From seasoned legends to rising stars, these 10 starting pitchers bring the heat and leave batters shaking in their cleats. With blazing fastballs and wicked breaking balls, they’re the backbone of their teams and the envy of every opponent. So buckle up as we dive into the electrifying world of the MLB’s finest pitchers. Here are who we think are the 10 best MLB starters entering 2024:
10. Justin Verlander
We have to give a nod to one of the great veterans in the league today. The MLB is filled with legendary pitchers who still have the capability of being elite. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer come to mind, though both will be sidelined to start 2024. Then there’s Justin Verlander, who showed that he still has plenty left in the tank even after his 40th birthday.
A healthy Verlander is still among the best pitchers in the league. Verlander collected Cy Young awards in ’22 and ’19, and came away with a second-place finish in ’18. His average fastball isn’t all that much slower than it was when he was in his physical prime. And, he has all the experience gained over the years that he can use on the mound. A first ballot Hall of Famer who continues to expand on his epic resume.
9. Blake Snell
Blake Snell is one of the most polarizing arms in the league today. The nine-year pro has posted seven forgettable seasons in between two Cy Young campaigns. While he’s been inconsistent, there’s no doubting how dominant he can be when he gets going. 2023 served as a reminder as Snell was excellent on the mound for the Padres.
Though he walked more batters than anybody in the league, Snell also led the Majors in ERA (2.25) while posting the second-highest SO9 (11.7). He routinely gave out free passes, but hardly ever allowed any runners to score. Snell has always had immense confidence and elite stuff. It’s just a matter of him delivering year in and year out. We’ll see if he can continue his play into ’24.
8. Kevin Gausman
In a league where pitchers who can rack up strikeouts are at a premium, there aren’t many who do it better than Toronto’s Gausman. Since 2021, Gausman has collected the third most strikeouts in baseball with 669. His 9.4 SO9 ranks 20th all-time. Last season, Gausman led the league the American League in punch-outs with 237.
While Gausman doesn’t throw with tremendous velocity, he’s able to get pitchers out by keeping them off-balance. The main way he’s able to accomplish this is with a devastating splitter that is among the league’s best. Hitters can’t identify the difference between this pitch and his regular fastball until it’s too late. Gausman has been in the league for 11 seasons, but he seems to be getting better with each passing year.
7. Logan Webb
Webb has emerged as one of the league’s elite since 2021. With an impressive 3.07 ERA over 91 starts since then, Webb’s dominance on the mound is undeniable. In the 2023 season, Webb showcased his durability by leading MLB with a staggering 216.0 innings pitched. Moreover, he topped the league charts with a remarkable 1.3 BB9 and an impressive 6.26 SO/W ratio. And, it’s not like the Giants played excellent defense behind him. His outstanding performance earned him a well-deserved runner-up position in the National League Cy Young race.
With each passing year, Webb continues to refine his craft, showing clear signs of improvement. His trajectory suggests that he will remain a strong contender for the Cy Young Award in the years to come, further solidifying his place among the league’s top pitchers.
6. Max Fried
Max Fried is the league’s most dominant left-handed starter, narrowly edging out Cy Young winner Blake Snell and Detroit’s Tarik Skubal. Fried can dominate without having overpowering stuff. He sits in the mid-90’s, but his breaking pitches coupled with elite command and poise make him a nightmare for opposing offenses. Hitters have fits trying to hit Fried’s elite curveball.
Fried routinely is among the league leaders in ERA, and is adept at limiting hard contact. Since 2020, Fried boasts a 2.66 ERA over 83 starts. This is a pitcher who controls the game in a different manner. Fried won’t blow anything past you, but he’s elite in his own right.
5. Zac Gallen
Zac Gallen stands out as one of the most underappreciated starters in the league today. Despite Arizona’s lengthy playoff run last year, Gallen remains somewhat overlooked. At 28, he has consistently flown under the radar throughout his career. Gallen bounced back from a down ’21 and was once again elite the very next year. In 2022, Gallen finished fifth in Cy Young voting after posting a 2.54 ERA
He continued his excellence last year, finishing in third for the Cy Young vote before helping guide the D-Backs to a World Series berth. What sets him apart is his ability to generate significant spin on both his fastball and cutter, keeping hitters off balance by expertly mixing in various off-speed pitches, including a deceptive curve and change-up. Gallen’s multifaceted pitching arsenal cements his status as a top star in the league.
4. Corbin Burnes
The newest Oriole remains one of the game’s top arms. Corbin Burnes has been among the most consistent producers on the mound since entering the league in 2018. He became a full-time starter during the COVID-shortened 2020 season and hasn’t looked back. Burnes claimed the Cy Young award the following season with an incredibly memorable year. Burnes led the league in ERA (2.63) while also opening the season with 58 strikeouts before issuing his first walk (an MLB record).
Burnes is now headed to Baltimore after spending his entire Major League career thus far with the Brewers. Fortunately for him, Baltimore’s recent stadium renovations has transformed Oriole Park into a more pitcher-friendly environment. Not that he needs much help after finishing top 8 in Cy Young voting in each of the past four seasons.
3. Spencer Strider
Braves flamethrower Spencer Strider might be the single most intimidating pitcher in the league. His fastball is arguably the best in the Majors among starters. Strider throws a heater that can touch triple-digits on the radar gun, and he has no issue going at batters continuously with the same pitch. That’s what makes him so devastating. Strider’s arsenal is made up mostly of just two pitches — fastball/slider — and hitters still stand no chance against him in the box.
While his style can lead to hard contact and home runs, the trade-off is more than acceptable. Strider led the league with 281 strikeouts last season. He posted a ridiculous 13.5 SO9, which ranks fourth all-time for a single season. Strider finished fourth in Cy Young voting last year, primarily due to an inflated 3.86 ERA. He’s an automatic contender for the award in ’24 if that number decreases.
2. Zack Wheeler
Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler has always had some of the nastiest stuff in the league, but the last couple of years have shined a light on his abilities. Wheeler came over to the Phillies after spending the first five years of his Major League career with the Mets. He’s haunted his new division rival ever since. Wheeler finished second in Cy Young voting in ’21, and placed sixth this past year before absolutely dominating in the postseason.
Wheeler leads with a powerful fastball which he precisely locates to all corners of the zone. He boasts one of the deeper arsenals in the entire league, keeping defenders off balance at all times. Wheeler went 3-0 in the playoffs last year, striking out 34 batters over 26.0 IP while allowing a .179 BA to opposing hitters.
1. Gerrit Cole
In 2023, Gerrit Cole was finally recognized as the league’s best pitcher by capturing his first career Cy Young award. It was a long time coming for the Yankee hurler, who had previously placed second in Cy Young voting twice before. Cole led the league in ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched. While he did see his strikeout rate dip, Cole made up for it by showcasing elite control.
Cole grants his bullpen extra rest every fifth day. Anytime he takes the mound, the righty is capable of pitching deep into the ball game. He’s been worth every penny the Yankees have given him since inking that massive $324 million deal back in 2019. If the Yankees return to the World Series, there’s no doubt who will be on the bump in Game 1.