It’s never too early to begin discussing who will win the 2018 National League Cy Young Award. In this article I will be discussing the best of the best of the National League’s pitchers, narrowing it down to the five pitchers I believe have the best shot at winning the prestigious award.
1. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
If this man isn’t number one on your list for National League Cy Young predictions, you’re wrong. He is the best pitcher on the planet and, I believe, the most valuable player in the Major Leagues (sorry Mike Trout). The only thing that has kept him from the award the last two seasons have been injuries, and even then, he came close. In 2016 he finished fifth in the voting after starting 21 games, and after starting 27 games last season, he tied for the most wins in the MLB with 18 and finished second in voting to Max Scherzer.
Last season, in those 27 games, Kershaw went 18-4 with an NL-leading 2.31 ERA, 3.07 FIP, and 0.949 WHIP with 202 strikeouts in 175 innings. He leads all active players with a career .692 W-L%, 2.36 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 1.002 WHIP, 6.7 H/9, and 0.6 HR/9. He also sports a career 2.4 BB/9 and 9.9 K/9 to go with his 25 complete games, 15 shutouts, and the best-pitched no-hitter of all time (15 strikeouts, no walks on 102 pitches). Not to mention he has already won Cy Young Award three times in his career, and since 2011, he has finished lower than 3rd in voting only once (2016).
It wasn’t the least bit surprising that he did not allow a single earned run during Spring Training. Still, at 30 years old and in a possible walk year (he can opt out of his contract after this season), he is not slowing down and is poised to make another strong run at the Cy Young Award.
2. Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals
As much as it pains me to put a Nat above a Met on this list, Scherzer’s three Cy Young’s in the past five seasons warrant it. The incumbent won the award after going 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA, 2.90 FIP, and 0.902 WHIP last season. He struck out 268 batters in 200.2 innings. It was the fifth straight season he pitched at least 200 innings, and it was, in fact, the fifth straight season his K/9 rate has increased, finishing with a 12.0 mark — the best of his career.
The man with the different colored eyes led the National League in strikeouts (268), complete games (2), and WHIP (0.902), and led all of the Major Leagues with a minuscule 5.7 H/9. He’s won the award each of the last two seasons (as well as 2013 with the Tigers) and, barring injury, will almost definitely finish in the top-five in voting this season, just as he has every year since 2013.
3. Jacob deGrom – New York Mets
Of the two Mets on this list, deGrom does not have the better stuff. I have listed him higher than Thor because year-in and year-out, deGrom has stood the test of time and consistently delivered great numbers. Winning 15 games on a 70-win team is not easy, but that’s what he did last season, going 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA, 3.50 FIP, and 1.187 WHIP. In 201.1 innings he struck out 239, finishing eighth in Cy Young voting.
The 29-year-old will surely benefit from newcomers Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, but more importantly, a rejuvenated defense with a full season from Amed Rosario and newcomer Todd Frazier among others. Not only did he eclipse 200 innings last season, but he posted his best single-season K/9 with a 10.7 mark. There is no reason to think that he won’t continue to improve as he has every season since his debut.
4. Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets
Of all the pitchers on this list, Noah Syndergaard has the best stuff — that much is indisputable. He not only throws the hardest fastball of any starting pitcher (99.6 mph), he also throws the hardest sinker (98.9 mph), slider (93.2 mph), changeup (91 mph), and curveball (85.1 mph). He knows where it’s going, too, posting a career walk rate of 1.9 which is better than Kershaw’s career mark of 2.4.
In an injury-shortened 2017, he went 1-2 with a 2.97 ERA, 1.31 FIP, and 1.055 WHIP. In 30.1 innings he struck out 34, walked three (one intentionally), and did not allow a single home run. After a smarter offseason workout, and a very strong showing during spring training (1.35 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 20 innings), fears of his injury recurring should be minimal. He should also improve for the same reasons I listed for deGrom (new coaches, better defense, etc.).
The thing that separates Noah Syndergaard from other pitchers is that not only could he make a run at the Cy Young Award, but he is just so fun to watch. His stuff is off the charts, and he throws as hard if not harder in the 8th inning than the first. While I list him fourth, I predict that Thor will win both the 2018 National League Cy Young award and the National League MVP.
5. Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers
After not being able to decide between Stephen Strasburg and Zack Greinke, I realized I forgot about guys who don’t start. And shame on me, because I neglected who I believe could have won the Cy Young last season. Yes, I know this is going to piss off the “closers only pitch one inning” people, but hear me out.
Last season, Jansen appeared in 65 games, finishing 57, and saving a National League-leading 41. He went 5-0 with a tiny 1.32 ERA, 1.31 FIP, and 0.746 WHIP. In 68.1 innings he struck out 109 batters and walked seven, good for an insane 15.57 K/BB ratio. Let me put that into perspective. Right now, Chris Sale has the best career K/BB ratio of all time at 5.12 (minimum 1,000 innings). Stephen Strasburg is at 4.55, Clayton Kershaw is at 4.18. Kenley Jansen struggled with control early in his career, posting a 4.48 ratio from 2010-2014. In the last three seasons, though, he’s at 11.27 K/BB.
This guy does not give away baserunners. That is a formula for success, and with a strong Dodger defense behind him, even the guys that don’t strike out have trouble getting on base. The last three seasons, he has posted batting averages against of .174, .147, and .177. Last season, he stranded 91.3% of baserunners. Good luck not striking out, good luck getting on base, and good luck scoring against this guy. After he finished fifth in Cy Young voting last season, don’t be surprised to see him up there again this year.