Let me preface this list by saying my top 10 is solely based on how these players performed in the 2019 season. Past years will not be considered, so this list is essentially who, in my opinion, are the top 10 starting pitchers going into this season.
#10 Charlie Morton – Tampa Bay Rays
Charlie Morton had an excellent 2019 season after signing a 2 year/$30 million deal with Tampa Bay. With last year’s AL Cy Young award being a two man race, most people most likely did not notice that Morton finished third in Cy Young voting.
Morton flew under the radar most of the year, but his signing helped turn the Rays into legitimate playoff contenders. He took the mound twice for Tampa Bay in the postseason going 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 13 Ks over 10 innings of work.
In a year of the longball, Morton prevented opposing hitters from taking him deep with a 0.69 HR/9. He also struck out 240 batters over 194.2 IP. If we do get baseball in 2020, Morton will certainly be a favorite for the Cy Young.
#9 Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
This is a polarizing selection as some may believe that Clayton Kershaw is too low on the list, while others may think he should not be on the list at all. He did have a disappointing postseason, but his 2019 regular season was strong enough to keep him in the top 10.
With a 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 189Ks over 178.1 IP, Kershaw showed that he can still dominate the league in his 12th MLB season. Keep in mind that he is still only 32 years old, so Kershaw still has plenty left in the tank.
#8 Zack Greinke – Houston Astros
The Arizona Diamondbacks dealt Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline, and Greinke picked up right where he left off once landing in Houston. The 16-year veteran combined for a 2.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and a HR/9 of 0.91 in between Arizona and Houston.
Greinke did have a rocky start in the ALDS, but he turned it around with some good starts against the Yankees in the ALCS and the Nationals in the World Series. The 36-year old is still going strong and could potentially cap off a Hall of Fame career in Houston.
#7 Hyun-Jin Ryu – Toronto Blue Jays
Hyun-Jin Ryu had a great year, but his numbers are deceiving. People might only look at his league leading 2.32 ERA and think that he was the best pitcher last year, but ERA is not the only stat that matters.
Ryu also had a 7.88 H/9, which is the highest H/9 of all pitchers who appear on this list. He also had a .282 BABIP, which means Ryu got hit at a fairly high rate. Ryu did also not miss many bats with only 163 Ks in 182.2 IP.
After coming out of nowhere to be the Dodgers’ ace in 2019, Ryu will look to be the Blue Jays’ ace after signing a 4 year/$80 million deal with Toronto. Whenever he does get a chance to don a Blue Jays uniform, Ryu could actually have a better season than his 2019 campaign with the comforts of playing in a dome.
#6 Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals
In his second full season of action, Jack Flaherty flourished with a 2.75 ERA, NL leading 0.968 WHIP, and 231Ks in 196.1 IP. Flaherty also featured an insanely low 6.19 H/9. Opposing batters really struggled to make contact with him in 2019, and at only 23 years old, the sky is the limit for Flaherty.
#5 Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals
Stephen Strasburg is the reigning World Series MVP, but I did not want to put too much stock into postseason performance, as it would take away from the pitchers who did not have a chance to make a deep run in the postseason. Strasburg’s playoff performance did boost him up on this list; however, as it is hard to ignore a 1.98 ERA in 6 postseason games with 47Ks over 36.1 IP.
While Strasburg may not have had the best season out of everyone on this list, he still had a good season with a 3.32 ERA, 6.93 H/9, and 251Ks in 209 innings pitched.
#4 Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals
Even with Strasburg’s incredible postseason performance, Max Scherzer is still the #1 pitcher on the Nationals, and he showed it in 2019. Scherzer did end up missing roughly six starts with various injuries, but he still performed at a phenomenal rate.
He led the league with a 2.45 FIP as well as the NL in K/9 with a crazy 12.69 stat line. Scherzer is always a favorite to win the Cy Young, and although he came up short in 2019, I expect him to continue his streak of dominance whenever baseball resumes.
#3 Jacob deGrom – New York Mets
Jacob deGrom has been on an absolute tear the past two seasons by taking home back-to-back NL Cy Young awards. It was going to be borderline impossible for deGrom to repeat his historic 2018 season, but he came pretty close to that utter dominance in 2019.
DeGrom posted a 2.43 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, a H/9 of 6.79, and 255Ks in 204 IP. It is a shame that we will not get a full season of baseball this year because deGrom could have had another incredible 30 start campaign that might have led to a third straight Cy Young award.
#2 Gerrit Cole – New York Yankees
#1 and #2 are really interchangeable on this list, as both men had incredible 2019 seasons. Gerrit Cole being #2 is no slight to him as he pitched phenomenally. Cole struck out a league high 326 batters with a blistering 13.82 K/9. The new New York Yankee just missed out on last year’s Cy Young and #1 on this list because of this man…
#1 Justin Verlander – Houston Astros
At 36 years old, Justin Verlander had an incredible season. He struck out 300 batters and had a league best 0.80 WHIP and a just superb 5.53 H/9. Verlander even had a better K/BB ratio than Cole with a 7.14. The reigning Cy Young award winner gets the edge over Cole on this list mostly because he did a better job at keeping runners off base.
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