Which MLB aces will make up this year’s top-10 list of the best pitchers in the league? We count them down.
As a whole, Major League Baseball is going through a massive shift away from the old-school job description for starting pitchers. Only 15 starters threw 200 innings or more in 2018, and no one threw more than 220. Strict pitch counts, the sabermetric movement and the rise in dominant relief pitchers make it much more likely that the starter will be out of the game by the end of the sixth inning. With how much money is invested in the best arms, and the numbers backing up the fact that most pitchers should only face a lineup twice, it makes sense.
Still, nothing sets a team up better for success than having a legitimate ace at the top of a rotation. Given at least 30 starts, a true number-one starter puts his team on track to finish at least ten games above .500 if everyone else can perform at an average level. No matter how far the pendulum swings away from the workhorse who can throw nine innings on a given night, a World Series contender has to have an ace leading its staff.
Three members of last year’s top-ten pitchers have dropped out. Aaron Sanchez, David Price and Jake Arrieta have been replaced by Carlos Carrasco, Robbie Ray and Stephen Strasburg. How will the rest of the list look? Read on to find out.
10. Noah Syndergaard
A torn late muscle limited Noah Syndergaard to only seven starts and 30.1 innings in 2017, but when he was on the mound, the massive right-hander was utterly dominant. He did not allow a single home run and struck out 34 against only three walks.
Believe it or not, Syndergaard’s velocity actually increased from 2016 to 2017. Whether or not the bump from 98 to 99 can be maintained when he has to pitch a full season remains to be seen. The combination of raw velocity and movement on his fastballs makes Syndergaard a nightmare. He has five pitches that can all be dominant, especially his 91-mph slider that was hit for a home run only once in 2016.
Syndergaard is the complete package and has the potential to top this list by the end of the 2018 season — if he stays healthy. That’s a big if considering the team he pitches for. Putting on 15-20 pounds of muscle before the 2017 season was ultimately too aggressive for Syndergaard, but if he backs off and gets his body right, there’s no reason to believe the coming season will not be a huge one for Thor.