Every year, there is always a debate about who is the best at their respective positions. Whether it’s between who is the best shortstop, right fielder, catcher, or any other position, there is typically a debate on who is the best. That is why myself, along with Jason Stellakis and Jack Prokopis of the Ball Blab Pod, have ranked the top ten players at each position, the top fifty starting pitchers, and the top twenty relievers in baseball for the 2024 season. Rankings were determined based off of past performance, projected performance for 2024, a hint of personal preference, and other factors. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down our rankings by position, which have been released on X during the past week or so. This process starts today, with the breakdown of the ten starting pitchers in baseball from our top fifty starting pitchers list.

 

1. Gerrit Cole

2023 Stats: 33 GS, 209 IP, 15-4 W-L, 2.63 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 27.1% K%, 5.8% BB%, 5.2 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 32 GS, 203 IP, 14-10 W-L, 3.73 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 27.1% K%, 6.4 BB%, 3.6 fWAR

Gerrit Cole unanimously won the 2023 AL Cy Young Award, which was well deserved after he led the AL in starts, innings pitched, ERA, and WHIP. Heading into 2024, the Yankees will need Gerrit Cole to continue pitching like the best pitcher in baseball if they want to reach their goal of winning a World Series. Although the FanGraphs projections feel low considering the year he had in 2023, most people project Cole to continue being the ace for the Yankees that he has been since they signed him before the 2020 season. The 2024 season is also a big year for Cole due to the opt out in his contract. If he does opt out, the Yankees have an option to add an extra year to Cole’s current contract in order to keep him, which the Yankees will certainly do.

 

2. Logan Webb

2023 Stats: 33 GS, 216 IP, 11-13 W-L, 3.25 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 22.8% K%, 3.6% BB%, 4.9 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 32 GS, 204 IP, 13-11 W-L, 3.53 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 21.5% K%, 5.3% BB%, 4.1 fWAR

Logan Webb had a stellar 2023 season that may have gone under the radar for some, considering that he was playing for a middling Giants team. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball though, finishing second in the NL Cy Young Award voting. The 2024 season is a chance for Webb to continue establishing himself as a bona fide ace and one of the best baseball has to offer on the mound. The Giants have had very strong pitching development in recent years, and Logan Webb is at the forefront, featuring a fWAR over 4.0 in each of his first three full 162 game seasons.

 

3. Yoshinobu Yamamoto

2023 Stats (NPB): 23 GS, 164 IP, 16-6 W-L, 1.21 ERA, 26.6% K%, 4.4% BB%

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 29 GS, 184 IP, 12-9 W-L, 3.96 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 26.0% K%, 6.5% BB%, 3.4 fWAR

The best pitcher in NPB over the last three seasons has been Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and it wasn’t relatively close. Now that Yamamoto has moved over to MLB by signing with the Dodgers, U.S. baseball fans will get to see the pitching ability that won him three consecutive Triple Crowns, Sawamura Awards (NPB equivalent to Cy Young), and Pacific League MVP Awards. The Dodgers giving Yamamoto $325 million shows their faith in his skills translating to MLB, and having Shohei Ohtani around to help Yamamoto transition to life in the U.S. and MLB is something that must also be taken into consideration. Yamamoto should be in Cy Young contention from the jump if he pitches to the best of his ability, as he may be the greatest pitcher to ever make the jump to MLB from NPB based on his track record at just 25 years old.

 

4. Zack Wheeler

2023 Stats: 32 GS, 192 IP, 13-6 W-L, 3.61 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 26.9% K%, 5.0% BB%, 5.9 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 32 GS, 200 IP, 13-10 W-L, 3.54 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 24.6% K%, 5.8% BB%, 4.8 fWAR

For the second consecutive season, the Phillies have a front line starter in a contract year. After re-signing Aaron Nola to a seven-year deal this offseason, Philadelphia hopes to keep Wheeler long-term as well. There will be plenty of motivation for Wheeler to continue pitching well, as he could cash in on his stellar five-year run with the Phillies that began in 2020. That five-year deal has become a bargain over Wheeler’s time with the Phillies. Wheeler has a 3.06 ERA over 101 starts through the first four seasons of the contract, cementing himself as a reliable top-of-the-rotation arm that any team would want on their roster.

 

5. Spencer Strider

2023 Stats: 32 GS, 186.2 IP, 20-5 W-L, 3.86 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 36.8% K%, 7.6% BB%, 5.5 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 31 GS, 185 IP, 15-7 W-L, 3.18 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 34.2% K%, 8.2% BB%, 4.9 fWAR

The starting pitcher with the best strikeout rate in all of baseball is Spencer Strider, and his 2023 K-rate of 36.8% was more than 5% higher than the second-highest strikeout rate among starters, which was the 31.5% mark set by Blake Snell. Strider did see his ERA dip in 2023, going from 2.67 in 2022 to 3.86, but it was always going to be tough to replicate what he did in 2022. Strider also saw his FIP drop to 2.85 which, while stellar, is still far higher than the 1.83 FIP he posted in 2022. Strider was a bit more prone to the home run ball in 2023, with his HR/FB (home runs per fly ball) doubling from 6.8% to 12.2% and more hitters getting the ball in the air against him as well. Strider will be just 25 in 2024 though, and there aren’t any concerns about his ability to be a frontline starter. 

 

6. Blake Snell

2023 Stats: 32 GS, 180 IP, 14-9 W-L, 2.25 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 31.5% K%, 13.3% BB%, 4.1 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 31 GS, 176 IP, 12-10 W-L, 3.66 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 29.5% K%, 10.9% BB%, 3.3 fWAR

The best pitcher left that is still currently a free agent, Blake Snell, is one of the most polarizing players in all of baseball. Snell is a two-time Cy Young Award winner, winning the AL Cy Young in 2018 and the NL Cy Young in 2023. However, Snell had a 3.85 ERA across 85 starts from 2019 – 2022, with an ERA over 4.00 in both 2019 and 2021. Add the extremely high walk rates and lack of going deep into starts, yet being one of the best strikeout pitchers while eliciting elite swing and miss numbers, and there are many differing opinions on Snell. Snell put up solid numbers in 2022 though, and his 2023 contract year was stellar. Put all this together, and he lands at number six on the rankings.

 

7. George Kirby

2023 Stats: 31 GS, 190.2 IP, 13-10 W-L, 3.35 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 22.7% K%, 2.5% BB%, 4.4 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 32 GS, 194 IP, 12-10 W-L, 3.61 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 23.4% K%, 4.2% BB%, 3.6 fWAR

Six of the ten lowest walk rates among qualified pitchers appear in this top ten. However, the lowest walk rate among all starters in baseball belongs to George Kirby and his miniscule 2.5% walk rate. One of the best things any pitcher can do is limit baserunners, and Kirby’s ability to limit the free pass is a big reason why he finds himself in the top ten. Beyond that, Kirby has had two consecutive great seasons to start his career. Kirby is lining himself up to make a significant jump in 2024 to solidify himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball in his age-26 season. The Mariners have a stacked rotation, but Kirby has a chance to be the best of the bunch.

 

8. Max Fried

2023 Stats: 14 GS, 77.2 IP, 8-1 W-L, 2.55 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 25.7% K%, 5.8% BB%, 1.9 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 31 GS, 185 IP, 14-8 W-L, 3.57 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 22.8% K%, 6.0% BB%, 3.5 fWAR

The Braves are the only team to feature two starters in the top ten, and Max Fried will be looking to have a healthy 2024 after missing a decent chunk of time in 2023 with a couple different injuries. Fried is entering a contract year in 2024, and he hopes to cash in on his success with Atlanta. Over the last four seasons, Fried has a 2.66 ERA and a 3.03 FIP in 484.2 innings over 86 starts, finishing second in NL Cy Young voting in 2022. If Fried is healthy and back to his best in 2024, he may be able to plant his flag as the best lefthanded starting pitcher in baseball.

 

9. Zac Gallen

2023 Stats: 34 GS, 210 IP, 17-9 W-L, 3.47 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 26.0% K%, 5.6% BB%, 5.2 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 32 GS, 199 IP, 13-11 W-L, 3.82 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 24.6% K%, 6.6% BB%, 3.7 fWAR

The Diamondbacks had a special run to the World Series in 2023, and a massive part of their NL pennant-winning year was Zac Gallen and the massive role he played leading the Diamondbacks rotation. If Gallen wasn’t known nationwide as one of the best pitchers in baseball before 2022, he definitely cemented that status in 2023, and the D-Backs deep postseason run only helped that. The Dodgers are still the heavy NL West favorites in 2024, but Arizona proved they can beat them when it matters. Gallen will play a massive part in the D-Backs 2024 season as they look to take out L.A. once again on another hopeful road to a World Series.

 

10. Justin Steele

2023 Stats: 30 GS, 173.1 IP, 16-5 W-L, 3.06 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 24.6% K%, 5.0% BB%, 4.9 fWAR

2024 FanGraphs Projections: 31 GS, 181 IP, 11-10 W-L, 3.69 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 23.0% K%, 7.3% BB%, 3.3 fWAR

The top ten wraps up with arguably the most surprising breakout performer of 2023 to some, and that’s Cubs starter Justin Steele, who finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting. Steele wasn’t exactly a nobody prior to 2023, posting a 3.18 ERA in 24 starts in a 2022 campaign that was largely overlooked because he played on a bad team. People won’t be overlooking Steele now, as he holds a 3.11 ERA and 3.09 FIP over 292.1 IP in 54 starts during his last two seasons. Steele will need to play a big part in order for the Cubs to jump over the Brewers and win the NL Central in 2024.

 

That wraps up the top ten starting pitchers in baseball, as ranked by myself and the guys on the Ball Blab Pod. Make sure to check them out on X @ballblabpod @jason_stellakis and @JackProkopis as well as checking out all the rankings including the top fifty starting pitchers on the Ball Blab X account. Also, make sure to follow myself @derrik_maguire and @BleacherBrawl and let us know your thoughts on the top ten starters in baseball.

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