Cy Young rankings: Burnes charging up NL list
Welcome to the third edition of theScore's 2021 MLB Cy Young rankings.
5. Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox
Eovaldi has pitched much better than what his ERA shows. Only Carlos Rodon has a higher fWAR than the Red Sox right-hander among hurlers in the Junior Circuit, and Eovaldi's FIP indicates he's had some bad luck. Plus, the 31-year-old's given up just nine homers and walked 25 batters over 23 starts in 2021. He's really stepped up as Boston's No. 1 starter in Chris Sale's absence.
4. Robbie Ray, Blue Jays
Not only has Ray helped stabilize the Blue Jays' rotation, but he's likely also earned himself a significant raise from the one-year, $8-million deal he inked last fall. The southpaw has always had electric stuff, but he's never been able to harness any semblance of control - until now. His 2.49 BB/9 and 6.8% walk rate are easily career bests. This has allowed him to go deeper into games, as he's finished at least six innings in 16 of his 22 starts.
3. Lance Lynn, White Sox
Acquiring Lynn from the Rangers has helped the White Sox lock down the AL's strongest starting rotation - and he's not even their top arm. The big right-hander has only had one outing that could be characterized as a disaster as he's allowed three earned runs or fewer in 19 of his 20 starts. Lynn petered off in 2020 after an electric start for the Rangers but there have been no signs of wearing down this season. And he'll get the ball in
heaven Iowa for the Field of Dreams game Thursday.
2. Gerrit Cole, Yankees
Despite testing positive for COVID-19 last week and having some less than smooth outings after MLB's foreign-substance crackdown, Cole leads the American League in strikeouts and it isn't particularly close. The aforementioned Ray and Dylan Cease are next with 159 punchouts apiece. Still, if Cole returns and pitches more like he did against the Rays on July 29 (seven earned runs in 5 1/3 innings) than his usual self, his odds of keeping pace in the Cy Young race will wane quickly.
1. Carlos Rodon, White Sox
Rodon's magical season appears in danger of being derailed due to shoulder fatigue, which landed him on the injured list Wednesday. That may explain why he's thrown just 13 innings over his last three starts. However, for the time being, he's the top pick as his 13.13 K/9, 36.2% strikeout rate, and 2.57 FIP lead all AL pitchers with at least 100 innings.
*Jacob deGrom isn't on the list because of his uncertain health status, which could keep him from pitching enough innings to be a Cy Young contender despite his historic numbers.
5. Kevin Gausman, Giants
Gausman has continued the momentum he built from a strong 2020 campaign to become an All-Star and a Cy Young candidate. The late bloomer is in the top six in almost every significant pitching category, and he has the second-best batting average against in the majors. Opposing hitters have a measly .182 average against Gausman. The 30-year-old has positioned himself for a big payday after taking a qualifying offer last offseason.
4. Walker Buehler, Dodgers
The two-time All-Star has emerged as the best pitcher on a loaded Dodgers rotation. Buehler owns the lowest ERA in baseball during his age-26 season. He's also in the top five in WHIP and batting average against. Plus, the electric right-hander is allowing less than one homer per nine innings.
3. Brandon Woodruff, Brewers
Woodruff just keeps getting better. The 28-year-old is enjoying another career season after putting up great numbers in 2019-2020. The two-time All-Star is tied with Max Scherzer for the best WHIP in the majors and is in the top five in several other important pitching categories. He's combined to create a ferocious trifecta with Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, which has the Brewers primed to win their third NL Central title in the last 11 years.
2. Corbin Burnes, Brewers
Burnes matched a major-league record by striking out 10 straight opponents en route to a dominant performance against the Cubs on Wednesday night. The right-hander punches out opponents at a better clip than any of his NL peers, and if he can stay healthy down the stretch, he could take the overall edge in pursuit of the hardware. The only thing stopping the 26-year-old from occupying the top spot on this list is innings pitched.
1. Zack Wheeler, Phillies
Call him old reliable. Wheeler has had very few bumps in the road while leading baseball in innings pitched and strikeouts. He's also coming off his second complete-game shutout of the season after a dominant two-hit, 11-strikeout performance against the Mets, his former team. With deGrom out of action until sometime in September, Wheeler has taken control of the Cy Young race for now.