The success of any Major League Baseball team starts with a well-balanced team that can hit, field, and run the bases but, more importantly, pitch. Without great starting pitching taking the mound each night, a solid bullpen to support the starting pitcher, and a dynamic closer to close-out games, it isn’t easy to win a baseball game. The best MLB pitchers in 2023 carry game-changing ability and a chance to win each time they take the mound.
What makes a great pitcher? Being smart on the pitching mound, mental toughness, strong ability to mix up their pitches, mastery of three if not four pitches, including a top-tier changeup, and athleticism are all abilities that are key to their success. In addition, being able to throw hard while locating their pitches where they are intended is an added benefit.
One MLB pitcher standing out as arguably the best pitcher in baseball is the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan. McClanahan, who turned 26 at the start of the 2023 MLB schedule, is coming off a strong 12-8 record with a 2.54 earned run average last season. In addition to McClanahan, other pitchers deserving of a spot among the best MLB pitchers list include Sonny Gray of the Minnesota Twins, Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, Eduardo Rodriguez of the Detroit Tigers, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Emmanuel Clase of the Cleveland Guardians.
Read on to see who else makes our top 10 best MLB pitchers in 2023 so far.
10 Best MLB Pitchers in 2023
10. Spencer Strider – Atlanta Braves (Starting Pitcher)
Coming in at number 10 on the 10 best MLB pitchers in 2023 list is the Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Spencer Strider. Strider entered the 2023 MLB season coming off a strong rookie season in which he posted an 11-5 record over 31 appearances, including 20 starts.
Over those 31 appearances, the Braves starter pitched to a 2.67 earned run average and 202 strikeouts over 131.2 innings pitched. His success has rolled over into 2023 while helping the Braves take hold of the National League East division.
In 10 starts through late May 2023, Strider made 10 starts while pitching 57.2 innings over that stretch. In those 10 starts, Strider has pitched to a 2.97 earned run average while allowing 19 earned runs while posting a 4-2 record.
More impressive, however, is Strider currently leads all of baseball with 97 strikeouts, averaging 15.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
9. Matt Moore – Los Angeles Angels (Relief Pitcher)
Typically, relief pitchers often get overlooked among the best pitchers in baseball, but it is hard not to consider them a vital piece of any team’s success. Relief pitchers are called upon to come in and save the team’s lead, prevent runners from moving up, and ultimately keep their MLB team in the ball game.
One relief pitcher worth mentioning is the Los Angeles Angels Matt Moore, who posted a 5-2 record last season with a 1.95 earned run average, 1.18 WHIP, and a strong 2.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) mark.
This season Moore has pitched to a 3-1 record to go along with 12 holds in 22 relief pitch outings. Moore has also posted a 3-1 record on the season while striking out 21 hitters over 25 innings of work.
8. Josh Hader – San Diego Padres (Closer)
One of the most dynamic closers in Major League Baseball is the San Diego Padres closer Josh Hader. The Padres closer currently ranks 3rd in all of Major League Baseball, posting 12 saves in 20 outings to start the 2023 MLB season.
In addition to ranking among the best in closing out games, Hader has pitched to a .90 earned run average and a .80 WHIP over those 20 outings while striking out 27 hitters.
Prior to the 2023 MLB season, Hader had recorded at least 34 saves in three of the four previous MLB seasons, including 36 saves between the Milwaukee Brewers and Padres last season.
7. Gerrit Cole – New York Yankees (Starting Pitcher)
Gerrit Cole has the ability, talent, and pitching performance to rank at the top of the list among the best pitcher in baseball. If this list was made before the start of the 2023 MLB schedule, Cole would challenge for the best pitcher in baseball award.
The Yankees starter finished last season as the MLB leader in strikeouts with 257 over 200.2 innings of work, averaging 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings and posting a 13-8 overall record.
Through 11 starts during the 2023 MLB season, Cole has posted a 2.53 earned run average while posting a 5-0 record. In addition, Cole became the 87th pitcher in MLB history to reach 2,000 strikeouts while doing it the 3rd fastest of all-time.
Other listed accomplishments over the years include leading the American League in wins during the 2021 MLB season and winning 20 games in a single season.
6. Eduardo Rodriguez – Detroit Tigers (Starting Pitcher)
A name that might have been left off the list prior to the 2023 MLB season is the Detroit Tigers’ starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.
However, after a strong start for the Tigers starter, as we approach the end of May 2023, it is easy to classify Rodriguez as one of the best pitchers in baseball this season.
Over his career, the veteran starter has shown the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, including winning 10 games in four different seasons and career-high 19 wins during the 2019 MLB season.
In 10 starts in 2023, Rodriguez has pitched to a 4-4 overall record while posting a 2.19 earned run average, 2.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) mark, a .96 Whip, and 61 strikeouts in 61 innings of work.
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5. Emmanuel Clase – Cleveland Guardians (Closer)
Clase, one of the best closers in all of baseball, is as dynamic as any closer in baseball when it comes to closing out baseball games.
The Guardians pitcher entered the 2023 MLB season coming off leading all of Major League Baseball in saves during the 2022 MLB season while posting a career-high 42 saves.
The 25-year-old relief pitcher has continued that success for his first 25 outings in 2023, including picking up an MLB-high 16 saves as the season approaches the dog days of summer.
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4. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers (Starting Pitcher)
One of the best MLB pitchers of the past 30 MLB seasons, Clayton Kershaw continues to rank among the best pitchers in baseball, including during the 2023 MLB season.
The long-time Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher enters 2023 as a nine-time NL All-Star, NL MVP, three-time Cy Young Award Winner, and a World Series Champion.
In addition, Kershaw is a member of the 200-win club and has posted a career earned run average of 2.49 over 408 MLB starts.
Over 10 starts in the 2023 MLB season, Kershaw has posted a 2.98 earned run average while picking up 69 strikeouts and posting a 6-4 record.
3. Sonny Gray – Minnesota Twins (Starting Pitcher)
It is hard to look past Sonny Gray as one of the best pitchers in baseball for the 2023 MLB season. Gray, who made his MLB debut during the 2013 MLB season, has posted double-digit win totals in four different MLB seasons while posting an earned run average below 3.00 in three different seasons.
The Minnesota Twins starter has been brilliant for the team in 2023, pitching to an MLB-low 1.82 earned run average over 54.1 innings of work in 10 MLB starts.
To go along with the league-leading ERA, Gray has posted 66 strikeouts, a 2.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) mark, and a 1.2 WHIP while posting a 4-0 record.
2. Shohei Ohtani – Los Angeles Angels (Starting Pitcher)
The Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher continues to amaze fans, fellow players, and baseball experts as he has done something no one has seen since Babe Ruth.
While Shohei Ohtani has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball over the past few seasons, he has been equally good as a starting pitcher.
His strong duo performance during the 2021 MLB season earned him his first AL MVP Award. Through 10 starts during the early portion of the 2023 MLB schedule, Ohtani has posted a 5-1 record while holding a .90 WHIP and 80 strikeouts.
His 80 strikeouts currently rank 3rd in Major League Baseball, along with his 12.2 strikeouts per nine-inning mark.
1. Shane McClanahan – Tampa Bay Rays (Starting Pitcher)
At number one on the 10 best MLB pitchers in 2023 is the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan. McClanahan is coming off an impressive 2022 MLB season, posting a 12-8 record to go along with 194 strikeouts over 166.1 innings of work.
The Rays pitcher ranked among the leaders in strikeouts, Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and strikeouts per nine innings. Through late May 2023, McClanahan has followed that performance up for the Rays, winning an MLB-leading eight games over his first 11 starts.
In addition to the 8-0 record, the 26-year-old starting pitcher has posted a 1.13 WHIP, 1.97 Earned Run Average while striking out 75 hitters over 64 innings of work.
Who is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball in 2023? A 100% straightforward answer to this question is nearly impossible since the league consists of a long list of top-tier pitchers taking the mound.
In addition, each MLB club relies on its pitching staff in various ways, which may put more value on a relief pitcher than a starting pitcher. In contrast, another team focuses more on starting pitching over a bullpen arm.
Nonetheless, we hope you like our candidate picks with the likes of Ohtani, Kershaw, McClanahan, and Clase.