Imagine, if you will, that every pitcher in baseball was thrown into a pool to be selected from, fantasy draft style. The goal of this draft would be to build a pitching staff for the remainder of the 2013 season, but no further.
What follows can be thought of as my "Big Board" for the top 100 pitchers in this hypothetical draft. Given the premise of only focusing on this season, certain questions have to be asked.
This is my attempt to answer those questions, as I give an overview of the top 100 pitchers in MLB at this moment in time.
I urge you to read the following for a better understanding of my thought process and why guys are ranked where they are.
Let the debate ensue in the comment section below.
Studs like David Price, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels have struggled this season, so how far do they drop down the rankings?
Do you take a young phenom like Patrick Corbin or Shelby Miller—who are both off to hot starts this season—over a proven commodity like the above mentioned trio, based solely upon two months of play and the potential for more?
Significantly injured players and players who have major health questions at this point were not included on this list. That means no Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Garza, J.J. Putz, Jason Motte, Colby Lewis or Matt Harrison, among others.
100. RP Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
A starter throughout his time in the minors, Rosenthal was called up last season to provide some support out of the Cardinals bullpen, and he wound up with a 2.78 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 19 appearances. He can touch triple-digits with his fastball and has the secondary stuff to be a starter, but he's in the bullpen once again this year, where he has a 2.42 ERA and 12.9 K/9 over 23 games as the team's primary setup man.
99. SP Wei-Yin Chen, Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles took a chance on Chen prior to last offseason, signing the former Chunichi Dragons starter to a three-year, $12 million deal. He wound up being the team's most consistent starter as a rookie, going 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA. The 27-year-old has been even better this year, going 3-3 with a 3.04 ERA through his first eight starts.
98. RP Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals
In one of the better under-the-radar moves of the past decade, the Nationals acquired Clippard from the Yankees for Jonathan Albaladejo prior to the 2008 season. Since coming to Washington, he's gone 23-18 with 33 saves, a 2.84 ERA and 10.4 K/9 over 284 appearances. He has a 2.65 ERA and 9.0 K/9 over 18 games so far this season.
97. SP Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds
The 36-year-old Arroyo is no longer the frontline starter that he once was, but he remains as durable as any starter in baseball, having pitched at least 199 innings in each of the past eight seasons. He was 12-10 with a 3.74 ERA last season, and he is 4-4 with a 3.28 ERA so far this season, in what is a contract year for the veteran right-hander.
96. RP David Hernandez, Arizona Diamondbacks
Acquired in the Mark Reynolds trade back in 2011, Hernandez has emerged as one of the most reliable setup men in the game since coming to Arizona. In his two-plus seasons with the team, he's made 165 appearances, posting a 2.97 ERA and 11.2 K/9.
95. SP Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles
Acquired from the Mariners in the Erik Bedard deal back in 2008, Tillman showed flashes of being a future star at the end of last season. He was 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA on the year, including a 4-1 record with a 2.16 ERA over his final seven starts. The 25-year-old is 3-2 with a 3.52 ERA so far this year, and he has the stuff to emerge as the Orioles' staff ace.
94. RP Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
The Royals' primary setup man entering last season, Holland was thrust into closer duties when the team dealt Jonathan Broxton to the Reds at the deadline. All told, he finished the season 16-for-20 on saves with a 2.96 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 67 innings. He's 7-for-9 with a 3.00 ERA so far this season, and he still profiles best as a setup man.
93. SP Scott Feldman, Chicago Cubs
A former 30th-round pick by the Rangers, Feldman enjoyed a breakout season in 2009, when he won 17 games with a 4.08 ERA. He failed to build off of that season, though, going 15-23 with a 5.15 ERA over the last three seasons before signing a one-year, $7 million deal with the Cubs this offseason. He's been great so far in 2013, going 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA over his last five starts.
92. RP Huston Street, San Diego Padres
The A's closer by the age of 21, Street has racked up 212 saves with a 3.06 ERA to this point during his nine-year career. He earned a two-year, $14 million extension with the Padres last season, and he finished the year converting 23-of-24 save opportunities with a 1.85 ERA. He's 11-for-12 to start the 2013 season, though his ERA is 4.19.
91. RP Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies
With 621 career appearances under his belt, Betancourt is a seasoned veteran, but it was not until last season that he was used as a full-time closer for the first time. He converted 31-of-38 save chances with a 2.81 ERA last year, and the 38-year-old is 10-for-10 with a 1.56 ERA so far this year.
90. RP James Russell, Chicago Cubs
The son of former big leaguer Jeff Russell, the 27-year-old James went 7-1 with a 3.25 ERA in 77 appearances out of the Cubs bullpen last season in his first year as a full-time reliever. He's been nearly untouchable so far this season, with a 1.04 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over his first 23 appearances.
89. RP Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians
An All-Star the past two seasons, Perez has saved 98 games with a 2.84 ERA in his first three full seasons with the Indians. He's 6-for-8 on save chances so far this season, but his peripherals are solid with a 2.25 ERA and .213 opponent batting average.
88. SP Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies
Bounced between the rotation and bullpen for much of his career, Kendrick locked down a rotation spot in the second half last season and went 7-3 with a 2.43 ERA over his final 10 starts. He's continued pitching at a high level to start the 2013 campaign, going 4-2 with a 2.82 ERA through his first nine starts.
87. RP Rex Brothers, Colorado Rockies
Brothers appears to be in line to take over for Rafael Betancourt as the Rockies closer at some point down the line, and he certainly has the stuff to thrive in the ninth inning. The 25-year-old posted a 3.49 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 108.1 innings over his first two seasons, and he has a 0.44 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 20.1 innings of work so far this year.
86. RP Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics
Originally drafted as a first baseman in the first round of the 2007 draft, Doolittle made the switch to pitching after a pair of knee surgeries. After pitching just 26 innings in the minors, he made his big league debut last season, and he had a 3.04 ERA and 11.4 K/9 over 44 appearances. So far in 2013, he has a 0.90 ERA in his first 21 appearances.
85. SP Derek Holland, Texas Rangers
In his first full season as a starter in 2011, Holland went 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA. With the departure of C.J. Wilson in free agency following that season, many expected him to step up as the ace of the Rangers, but he battled inconsistency and finished 2012 at 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA. He's still just 26, and he's off to a nice start this season with a 3-2 record and a 3.30 ERA, but he has to become more consistent in order to take that next step.
84. RP Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
A failed starter, Perkins made the move to the bullpen in 2011 after posting a 4.81 ERA over the first five seasons of his career. The move has worked wonders, as he's put up a 2.52 ERA and 9.8 K/9 over the past two seasons. He saved 16 games last season and is 8-for-9 with a 3.45 ERA in the early going this year.
83. SP Ross Detwiler, Washington Nationals
Largely overshadowed by the other four starters in the Nationals rotation, Detwiler quietly went 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA in 33 games (27 starts) last season. The 27-year-old is just 2-4 on the season, but he has a 2.76 ERA through his first eight starts.
82. RP Luke Gregerson, San Diego Padres
Acquired from the Cardinals for Khalil Greene back in 2009, Gregerson has been a stud in the late innings for the Padres over the past five years. He entered the season with a 2.92 ERA and 9.2 K/9 for his career, and he's posted a 0.96 ERA through his first 20 appearances of 2013.
81. RP Sean Marshall, Cincinnati Reds
After spending the first four seasons of his career as a middling starter, the Cubs moved Marshall to the bullpen in 2010, and he responded by posting a 2.65 ERA and 10.8 K/9 in 80 appearances. It's been much of the same since that time, as he ranks as arguably the best left-handed setup man in the game and is now filling the eighth inning role in Cincinnati.
80. RP Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
Rodney entered the 2012 season with a 4.29 career ERA through nine big league seasons, as he had posted an ERA under 4.00 just twice in his career. The Rays gave him a two-year, $4.25 million deal before last season, though, and he rewarded them with dominance, saving 48 games with a 0.60 ERA (634 ERA+). That's looking more and more like a fluke, as he has a 5.00 ERA and three blown saves in 2013, but he earns a spot here nonetheless, based on the strength of last season.
79. RP Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
After 10 seasons pitching for the Yomiuri Giants, Uehara signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Orioles as a 34-year-old back in 2009. Entering the season, he had a 2.89 ERA and a ridiculous 7.97 K/BB mark for his career. On a one-year, $4.25 million deal with the Red Sox, he has a 2.04 ERA and 13.2 K/9 over his first 19 appearances this season.
78. SP Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves
With a 4.98 ERA over his first 10 starts, Hudson has not looked like himself in the early going of 2013. However, that is largely the result of allowing 11 runs in 8.2 innings in back-to-back starts, so he still gets the benefit of the doubt at this point. The 37-year-old is 201-107 with a 3.45 ERA over his 15-year big league career.
77. RP Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels
With Jordan Walden battling inconsistency and injury, the Angels acquired Frieri from the Padres for infielder Alexi Amarista last May in an effort to bolster their bullpen. He quickly assumed closer duties for the Angels and rattled off 26.1 scoreless innings with 11 saves and six holds before he allowed his first runs as an Angel. So far this season, he's 9-for-10 on saves with a 2.25 ERA as he continues to hold down the fort until Ryan Madson returns.
76. SP Ervin Santana, Kansas City Royals
Santana has topped the 15-win mark three times in his career, but after going 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA last season, the Angels opted to trade him to the Royals. So far, Kansas City has looked like a genius for making the move, as he's 3-3 with a 2.77 ERA and 1.084 WHIP through his first eight starts.
75. RP Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
As the AL Rolaids Relief Man winner last season, Johnson saved 51 games with a 2.49 ERA as the anchor for a dominant Orioles bullpen. The 29-year-old converted his first 14 saves this season with a 0.95 ERA, but he has blown three-straight since this time and seen his ERA sky-rocket to 4.03. That drops him down the list significantly, but he's still talented enough to land here at No. 75.
74. RP Ryan Cook, Oakland Athletics
An All-Star as a rookie last season, Cook split time at closer with Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes in the first half of 2012 and entered the break with eight saves, 11 holds and a 1.41 ERA. He eventually settled in as the primary setup man to Balfour, and that's the role he finds himself in once again this season. There's no doubt that he has closer stuff, though, and through 20 appearances this season, the 25-year-old has a 1.74 ERA and 11.3 K/9.
73. SP Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed to a six-year, $36 million deal this past offseason out of Korea, there were serious questions as to how well Ryu's stuff would translate to the MLB game. Those questions have quickly been answered, though, as he has gone 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 9.1 K/9 over his first nine starts. His contributions have been even more significant given the injuries that the Dodgers have had to deal with in their rotation.
72. RP Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
A talented setup man to kick off his career, Soriano stepped into the closer's role for the Rays in 2010 and dominated with an AL-high 45 saves and a 1.73 ERA. After a subpar season setting up Mariano Rivera in New York, he thrived as a closer again in 2012 with 42 saves and a 2.26 ERA. That earned him a two-year, $22 million deal from the Nationals, and he's 12-for-15 with a 3.15 ERA on the year so far.
71. SP Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves
Maholm showed flashes of being a plus-starter during his time in Pittsburgh, going 53-73 with a 4.36 ERA, but he took a big step forward last season. Splitting 2012 between Chicago (NL) and Atlanta, he went 13-11 with a 3.67 ERA. He's 5-4 with a 3.83 ERA so far this season, as the late-bloomer has continued to pitch well in Atlanta.
70. SP A.J. Griffin, Oakland Athletics
A 13th-round pick out of the University of San Diego in 2010, Griffin moved quickly through the A's system and joined the big league rotation last June. He wound up making 15 starts, going 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA. The A's rotation has been shaky, to say the least, in the early going this season, but Griffin has been solid once again, going 4-3 with a 3.59 ERA in nine starts.
69. RP Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics
A terrific setup man throughout his career, Balfour opened last season as the A's closer and went 6-for-8 on save chances with a 4.73 ERA before losing the job. Things eventually came full-circle, though, and he was back in the ninth inning come August, where he wound up a key part of the team's playoff push by going 17-for-17 on saves with a 2.08 ERA in his final 23 appearances. He's 9-for-9 with a 1.47 ERA in the early going this season.
68. SP Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals
Since going 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA as a rookie back in 2010, Garcia has been a key part of the Cardinals rotation. He battled injuries last season and made just 20 starts, but he's healthy once again this year and is 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA through his first nine starts.
*Note: According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Jaime Garcia will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. Teammate Jake Westbrook was No. 101 on my list, so he can be considered No. 100 with everyone sliding up a spot to here and Garcia removed.
67. RP David Robertson, New York Yankees
As the logical choice to take over ninth inning duties once Mariano Rivera hangs it up at the end of the season, Robertson has been dominant in a setup role over the past four-plus seasons. He entered 2013 with a 2.95 ERA and 12.0 K/9 over 269 career appearances, and he is 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA and 12.1 K/9 in 20 games so far this year.
66. SP Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks
A former top prospect in the Yankees organization, Kennedy broke out in a big way in 2011, going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting. He took a step back last year, going 15-12 with a 4.02 ERA, and he's just 2-3 with a 4.70 ERA so far this season. Still, the 28-year-old is capable of being a legitimate ace if he can get back on track.
65. SP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
If not for injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi, the 20-year-old Fernandez would likely have opened the season in Double-A. Instead, the Marlins top prospect has been a part of their rotation all season and has more than held his own by going 2-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 8.5 K/9 through nine starts. He's one of the few bright spots in Miami right now, and the sky is the limit as far as his potential is concerned.
64. SP Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers
Ogando broke into the league as a reliever in 2010, then made the All-Star team the following season as a starter when he went 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA. He was back in the bullpen last year, but is back in the rotation once again this season. He's 4-2 with a 3.08 ERA through his first nine starts, and at this point, it really doesn't matter what role he's in; he's just a good pitcher.
63. SP Tommy Milone, Oakland Athletics
One of four players acquired from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez prior to last season, Milone broke camp in the A's rotation and pitched better than anyone could have hoped for in his first full big league season. The right-hander was 13-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts, and he's 4-5 with a 3.47 ERA so far this year. He has one of the best changeups in the game.
62. RP Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
After posting a 1.88 ERA and 11.5 K/9 over 133 games in 2010 and 2011 while setting up Brian Wilson, Romo was forced into the ninth inning role last season when Wilson suffered a season-ending injury. Romo ended the year 14-for-15 on saves with a 1.79 ERA, then saved three games in the World Series to help the Giants win the title. He's 13-for-15 with a 2.84 ERA and 10.4 K/9 so far this season.
61. RP Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers
A 26th-round pick by the Expos all the way back in 2003, Henderson finally made his big league debut last season at the age of 29. He wound up seeing some save chances with John Axford struggling, and after opening the 2013 season in a setup role, he was moved to the ninth inning full-time when Axford was shelled once again. He's been a revelation to this point, going 9-for-9 on saves with a 0.95 ERA and 10.9 K/9 while helping to shore up a shaky Milwaukee 'pen.
60. SP R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
As the reigning NL Cy Young winner and the talk of baseball in 2012, Dickey has not enjoyed anywhere near the success that he did last year in his first season in Toronto. Given his short track record of success and age, he falls further than some of the other guys who are off to slow starts. That said, he has looked better in his last two starts and is still capable of being a dangerous weapon when his knuckleball is working.
59. RP Edward Mujica, St. Louis Cardinals
Acquired from the Marlins at the deadline last season, Mujica had a 1.03 ERA in 29 games with the Cardinals down the stretch in 2012. With Jason Motte on the DL and Mitchell Boggs struggling early, Mujica quickly found himself in the closer's role for the first time in his career. He's been nothing short of fantastic so far, going 13-for-13 on saves with a 1.42 ERA and 0.53 WHIP.
58. SP Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves
Coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2011, the Braves brought Medlen along slowly, as he opened the 2012 season in the bullpen. He joined the rotation on July 31, and in his 12 starts the rest of the way, he went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA and was the best pitcher in the game over the final two months. He hasn't been quite as dominant this year, but he has pitched much better than his 1-5 record, as indicated by his 3.02 ERA.
57. SP C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels
After winning 31 games with a 3.14 ERA in his final two seasons with the Rangers, Wilson signed a five-year, $77.5 million deal to join the Angels last offseason. He was 9-5 with a 2.43 ERA in the first half last season, but won just four games with a 5.54 ERA in the second half. In nine starts this season, he's 3-3 with a 3.72 ERA for the disappointing Angels.
56. SP Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals
Lynn pitched out of the bullpen down the stretch as a rookie in 2011, but he joined the rotation last season when Chris Carpenter went down with an injury in the preseason. He wound up going 18-7 with a 3.78 ERA, though he still surrendered his rotation spot to Carpenter in the postseason. In nine starts this year, he's 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA.
55. SP Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
As the active MLB wins leader (249) and one of the best pitchers of the past 20 years, Pettitte continues to pitch at a high level, even at the age of 40. He joined the team late last season then suffered a broken ankle, so he only made 12 starts. Yet he still managed to go 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA, and he also pitched well in a pair of postseason outings. He signed a one-year, $12 million deal to return to the club in 2013, and he is 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA on the season.
54. RP Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox
Handed the closer job as a rookie last season, Reed converted 29-of-33 saves chances but didn't always make it look easy with a 4.75 ERA. Things have gone much more smoothly this season, as he's 16-for-17 on saves with a 2.14 ERA and 10.3 K/9.
53. RP Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners
Suspended early on in his pro career for a pair of positive marijuana tests, Wilhelmsen was out of baseball from 2005-2009 and worked as a bartender in his hometown. The Mariners took a chance on him with a minor league deal in 2010, and last season he took over as the team's closer after Brandon League struggled and was eventually traded. He went 29-for-34 on saves with a 2.50 ERA last season, and is 11-for-12 with a 0.47 ERA and 0.68 WHIP so far this year.
52. SP Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee Brewers
Thrust into the role of staff ace last season, Lohse turned in the best year of his career, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA to finish seventh in NL Cy Young voting. Despite those numbers, it took until late-March for the 34-year-old to find a home with the Brewers this offseason. He didn't get much of a spring training, but he's been solid with a 3.76 ERA through his first nine starts, though he's just 1-5.
51. SP Wandy Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates
For years, Rodriguez has quietly put up solid numbers while pitching for some poor Astros teams, and he entered the season with an 85-88 record and 4.03 ERA for his career. In his first full-season in Pittsburgh, he has formed a solid one-two punch with A.J. Burnett, going 5-2 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.050 WHIP.
50. SP Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers acquired Fister from the Mariners at the deadline in 2011, and the right-hander went on to go 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 11 appearances down the stretch. He was 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA over 26 regular season starts last year, and he was even better in the playoffs with just three runs allowed in 19.1 innings over three starts. So far this season, he's 5-1 with a 3.62 ERA as part of a dynamic Tigers rotation.
49. SP Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Miley opened the 2012 season in the Diamondbacks bullpen, but after Josh Collmenter struggled early, he was moved to the rotation. He wound up being the team's lone All-Star representative and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting after going 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA. He's been solid again this year, as the 26-year-old is 3-3 with a 3.67 ERA.
48. RP Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays
Janssen entered the 2012 season expected to once again serve as the team's primary setup man, but when Sergio Santos went down with an injury, he wound up as the team's closer. He finished the season 22-for-25 on saves with a 2.54 ERA, and the 31-year-old has been even better this season, going a perfect 10-for-10 on saves with a 2.40 ERA and 0.67 WHIP.
47. SP Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs landed Wood in the trade that sent setup man Sean Marshall to the Reds prior to last season, and on the surface, his 2012 was nothing special, as he went 6-13 with a 4.27 ERA. However, he was markedly better over his final nine starts, with a 3.25 ERA and five quality starts. That's still nowhere near how good he's been this season, though, as the 26-year-old is 4-2 with a 2.24 ERA and has recorded a quality start in all nine of his outings so far.
46. SP Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays
Though he didn't open the 2012 season in the Rays rotation, Cobb wound up being a key part of the team last season, as he went 11-9 with a 4.03 ERA over 23 starts. Tabbed as a breakout candidate after a strong spring, he has delivered so far with a 5-2 record and 2.73 ERA through his first nine starts, including a game against the Padres in which he struck out 13 in just 4.2 innings of work.
45. SP Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians
A former top Red Sox prospect, Masterson was shipped to the Indians in the Victor Martinez deal in 2009. He enjoyed a breakout season of sorts in 2011, going 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA, but his ERA spiked to 4.93 last season and he was a major question mark for 2013. He's emerged as the ace of a surprise Indians team this season, though, going 7-2 with a 2.83 ERA and throwing a pair of shutouts already in the early going.
44. RP Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers
Nathan saved 260 games in his seven seasons with the Twins, but his tenure there ended on a low note, as he missed 2010 with Tommy John surgery and then posted a 4.84 ERA in 48 games in his first season back. The Rangers took a chance on him last offseason, signing him to a two-year, $14.5 million deal, and he saved 37 games with a 2.80 ERA for them in 2012. He's still got it at 38, as he's 13-for-13 on saves this season with a 2.12 ERA.
43. SP Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
Over the past four seasons, Gallardo has averaged a 15-10 record, 3.68 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 196 innings. Still just 27, he already has 72 big league wins under his belt and is just now entering the prime of his career. He falls down the list a bit due to his slow start, as he's 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA, but he should turn things around and finish with his usual solid numbers across the board.
42. SP Trevor Cahill, Arizona Diamondbacks
Cahill made a name for himself in 2010, when he went 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA as a 22-year-old in just his second big league season. The Diamondbacks shipped Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook and Colin Cowgill to the A's to acquire him prior to last season, and he went 13-12 with a 3.78 ERA in his first season in the desert. He's been great so far this year, going 3-5 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
41. RP Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Even with the Dodgers signing of Brandon League, there was little question that Jansen was the best reliever on the team and one of the best in all of baseball. He saved 25 games with a 2.35 ERA and 13.7 K/9 last season, but a heart condition was reason enough for the Dodgers to sign an insurance policy.
For now, he remains in a setup role, though he does have two saves to go along with a 3.63 ERA and 12.5 K/9, as there is no question he has some of the best stuff in all of baseball.
40. SP Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves
Hidden behind the ridiculous numbers of Kris Medlen was a really good second half from Minor, as he rallied from a 5-6 record and 5.97 ERA in the first half to go 6-4 with a 2.16 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break. The 25-year-old has been the Braves' best starter so far this season, going 5-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 0.960 WHIP, and he's still getting better.
39. SP Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs
After serving mainly as a starter through the first four seasons of his career, Samardzija won a rotation spot out of camp last season and turned in a breakout season. He went 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 174.2 innings, and the Cubs are looking for him to take the next step this year and become the bona fide ace of the staff. He's been good so far, despite a 2-5 record, as he has a 3.25 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 63.2 innings.
38. RP Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
More than a few eyebrows were raised last offseason when the Phillies signed Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million deal. There is little question that the team had bigger needs than closer, but he was great in his first season with the team, going 38-for-42 on saves with a 2.44 ERA. He's been dominant again this season, at a perfect 8-for-8 with a 1.02 ERA and 0.623 WHIP.
37. SP Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
Greinke was the only free agent pitcher who signed a bigger contract than Anibal Sanchez this offseason, agreeing to a six-year, $147 million deal with the Dodgers. He looked good through his first two starts, with a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 innings, before a hit batter led to a brawl and a fractured clavicle. After missing a month, he's back and pitching well, as he looks to prove that he was worth the hefty investment.
36. SP Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers
Acquired from the Marlins at the deadline last year, Sanchez showed the Tigers enough with 12 late-season starts and a terrific postseason to earn a five-year, $80 million extension. That was a ton of money for a No. 4 starter, so it's a good thing that he's pitched like a frontline guy so far this season. Through nine starts, he's 4-4 with a 2.77 ERA and has the second-highest WAR among AL pitchers at 2.4 (FanGraphs).
35. RP Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates
A former No. 4 overall pick back in 1997, Grilli was nothing more than a journeyman reliever coming off of a knee injury when the Pirates signed him prior to the 2011 season. Something clicked in Pittsburgh, though, and after posting a 2.91 ERA and 13.8 K/9 as a setup man last season, he took over as closer this year. He currently has an MLB-high 18 saves with a 1.31 ERA and 13.7 K/9 and is on his way to becoming a first-time All-Star at 36 years old.
34. SP Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
A stud during his time with the Padres, injuries had sidetracked Peavy's career heading into the last season, as he made just 52 starts from 2009-2011. He bounced back in a big way last year, though, going 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA and 194 strikeouts. That got him a two-year, $29 million extension, and he's 5-2 with a 3.31 ERA in eight starts this season.
33. SP Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds
The No. 7 pick in the 2004 draft, Bailey finally turned potential into production last year in his first full-season in the Reds rotation. The right-hander went 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA, including a 3-1 record and 2.01 ERA in seven September starts. Still just 27, he's looking to take the next step this year and is currently 2-3 with a 3.09 ERA through nine starts.
32. SP Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
Wildly inconsistent through the first four seasons of his career, things finally clicked for Scherzer in the second half last season, as he went 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA after the All-Star break. All told, he was 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 187.2 innings to go along with an AL-best 11.1 K/9. It's been more of the same for the 28-year-old this season, as he's 6-0 with a 3.61 ERA and 10.8 K/9.
31. SP Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees
After four seasons with the Dodgers, Kuroda joined the Yankees last year and gave them a much-needed second reliable arm, as he went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA. The team brought him back on a one-year, $15 million deal this offseason, and it has been money well spent so far, as he's 6-3 with a 2.67 ERA through nine starts.
30. SP Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
The Nationals paid a steep price to acquire Gonzalez from the A's last offseason, shipping four of their top prospects to Oakland to acquire the left-hander. He proved that he was worth the investment and then some, though, going 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA and 9.3 K/9 to finish third in NL Cy Young voting last season. But he hasn't been as dominant so far this season, going 3-2 with a 3.66 ERA and pitching under six inning in four of his nine starts.
29. RP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds toyed with the idea of moving the flame-throwing Chapman to the rotation this spring, but in the end, they opted to keep him in the ninth inning role where he thrived last season.
The Cuban defector put up video game numbers in 2012, saving 38 games with a 1.51 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 71.2 innings. He hasn't been quite as dominant this season. He is 9-for-11 on saves with a 3.00 ERA and 14.6 K/9, but he's still overpowering more often than not.
28. SP Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds
Things finally all came together for the supremely talented Cueto last season, as he went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA to lead the Reds staff and finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting. He remains a legitimate ace, but a shoulder injury cost him two months and bumps him down the list a bit, as he's 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA in just four starts.
27. SP Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
Prior to last season, Lester had averaged 16 wins with a 3.33 ERA and 196 strikeouts from 2008-2011. However, like many of the Boston players, he struggled in 2012, going 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA. Whether he'd return to form atop the rotation was one of the biggest questions facing the team entering the season, but the simple answer so far has been "yes." In 10 starts, he's 6-1 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.066 WHIP, and he's looking like the Lester of old.
26. SP A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates
Acquired from the Yankees last offseason in what was the definition of a cut-your-losses move, Burnett thrived with a change of scenery and went 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA and 8.0 K/9 as the ace of the Pirates staff in 2012. The 36-year-old has been even better this year, going 3-4 with a 2.57 ERA and an NL-best 11.3 K/9.
The Reds traded a trio of top prospects and talented right-hander Edinson Volquez to the Padres prior to last season in order to land Mat Latos, and so far, he's been worth every bit of what they gave up.
After a somewhat slow start to his Reds career, he went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in his final seven starts last season to finish the year at 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA.
With Johnny Cueto battling injury, the 25-year-old has stepped up as the ace of the Reds staff. Through his first nine starts, he's 4-0 with a 317 ERA, and he continues to climb the ranks of the game's top young pitchers.
A rough start to the season, followed by a strained triceps injury landing him on the DL, knocks David Price down the rankings, but not out of the top 25.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner is coming off a season in which he went 20-5 with an AL-best 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts, as he edged out Justin Verlander to take home the honor. In parts of five seasons entering 2013, the left-hander had gone 61-31 with a 3.16 ERA in his career, as he has improved each season.
This year has been a different story, though, as he's just 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA over his first nine starts. He allowed eight runs in five inning against the Indians in his second start of the season, but even without that, his ERA is still a sub-par 4.32.
Through he was already rivaling Tim Lincecum for the title even before he fell off, there is no question that Matt Cain assumed the role of staff ace last season.
The big right-hander went 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA and enjoyed a season highlighted by a perfect game against the Astros in June and a start for the NL in the All-Star Game.
His efforts earned him a five-year, $127.5 million extension this offseason, but he has failed to pitch up to expectations so far this year. Through nine starts, he's 3-2 with a 5.12 ERA, a number that's inflated by a trio of starts in which he allowed nine, seven and six runs.
He threw seven strong innings his last time out, though, and by the time the All-Star break rolls around, his slow start may well be forgotten. Unfortunately, it still bumps him down this list for the time being.
Ready to take the step from rebuilding team to contender, the Royals shipped a package of high-end prospects to the Rays for workhorse right-hander James Shields this offseason.
The first legitimate staff ace that the team has had since Zack Greinke, Shields went 81-65 with a 3.80 ERA and an impressive 18 complete games and eight shutouts in his six full seasons in the Rays rotation.
Slotted at the front of the Royals' revamped staff, he's gone 2-5 with a 2.47 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 73 innings of work so far this season.
He's given the team everything it was looking for so far. Now, his teammates needs to step up around him.
By far the biggest surprise of any of the 2013 breakout stars, Patrick Corbin gave no indication prior to the season that he was in line for a monster year and was not even expected to break camp in the Diamondbacks rotation.
In 2011, Corbin went 9-8 with a 4.21 ERA in a full season at Double-A, and while he was one of the Diamondbacks' better pitching prospects, he was never anywhere near any Top 100 lists.
He split last season between the minors and Arizona, going 6-8 with a 4.54 ERA in 22 games (17 starts) for the Diamondbacks and entered camp competing with top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs for the No. 5 starter spot.
He came away with the job, and in nine starts so far this season, the left-hander is 7-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 62.1 innings. His 273 ERA+ is the best mark in the NL, and he has gone at least six innings and allowed no more than two runs in each of his starts.
He seems like the most likely to regress of any of the fast-climbers on this list, so I'm not willing to rank him any higher just yet, but he has earned his place in the Top 25 so far this season.
Signed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal out of Japan prior to last season, Hisashi Iwakuma very quietly went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 16 starts to close out the season after opening the year in the bullpen.
His two-year, $14 million extension ranks as perhaps the best move of the offseason, as he has teamed with Felix Hernandez to form arguably the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball so far this season.
The 32-year-old is 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA and AL-best 0.866 WHIP so ar in 2013, as he's struck out 61 batters and has allowed just 56 total base runners in 64.2 innings of work. He remains vastly under-appreciated at this point, but he should continue to make a name for himself if he keeps it up.
Undoubtedly a top-10 pitcher entering the season, Jered Weaver falls down the list after making just two starts on the season before suffering a fractured non-throwing elbow trying to avoid a liner back to the mound.
Seeing as it was a freak injury and is not likely to be something that nags him all season, he doesn't fall as far as someone like Johnny Cueto (shoulder), but making just two starts has hurt his stock nonetheless.
The 30-year-old is coming off a season in which he went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA, and in parts of eight seasons in the majors, he is now 102-53 with a 3.25 ERA for his career. He'll be with the Angels for the foreseeable future, too, as he signed a five-year, $85 million extension prior to last season.
A big part of the reason why the Cardinals were willing to let Kyle Lohse walk in free agency was the fact that all signs pointed to top prospect Shelby Miller being ready to step into the big league rotation this season.
After a making 27 starts at Triple-A and pitching better than his 11-10 record and 4.74 ERA suggested, he got a taste of the big leagues in 2012 with six appearances (one start) down the stretch, as he went 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13.2 innings of work.
Those numbers have been remarkably similar to what he's done over his first nine starts this season, as he's 5-3 with a 1.74 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 57 innings of work. Not only is the 22-year-old the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year honors, but he's a bona fide Cy Young candidate and arguably the best pitcher on a Cardinals team that leads the MLB with a 3.16 ERA.
The potential has always been there for Clay Buchholz, dating back to him throwing a no-hitter in the second start of his big-league career.
He finally looked ready to emerge as a star in 2010, when he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA to finish sixth in Cy Young voting. However, in the two seasons following that campaign, he went just 17-11 with a 4.24 ERA, and he was a major question mark entering the season.
So far this season, he's been brilliant, and given his past success, he ranks a bit higher than some of the less-experienced breakout stars. Through nine starts, he's 7-0 with an AL-best 1.73 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 72.2 innings of work.
Cole Hamels assumed the role of staff ace for the Phillies last season, and before the year was over, they had paid him like one. The left-hander received a six-year, $144 million extension that will keep him in Philadelphia through the 2018 season.
He posted career highs in wins and strikeouts last season, going 17-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 216 punch-outs. However, things have not gone as smoothly this season.
He opened 2013 by dropping his first two starts and allowing 13 runs in 10.2 innings, and he's been trying to work his way back from that. Despite a 1-5 record in his eight starts since, he's put up a solid 3.12 ERA, and he struck out 10 batters in six innings his last time out.
The Nationals were careful not to over-extend Stephen Strasburg last year in what was his first full season following Tommy John surgery.
He wound up making 28 starts, going 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 159.1 innings of work before the team shut him down following his September 7 start against the Marlins.
Big things were expected of him this season now that he's off the leash, and he's been solid so far despite a poor record. In 10 starts, the 24-year-old is 2-5 with a 2.66 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 64.1 innings of work.
Matt Moore gets the nod over his fellow 2013 breakout stars due mainly to the fact that I feel that he is the least likely to regress as the season wears on.
The 23-year-old entered last season as the top pitching prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America and most other prospect lists. However, he was downright average as a rookie. In 31 starts, he went 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 177.1 innings.
His minor league track record indicated that of a future staff ace and frontline starter, and he's looked just like that so far this season. In nine starts, he's 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 55 innings, as his breakout has really helped ease the loss of James Shields.
CC Sabathia was an everyday member of the Indians rotation as a 20-year-old back in 2001, and he's been the definition of a workhorse staff ace ever since, making at least 28 starts and throwing at least 180 inning in each of his 12 full big league seasons.
Since joining the Yankees at the start of the 2009 season, the big left-hander has gone 74-29 with a 3.22 ERA in his first four seasons with the team.
He's 4-3 with a 3.43 ERA in his first 10 starts of 2013, and at 32 years old, he's 195-105 with a 3.50 ERA for his career. It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers he compiles when it's all said and done.
Since being impressive in a 21-game audition in 2010, Craig Kimbrel has led the NL in saves in each of the first two full seasons of his career.
Over that two-year span, the hard-throwing right-hander has quickly become the most dominant reliever in the game. He racked up 88 saves with a 1.61 ERA and a ridiculous 243 strikeouts in 139.2 innings of work.
The peripherals are there once again this season, as he has a 2.45 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 18.1 innings of work. However, he has converted just 14-of-17 save chances, and the gap between him and every other reliever in the game has closed significantly here in the early going.
Bumgarner first broke into the big leagues as a 20-year-old back in 2009, and he was a staple in what was a very good Giants rotation by the following season.
He went a combined 29-24 with a 3.29 ERA in the two seasons prior to 2013, as he has quickly become one of the best left-handers in all of baseball.
The Giants rotation has been far from a strength so far this season, but Bumgarner has remained the one constant atop the staff, going 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 65.1 innings through his first 10 starts.
Craig Kimbrel is widely regarded as the best reliever in all of baseball, but for my money, there is still no one I would rather hand the ball to with the game on the line than the best of all-time, Mariano Rivera.
After missing nearly all of the 2012 season following a torn ACL, Rivera announced this spring that his 19th season in the league would be his last.
He's been lights-out to open the season, going 17-for-17 on save chances with a 1.47 ERA and 0.873 WHIP. A first-ballot Hall of Famer when the time comes, Rivera now has 625 career saves with a a 2.20 ERA in 1,070 career appearances.
With Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay both struggling, Cliff Lee (alongside Kyle Kendrick) has been forced to step up atop the Phillies starting rotation.
The 2012 season was an odd one for the 2008 AL Cy Young winner, as he didn't record his first win until July 4 and went just 6-9 on the year despite making 30 starts and posting a solid 3.16 ERA.
Even at 34, he has some of the best stuff in all of baseball, going 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA through his first 10 starts of the season. He is also one of the best big-game pitchers of his era, though that likely won't be a factor this season for the Phillies.
The No. 13 pick in the 2010 draft, Chris Sale made his big-league debut later that year out of the White Sox bullpen following just 11 minor league appearances.
He then spent all of 2011 as a reliever, posting a 2.79 ERA and eight saves in 58 appearances, before the White Sox opted to move him to the rotation at the start of last season.
The transition went as well as it possibly could have, as Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in 192 innings of work and almost immediately emerged as the ace of the staff.
He signed a five-year, $32.5 million extension through 2017 in the offseason, and he's off to a great start once again with a 5-2 record and 2.53 ERA in nine starts this season, including a one-hit shutout of the Angels. He's gone at least seven innings in all but one start, and without that game in which he allowed eight runs in 4.1 innings, his ERA would be 1.51.
The Nationals' top pitching prospect back in 2009, Zimmermann made 16 starts as a rookie before he suffered an injury and wound up needing Tommy John surgery.
Much like Stephen Strasburg last season, the Nationals were careful to limit his workload in his first full-season back in 2011. They turned him loose last year, though, and he went 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA in 195.2 innings as arguably the best No. 3 starter in baseball.
He may be pitching out of the No. 3 spot in the rotation again this year, but he's been the Nationals ace, going 7-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over his first nine starts. At 27, he's just entering his prime, and he has the stuff to keep pitching at this level all season.
I may be jumping the gun a bit here by putting Matt Harvey at No. 6, but I see no reason to believe he's not the real deal and every bit as good as his numbers indicate, even at 24 years old.
The right-hander made 10 starts for the Mets down the stretch last season, going 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 10.6 K/9. Jon Niese got the Opening Day nod, but it was clear that Harvey had the talent to be the ace of the staff.
With a fastball that consistently sits in the high 90s and a filthy slider, he has overpowering stuff, and he's used it to go 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 9.5 K/9 through his first nine starts this season. There will no doubt be some drop in those numbers as the season progresses, but there's no reason to think that he's not a legitimate Cy Young candidate in 2013.
In 2009 and 2010, Adam Wainwright went a combined 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA and 425 strikeouts, as he ranked as one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball by any measure.
He suffered a major setback in 2011, though, as an injury in spring training ended in Tommy John surgery and he missed the entire season. As expected, he was slow to regain his form last season, going 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA on the year.
However, he was 7-5 with a 3.28 ERA in the second half, and as the year wore on, he looked more and more like the Wainwright of old.
Now a full year removed from surgery, there is little question that he is back to where he was pre-injury. Through nine starts, he's 6-3 with a 2.38 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 72 innings of work. Perhaps more impressively, he's walked just six hitters on the season, and he currently leads all pitchers with a 2.8 WAR (FanGraphs).
All told, it cost the Rangers $111.7 million to acquire the rights to negotiate and then sign Yu Darvish for six years, but all signs point to that being a terrific investment so far.
His 3.90 ERA was nothing special as a rookie last season, but there was no question that his stuff worked in the MLB, as he struck out 221 batters in 191.1 innings on his way to a 16-9 record.
As good as those numbers were, plenty more was expected in his second go-around, and he opened the 2013 season by coming one out from a perfect game. He's continued to dominate hitters since, going 7-2 with a 2.84 ERA and an MLB-high 91 strikeouts in 66.2 innings, as he's now the unquestioned ace of the Rangers staff.
Briefly the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history after signing a seven-year, $175 million extension this offseason (later passed by Justin Verlander), Felix Hernandez will be the leader of what should be a competitive young Mariners team within the next couple seasons.
The right-hander made 31 starts and threw 191 innings as a 20-year-old back in 2006, and he's been an absolute horse atop the Mariners rotation ever since.
He was 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 232 innings last season, and he's been great as usual this season with a 5-3 record and 2.07 ERA through his first 10 starts. The 27-year-old will be a perennial Cy Young candidate for the foreseeable future, especially if he can get some support around him.
It's really close, and in reality, you can't go wrong with any of the top three guys on this list as your choice for No. 1. But at least for now, I think Clayton Kershaw has unseated Justin Verlander as the top pitcher in the game.
Signed to a record seven-year, $180 million extension in the offseason, Verlander very well could have won his second consecutive Cy Young last season, as he went 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA and AL-high 239 strikeouts in 238.1 innings. In the end, he finished a close second to David Price.
He was 4-3 with a 1.93 ERA through his first eight starts this season, but he was shelled his last time out, allowing six hits and eight earned runs in just 2.2 innings of work against the Rangers. That raised his ERA to 3.66, and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from his worst outing in years.
Coming off a Cy Young award in 2011 and back-to-back NL ERA titles, it's hard to fathom the prospect of Clayton Kershaw getting better, but at just 25 years old, he may be doing just that.
He started the 2013 season with a bang, throwing a four-hit shutout and hitting a home run on Opening Day, and he hasn't looked back from there.
Through 10 starts, he's 5-2 with an MLB-best 1.35 ERA over a league-high 73.1 innings of work. He'll likely become the first $200 million pitcher whenever the Dodgers decide to lock him up, and he'll be worth every penny if he keeps pitching like this, or better yet, if he somehow improves.