mound and that’s even after coming off a season where put up a 2.33 ERA and increased his strikeout rate, while decreasing his walk rate. If there’s someone that has the upside to end up at No. 1 on this list next year, it’s Ohtani.

6. Zack Wheeler – RHP – Philadelphia Phillies

2022 Stats: 26 GS, 153.0 IP, 2.82 ERA, 163 K, 34 BB, 2.89 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, 4.1 fWAR, 96.1 vFA

It’s a bit forgotten how close Zack Wheeler was to winning the 2021 Cy Young Award. He finished just 10 points behind Corbin Burnes while splitting first place votes with the eventual winner. 2022 proved that his spectacular 2021 was no fluke as he posted a 2.82 ERA along with a 2.89 FIP.

Ad – content continues below

Wheeler keeps hitters off balance with two fastballs; a four-seam as well as a sinker that he primarily throws to righties. He attacks hitters with a slider at 90 MPH as his primary breaking pitch and then mixes in a curveball just 10% of the time. Wheeler has proven he’s one of the best arms in baseball and should be back to his old ace tricks yet again in 2023.

5. Max Scherzer – RHP – New York Mets

2022 Stats: 23 GS, 145.1 IP, 2.29 ERA, 173 K, 24 BB, 2.62 FIP, 0.91 WHIP, 4.4 fWAR, 94.1 vFA

Excluding the 2020 shortened season, Max Scherzer hasn’t posted a season with an ERA over 3.00 since 2014 and in the last two seasons, he owns a 2.38 ERA and a 2.81 FIP. Much like the next man on this list, the 36-year-old Scherzer is throwing just as hard now as he was when he was in his 20’s. The expectation is that Scherzer continues his age-defying ways and dominates for at least another year in Queens.

4. Justin Verlander – RHP – New York Mets

2022 Stats: 28 GS, 175.0 IP, 1.75 ERA, 185 K, 29 BB, 2.49 FIP, 0.83 WHIP, 6.1 fWAR, 95.1 vFA

I would say Verlander has aged like fine wine, but that doesn’t seem hyperbolic enough for how impressive Verlander has been since turning 35. Since he joined the Astros full-time in 2018, Verlander has put up a 2.33 ERA in 618 innings. That’s pretty good right?

Well it gets crazier because he ended up missing the entire 2021 season to receive Tommy John surgery as a 39-year-old, which would mean the end of a career for most pitchers that age, but not Verlander. He comes back in 2022 and puts up a 1.75 ERA, which is the lowest of his entire career and wins the AL Cy Young.

Ad – content continues below

Now heading into 2023, Verlander has joined the New York Mets on a two-year, $86.6 million deal. There’s always going to be question marks surrounding a pitcher heading into his age-40 season, but there isn’t that same concern when it comes to Verlander.

His fastball averaged 95 MPH last season, which is equal to where it was in 2018 and he’s learned to lean more on his slider and curveball usage to keep batters off balance. Outside of a slight dip in strikeout rate last year, there is nothing signaling regression for Justin Verlander.

3. Corbin Burnes – RHP – Milwaukee Brewers

2022 Stats: 33 GS, 202.0 IP, 2.94 ERA, 243 K, 51 BB, 3.14 FIP, 0.97 WHIP, 4.6 fWAR, 96.2 vFA

After posting a 2.43 ERA and 1.63 FIP en route to a NL Cy Young Award in 2021, a 2.94 ERA over 202 innings from Corbin Burnes is below what he’s capable of doing. Coming into 2023, Burnes has a chip on his shoulder to show that he still can be the top pitcher in baseball and bounce back from a disastrous 3.97 second half ERA.

It’s easy to get caught up on a bad half and be quick to judge Burnes, but one uncharacteristically bad half does little to sway me from believing that Burnes is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. I choose to believe that Burnes is more likely to perform like the 2.14 ERA version of himself that was an All-Star in the first half.

2. Jacob deGrom – RHP – Texas Rangers

2022 Stats: 11 GS, 64.1 IP, 3.08 ERA, 102 K, 8 BB, 2.13 FIP, 0.75 WHIP, 2.2 fWAR, 98.9 vFA

Ad – content continues below

Last year, I wrote the following about deGrom: “If not for injury, Jacob deGrom’s 2021 season would likely have been placed in the record books as one of the best pitching seasons of all-time.” In a perfect world, Jacob deGrom should be ranked No. 1 on this list, but god created injuries, so here we are again with deGrom coming off of another season marred by them.

When he was on the mound, albeit for just 64.1 regular season IP, he was the same Jacob deGrom we’ve come to know and love. His 42.7% K rate was second-highest behind only his teammate Edwin Diaz, who is a reliever. Conversely, his 3.3% walk rate was third-lowest in baseball.

When deGrom is on the mound, there’s no question that he’s the best pitcher in baseball, but he has not been able to eclipse 100 IP in consecutive seasons and already this spring he’s dealt with soreness that has kept him out of live games thus far.

1. Sandy Alcantara – RHP – Miami Marlins

2022 Stats: 32 GS, 228.2 IP, 2.28 ERA, 207 K, 50 BB, 2.99 FIP, 0.98 WHIP, 5.7 fWAR, 98.0 vFA

Close your eyes and envision your ideal season if you were a starting pitcher. Okay now open them. If I had to guess, I’d bet it looked something like Sandy Alcantara’s season from 2022 where he led the league in innings pitched, had the fifth-lowest ERA, and compiled 8.0 bWAR, which was 1.6 more WAR than Dylan Cease, who had the second-most WAR.

Being dominant and being a workhorse have become two separate pitching identities in recent years, but Sandy Alcantara is the exception to the rule. His six complete games last season were the most in a single season since Chris Sale completed six games in 2016.