RANKED: Every MLB Team’s Ace From Worst to Best

30. Dylan Bundy — Baltimore Orioles

This ranking doesn’t reflect Bundy’s potential future in the big leagues. Supremely talented with a hard fastball and a plus-slider, Bundy has the tools to become an upper echelon ace. However, the 26-year-old is coming off an absolutely dreadful 2018 season.

Making the most starts of his career (31), Bundy saw his ERA rise to 5.45. Perhaps most troubling, Baltimore’s ace surrendered 41 home runs — leading the majors — and posted a 9.9 H9, up from 8.1 the year before. The Orioles are likely to contend for the league’s worst record again in 2019, but we anticipate Bundy to elevate his game.

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29. Lucas Giolito — Chicago White Sox

It won’t be long until Michael Kopech takes the reigns as Chicago’s ace. But for now, Giolito holds a slight advantage over Reynaldo Lopez. Giolito, the 16th pick of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, made 32 starts for the Sox last season. Although his 6.13 ERA is unsightly, Giolito has flashed at times during his young career.

Giolito is a presence on the mound — 6-foot-6, 245 pounds — and features a big fastball coupled with a good breaking pitch. His command was a problem last year, as the righty averaged 4.7 BB9. Giolito, who will be given time to grow alongside the upstart Sox, should be a pillar of the rotation for years to come.

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28. Marco Gonzales — Seattle Mariners

Between dealing James Paxton to the Yankees and Felix Hernandez pitching like a shell of his former self, the Mariners are in desperate need of a new No. 1. The Mariners brought in Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi, formerly of the Seibu Lions, this offseason. The lefty is not at Shohei Ohtani’s level, but he was one of the best pitchers in Japan the past few years.

While it is entirely possible for Kikuchi to become Seattle’s ace, Gonzales will begin the year as the Mariners top dog. Gonzales, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career, had his career-best season in 2018. The lefty throws both two and four-seam fastballs, a curve, and a circle change. Gonzales’ circle change is easily his best pitch. Featuring good action and control on the pitch, Seattle’s new ace limits hard contact and doesn’t walk many batters.

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27. Mike Minor — Texas Rangers

Watching a Rangers game in 2019 will be very strange. Adrian Beltre’s decision to retire will leave a hole in both the Rangers’ clubhouse and in our hearts. That being said, when you turn on the television Opening Day, Mike Minor will take the mound as Texas’ ace.

After spending the entire 2017 season in the Kansas City bullpen, Minor started 28 games for the Rangers in 2018. For making half of his starts in a hitters ballpark, Minor posted decently impressive numbers. The lefty surrendered 7.9 H9 and 25 HR. Minor has good depth on his slider, which is crucial to his success. One major worry for Minor and the Rangers is his health. Minor missed all of ’15 and most of ’16 with shoulder problems.

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26. Anthony DeSclafani — Cincinnati Reds

Mired in mediocrity since their World Series win in 1990, the Reds have bolstered their rotation over the past few weeks. In acquiring Tanner Roark, Sonny Gray, and Alex Wood from the Nationals, Yankees and Dodgers respectively, Cincinnati has added much-needed depth to its stable of pitchers.

Headlining the group, however, is DeSclafani. After missing all of ’17, DeSclafani went through some natural growing pains last season. The righty needs to utilize his curveball more this season. If he can control his curve, he should garner more whiffs. Before last year, DeSclafani had lowered his ERA each year in the majors — he should return closer to the 3.28 ERA he posted in 2016, as opposed to his 4.93 mark last season.

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25. Joey Lucchesi — San Diego Padres

Lucchesi made his MLB debut in 2018, starting 26 games for the floundering Padres. The 6-foot-5 lefty had an admirable rookie year, finishing with an 8-9 record and 4.08 ERA. Lucchesi doesn’t have intimidating stuff, but his unique style leads to results.

His herky-jerky windup is deceptive. In addition to the hitch in his delivery, Lucchesi’s arm slot makes it doubly hard to pick up the ball out of his hand. With a fastball sitting in the low 90s, Lucchesi’s changeup is crucial to his success. Despite not having the best off-speed repertoire, Lucchesi’s fastball and changeup play well due to his deception. Throw in an above-average pickoff move, and Lucchesi has all the tools to be a steady force for the Padres.

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24. José Ureña — Miami Marlins

The Marlins are a mess. A year after trading both Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, the organization also traded its franchise catcher — J.T. Realmuto. Ureña can’t be happy.

Ureña is entering his fifth big league season. Over the past two years, Miami’s ace has gone 23-19 with a combined 3.90 ERA. Although his record was worse in ’18 and he posted a slightly higher ERA, the signs are promising for Ureña. He allowed seven fewer homers, walked fewer batters, and struck out nearly one more batter per nine innings. If Ureña can control his pitches and continue to improve, he could be an All-Star caliber pitcher in the National League.

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23. Danny Duffy — Kansas City Royals

Undoubtedly, Duffy had a rough time last season. It certainly doesn’t help playing for one of the worst teams in baseball, but the Kansas City lefty fell short of expectations. Duffy finished the season with a 4.88 ERA — the highest mark since his rookie year (5.64) — and walked a career-worst 70 batters.

The root of Duffy’s problem was his control. We’ve already touched on his walks, but more problematic was the location of his breaking balls. Duffy consistently left his off-speed pitches high in the zone. Duffy also underwent minor elbow surgery before the 2018 campaign. If Duffy can spot his off-speed pitches better in ’19, he should enjoy a much better season.

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22. Mike Fiers — Oakland Athletics

The A’s were arguably baseballs biggest surprise last season, and Mike Fiers was a huge reason why. Fiers, who had struggled the past two years in Houston, rebounded in ’18 to the tune of 12 wins and a 3.56 ERA.

After being acquired by Oakland late last year, Fiers went 5-2 down the stretch for the A’s. While he isn’t overpowering, Fiers relied on a rising four-seam fastball more than usual. By keeping the fastball up in the zone, Fiers found more success with his looping curve. While with Oakland, Fiers’ curve sat around five inches lower in the zone than it did with the Tigers to start the year. The variance of his fastball and curve led to a lot of outs for the righty.

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21. Andrew Heaney — Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Unfortunately for the Angels, Shohei Ohtani will not take the mound until at least 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last October. The Angels are not bereft of talent, however, as Heaney and Tyler Skaggs both fit the bill as potential frontline starters.

In particular, Heaney has the ability to be the club’s ace. Last season the dynamic lefty boasted the 23rd-best strikeout rate among qualified starters. He doesn’t throw particularly hard (92-93), has an incredibly effective ‘curveball’ (little to no depth to the pitch), and features a sinker that generates more flyballs than grounders. That being said, opponents struggle to hit his curve —  .187/.227/.346 and a 42.9 percent whiff rate. Combining an above-average changeup, a disappearing curve, and a sneaky fastball, Heaney has the potential to become a bonafide ace in short order.

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20. Michael Fulmer — Detroit Tigers

Fulmer burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2016, capturing the AL Rookie of the Year, and finished 10th in the Cy Young in the process. After taking a slight step back in ’17, Fulmer disappointed in ’18. He finished the year 3-12 with a 4.69 ERA in a career-low 132.1 innings.

Fulmer maintained a decent SO9 rate (7.5), but yielded over three walks per nine (3.1). Fulmer throws a hard fastball, a wipeout slider, and an above-average changeup. Fulmer is at his best when he is aggressive with his fastball. His ability to go in on hitters with a 95 mph fastball, and then change speeds with good secondary pitches, allows Fulmer to dominate at times. Although, Fulmer’s health will remain a concern.

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19. Aaron Sanchez — Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays had an awful ’18, and it certainly doesn’t help when your two best pitchers post 4.89 and 5.54 ERA’s. Since going 15-2 in ’16, Sanchez has been bogged down by injuries — resulting in just 28 starts over the past two seasons.

Sanchez throws hard and generates a ton of ground balls. Where Sanchez struggles is with his command. Through five seasons, Sanchez has a BB9 rate of 3.8. Because he struggles to consistently find the zone, hitters have keyed in on strikes — resulting in an uptick in hits and runs. Sanchez has started to throw more changeup’s, which should produce softer contact and more whiffs. Barring health, Sanchez has enough talent to win 12 or more games while posting an ERA around 3.00.

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18. Jhoulys Chacín — Milwaukee Brewers

After spending the first six years of his career in Colorado, Chacín floundered around the country for three years before finding a home in Milwaukee. Chacín enjoyed the best season of his career in ’18, going 15-8 with a 3.50 ERA for the Brewers.

Chacín started a career-high 35 games, and fanned a career-best 156 batters. Chacín came up huge in the postseason for the Brewers, pitching great games against the Cubs and Rockies — 10.1 IP, 6 H, 9 SO, 0 ER. Chacín’s success can likely be tied to his slider. Milwaukee’s ace threw his slider 44 percent of the time in ’18, and generally kept batters off-balance due to its movement.

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17. José Berríos — Minnesota Twins

Only entering his fourth season in the big leagues, Berríos is on the fast-track to stardom. Minnesota’s ace excelled in ’18. He set career-high’s in starts (32), innings (192.1), and strikeouts (202).

A member of the AL All-Star team, Berríos threw two complete games — including a CG shutout — and lowered both his WHIP and H9. Berríos is an elite talent. He possesses three plus-pitches — fastball, curveball, changeup — and has impressive control for a young pitcher. Berríos has increased his strikeout rate each year, while also lowering his walk rate. In a few years time, Berríos may be a top-10 pitcher in baseball.

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16. Madison Bumgarner — San Francisco Giants

Anyone that has followed baseball over the past decade knows how good Bumgarner is. Despite making a mere 38 starts since ’16, the San Francisco legend remains a top pitcher.

Mad Bum has seen his strikeout totals diminish with time — 10.0 SO9 in ’16, 7.6 in ’18 — but it is too early to count him out. Bumgarner doesn’t turn 30 until August. His last complete season, he was dominant. Heading into the season with a fresh bill of health, it is easy to envision the lefty reasserting himself into the spotlight. However, should the Giants continue to falter, he may be shipped out of San Francisco.

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15. Jameson Taillon — Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh’s other potential ace, Chris Archer, should fare well in his first full season with the Pirates. After a strong start to his career, Archer has finished with an ERA above 4.00 three-straight seasons.

Taillon, however, appears to be headed in the right direction. Taillon is coming off a very strong ’18 season in which he improved across the board. The righty picked up 14 wins, posted a 3.20 ERA, threw two complete games, and surrendered fewer hits and walks per nine innings. One of the main reasons for Taillon’s improvement was his ground ball rate. Taillon and Archer have the potential to be one of the better one-two punches in the league this year.

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14. Carlos Martínez — St. Louis Cardinals

An argument can be made that 30-year-old Miles Mikolas — 18-4, 2.83 ERA, MLB-best 1.3 BB9 in ’18 — is the Cardinals’ ace. There is no doubt he had a great season, but discounting Martínez would be a mistake.

Before an oblique injury derailed Martínez’s fast start to the year, he was on fire. The hard-throwing righty entered May with a 1.62 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 50 innings. Martínez wasn’t the same after returning from injury. He spent time in the bullpen and only made 18 starts. However, Martínez is the most talented starter on the roster and should display the skill that made him a two-time All-Star.

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13. German Marquez — Colorado Rockies

Only a handful of teams in the big leagues have a one-two punch on par with the Rockies. Kyle Freeland (17-7, 2.85) and Marquez (14-11, 3.77) both burst onto the scene last year in Colorado. But for as great as Freeland was, Marquez gets a slight edge over the lefty.

Blessed with incredible stuff, Marquez went 8-2 over the final three months of ’18. In addition to hitting the mid-90s with his fastball, Marquez added a devastating slider to his arsenal. The results were immediate. Over the final three months, Marquez struck out 128 batters. He finished the season with a total of 230 SO — good for 10.6 SO9 — and only yielded 57 free passes. Marquez has the potential to be a Cy Young pitcher down the road.

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12. Mike Foltynewicz — Atlanta Braves

The Braves were one of the surprise teams of ’18. They likely wouldn’t have won the NL East without Foltynewicz heading the rotation. The 26-year-old had the best season of his career, shedding nearly two points off his ERA — 2.85 in ’18, down from 4.79 in ’17.

Foltynewicz allowed only 6.4 H9 while striking out a career-high 9.9 batters per nine. After throwing either his fastball or slider 54.9 percent of the time in ’17, Foltynewicz utilized the two pitches nearly 70 percent of the time in ’18. One of the main keys for Foltynewicz was creating a speed-difference between the two. In adding velocity to the fastball, and diminishing the speed of his slider, Foltynewicz created more deception. The next step for Atlanta’s ace is to cut down on his walk rate. If he can do that, the Braves should have a stud for years to come.

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11. Zack Greinke — Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks are in the midst of a massive overhaul. Through free agency and trades, Arizona has decided to let its best players leave the organization. That is, other than Greinke. Gone are the days where Greinke blows a hitter away with his fastball.

But despite not blowing his fastball by hitters, Greinke remains one of the best pitchers in baseball. He is one of the game’s smartest pitchers, as well as one of its most accurate. From 2017-18, Greinke amassed 32 victories, two All-Star nods, and a fourth place finish in the NL Cy Young. Greinke turns 35 in October, but the two-time ERA champ hasn’t shown many signs of decline.

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10. Jon Lester — Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have five starters with ace potential. In addition to Lester, Hamels, Darvish, Hendricks, and Quintana have all either been an ace, or have the talent to be one. Nonetheless, Lester remains the Cubs’ unquestioned No. 1.

Lester bounced back in ’18 following a middling (by his standards) ’17 campaign. The veteran tallied 18 wins and took a full point off of his ’17 ERA, posting a 3.32 mark. Though he allowed 26 fewer runs last season, Lester’s strikeout rate dropped dramatically. Lester has the type of arsenal and command on the mound that should help the pitcher age well. ’19 could be a make-or-break season for Lester and his future in Chicago.

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9. Luis Severino — New York Yankees

After an incredible start to last season — one which had Severino in the Cy Young conversation at the All-Star break — New York’s top pitcher struggled down the stretch. Severino started the season 14-2, but saw his ERA balloon from 1.98 to 3.52 from July 1-September 5.

As was exposed in the playoffs, it is likely that Severino was tipping his pitches. For as good as Severino’s stuff is, professional hitters will take advantage of even the slightest tell. There is little to suggest Severino won’t have a stellar year once again. His fastball-slider combination is lethal, and his changeup is improving. Severino will be a force to be reckoned with for a long time to come.

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8. Aaron Nola — Philadelphia Phillies

Nola announced his presence in dominating fashion last year. From the time Nola debuted in ’15 he had flashed his potential, but he reached another level in ’18. Nola went 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA for the Phillies and finished third for the NL Cy Young.

Perhaps the biggest boon to his young career has been the mechanical changes to his delivery. By using his legs more, Nola has eased the burden on his arm. Another byproduct of the adjustments, Nola’s fastball has gained velocity. The young pitcher has a great feel for the game and has limitless potential. Some would argue Nola is already a top-5 pitcher in baseball.

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7. Blake Snell — Tampa Bay Rays

If you were impressed by Aaron Nola’s breakthrough season in Philadelphia, take a look at what Snell did for the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only did Snell become the best pitcher on his team, but he was the best the American League had to offer last year.

The 25-year-old finished the season with an MLB-best 21 wins, and an AL-best 1.89 ERA. He surrendered a minuscule 5.6 H9, and averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings. Snell throws hard (mid-90s) and has incredible vertical movement on both his changeup and curveball. With another great season, Snell may very well cement his place among baseball’s elite.

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6. Corey Kluber — Cleveland Indians

The Indians can make a claim to having the best rotation in baseball. Carlos Carrasco has 35 wins over the past two years. Trevor Bauer finished sixth in the Cy Young race last year. Mike Clevinger has 25 wins and a 3.05 ERA since ’17. But ahead of the rest is Kluber.

Kluber is a two-time AL Cy Young winner. He has finished no worse than third since ’16 as a result of winning 56 games and posting a cumulative 2.77 ERA. As long as he remains in Cleveland, the Indians will be a threat.

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5. Justin Verlander — Houston Astros

The stories of Verlander’s downfall seem both distant and more ridiculous each time they are brought up. Since arriving in Houston, the former MVP has been nothing short of spectacular. From going 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in ’17, to helping the Astros win the World Series, to finishing second in the ’18 Cy Young, Verlander has done it all.

Verlander struck out a career-high 290 batters in ’18. The flamethrower averaged 12.2 SO9 and only 1.6 BB9 — yielding only 37 free passes all season. Verlander’s rising four-seamer is nearly unmatched by his peers. He still features a great curve and changeup, but Verlander has improved by mastering his slider. The ability to throw a disappearing slider and his newly raised arm slot have done wonders for the future Hall of Fame pitcher.

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4. Chris Sale — Boston Red Sox

Before injuries slowed Sale down towards the end of ’18, the menacing lefty was his dominant self. Sale made four starts in July — earning three victories — and tallied 43 strikeouts and a 0.36 ERA. However, he only made five starts over the next two months as he struggled with his health.

Sale fought back valiantly in the postseason and showed glimpses of why he has started three-straight All-Star Game’s for the American League. Despite missing the better part of two months, Sale finished the year with 237 strikeouts in 158.0 innings — good for a whopping 13.5 SO9. When healthy, Sale is arguably the most dominant pitcher in the league.

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3. Clayton Kershaw — Los Angeles Dodgers

It speaks to the greatness of Clayton Kershaw that a season in which he finishes with a 2.73 ERA is considered a ‘down year.’ Back and shoulder injuries slowed down the Dodger great, as well as a diminished fastball.

Kershaw losing velocity on his fastball is worrying, but with a healthy offseason the hope is that he is able to recover some of his heat. Due to the loss of velocity, the variance between his fastball and slider wasn’t drastic. To many, this was a main reason for Kershaw finishing with his highest ERA since 2010. That being said, Kershaw’s ‘down year’ is still elite compared to more than 95 percent of the league. Walker Buehler may be nipping at his heels, but Kershaw remains the Dodgers’ premier ace for at least another season.

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2. Jacob deGrom — New York Mets

When you are teammates with Noah ‘Thor’ Syndergaard, it is easy to be overlooked. Syndergaard’s overpowering arsenal of pitches and charisma play well nationally. However, after last season, nobody will ever overlook deGrom again.

Playing for the lousy Mets, deGrom captured the National League Cy Young — despite having a mediocre 10-9 record. Thankfully, voters gave credit where credit was due. deGrom led all of baseball with a 1.70 ERA, a 1.99 FIP, and 0.4 HR9. Stunningly, he allowed only 41 earned runs in 217.0 innings. Out of his five pitches — fastball, sinker, curve, slider, changeup — his fastball, slider, and change were devastating last year. deGrom rose to another level in ’18.

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1. Max Scherzer — Washington Nationals

To put it simply, Scherzer is a freak. Since his 21-3, Cy Young winning season in ’13, Scherzer has captured two additional Cy’s. He has led the majors in wins four times, and strikeouts the past three seasons.

Last year, Scherzer won 18 games, struck out 300, and only allowed 6.1 H9. Scherzer has been overpowering hitters since ’12 and has shown no signs of wear and tear. He is durable, competitive, and incredibly dominant. Until proven otherwise, Scherzer is baseball’s top ace.

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