Guess who the top starting pitchers in the five MLB playoffs are?
Ranking the top starting pitchers in the MLB playoffs in 2022
This was originally published at the start of the wild-card round and has since been updated to include only players on teams in this year’s division series who are currently healthy or are expected to be healthy very soon.
Here are the aces who will reign supreme in October.
1. Justin Verlander, Astros
Finding the ability to adjust when scouting amateur pitchers is a bit of a holy grail when it also comes with elite raw talent. Verlander is now regarded as one of the all-time greats at figuring out how to make what he does work.
If the Mets had advanced, this tier would have been more crowded, but Verlander’s combination of current value and track record puts him in a league of his own among pitchers from the remaining eight teams.
2. Max Fried, Braves
Max Fried is not a slam-dunk Hall of Famer in his late 30s or a strikeout machine, but he has great feel for four pitches that he throws at least 14% of the time each, and all are comfortably above average, with his big curveball serving as a signature pitch.
3. Gerrit Cole, Yankees
His playoff performances have been generally strong, though his lone appearance last year was forgettable. His speed has steadily increased over the years, with an average of 97.9 mph this year.
4. Julio Urias, Dodgers
With Walker Buehler out for the season and Clayton Kershaw now more of a potential supporting piece than a true ace, Urias will be expected to pick up the slack.
5. Aaron Nola, Phillies
This year, his peripherals (ERA estimators range from 2.58 to 2.74) have him vying for Tier 1 with the highest pitcher fWAR in baseball.
6. Zack Wheeler, Phillies
Wheeler has quietly been one of the best non-Scherzer free agent pitcher deals, already covering his entire deal in performance (13.2 WAR) while only three years into a five-year, $118 million contract.
7. Spencer Strider, Braves
Strider could have finished at the top of this tier if he had stayed healthy until the end of the season. He’s ranked because it appears he’ll be back from an oblique problem for the divisional series.
8. Shane Bieber, Guardians
Bieber has the lowest velo of any pitcher on this list, and his one career playoff appearance did not go well, but he has been consistently excellent in the regular season for the past five seasons.
9. Blake Snell, Padres
Snell has a distinct pitching style. He has the fifth lowest out-of-zone contact rate allowed and the seventh-lowest rate of pitches thrown in the strike zone among starters with 120+ innings this year, but he also has an above-average rate of first-pitch strikes.
10. Framber Valdez, Astros
Valdez has a lot of playoff experience (eight starts in the last two postseasons) and leads all starters in groundball rate this year by a wide margin.
When margins are thin, throwing a bunch of sinkers (even if they’re 93-95 mph) and allowing hitters to put the ball in play is risky, but Valdez’s curveball is one of the best in the league.