The Top 10 Best Pitchers in the NL East for the 2024 Season

Featuring several bona fide aces and a couple of the nastiest relievers in the game, the NL East is stacked with pitching talent.

Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres in game one of the National League Championship Series at PETCO Park.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 18: Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres in game one of the National League Championship Series at PETCO Park on October 18, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

In 2022, Miami Marlins right-handed pitcher Sandy Alcántara won the NL Cy Young Award, going 14-9 with a 2.28 ERA, 2.99 FIP and 5.8 fWAR. Alcántara led the senior circuit in innings pitched (228 2/3) and complete games (six), eliciting memories of another former NL East workhorse, Hall of Famer Roy Halladay.

Unfortunately, the two-time All-Star wasn’t able to replicate his career-best season in 2023, regressing to a 4.14 ERA and 4.03 FIP over 184 2/3 innings. Granted, allowing nine runs in a start against the Philadelphia Phillies in April probably made Alcántara’s numbers look worse than the actual totality of his season. He still led baseball with three complete-game shutouts in 2023.

Yet, relative to what he had done the year before, 2023 was a step back for Alcántara. His disappointing season was punctuated when he had to undergo Tommy John surgery in early October. Not only did that cause Alcántara to miss the NLWCS, but he’ll almost certainly be out for the entirety of the 2024 campaign.

When healthy, one could argue that Alcántara is the best overall pitcher in the division, if not the sport. But with Alcántara likely out of the picture for the 2024 season, here’s our current list of the 10 best pitchers (starters or relievers) in the NL East.

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The following 10 pitchers were ranked by Tim Kelly in conjunction with the Just Baseball editorial staff.

10. José Alvarado, Philadelphia Phillies

2023 Stats: 10 saves in 12 attempts, 1.74 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 13.94 K/9 and a 1.3 fWAR across 41 1/3 innings pitched

Age in 2024: 29

Two injured list stints with left elbow inflammation limited Alvarado to 42 appearances in 2023, but when he was on the mound, the flamethrower was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

Craig Kimbrel — one of the greatest relievers in MLB history — said last year when he was on the Phillies that Alvarado has “some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen.” While Alvarado can occasionally lose command, he has a sinker that averaged 98.9 mph a year ago and a cutter that itself sits at 93.2 mph.

As Yordan Alvarez can attest, if you make contact with an Alvarado pitch, it has a chance to go a long way. But more often than not, batters swing and miss at pitches from Alvarado’s filthy repertoire.

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9. Ranger Suárez, Philadelphia Phillies

2023 Stats: 4-6 with a 4.18 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 8.57 K/9 and a 2.4 fWAR across 125 innings pitched

Age in 2024: 28

One of the more underrated pitchers in the sport, Suárez has thrived both as a starting pitcher and a weapon out of the bullpen for the Phillies over the last three seasons.

After splitting time between the bullpen and starting rotation in a breakout 2021 campaign, Suárez has pitched exclusively as a starter over the last two regular seasons, posting matching 3.88 marks in terms of ERA and FIP over 51 starts. But his ability to come out of the bullpen was extremely valuable in his team’s 2022 run to the World Series, including when he recorded the final out to clinch the NL pennant after coming on in relief of David Robertson.

Additionally, Suárez is one of the best defenders at his position. Over the last three seasons, his 17 defensive runs saved rank second among all pitchers, trailing only his current teammate Taijuan Walker.

8. Jesús Luzardo, Miami Marlins

2023 Stats: 10-10 with a 3.58 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 10.48 K/9 and a 3.7 fWAR across 178 2/3 innings pitched

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Age in 2024: 26

While Starling Marte was an excellent player during his brief time with the Marlins, getting Luzardo back in a trade with the Oakland Athletics for a couple months of the veteran outfielder has proven to be one of the best trades in recent memory.

The Parkland, Florida native had a breakout 2023 season for the Fish and has been one of the better left-handed pitchers in baseball when he’s been healthy. Over the last two campaigns, he has pitched to a 3.52 ERA and 3.40 FIP over 50 starts.

Miami is a team with a very intriguing starting rotation, one they’ll need to carry them if they hope to return to the postseason for the second consecutive year. With Alcántara out for the season, Luzardo will likely be asked to be the Opening Day starter for the Marlins and to lead the team in innings pitched.

7. Eury Pérez, Miami Marlins

2023 Stats: 5-6 with a 3.15 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 10.64 K/9 and a 1.4 fWAR across 91 1/3 innings pitched

Age in 2024: 21

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Given that his teammate Luzardo is likely to comfortably top him in terms of innings pitched this season, one could argue that this is a little too high for Pérez. We won’t be the ones to make that argument, though, because the former top prospect flashed enough in his rookie season to make us think he could one day claim the top spot on this list.

Despite an outlier outing that saw him allow six earned runs in just 1/3 of an inning against the Atlanta Braves on July 1, Pérez still managed to come away with a 3.15 ERA over his first 19 MLB starts. He also posted a 10.64 K/9, giving one the feeling he could be among the league leaders in strikeouts whenever it is that the Marlins take the training wheels off of Pérez, who won’t turn 21 until mid-April.

The guess here is that the Marlins will likely be annoyingly conservative with Pérez’s workload in 2024 because they have the bigger picture in mind. And the bigger picture may include him and Alcántara not only battling each other for NL Cy Young votes for years to come but also helping the Marlins to compete for their third World Series title in franchise history.

6. Edwin Díaz, New York Mets

2022 Stats (missed all of the 2023 season): 32 saves in 35 attempts, 1.31 ERA, 0.90 FIP, 17.13 K/9 and a 3.0 fWAR across 62 innings pitched

Age in 2024: 30

Díaz missed the entirety of the 2023 season with a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, an injury he sustained after closing out a World Baseball Classic victory for Team Puerto Rico. And yet, it’s impossible to shake just how dominant he was the last time we saw him pitch for the Mets.

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In 2022, Díaz turned in one of the greatest seasons a reliever has ever had, finishing with a minuscule 0.90 FIP and 0.84 WHIP in 61 games. That earned him the Trevor Hoffman Award as the best reliever in the NL, which now sits on a trophy case with his Mariano Rivera Award as the AL’s best reliever, which he won following a lights-out 2018 season with the Seattle Mariners.

An extremely unfortunate injury turned the first year of a new five-year, $102 million deal for Díaz into a wash, but it’s unlikely the Mets would take a mulligan on the pact, even if they were offered one. When he’s right, Díaz is not only perhaps the best reliever in baseball, but he’s one of the greatest showmen the sport has to offer. Any baseball fan with a pulse will get goosebumps the first time Timmy Trumpet’s, well, trumpets, blare over the sound system at Citi Field in 2024.

5. Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies

2023 Stats: 12-9 with a 4.46 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 9.39 K/9 and a 3.9 fWAR across 193 2/3 innings pitched

Age in 2024: 31

Even coming off of a down year, Nola still landed a seven-year, $172 million deal to return to the Phillies this past offseason, with a slew of other contenders said to have been interested in his services during his brief stint in free agency.

Let’s start with the bad: Nola finished 2023 with a 4.46 ERA and a career-high 32 home runs surrendered. The good news is while he underwhelmed in Game 6 of the NLCS, he was largely excellent in the postseason, finishing with a 2.35 ERA in four playoff starts. In an era with fewer and fewer workhorses, Nola is always reliable to pitch close to or above 200 innings, as evidenced by the fact that he’s second only to Gerrit Cole in innings pitched since the start of the 2018 season (1,065 1/3 IP).

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Nola has two top-four NL Cy Young Award finishes on his resume, including one as recently as 2022. For whatever reason, recent history tells us that he’s better in even years than odd ones. Well, 2024 is an even year, which may mean Nola is primed for a major resurgence this upcoming campaign.

4. Kodai Senga, New York Mets

2023 Stats: 12-7 with a 2.98 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 10.93 K/9 and a 3.4 fWAR across 166 1/3 innings pitched

Age in 2024: 31

The 2023 Mets season was a disaster given where expectations were on Opening Day, but Senga was one of the few positive developments from an otherwise lost campaign.

After making the jump from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball to MLB, Senga posted a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts for the Mets. He was an All-Star, finished seventh in NL Cy Young Award voting and was the runner-up to Corbin Carroll for NL Rookie of the Year.

If there’s an area for Senga to improve upon in his second MLB season, it’s his control. He led all of baseball with 14 wild pitches in 2023, while also handing out the fifth-most walks at 77. As is, the five-year, $75 million deal Senga signed to join the Mets looks like a bargain. If his control improves somewhat, it will be viewed as one of the most team-friendly contracts in the sport.

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3. Max Fried, Atlanta Braves

2023 Stats: 8-1 with a 2.55 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 9.27 K/9 and a 1.9 fWAR across 77 2/3 innings pitched

Age in 2024: 30

A year after he finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting, another dominant season from Fried was interrupted twice by injured list stints, one for a left forearm strain and another for a blister on his left index finger. If he’s able to stay healthy in 2024, Fried could set himself up to be one of the most-coveted arms in a potentially deep free agent pitching class next winter.

Though regular-season success hasn’t translated to postseason dominance, Fried has been one of the best pitchers in baseball across the last four campaigns. Since the start of the 2020 season, Fried is 43-15 with a 2.66 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 83 starts. Perhaps he’s more likely to throw 170 innings in a season than 200, but it’s hard to argue with the results he’s gotten in recent years.

Fried has also grabbed the mantle as the league’s best fielding pitcher from Zack Greinke, as he has posted 18 defensive runs saved in his career, winning three consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 2020-2022.

2. Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves

2023 Stats: 20-5 with a 3.86 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 13.55 K/9 and a 5.5 fWAR across 186 2/3 innings pitched

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Age in 2024: 25

At six feet, 195 pounds, Strider is bigger than Tim Lincecum, who was listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds during his playing career. Still, Strider doesn’t have the size of a typical power pitcher, and as someone who has already undergone Tommy John surgery once, you do wonder if Strider’s peak may be shorter than that of the average ace.

Then again, while Lincecum’s star didn’t burn for a long time, it burned extremely brightly at the height of his powers, as he won consecutive NL Cy Young Awards and three World Series titles with the San Francisco Giants.

In 2023, Strider led all starters with 20 wins, 281 strikeouts and a 13.55 K/9, serving as the ace for a Braves team that won an MLB-best 104 regular-season games en route to a sixth straight NL East title.

Even if he doesn’t have a 20-year career, Strider is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game today, capable of striking out batters at a clip similar to an elite reliever, with the only difference being that he is capable of pitching a whole lot more than one inning per outing. In terms of pitchers who are fun to watch operate in baseball, he’s near the top of the list.

1. Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

2023 Stats: 13-6 with a 3.61 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 9.95 K/9 and a 5.9 fWAR across 192 innings pitched

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Age in 2024: 34

Wheeler has spent the entirety of his career in the NL East and has gone from being a very good pitcher to a superstar since leaving the Mets to sign with the Phillies before the 2020 season.

He led all pitchers in FanGraphs WAR (fWAR) in 2023 with 5.9. Over the last four seasons, Wheeler ranks fourth among all starting pitchers in innings pitched (629 1/3) and FIP (2.90), while leading all starters in fWAR (19.3). He hadn’t pitched in the postseason until 2022, but across two deep playoff runs, he’s also put himself among the best playoff pitchers in the sport right now, with a 2.42 ERA and 0.73 WHIP. For good measure, he even won his first career Gold Glove Award in 2023.

As he enters a contract year, Wheeler is set up to land an even more lucrative deal than his first free agent pact. The five-year, $118 million agreement he signed in 2019 has proven to be a steal for the Phillies.