Top 10 Starting Pitchers of the 2023 MLB Season

Ranking the top Starting Pitchers of the 2023 MLB season.

As we enter the final stretch of the 2023 series, Pitcher List is ranking the Top 10 at every position in baseball.

Previous entries in the Pitcher List 2023 Positional Rankings Series: Reliever, Catcher, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF and RF.


As evidenced by the constantly fluctuating Cy Young odds market, this season has seen no clear-cut pitchers standing above the rest in terms of dominance. On the other hand, we have been blessed with a large number of quality hurlers, from the established starts to unheralded heroes who have risen to the occasion. Putting up a top-10 list was extremely hard, but someone had to do it. So, with apologies to the pitchers who just missed the cut (Kodai Senga, Luis Castillo, Clayton Kershaw, Zach Eflin, Pablo Lopez – you were oh so close!), here are my selections for the best starting pitchers of 2023. All stats are current through September 20.


10. Kyle Bradish, Orioles

3.5 fWAR/4.3 bWAR

3.01 ERA/3.33 FIP/3.55 xFIP

11-7 record/158.2 IP/9.02 K/9

When the Orioles started graduating their top farm players in a surprising 2022 playoff run, Kyle Bradish was mostly an afterthought despite being ranked among the team’s top 10 prospects. Bradish’s first trip around the majors produced a solid but unspectacular stat line, finishing with a 4-7 record and 4.90 ERA over 23 starts. However, he closed out September with impressive wins against Cleveland and Houston, where he came one out short of a 10-strikeout shutout of the eventual champions. Using this as a foundation, he appears to now be a foundational piece of Baltimore’s present and future.

As late as June 14, Bradish was sporting a losing record and a middling 4.25 ERA. Since that day, he has been on an incredible run of 17 starts, including a 2.38 ERA and WHIP below 1, with the Orioles winning 11 of those games. His rapport with catcher Adley Rutschman is undeniable, despite Bradish being a bit older for a prospect while providing plenty of team control as the Orioles start to solidify their core. His underlying numbers suggest that he is the real deal, and has the inside track to starting game 1 of any playoff series for Baltimore. If you are still unconvinced, check out footage from Bradish’s most recent start, another dominant outing against the Astros.


9. Justin Steele, Cubs

4.8 fWAR/ 3.7 bWAR

3.00 ERA/2.99 FIP/3.35 xFIP

16-5 record/168 IP/9.11 K/9

In another case of a 27-year-old making the leap, the Cubs may have found a true gem in Justin Steele, who steadily became the team’s top pitcher. In many ways, Steele operates as a throwback, relying on his four-seam fastball over 60% of the time and averaging a tad under 6 innings per start. He is in the top 10 among starters when it comes to suppressing walks (1.88 BB/9) and homers (0.70 HR/9), while also sporting a healthy groundball rate, making him one of the best all-around performers on the mound.

The only knock against Steele, which may well keep him out of the Cy Young conversation, has been a late-season dropoff, as he is coming off two straight duds, ceding 6 runs apiece against Arizona and Pittsburgh. With his 168 innings already being nearly 50 more than his previous career high, it is likely that the Cubs will be a bit cautious in the season’s final week, assuming they still make the playoffs. While Steele could be considered starter #2 behind veteran Kyle Hendricks or even #3 if Marcus Stroman makes a full return, there is no denying that he has been Chicago’s best hurler and one of the very best in MLB.


8. Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks

4.6 fWAR/ 3.8 bWAR

3.60 ERA/3.37 FIP/3.56 xFIP

16-8 record/197.2 IP/9.33 K/9

Following a subpar 2021 and stellar 2022 (fifth in Cy Young voting), Zac Gallen’s 2023 has been some sort of middle ground, which still makes him very valuable and one of the best pitchers in the game. Taken as a whole, his pitching profile lands him among the league’s top in several key categories, including FIP and walks per 9 innings, which explains why fWAR remains high on Gallen. At the same time, the Baseball Reference version is not so convinced of his ERA, as the righty has battled bouts of inconsistency throughout the season.

Among his league-leading 32 starts, he has 11 of at least 4 earned runs, but also 17 of 1 or zero runs, making him a bit of a mystery when he takes the mound. The Gallen experience has been in full force as the Dbacks chase a playoff spot in September, with a complete game shutout in Wrigley Field sandwiched around two big losses against the Orioles and Mets. Nevertheless, we are still talking about a workhorse who is bound to reach 200 innings and be the #1 pitcher for a playoff team.


7. Logan Webb, Giants

4.6 fWAR/5.0 bWAR

3.35 ERA/3.21 FIP/2.98 xFIP

10-13 record/207 IP/8.13 K/9

Going by wins and losses, Logan Webb does not appear to be all that special. Being in this more illuminated era of baseball analysis, it becomes easier to appreciate his craft, even as he is evolving into a weird Matt Cain 2.0 for the Giants. After signing an extension that will keep him in San Francisco until 2028, Webb has become the unquestioned ace of the staff – a true groundball specialist with the lowest walk rate in baseball, the most innings pitched, and who also possesses 2023’s best pitch in terms of run value, his devastating changeup.

At the same time, he has been the victim of the lowest run support in the majors, making him a tough loser in several starts and leaving him with a very low margin for error in others. Even as the Giants faded down the stretch, Webb continued to give them a chance, despite only earning three wins following the All-Star break. As the face of the franchise, he has not shied away from the spotlight as he holds a rare profile of already having 4 full seasons, playoff experience, and a long-term contract before turning 27 years old. If the team could provide him at least average run support, it would be easier to make his case as a sleeper Cy Young candidate in 2024.


6. Zack Wheeler, Phillies

5.4 fWAR/4.2 bWAR

3.63 ERA/3.22 FIP/3.52 xFIP

12-6 record/181 IP/9.99 K/9

In one of the season’s most surprising developments, Zack Wheeler is the current leader on the fWAR leaderboard and will probably finish there, as he still has at least a couple of starts with the Phillies trying to clinch a playoff spot. Trying to explain Wheeler’s spot in this ranking, even as he is far from his 2020-2022 peak, has everything to do with one word: consistency.

Wheeler has been a high-volume pitcher, able to suppress homers and walks at elite levels while striking out 10 batters per 9 innings. The Phillies are 18-12 in his starts, with the righty allowing over 4 earned runs in only three of them. He has also failed to cover at least 5 innings only three times, holding a steady presence for a Philadelphia team that has seen its other frontline starters, like Aaron Nola and Taijuan Walker, fail to be predictable. As the playoffs approach, Wheeler may be the key for another deep run.


5. Spencer Strider, Braves

5.3 fWAR/ 3.5 bWAR

3.73 ERA/2.82 FIP/2.89 xFIP

18-5 record/176 IP/13.81 K/9

Quadzilla has become one of baseball’s most visible and marketable pitchers, as both his image and pitching style practically scream WATCH THIS every time he toes the rubber. At the same time, he is also a subject of intense debate in baseball circles, as evidenced by the significant gap in his WAR numbers. When it comes to dominance, Strider looks built like a power closer with a memorable walk-up song, relying on a limited arsenal of 3 pitches to mow down hitters. Outside of his slider, none of his pitchers could be considered elite, and yet he is bound to break Atlanta’s single-season strikeout record, has a chance at 20 wins, and also owns the lowest WHIP in the game.

The argument against him says that he still is inefficient, pitching an average of less than six innings per start, and liable to have bad outings get out of control, which has led to an elevated ERA. These tendencies were in full force in his only playoff start, which was a true disaster against the Phillies last season. But as Strider still has a chance of winning the Cy Young, and is almost a lock to finish in the top 3, the scary part for the rest of the NL East is that he will enter 2024 at age 25 and already with a long-term contract in Atlanta. When he is on top of his game, there are few others who could match his status as must-see TV.


4. Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays

5.1 fWAR/ 2.9 bWAR

3.29 ERA/2.98 FIP/3.20 xFIP

12-9 record/178 IP/11.73 K/9

Kevin Gausman’s late-career transformation is no longer a surprise, but it still warrants mention for how extreme it has been. His 2013-2019 period, bouncing around the Orioles, Reds, and Braves, produced a 47-63 record, 4.30 ERA, and 8.3 K/9. After joining San Francisco in 2020 and then signing with Toronto in free agency, those numbers have improved to 41-28, 3.19 ERA, and 11.1 K/9. In year 2 of his massive deal, Gausman continues to justify his stake as one of the AL’s premier pitchers, with a good chance of leading the Blue Jays to the playoffs again.

Even as his WAR differential is even greater than Strider’s, Gausman’s dominance and mound presence are hard to deny, as he has now set a career-high in strikeouts and is almost certain to lead the AL in that department. In terms of wins and accomplishments, he is still behind most of his peers, but on a per-game basis, it is hard to find something as devastating as his fastball-splitter combo. As a fun fact, in his most recent outing, he became only the third pitcher to strike out at least 10 Yankee batters three times in a single season, joining Pedro Martinez in 2001 and Chris Sale in 2017. That is nice company.


3. Gerrit Cole, Yankees

4.4 fWAR/6.4 bWAR

2.81 ERA/3.31 FIP/3.61 xFIP

13-4 record/192 IP/9.75 K/9

In the past, Gerrit Cole followed a simple strategy: homers were a byproduct of pitching for strikeouts. This reached an extreme in 2022 when Cole led the AL in both Ks and homers allowed, which sounds awfully hard to do. Entering 2023, he emerged with a new approach, focused on getting quicker outs and limiting the long ball, and that might just be enough to earn his first career Cy Young.

Cole is bound to post his lowest HR/9 since 2018, and leads the AL in innings pitched and ERA, all while being the lone bright spot in a dreadful season for the Yankees. His four-seamer remains elite in terms of pitch value, as he continues to exceed expectations on his massive free-agent deal. Having earned his sixth All-Star nod, Cole has slowly become a serious contender for the Hall of Fame, as his 143 wins at only age 32 suggest that he is on track for the 200-win club, and maybe even the 250-win brotherhood.


2. Sonny Gray, Twins

5.0 fWAR/5.1 bWAR

2.84 ERA/2.85 FIP/3.73 xFIP

8-7 record/174 IP/8.84 K/9

After a rocky tenure with the Yankees and an uneven stop with the Reds, Sonny Gray has regained his ace status with the Twins, even as he has become underrated to a fault. To wit, he is now almost an afterthought in the AL Cy Young race, even as he has remained toe-to-toe with Gerrit Cole for most of the season. Despite a low win total that is mostly the product of low run support, Gray has developed into one of the most predictable and steady pitchers in MLB, suddenly turning into a true artist at one skill, avoiding the long ball.

As it stands today, Gray stands alone at the very top of HR/FB ratio (his 4.8% is the lowest since Matt Cain’s 3.7% in 2011) and overall HR rate, as his 0.36 HR/9 stands out as much as any other pitching accomplishment in 2023. Outside of an ugly two-start stretch around the All-Star break and a middling walk rate, Gray has managed to post the best season of his career, even as the Twins have a losing record in his starts. With the division almost locked up, Gray will certainly get the ball at home to try and break Minnesota’s infamous losing streak in the postseason, and will later become one of the offseason’s most coveted free agents.


1. Blake Snell, Padres

3.8 fWAR/5.7 bWAR

2.33 ERA/3.75 FIP/3.62 xFIP

14-9 record/174 IP/11.74 K/9

Blake Snell will finish the season with the worst BB/9 rate in baseball. He is also likely to finish the season with his second Cy Young award, which means that he will have more Cy Youngs than All-Star selections (!!!) for his career. These types of fun facts have become commonplace for Snell, who has made it a habit to be maddening and brilliant at the same time. And yet, in 2023 he has put it all together despite most of his peripheral stats screaming regression for most of the year. Despite his troubling walk totals, he has become the best at limiting hard contact, hits, and ultimately suppressing runs, which is the whole point of pitching.

It did not start out smoothly, as the lefty sported a 5.40 ERA on June 19 for the disappointing Padres. Ever since he has gone on a memorable run that ranks among the best ever: 22 starts, a 13-3 record, 1.26 ERA, 179 strikeouts, 15 extra-base hits, and a .155 batting average allowed. Such a level of dominance will make for a fascinating discussion as Snell becomes a free agent this offseason, as many can point to his struggles with command, while others will simply focus on his knack for putting up zeroes on the board. Regardless of where he ends up, at age 31 next season, he is likely to still have plenty of years of unpredictable, yet elite, production.



Pablo Figueroa

Pablo Figueroa is a Baseball Writer here at Pitcher List, with experience as a writer since 2013. He lives in Aguascalientes, Mexico - proud home of Los Rieleros. When he´s not thinking about baseball , he's a husband, owns two dogs, watches random episodes of The Sopranos , plays padel, and works on his day job to pay the bills.

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