MLB award talk: Cy Young Award favorites through the early season

Apr 17, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

As we enter into June, the dog days of summer are on the horizon. During the summer, contenders will begin creating separation in each division, setting up some exciting pennant races.

A strong starting rotation may be the greatest asset to creating a gap and sustaining success during the summer months. Every strong MLB rotation will have a reliable anchor to set the table for success.

The strikeout continues to rule today’s game, paving the way for many hurlers to dominate from the mound.

Thus far, here are the anchors for various MLB teams that could bring home a Cy Young Award this season.

National League

Zac Gallen

Gallen is the ace for an Arizona Diamondbacks team that continues to catch the attention of all baseball fans. Arizona has pulled into contention with the Dodgers for first place in the NL West, outperforming a Padres team that entered the season with high expectations.

After bouncing around early in his career, Gallen found a home on his third stop. He possesses a 2.72 ERA with 82 strikeouts through a dozen starts this season. Gallen’s success has played a significant role in Arizona’s turnaround.

Mitch Keller

The Pirates started the season as one of the league’s hottest teams but have since slowed down. However, the team’s ace pitcher did not get the memo. Keller has dominated many of his starts this season, compiling 93 strikeouts. Hovering around .500, the Pirates are still in contention for the top spot in the NL Central. Keller’s continued success will play a role in helping his team keep pace in the division.

Spencer Strider

With the lengthy injuries to Max Fried and Kyle Wright, Strider has become the ace for the Braves. He has labored through a handful of games, but continues to rely on his power arm to bail him out of jams. Through 11 starts, Strider has a 2.97 ERA and leads the league with 106 strikeouts.

Clayton Kershaw

The crafty veteran seems to have regained his edge. Kershaw struggled at times during the last few seasons but has been solid so far in 2023. Thus far, he has tallied six victories and a 1.14 WHIP. With Dustin May and Julio Urias battling injuries, quality starts from Kershaw become increasingly crucial for the Dodgers moving forward.

American League

Shane McClanahan 

The Tampa Bay Rays continue on a historic pace this season thanks to a powerful lineup and solid pitching. McClanahan serves as a spearhead for the Rays’ starting rotation. He currently leads the league in wins with eight, maintaining a 2.07 ERA.

Gerrit Cole

The New York Yankees ace is off to one of the best starts in his career. A couple of postseason struggles overshadowed Cole’s success in the Bronx during the last few years. However, the right-handed hurler looks determined to right that ship this season. Cole has yet to lose a decision this season, compiling 79 strikeouts and a 2.93 ERA. The Yankees must have consistent performances for the rotation to catch the streaking Rays.

Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani’s performance in all aspects of the game remains remarkable. The two-way wonder had a solid start to the season from the mound but is struggling lately. However, despite his recent struggles, his 2.91 ERA and 90 strikeouts keep him in elite company.

Nathan Eovaldi

Eovaldi is a consistently dominant presence on the mound for a hot Texas Rangers squad. Like the Diamondbacks, the Rangers are seemingly ahead of schedule compared to struggles in recent seasons, and Eovaldi is a primary reason for Texas’ success. He is tied for second in the league with seven wins this season.

Honorable Mentions

Bryce Elder continues to serve as a pleasant surprise for the Atlanta Braves. Elder did not make the 40-man roster to begin the season, but quickly received the promotion due to injury. At the time of this writing, he holds the league lead with a 1.93 ERA. The Braves young right-hander is a dark horse for the NL Cy Young Award.

The Minnesota Twins have two Cy Young candidates in their rotation. The veteran Sonny Gray is redefining success in his career with a strong season for the Twins. Additionally, Joe Ryan has established himself as a strong rotation piece. Both Gray and Ryan currently maintain an ERA under 3.

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