The NL West is absolutely stacked.
In 2023 alone, the division yielded the league’s Cy Young Winner (Blake Snell), World Series runner-up (Arizona Diamondbacks), Rookie of the Year (Corbin Carroll) and multiple MVP top finishers (Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Carroll).
And it’s no surprise that entering the 2024 season, the NL West will remain a juggernaut, especially as the Los Angeles Dodgers have become something of an Evil Empire after adding reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani and former NPB superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto, as well as the electric Tyler Glasnow.
Speaking of Ohtani, Glasnow and Yamamoto, this division is flush with elite pitching talent. Let’s rank the 10 best pitchers in the NL West heading into 2024.
10. Yu Darvish
His numbers were genuinely subpar last season, but few pitchers in baseball deserve more benefit of the doubt than Yu Darvish, and that’s why he’s able to crack the bottom of this list.
Darvish’s 2023 season was cut short due to elbow inflammation, but he still managed to make 24 starts, finishing the year with a 4.56 ERA (90 ERA+). Despite the struggles, Darvish averaged 9.3 K/9 and kept his BB/9 in line with his career pace (2.8 in 2023 versus 2.9 over 12 seasons).
When healthy, few pitchers flaunt better stuff than Darvish, even at his advanced age. That should keep him atop the San Diego Padres rotation and relevant among pitchers in his division.
9. Bobby Miller
The 24-year-old Bobby Miller was impressive in his rookie season with the Dodgers, becoming a crucial rotation fixture amidst injuries to Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Walker Buehler. Noah Syndergaard’s struggles and uncertainty surrounding Julio Urías also opened the door for Miller, and he took full advantage.
In 22 starts, Miller compiled an ERA of 3.76 (116 ERA+) while displaying a knack for keeping the ball in the yard (0.9 HR/9). His strikeout numbers aren’t overwhelming (8.2 K/9), but his 2.3 BB/9 illustrates that he can command his offerings reasonably well.
The good news for Miller is that he’ll face less pressure to perform in 2024 thanks to several additions the Dodgers made to their rotation. That should ensure Miller’s continued development into a solid, middle-of-the-rotation piece that Los Angeles can count on for years to come.
8. Camilo Doval
Doval is the only closer to make these rankings and for good reason: He’s completely dominant in the ninth inning.
The San Francisco Giants didn’t finish with a winning record in 2023 (79-83), but that didn’t stop Doval from leading the league in saves with 39. Those 39 saves were accompanied by a lockdown 2.93 ERA (145 ERA+) and a stout 11.6 K/9.
One area where Doval struggles? Walks. The 26-year-old walked 3.5 batters per nine innings in 2023, which is in line with his career mark of 3.6 BB/9. Ultimately, he needs to cut down on the free passes to remain dominant, but at least so far, that lack of command hasn’t affected his ability to become one of the premier closers in the game.
Since debuting with San Francisco in 2021, the right-hander hasn’t finished with an ERA+ lower than 139, and he’s still in his prime with elite stuff. The sky is truly the limit for Doval if he can harness his control.
7. Eduardo Rodriguez
A newcomer to the NL West in 2024, Eduardo Rodriguez bolsters a Diamondbacks rotation that lacked punch behind the tandem of Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. That lack of starting pitching clearly didn’t affect the Diamondbacks, however, as they rode their dual aces to a surprise NL pennant in 2023.
Still, Rodriguez is exactly the kind of mid-rotation upgrade Arizona needed to fortify the staff going into 2024. He was terrific for the Detroit Tigers last season, finishing with a 3.30 ERA (134 ERA+) over 26 starts.
With a 200-inning season under his belt, Rodriguez has also proven his durability. And although we’d like to see his BB/9 come down slightly from 2.8 in 2023, his career BB/9 of 3.1 indicates that walks are just part of E-Rod’s game. That’s more acceptable when you consider that he no longer has to shoulder the burden of an ace’s workload.
6. Joe Musgrove
Before succumbing to shoulder issues in 2023, Joe Musgrove was well on his way to another fantastic season in San Diego.
In the 17 starts he was able to make, the Padres’ righty put up a 3.05 ERA (134 ERA+) while striking out nine batters per nine innings against a 1.9 BB/9. This followed a 2022 season that saw him finish with a 2.93 ERA (129 ERA+) in 30 starts (181 innings pitched) and a similarly solid 2021 (3.18 ERA, 31 starts, 181.1 innings pitched) that also included his first career no-hitter.
You get the point: Joe Musgrove has been extremely effective since joining the San Diego Padres rotation in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 2021 season. He’s typically reliable as well, so we’ll give him a pass on his injury-plagued 2023 campaign.
Not to mention, all indicators point to him being healthy for the start of 2024.
5. Merrill Kelly
No pitcher on these rankings raised his stock more than Merrill Kelly did in 2023.
We saw what Kelly was made of last postseason when he pitched to a 2.25 ERA in four starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks en route to their first NL pennant since 2001. But what’s even more remarkable is how he achieved those results without electrifying stuff.
Kelly isn’t a dominant pitcher by any means. In fact, his 3.5 BB/9 and 1.19 WHIP in the regular season are indicative of this. But he’s a competitor and a workhorse, as he made 30 starts in 2023 after logging a league-best 33 the year before. That’s a stark contrast with many of the other names on this list who missed time last season.
In this day and age, consistency and durability are as important in starting pitchers as ever. In Merrill Kelly, the Diamondbacks have both. And it’s not like those are his only skills; he finished with a 3.29 ERA (132 ERA+) in 2023.
4. Tyler Glasnow
Like Eduardo Rodriguez, Tyler Glasnow is a newcomer to the NL West in 2024. But he arrives in Los Angeles loaded with a devastating arsenal of pitches and a ceiling that is rivaled by few names on this list.
Of course, there’s a huge caveat when it comes to Glasnow’s game: health. His 21 starts with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2023 were the most he has ever made in a season in his eight-year career. Prior to that, he had never made more than 14 starts or thrown more than 111.2 innings in a season.
That said, the talent and pure stuff is difficult to ignore. For example, his 12.2 K/9 last year was one of the highest among all MLB starters. Glasnow’s 1.08 WHIP in 2023 was also quite good, illustrating his ability to keep traffic off the basepaths.
On talent alone, Glasnow could be the best pitcher on this list. But talent isn’t everything, especially when it only comes in flashes, as we’ve witnessed far too often from the big righty during his career.
3. Yoshinobu Yamamoto
It goes without saying that Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the biggest wild card on this list. That is, he is a complete unknown on this side of the Pacific. He will be making his stateside debut with the Dodgers in 2024 after a stellar professional career in Japan.
So why do we have him ranked this high? It’s simple: The hype looks real. And if it manifests the way we think it will, the Dodgers have a true ace on their hands.
There’s a reason so many high-profile teams were in on Yamamoto this winter, including both the New York Yankees and New York Mets, who were each considered finalists in the bidding before the righty landed in Los Angeles. His competitive nature and desire to pitch on a big stage combined with his young age of 25 give him all the makings of a star.
Two no-hitters and three pitching triple crowns in Japan will undoubtedly get people excited, but what really stands out about Yamamoto’s game is his ability to limit the home run ball. In fact, his career HR/9 in NPB was 0.4. You read that right.
In an era of baseball in which home runs are highly valued, Yamamoto could present an antidote to the long ball craze when he toes the rubber every fifth day. This is a major reason why FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections like the 25-year-old to finish with a 3.52 ERA and 3.7 fWAR across 26 starts in his first season as a big leaguer.
2. Zac Gallen
The ace of the Diamondbacks’ rotation, Zac Gallen deserves praise for his consistency and reliability, which has made him one of the game’s truly elite starters.
After a stellar 2022 season that saw him place fifth in Cy Young voting, his 2023 was admittedly less impressive (3.47 ERA, 125 ERA+, 1.12 WHIP). But Gallen made up for his statistical regression by logging 210 innings across 34 starts last season, both of which were among the most in baseball.
Gallen may as well be the definition of a rubber arm, considering he’s made 65 total starts over the last two years. That amounts to a grand total of 385 innings pitched during that span. In an era when pitch counts and innings are monitored incessantly, that kind of production is rare, to say the least.
Though Gallen left a lot to be desired with his overall postseason performance in 2023 (4.54 ERA across six playoff starts), he stepped up in the World Series, pitching to a 3.18 ERA in two games.
Overall, Gallen’s ace-level status and workhorse tendencies justify his position on this list.
1. Logan Webb
And that leads us to the No. 1 pitcher on our best of the NL West list: San Francisco Giants ace Logan Webb.
You wouldn’t be wrong for initially assuming that a Dodger or Diamondback would occupy this spot, but that simply means Logan Webb is underrated (somehow).
It’s time to give Webb his flowers; he’s one of the premier pitchers in baseball, let alone in just the NL West or the National League.
Last season, Webb was the runner-up for the NL Cy Young behind Blake Snell after a really strong campaign that saw him post a 3.25 ERA (130 ERA+) across 33 starts and a league-leading 216 innings pitched.
Webb is durable, avoids the long ball (0.8 HR/9 in 2023) and does a decent job limiting traffic on the basepaths (1.07 WHIP). That all culminated in a brilliant encore to his similarly great 2022 (2.90 ERA, 136 ERA+ over 32 starts and 192.1 innings pitched).
Pitching for the San Francisco Giants, who have been mediocre each of the last two seasons, doesn’t help Webb in his quest for well-deserved recognition. But that’s not his fault; he’s just along for the ride. And his team doesn’t exactly provide him with much run support in his starts, either.
Despite all this, the 27-year-old ace is still very much in the prime of his career. That means we should continue to expect dominance from Webb in the coming seasons. Don’t be surprised to see him capture a Cy Young Award at some point, or at the very least, continue to finish near the top of the voting as he did in 2023.
There are quite a few, but let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: Shohei Ohtani.
Yes, Ohtani is electric on the mound, but there’s just one problem: He won’t be pitching in 2024 as he recovers from elbow surgery. Otherwise, he would’ve been likely to find his way onto this list.
Sticking with the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw is always worthy of a mention as well. However, he’s currently unsigned for 2024 and has suffered numerous injuries over the last several seasons, leading to questions about whether his retirement is imminent.
Walker Buehler also would’ve cracked this list had he pitched in 2023, but he went under the knife and missed the entire season. He still has great potential, though, and should once again return to form as one of the Dodgers’ better starters in 2024.
Another name we should mention is Brandon Pfaadt. His numbers were ugly in the 2023 regular season for the Diamondbacks (5.72 ERA in 18 starts), but he stepped up during his team’s run to the World Series. In five postseason starts, Pfaadt recorded a 3.27 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, coming up particularly big with two solid efforts in Arizona’s NLCS upset over the Philadelphia Phillies.
That big game experience should serve as momentum for Pfaadt to build upon heading into 2024.
Arizona also acquired closer Paul Sewald last summer from the Seattle Mariners. And though he established himself as one of the top closers in baseball while playing for his previous club, he was less effective down the stretch with the Diamondbacks (3.57 ERA and 13 saves compared to a 2.93 ERA and 21 saves).
Sewald also had his struggles in the 2023 World Series, most notably serving up a go-ahead home run to Fall Classic MVP Corey Seager in the ninth inning of Game One. However, he was lockdown during the Diamondbacks’ playoff upsets over the Dodgers and Phillies. Nevertheless, his overall struggles with Arizona keep him in the “honorable mentions” category.
One last name to keep an eye on in 2024? The Padres’ Michael King.
Acquired from the New York Yankees in the trade that sent Juan Soto to the Bronx, King finished with an ERA of 2.23 in nine starts after converting to the rotation from a bullpen role. While that sample size was minuscule, it’s nonetheless promising and should put King in a favorable position to compete for a rotation spot in San Diego this season.
The NL West oozes with high-end pitching, and never has that been more evident than seeing all the pitchers on this list.
One thing that stands out about these rankings is the balance among the teams in this division. Aside from the Colorado Rockies, each club has at least two entries.
It’s not surprising that L.A. had three names (Miller, Glasnow and Yamamoto) appear on my list, but the defending NL champions also had three of their own (Rodriguez, Kelly and Gallen). And while the Dodgers are the favorites to clinch yet another NL West title in 2024, don’t discount the Diamondbacks’ ability to remain competitive coming off their own pennant run.
In the middle of the pack, the Padres and Giants each have varying levels of talent, but neither appears to be a truly formidable foe for either the Dodgers or Diamondbacks to contend with this coming season.
Regardless of how 2024 shakes out in the end, though, there’s plenty of buzz-worthy pitching talent on each of these NL West clubs.