As the MLB season swings into June, teams and players across the league are beginning to establish an identity. So far, 2022 has been the year of the pitcher. League-wide batting average reached its lowest level in history (.233) in early May, and the home run rate has dropped to its lowest point in more than three decades.
It is difficult to make concrete conclusions about the Cy Young race just after Memorial Day, but fans can gain a sense of what pitchers have firmly entrenched themselves as viable candidates. A mix of new and familiar faces have put on dazzling performances, and young pitchers such as Shane McClanahan and Alex Manoah have revealed their star power.
Let’s take a look at the top seven pitchers in baseball right now.
1. Corbin Burnes, Brewers RHP
Brace Hemmelgarn / Getty Images
The Brewers ace is the current favorite (+350) to win the National League Cy Young, according to Fanduel Sportsbook. Eleven pitchers have won the Cy Young in back-to-back seasons, but Burnes’ 2022 campaign has been nothing short of spectacular.
Sporting a 2.87 ERA and the second-most strikeouts in the league, Burnes has led the Brewers to first place in the NL Central. Although Burnes has given up a fair share of homers this season, he has allowed only one run through his last 13 innings.
2. Justin Verlander, Astros RHP
Tray Taormina / USA Today Sports
Verlander has not missed a beat since missing a majority of the 2020 season and all of the 2021 season. He has recaptured his early-career mastery. It is extremely difficult to score against Verlander – through 57 innings, he has given up 13 runs.
The 39-year-old is known as a second-half pitcher, but it remains to be seen if he will lose some steam. However, betting against Verlander throughout his Hall-of-Fame career has been foolish.
3. Nestor Cortes Jr., Yankees LHP
Sarah Stier / Getty Images
The improbable rise of Cortes to the top of the Yankee rotation is one of the best stories of the young season. Cortes has been as reliable as they come. The flashy left-hander has the second-lowest ERA in the American League and the lowest expected ERA in the game, per FanGraphs.
Cortes does not throw the same searing fastball as Sandy Alcantara or Gerritt Cole, but that has not seemed to matter. He is a finesse pitcher, a trickster on the bump, and gets to his spots with ease.
4. Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays RHP
Cole Burston / Getty Images
Toronto’s addition of Gausman has been one of the best moves of the off-season. Although the Jays have not been the world-beaters they were expected to be on offense, Gausman and Alex Manoah, a young stallion, have produced big-time for the team up north.
Gausman has a WAR close to 3.0 and flaunts the highest chase rate in the league, per Baseball Savant. His performances have been gaudy, and would be a fine choice for the AL Cy Young right now.
5. Alex Manoah, Blue Jays RHP
Cole Burston / Getty Images
Manoah is one of the game’s brightest young pitching starts. He is big, powerful, and relentless on the mound. The Blue Jays win when Manoah starts.
With the stellar Manoah and the smart addition of Gausman, the top of the Blue Jays rotation is a force to be reckoned with.
6. Shane McClanahan, Rays LHP
Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images
McClanahan has been impressive in just his second Major League season. The Rays lanky left-hander flew under the radar in most pre-season pitcher rankings, but now there is no reason to ignore his success.
He is second in strikeout rate, and with Tyler Glasnow recovering from Tommy John surgery and Shane Baz still yet to see the field in 2022, McClanahan has held down the Tampa Bay fort with outstanding command.
7. Joe Musgrove, Padres RHP
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
The Padres ace has been on fire to start 2022. He holds a 1.86 ERA. During his seven-year career, he has not seen his ERA dip below 3.00.
In recent years, the 29-year-old has fallen off over the second-half of the season. Padres fans will hope this first-quarter domination is not fluke.