It’s never too early to begin discussing who will win the 2018 American League Cy Young Award. In this article, I will be discussing the best of the best of the American League’s pitchers, narrowing it down to the five pitchers I believe have the best shot at winning the prestigious award.
1. Chris Sale – Boston Red Sox
The lanky lefty was the runner-up in Cy Young voting last season, but I believe he’s got the best shot at winning the 2018 Award. Last year, he went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA, 2.45 FIP, and 0.970 WHIP. In 214.2 innings pitched, he struck out a whopping 308 batters good for a 12.9 K/9. His innings pitched, FIP, strikeouts, and K/9 ratio were all MLB bests last season.
Sale, 28, sports the best career K/BB ratio for a starting pitcher in history with a 5.12 mark and he just keeps getting better. He struck out 75 more batters last season than in 2016 and walked two less, good for a 7.16 K/BB for the year. As he plays for the Red Sox, who added a major slugger in J.D. Martinez this winter, he should get plenty of run support. He will also have a strong defense behind him which should help his overall numbers.
Sale has never won a Cy Young Award, yet has finished no lower than 6th in voting every season since 2012. He’s due, and 2018 is the year.
2. Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians
After winning his second Cy Young Award in four years last year, there is no reason why he can’t make a strong run at it again in 2018. He earned the hardware last season, going 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA, 2.50 FIP, and 0.869 WHIP. In 203.2 innings he struck out 265 batters and walked only 36. He also tossed five complete games including three shutouts. His wins, ERA, complete games, shutouts, WHIP, and 7.36 K/BB were all MLB-bests while his .818 W-L%, 6.2 H/9, and 1.6 BB/9 all led the American League.
Kluber, 31, finished seventh in MVP voting last season with teammates Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez finishing fifth and third respectively. Further, Kluber’s 8.2 bWAR last season was second only to Jose Altuve‘s 8.3 bWAR and was just better than Aaron Judge‘s 8.1 mark.
After an impressive spring during which he pitched 19.2 innings with 25 strikeouts and a 2.29 ERA, there is no reason to suspect any sort of regression. The sinkerballer has some of the best stuff in the Major Leagues and it’s no secret why he’s the ace of a very strong Indians rotation.
3. Carlos Carrasco – Cleveland Indians
Part of the reason why I have Chris Sale atop this list is because of this guy. Carrasco is primed to have a huge season and really turn some heads, and I think when all is said and done, he and Kluber will split Cy Young votes and give Sale a better chance of winning the Award. That aside, Carrasco should be taken seriously in his bid for 2018 AL Cy Young.
Last season, he went 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and 1.095 WHIP. In 200.0 innings he struck out 226 batters and walked 46. Pitching in Kluber’s shadow, he quietly had a very strong season worth a 5.5 bWAR. He followed up a strong albeit injury-shortened 2016 during which he pitched 146.1 innings with a 3.32 ERA, 3.72 FIP, and 1.148 WHIP. He keeps getting better, and at age 31, he’s still in his prime.
He finished fourth in Cy Young voting behind Sale, Kluber, and Luis Severino last season, but don’t be blindsided if he finished ahead of them in 2018.
4. Justin Verlander – Houston Astros
Yes, he’s 35 years old. But just because he’s “old” doesn’t mean he still can’t win the Cy Young Award. After finishing fifth in voting last season with the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros, I believe he will have yet another big season for the defending World Series Champions.
Verlander went 15-8 with a 3.36 ERA, 3.84 FIP, and 1.175 WHIP last year. In 206.0 innings he struck out 219 and walked 72, but his 2017 was truly a tale of two cities. After being traded to Houston at the last minute, Verlander made five starts and went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34.0 innings. He went on to be the ALCS MVP when he won two games with a 0.56 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 16 innings.
He plays for, arguably, the best overall team in the Major Leagues, a major change from his recent days in Detroit. He has both a powerful offense in front of him providing run support as well as a great defense behind him providing security. When it comes down to it, though, he is one of the most consistent starters in the game and has been reliable since his first full season in 2006. He knows how to win and being on the Astros will make that easier.
5. Marcus Stroman – Toronto Blue Jays
With honorable mentions to Dallas Keuchel, Chris Archer and Luis Severino, I’m going to take a closer look at Blue Jays ace and 2017 Gold Glove winner Marcus Stroman. Finishing eighth in Cy Young Voting in 2017, he went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and 1.308 WHIP. In 201.0 innings, he struck out 164 and walked 62, tossing two complete games.
Those aren’t sparkling statistics, but at just 26 years old, I think he’s ready to break out. He’s got phenomenal stuff and should, at the very least, put up a 200-inning campaign with about 175 strikeouts and an ERA near 3.00. And, in case you were wondering why I didn’t choose Severino, it’s because he still hasn’t proven himself and pitches in a bandbox.