Clockwise from top left: Gerrit Cole, Kodai Senga, Brayan Bello,...

Clockwise from top left: Gerrit Cole, Kodai Senga, Brayan Bello, Luis Castillo, Spencer Strider, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Josh Hader.

There are more than 350 pitchers on MLB rosters to open the 2024 season. Who is the best one on each team?

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: ZAC GALLEN

Throws: Right

Contract: One year, $10 million

Age/MLB debut: 28/2019

2023 stat line: 17-9, 3.47 ERA, 210 IP, 220 Ks, 1.119 WHIP

Career stats: 39-31, 3.21 ERA, 667 1/3 IP, 729 Ks, 1.106 WHIP

Second-best: Eduardo Rodriguez

The argument: Gallen was toiling away in relative anonymity in the desert as an excellent pitcher when the Diamondbacks took an 84-win season and went all the way to the World Series in 2023. All of a sudden, people heard about Gallen, who has been very good since he debuted with Miami in 2019. Gallen has had three top-nine NL Cy Young award seasons (third in 2023) and made his first All-Star team last season. He even got some MVP votes.

ATLANTA: SPENCER STRIDER

Throws: Right

Contract: Second year of six-year, $75 million contract with team option for 2029

Age/MLB debut: 25/2021

2023 stat line: 20-5, 3.86 ERA, 186 2/3 IP, 281 Ks, 1.093 WHIP

Career stats: 32-10, 3.37 ERA, 320 2/3 IP, 483 Ks, 1.054 WHIP

Second-best: Max Fried

The argument: Strider led the major leagues in strikeouts last season by a wide margin with 281. Kevin Gausman of the Blue Jays was next with 237. Strider was also the majors’ only 20-game winner (next was Arizona’s Zac Gallen with 17). Strider finished fourth in the NL Cy Young award voting and made his first All-Star team. Fried has started the last three Atlanta Opening Days but the lefthander only made 14 starts last season because of injuries.

Corbin Burnes

Corbin Burnes Credit: Getty Images

BALTIMORE ORIOLES: CORBIN BURNES

Throws: Right

Contract: One year, $10 million

Age/MLB debut: 29/2018

2023 stat line: 10-8, 3.39 ERA, 193.2 IP, 200 Ks, 1.069 WHIP

Career stats: 45-27, 3.26 ERA, 709.1 IP, 870 Ks, 1.055 WHIP

Second-best: Kyle Bradish

The argument: The Orioles shocked the baseball world when they picked up Burnes on Feb. 1 in a trade with Milwaukee for two prospects. The 2021 NL Cy Young award winner is a free agent at the end of the season. Baltimore won 101 games and the AL East last season without a starter of Burnes’ caliber on the roster. Bradish will start the season on the IL with an elbow sprain.

BOSTON RED SOX: BRAYAN BELLO

Throws: Right

Contract: First year of six-year, $55 million contract with team option for 2030.

Age / MLB debut: 24 / 2022

2023 stat line: 12-11, 4.24 ERA, 157 IP, 132 Ks, 1.338 WHIP

Career stats: 14-19, 4.37 ERA, 214.1 IP, 187 Ks, 1.456 WHIP

Second-best: Kutter Crawford

The argument: You could have made a case for Lucas Giolito before the Red Sox’s free agent signee went down with a torn UCL in spring training. Giolito was signed to a two-year, $38.5 million contract. Bello was solid in his first full year as a rotation member, but he strikes out less than a batter an inning. The Red Sox gave him a six-year contract extension during spring training.

CHICAGO CUBS: JUSTIN STEELE

Throws: Left

Contract: One year, $4 million

Age/MLB debut: 28/2021

2023 stat line: 16-5, 3.06 ERA, 173 1/3 IP, 176 Ks, 1.171 WHIP

Career stats: 24-16, 3.30 ERA, 349 1/3 IP, 361 Ks, 1.262 WHIP

Second-best: Kyle Hendricks

The argument: A late-bloomer who didn’t make his MLB debut until seven years after the Cubs drafted him in the fifth round in 2014, Steele has turned into a solid rotation starter, although the Cubs are counting on him to be their ace. In 2023, Steele set career bests in every major category, made his first All-Star game and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young award voting. In 173 1/3 innings, Steele walked just 36 batters last season, which is certainly ace-like.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX: GARRETT CROCHET

Throws: Left

Contract: One year, $800,000

Age / MLB debut: 24/2020

2023 stat line: 0-2, 3.55 ERA, 12.2 IP, 12 Ks, 1.974 WHIP

Career stats: 3-7, 2.71 ERA, 73 IP, 85 Ks, 1.329 WHIP

Second-best: Michael Soroka

The argument: The White Sox named Crochet as their Opening Day starter after they traded Dylan Cease to San Diego. It will be Crochet’s first big-league start. According to Sarah Langs of MLB.com, it will be the ninth time in the past 110 years that a pitcher makes his first career start on Opening Day. Crochet can throw 100 miles per hour, but he logged only 12 2/3 major-league innings last season because of shoulder woes.

CINCINNATI REDS: HUNTER GREENE

Throws: Right

Contract: Second year of six-year, $53 million contract with team option in 2029

Age/MLB debut: 24/2022

2023 stat line: 4-7, 4.82 ERA, 112 IP, 152 Ks, 1.420 WHIP

Career stats: 9-20, 4.62 ERA, 237 2/3 IP, 316 Ks, 1.309 WHIP

Second-best: Andrew Abbott

The argument: File this one under “what could be” instead of what currently exists. That’s what the Reds did when they signed Greene to a big-money (for them) contract coming off his first big-league season. Greene has big stuff, which is shown in his strikeout totals, but is ERA-plus for his two seasons is 98 and 95 (league average is 100). If Greene takes the leap to become a No. 1 starter, the Reds could contend in the weak NL Central.

CLEVELAND GUARDIANS: SHANE BIEBER

Throws: Right

Contract: One year, $13.125 million

Age/MLB debut: 28/2018

2023 stat line: 6-6, 3.80 ERA, 128 IP, 107 Ks, 1.234 WHIP

Career stats: 60-32, 3.27 ERA, 831 IP, 938 Ks, 1.118 WHIP

Second-best: Emmanuel Clase

The argument: Bieber won the AL Cy Young award (and finished fourth in the MVP voting) in the shortened 2020 season, when he went 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA in 12 starts. But arm and elbow issues have plagued the Biebs ever since. He’s eligible to be a free agent at the end of the season, so a bounce-back first half could help the Guardians trade him away for prospects at the deadline.

COLORADO ROCKIES: KYLE FREELAND

Throws: Left

Contract: Third year of five-year, $64.5 million contract with vesting option for 2027

Age/MLB debut: 30/2017

2023 stat line: 6-14, 5.03 ERA, 155 2/3 IP, 94 Ks, 1.471 WHIP

Career stats: 55-65, 4.39 ERA, 984 1/3 IP, 735 Ks, 1.417 WHIP

Second-best: Cal Quantrill

The argument: Freeland has never been a strikeout artist, but his strikeouts per nine innings over the last three seasons have gone from 7.8 to 6.8 to 5.4. Even without thin air in your home ballpark and a bad team behind you, that’s not a hopeful trend. Still, Freeland takes the ball about 30 times a season and gives the Rockies innings, so by that measure he is their best pitcher, and he also has a relatively big contract.

DETROIT TIGERS: TARIK SKUBAL

Throws: Left

Contract: One year, $2.65 million

Age/MLB debut: 27/2020

2023 stat line: 7-3, 2.80 ERA, 80.1 IP, 102 K, 0.896 WHIP

Career stats: 23-27, 3.87 ERA, 379.1 IP, 420 Ks, 1.147 WHIP

Second-best: Kenta Maeda

The argument: The Tigers finished second in the weak AL Central in 2023, albeit it with a 78-84 record. A full season from Skubal with the production he showed in 15 starts last season would go a long way toward bringing Detroit up to the .500 level, which is all one needs to be a factor in the division. Skubal’s WHIP has always been good and was great in 2023.

HOUSTON ASTROS: JOSH HADER

Throws: Left

Contract: First year of five-year, $95 million deal

Age/MLB debut: 29/2017

2023 stat line: 2-3, 1.28 ERA, 33 saves, 56.1 IP, 85 Ks, 1.101 WHIP

Career stats: 20-21, 2.50 ERA, 165 saves, 388.2 IP, 648 Ks, 0.944 WHIP

Second-best: Justin Verlander

The argument: If we could, the pick would be Hader plus Ryan Pressly plus Bryan Abreu. In the bold move to sign Hader, the Astros set up potentially one of the best back-of-the-bullpens ever. Hader, who has struck out 15 batters per nine innings, takes over the closer's role from Pressly, who saved 31 games for Houston in 2023. Verlander is battling a shoulder issue and was slowed in spring training.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS: MICHAEL WACHA

Throws: Right

Contract: First year of two-year, $32 million deal

Age/MLB debut: 32/2013

2023 stat line: 14-4, 3.22 ERA, 134.1 IP, 124 K, 1.161 WHIP

Career stats: 88-54, 3.96 ERA, 1288 IP, 1145 K, 1.292 WHIP

Second-best: Seth Lugo

The argument: You could have gone with Lugo, another former Met, but Wacha has been a rotation starter longer, while Lugo transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation with San Diego in 2023. The Royals, who are trying to get a new downtown ballpark, plucked Wacha and Lugo from the Padres as free agents for a combined $77 million. In total, the Royals signed six free agents for $105 million in contracts after going 56-106 last season.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS: PATRICK SANDOVAL

Throws: Left

Contract: One year, $5.025 million

Age/MLB debut: 27/2019

2023 stat line: 7-13, 4.11 ERA, 144.2 IP, 128 Ks, 1.514 WHIP

Career stats: 17-37, 3.83 ERA, 456.1 IP, 448 Ks, 1.372 WHIP

Second-best: Carlos Estevez

The argument: With Shohei Ohtani a Dodger, the Angels are left with scraps such as Sandoval and fellow lefthanded starter Tyler Anderson, who had a 5.43 ERA in 2023. If ever a team needed Blake Snell and/or Jordan Montgomery, this is the one. Sandoval is serviceable. His ERA in 2022 was 2.91 and his ERA-plus was a career-best 138 (100 is league average). But his ERA jumped to 4.11 and his ERA-plus fell to 109 last season.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS: YOSHINOBU YAMAMOTO

Throws: Right

Contract: First year of a 12-year, $325 million contract

Age/MLB debut: 25/2024

2023 stat line (Japan): 16-6, 1.21 ERA, 164 IP, 169 Ks, .884 WHIP

Career stats (Japan): 75-30, 1.72 ERA, 967 2/3, 986 Ks, .915 WHIP

Second-best: Bobby Miller

The argument: When multiple clubs are willing to pay you in excess of $300 million before you throw your first pitcher in the majors, you must be something special. That’s what the Dodgers think they have with Yamamoto, who was the best pitcher in Japan and the second-most sought-after free agent this offseason. The first was Shohei Ohtani, who also signed with the Dodgers for a mere $700 million (with massive deferrals).

MIAMI MARLINS: JESUS LUZARDO

Throws: Left

Contract: One year, $5.5 million

Age/MLB debut: 26/2019

2023 stat line: 10-10, 3.58 ERA, 178 2/3 IP, 208 Ks, 1.215 WHIP

Career stats: 23-28, 4.18 ERA, 445 1/3 IP, 501 Ks, 1.253 WHIP

Second-best: Eury Perez

The argument: When the Marlins lost 2022 NL Cy Young award winner Sandy Alcantara for the entire 2024 season because of Tommy John surgery, that thrusted Luzardo into the ace position. Luzardo is probably better suited to No. 2 in a rotation, but he took great strides in 2023 by setting career best numbers in wins, starts (32), innings and strikeouts. Perez is one to watch: He made his MLB debut last season, throws 100 miles per hour and turns 21 on April 15.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS: FREDDY PERALTA

Throws: Right

Contract: Final year of five-year, $15.5 million contract with team options for 2025 and 2026

Age/MLB debut: 27/2018

2023 stat line: 12-10, 3.86 ERA, 165 2/3 IP, 210 Ks, 1.117 WHIP

Career stats: 42-27, 3.83 ERA, 580 2/3 IP, 749 Ks, 1.125 WHIP

Second-best: Devin Williams

The argument: The selection here would have been Corbin Burnes has the Brewers not shocked the baseball world by trading the righthander to the Orioles for two prospects. Peralta is a solid, dependable starter, but he averaged just under 5 2/3 innings in his 30 starts in 2023. He made the All-Star team in 2021. The Brewers have mostly gotten what the paid for when they signed Peralta to a five-year, $15.5 million contract before the 2020 season. They also have two team options years left at $8 million apiece.

MINNESOTA TWINS: PABLO LOPEZ

Throws: Right

Contract: First year of four-year, $73.5 million deal

Age/MLB debut: 27/2018

2023 stat line: 11-8, 3.66 ERA, 194 IP, 234 Ks, 1.155 WHIP

Career stats: 39-39, 3.86 ERA, 704 IP, 723 Ks, 1.178 WHIP

Second-best: Jhoan Duran

The argument: The Twins picked up Lopez in a deal with Miami that included eventual NL batting champ Luis Arraez. Lopez was as good as advertised and even won two playoff games, as the Twins ended their postseason losing streak at 18. Last April, Minnesota locked up Lopez for four more years to lead their rotation. Lopez was an All-Star for the first time last season and finished seventh in the AL Cy Young award voting.

Kodai Senga Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

NEW YORK METS: KODAI SENGA

Throws: Right

Contract: Second year of five-year, $75 million contract with team option for 2028

Age / MLB debut: 31/2023

2023 stat line: 12-7, 2.98 ERA, 166.1 IP, 202 Ks, 1.220 WHIP

Career stats: 12-7, 2.98 ERA, 166.1 IP, 202 Ks, 1.220 WHIP

Second-best: Edwin Diaz

The argument: Even though he is going to miss the first month of the season with a shoulder injury, Senga is still the Mets’ best pitcher. As a rookie in 2023, he made the All-Star team and became the ace of a squad that when the season opened counted Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer among its starters. Senga is more than just a trickster with the “Ghost Fork” as his strikeout pitch – he is a craftsman on the mound. The Mets have to hope he can get back on it as soon as possible.

Gerrit Cole Credit: Jim McIsaac

NEW YORK YANKEES: GERRIT COLE 

Throws: Right

Contract: Fifth year of nine-year, $324 million deal

Age/MLB debut: 33/2013

2023 stat line: 15-4, 2.63 ERA, 209 IP, 222 Ks, 0.981 WHIP

Career stats: 145-75, 3.17 ERA, 1,859 IP, 2,152 Ks, 1.087 WHIP 

Second-best: Marcus Stroman

The argument: Cole may be the single best pitcher in baseball. He won his first Cy Young Award in 2023 after finishing second twice, fourth twice, fifth once and ninth once. A six-time All-Star, Cole was actually better in 2019, when he went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA in Houston, but he finished second by 12 points (171-159) in the AL Cy Young Award voting to teammate Justin Verlander. Cole is sidelined now with nerve inflammation and edema in his throwing elbow. When he returns to full health, he still should have many years of peak performance ahead of him.

OAKLAND A’s: PAUL BLACKBURN

Throws: Right

Contract: One year, $3.45 million

Age/MLB debut: 30/2017

2023 stat line: 4-7, 4.43 ERA, 103.2 IP, 104 Ks, 1.543 WHIP

Career stats: 17-24, 4.90 ERA, 353 IP, 270 Ks, 1.431 WHIP

Second-best: JP Sears

The argument: With Blackburn, Sears, Ross Stripling and Alex Wood, the A’s actually have a set first four in their rotation. None of them are particularly effective, but at least A’s fans (in Oakland? Las Vegas? Sacramento? Salt Lake City?) will have an idea of who is going to start the games they may not want to watch. The A’s went 50-112 in 2023 and with powerhouses Houston and Texas in the division it’s hard to image them being much better with this pitching staff. Vegas beckons.

Zack Wheeler Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: ZACK WHEELER

Throws: Right

Contract: Final year of five-year, $118 million contract, with a three-year, $126 million extension beginning in 2025.

Age/MLB debut: 33/2013

2023 stat line: 13-6, 3.61 ERA, 192 IP, 212 Ks, 1.078 WHIP

Career stats: 87-63, 3.45 ERA, 1,378 2/3 IP, 1,401 Ks, 1.185 WHIP

Second-best: Aaron Nola

The argument: The Mets, under then general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, let Wheeler depart to the Phillies as a free agent before the 2020 season. There were legitimate concerns about Wheeler’s injury history, but the righthander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since leaving Flushing. Wheeler won three games in the 2023 postseason. Oddly, he’s only made one All-Star team (2021).

PITTSBURGH PIRATES: MITCH KELLER

Throws: Right

Contract: First year of five-year, $77 million contract

Age/MLB debut: 27/2019

2023 stat line: 13-9, 4.21 ERA, 194 1/3 IP, 210 Ks, 1.245 WHIP

Career stats: 25-38, 4.71 ERA, 523 2/3 IP, 521 Ks, 1.449 WHIP

Second-best: David Bednar

The argument: It took a while, but Keller has become the Pirates’ ace after pitching to a 6.17 ERA in 23 starts in 2021. Keller got that down to 3.91 the next season and in 2023 made his first All-Star team and became the first Pirates hurler to strike out 200 batters since Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano in 2015.

SAN DIEGO PADRES: DYLAN CEASE

Throws: Right

Contract: One year, $8 million

Age / MLB debut: 28/2019

2023 stat line: 7-9, 4.58 ERA, 177 IP, 215 Ks, 1.418 WHIP

Career stats: 43-35, 3.83 ERA, 658 IP, 792 Ks, 1.305 WHIP

Second-best: Yu Darvish

The argument: Cease was the subject of never-ending trade rumors, which didn’t quiet down even though he had his worst full season in 2023. In 2022, however, Cease went 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA and finished second in the AL Cy Young award voting. With a reasonable salary and two years of team control left, it’s no wonder the trade rumors did not desist, and Cease was dealt to the Padres during spring training to join Darvish and Joe Musgrove as a formidable top three.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: BLAKE SNELL

Throws: Left

Contract: First year of a two-year, $62 million contract

Age / MLB debut: 31/2016

2023 stat line: 14-9, 2.25 ERA, 180 IP, 234 Ks, 1.189 WHIP

Career stats: 71-55, 3.20 ERA, 992.2 IP, 1223 Ks, 1.235 WHIP

Second-best: Logan Webb

The argument: The 2023 NL Cy Young award winner must have thought his free-agent contract was going to start with a two – as in $200 million. Instead, he got two years as a late signing with San Francisco. When he’s right, Snell is as good as any pitcher in baseball, albeit for less than six innings a pop. He led the majors in walks in 2023 with 99 and still won the Cy, which tells you how good his stuff is.

SEATTLE MARINERS: LUIS CASTILLO

Throws: Right

Contract: Second year of five-year, $108 million contract

Age/MLB debut: 31/2017

2023 stat line: 14-9, 3.34 ERA, 197 IP, 219 Ks, 1.096 WHIP

Career stats: 62-64, 3.54 ERA, 1054.2 IP, 1156 Ks, 1.178 WHIP

Second-best: Logan Gilbert

The argument: Castillo came over from the Reds at the trade deadline in 2022 and helped lead the Mariners to a rare playoff berth. Seattle signed Castillo to a contract extension in September 2022 so he wouldn’t get to free agency and he was as good as ever last season, even though Seattle fell short of the postseason. Castillo was an All-Star for the third time and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young award voting.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: SONNY GRAY

Throws: Right

Contract: First year of three-year, $75 million contract with team option in 2027

Age/MLB debut: 34/2013

2023 stat line: 8-8, 2.79 ERA, 184 IP, 183 Ks, 1.147 WHIP

Career stats: 98-85, 3.47 ERA, 1,571 IP, 1,521 Ks, 1.204 WHIP

Second-best: Lance Lynn

The argument: The answer to the trivia question of who finished second to Gerrit Cole in the 2023 AL Cy Young award voting is Gray, the former Yankees' bust. Gray has been remarkably consistent as a Greg Maddux/Zack Greinke type control pitcher in all three of his stops, except for his time in the Bronx fishbowl. The Cardinals gave him $25 million a season to lead a rebuilt staff after St. Louis went 71-91 and finished last in the NL Central.

TAMPA BAY RAYS: ZACH EFLIN

Throws: Right

Contract: Second year of three-year, $40 million contract

Age/MLB debut: 29/2016

2023 stat line: 16-8, 3.50 ERA, 177.2 IP, 186 Ks, 1.024 WHIP

Career stats: 52-53, 4.28 ERA, 837 IP, 738 Ks, 1.238 WHIP

Second-best: Pete Fairbanks

The argument: Who has signed the largest free agent contract in Devil Rays/Rays history? If you knew it was Eflin, kudos to you. The Rays were able to unlock something in Eflin that the Phillies weren’t able to in his first seven seasons. In 2023, Eflin set career highs in most categories and finished sixth in the AL Cy Young award voting. The rest of the rotation is the usual hodge-podge of no-names, but the Rays always seem to make it work.

Nathan Eovaldi

Nathan Eovaldi Credit: AP/Lindsey Wasson

TEXAS RANGERS: NATHAN EOVALDI

Throws: Right

Contract: Final year of two-year, $34 million contract with vesting option for 2025

Age/MLB debut: 34/2011

2023 stat line: 12-5, 3.63 ERA, 144 IP, 132 Ks, 1.139 WHIP

Career stats: 79-73, 4.10 ERA, 1401.2 IP, 1192 Ks, 1.303 WHIP

Second-best: Max Scherzer/Jacob deGrom

The argument: Big Game Nate (that’s not his nickname, but maybe it should be) went 5-0 in the postseason for the World Series champion Rangers last season. It was his second ring after he starred for the 2018 Red Sox in that postseason. When the Yankees had Eovaldi in 2015 and 2016, they thought they had something special. They just couldn’t unlock it the way Boston, and now Texas, has. If the Rangers get second-half help from Scherzer and deGrom, they could repeat.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS: KEVIN GAUSMAN

Throws: Right

Contract: Third year of five-year, $110 million contract

Age/MLB debut: 33/2013

2023 stat line: 12-9, 3.16 ERA, 185 IP, 237 Ks, 1.178 WHIP

Career stats: 88-91, 3.84 ERA, 1537 IP, 1603 Ks, 1.265 WHIP

Second-best: Chris Bassitt

The argument: The Blue Jays have had some bad free agent signings in recent years and have also missed out on several big names they were chasing (has Shohei Ohtani’s plane landed in Toronto yet)? But they hit the jackpot with Gausman, who had two nearly identical seasons after signing his big deal. In 2023, Gausman led the AL in strikeouts and finished third in the Cy Young voting.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS: JOSIAH GRAY

Throws: Right

Contract: One year, $730,000

Age/MLB debut: 26/2021

2023 stat line: 8-13, 3.91 ERA, 159 IP, 143 Ks, 1.459 WHIP

Career stats: 17-25, 4.64 ERA, 378 1/3 IP, 373 Ks, 1.401 WHIP

Second-best: MacKenzie Gore

The argument: Gray came to the Nationals in the 2021 trade that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers. He emerged in 2023 by setting career best numbers in starts (30), wins, ERA and innings and was rewarded with his first All-Star berth. In 2022, Gray gave up an NL-high 38 home runs. He cut that to 22 in 2023. Gore, a 25-year-old lefthander, came to Washington from San Diego in the 2022 Juan Soto deal.

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