Cy Young AwardDownload App

Early Surprises Among 2013 Cy Young Candidates

Joel ReuterFeatured Columnist IVJune 24, 2016

Early Surprises Among 2013 Cy Young Candidates

1 of 13

    Pitching tends to have the upper hand in the early going of any MLB season, with most hitters heating up as the weather gets warmer and they get more at-bats under their belt.

    As a result, there are always at least a handful of pitchers who get off to an unexpectedly strong start and find themselves ranking among the league's top arms statistically.

    Here's a look at the early surprises among 2013 Cy Young candidates. To narrow the field, I ranked my top-10 pitchers from the NL and AL and then chose who I felt was a surprise performer from those 10.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats via MLB.com. Accurate through April 29.

NL Surprise: A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates

2 of 13

    2013 Stats

    6 GS, 2-2, 2.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 48 K, 35 IP

     

    Player Summary

    After back-to-back seasons for the Yankees with an ERA over 5.00, A.J. Burnett was shipped to the Pirates prior to the 2012 season in what amounted to a cost-cutting move by New York.

    The change of scenery worked wonders, as the right-hander went 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 202.1 innings while emerging as the ace of the Pirates staff.

    At 36, he's coming down the home stretch of what has been an up-and-down career, but he's pitching as well right now as he has at any point in his career.

NL Surprise: Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks

3 of 13

    2013 Stats

    5 GS, 3-0, 1.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 25 K, 33 IP

     

    Player Summary

    Much like Wade Miley last season, Patrick Corbin was not expected to be a part of the Diamondbacks rotation entering camp.

    The No. 5 spot in the rotation was expected to go to top prospect Tyler Skaggs. But when Skaggs struggled early, Corbin took full advantage and locked down a rotation spot with a strong spring.

    The 23-year-old appeared in 22 games (17 starts) last season, going 6-8 with a 4.54 ERA, but he's been a different pitcher this season and the best arm on a good Diamondbacks staff.

NL Surprise: Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates

4 of 13

    2013 Stats

    12 G, 10-of-10 SV, 0.82 ERA, 17 K, 11 IP

     

    Player Summary

    The No. 4 pick in the 1997 draft, Jason Grilli was nothing short of a flop entering the 2010 season. He was 18-18 with a 4.74 ERA over 238 appearances in what was a well-traveled career.

    A serious knee injury cost him the entire 2010 season, but he came back a different pitcher. Over the past two seasons, he's posted a 2.76 ERA and 12.5 K/9 over 92 appearances.

    The Pirates traded All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox this offseason, and though they acquired a reliever with closer experience in Mark Melancon in the deal, they opted to go with Grilli as the closer.

    So far that's been a brilliant move, as the 36-year-old is on his way to the first All-Star appearance of his career and some Cy Young consideration if he can keep it up.

NL Surprise: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

5 of 13

    2013 Stats

    6 GS, 4-0, 1.56 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 46 K, 40.1 IP

     

    Player Summary

    There was no question that Matt Harvey had a bright future ahead of him entering this season, and many believed he would be a legitimate Cy Young candidate sooner rather than later.

    It's safe to say that few expected him to be dominating like he has in his first full season in the big leagues, though, as he's been lights out.

    The No. 7 pick in the 2010 draft out of the University of North Carolina, it took him a little over two years from the time he was drafted until he made his big league debut last July.

    As a 23-year-old rookie, he went 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over 10 starts. He's built off that success in a big way here in 2013 as he looks to help lead the Mets back to contention in the years ahead.

NL Surprise: Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

6 of 13

    2013 Stats

    5 GS, 3-2, 2.05 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 33 K, 30.2 IP

     

    Player Summary

    Few teams would be able to overcome the loss of two pitchers with the caliber of Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse, but the Cardinals have been able to do that this season thanks in large part to the emergence of Shelby Miller.

    The team's top pitching prospect from the day he was taken with the No. 19 pick in the 2009 draft, Miller was moved through the minor leagues aggressively. He made his big league debut last season after just 383.2 innings of work in the minors.

    He made six appearances (one start) down the stretch in St. Louis, posting a 1.32 ERA and striking out 16 hitters in 13.2 innings of work.

    Now through five starts this season, he has looked every bit the part of a future staff ace. He has to be viewed as the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year honors right now.

My Current National League Voting Predictions (Top 10)

7 of 13

    Here is a look at how I would rank the top-10 pitchers in the National League right now and where the aforementioned surprise candidates fall into the overall Cy Young picture.

    Things will no doubt change a good deal over the next month. The Cy Young picture will continue to take shape throughout the season, but this gives you an idea of where things stand as we enter May.

     

    1. Matt Harvey, New York Mets
    (6 GS, 4-0, 1.56 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 46 K, 40.1 IP)

    2. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
    (6 GS, 3-2, 1.73 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 47 K, 41.2 IP)

    3. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
    (5 GS, 3-0, 1.87 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 34 K, 33.2 IP)

    4. A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates
    (6 GS, 2-2, 2.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 48 K, 35 IP) 

    5. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
    (5 GS, 4-1, 1.93 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 37 K, 37.1 IP)

    6. Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates
    (12 G, 10-for-10 SV, 0.82 ERA, 17 K, 11 IP) 

    7. Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals
    (5 GS, 3-2, 2.05 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 33 K, 30.2 IP)

    8. Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals
    (5 GS, 4-1, 2.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 19 K, 36 IP)

    9. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
    (14 G, 6-for-7 SV, 0.68 ERA, 21 K, 13.1 IP) 

    10. Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks
    (5 GS, 3-0, 1.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 25 K, 33 IP) 

AL Surprise: Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox

8 of 13

    2013 Stats

    5 GS, 5-0, 1.19 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 39 K, 37.2 IP

     

    Player Summary

    After a shaky first two full seasons in the majors, Clay Buchholz finally appeared to take the next step in 2010 when he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA.

    Long one of the most hyped young pitchers in the game, aided by the fact that he threw a no-hitter in his second big league start, it appeared Buchholz had finally emerged as the ace he was projected to become.

    Instead, he followed up his breakout 2010 by going 17-11 with a 4.24 ERA over the next two seasons combined, and he was a major X-factor for the Red Sox entering the season.

    He's been dynamite through his first five starts this season and has been a key factor in the Red Sox holding the best record in baseball here in the early going.

AL Surprise: Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays

9 of 13

    2013 Stats

    4 GS, 3-1, 1.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 22 K, 29.2 IP

     

    Player Summary

    A prospect in the same organization as guys like David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, among others, it is no surprise Alex Cobb flew under the radar as a prospect.

    A fourth-round pick in 2006, the right-hander moved slowly through the team's farm system before earning a second-half call-up in 2011. He went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts, yet he was still unable to earn a roster spot to open the 2012 season.

    It didn't take long until he got the call, though. Once he did, he was in the majors for good, going 11-9 with a 4.03 ERA over 23 starts.

    A prime candidate to breakout in his first full big league season and coming off a terrific spring, Cobb has done just that over the season's first month. His emergence has helped ease the loss of James Shields. 

AL Surprise: Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners

10 of 13

    2013 Stats

    6 GS, 2-1, 1.67 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 37 K, 37.2 IP

     

    Player Summary

    After a terrific 12-year career in Japan, Hisashi Iwakuma was posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles prior to the 2011 season, and the A's won the rights to negotiate with him.

    However, the two sides were unable to come to terms. As a result, Iwakuma entered last offseason as a traditional free agent free to sign wherever he wanted. He wound up agreeing to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Mariners, opening the season in their bullpen.

    After 14 relief appearances, he joined the rotation in July and went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA over 16 starts the rest of the way as he quietly emerged as one of the AL's best starters.

    That earned him a two-year, $14 million extension, and he slid into the No. 2 spot in the Mariners rotation following the trade of Jason Vargas. He's out-pitched teammate Felix Hernandez to this point, and that is really saying something.

AL Surprise: Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

11 of 13

    2013 Stats

    5 GS, 5-0, 1.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 38 K, 32 IP

     

    Player Summary

    A dominant 2011 season in the minors in which he went 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 155 innings vaulted Matt Moore to the top prospect lists. He entered the 2012 season as the game's top pitching prospect, according to Baseball America.

    He opened last season in the Rays rotation. By all accounts, he had a fantastic season for a 23-year-old rookie, going 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 177.1 innings.

    However, he entered the season with such lofty expectations that his final-season numbers were somewhat disappointing overall.

    There's been nothing disappointing about his play here in the early going in 2013, though, as he has been the team's best pitcher and should help ease the inevitable loss of David Price down the road.

AL Surprise: Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers

12 of 13

    2013 Stats

    5 GS, 3-1, 1.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 41 K, 33.2 IP

     

    Player Summary

    More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Tigers re-signed Anibal Sanchez on a five-year, $80 million deal to be the team's No. 4 starter.

    He pitched well in 12 starts with the Tigers after coming over in a deadline trade. He followed that up with three great outings in the postseason but entered the 2013 season just 48-51 with a 3.75 ERA for his career.

    He's pitched more like a staff ace than a No. 4 starter so far this season, and he was dominant last time out against the Braves when he allowed just five hits while striking out 17 in eight shutout innings.

My Current American League Voting Predictions (Top 10)

13 of 13

    Here is a look at how I would rank the top-10 pitchers in the American League right now and where the aforementioned surprise candidates fall into the overall Cy Young picture.

    Things will no doubt change a good deal over the next month. The Cy Young picture will continue to take shape throughout the season, but this gives you an idea of where things stand as we enter May.

     

    1. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
    (5 GS, 4-1, 1.65 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 49 K, 32.2 IP)

    2. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
    (5 GS, 5-0, 1.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 38 K, 32 IP)

    3. Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
    (6 GS, 2-1, 1.67 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 37 K, 37.2 IP)

    4. Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox
    (5 GS, 5-0, 1.19 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 39 K, 37.2 IP) 

    5. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
    (6 GS, 3-2, 1.90 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 44 K, 42.2 IP)

    6. Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers
    (5 GS, 3-1, 1.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 41 K, 33.2 IP)

    7. Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
    (14 G, 10-for-10 SV, 0.64 ERA, 12 K, 14 IP)

    8. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
    (5 GS, 2-2, 1.95 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 33 K, 32.1 IP) 

    9. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
    (10 G, 9-for-9 SV, 1.80 ERA, 10 K, 10 IP)

    10. Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays
    (4 GS, 3-1, 1.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 22 K, 29.2 IP) 

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices