Despite all the talk that the value of the starting pitcher has diminished as the specialization of the bullpen (not to mention the “opener”) has increased, each team wants an ace. If you have an ace, you have a composer for the whole spin and the whole team. If you have an ace, your whole team will feel better about everything.
1. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Yankees
Friday, 13:05, against BOS
Cole has finished in the top five five times in the Cy Young Award poll and there is little reason to believe that he has not reached the sixth. Despite all the Yankees’ star power, he’s still the best this concession has to offer right now.
2. Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers
Thursday, 14:20, in CHC
Defender NL Cy Young has never started an opening game before; Brandon Woodruff has played the last two starts for Milwaukee. You probably should not expect a perfect game on the opening day, but when Burnes is on the mound, there is really no one better now.
3. Robbie Ray, LHP, sailors
Friday, 16:10, at MIN
Reigning Cy Young Award winner Ray is now charged with bringing the Mariners back to the finals for the first time since 2001. If he has a second year as he did in ’21, he could do so.
4. Shane Bieber, RHP, Guardians
Thursday, 16:10, in KC
Injuries obviously hampered Bieber last year, but it’s not as if he has not been successful in his 16 starts since Cy Young’s 2020 winning streak. He looked good this spring and is still one of the true aces of baseball.
5. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
Friday, 16:10, in COL
Buehler had the best year of his career in 2021 and it is also worth mentioning that he has been fit for three seasons in a row now. Although he is consistent in this mandate, this is actually his first opening day. He is very timely.
6. Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Marlins
Friday, 16:35, in SF
It’s probably time to start giving Alcantara what he carries, isn ‘t it? He has evolved into an ace on the top shelf, throwing 205 2/3 strokes and putting up 3.19 ERA last year. The strikeout is still high while his walking rate has dropped. This could be the best young spin in baseball. Alcantara is its leader.
7. Lucas Giolito, RHP, White Sox
Friday, 13:10, in DET
Lance Lynn was supposed to be the starter on opening day, before he got injured, but you certainly can not go wrong with Giolito as Plan B. He could end up getting even better, and remember he’s only 27 years old. There is more room for growth here.
8. Max Fried, LHP, Braves
Thursday, 20:08, against CIN
Fried was not as breathtakingly incredible as he was in the shorter competition season of 2020, which meant that he started the opening day last year, but he still gets the honor of standing on the mound after the Braves lifted this championship.
9. Shohei Ohtani, RHP, Angels
Thursday, 21:38, against HOU
We are not counting what he does on the album here, but it is worth remembering that while Ohtani slowed down a bit last year, he improved on the pile. If he can be whole, he could be even better in 2022.
10. Logan Webb, RHP, Giants
Friday, 16:35, against MIA
Webb may have seemed to come out of nowhere last year, but a close audience had seen him build on this for a while. He’s certainly in the right kit to maximize his skills, given the Giants’ recent performances with pitchers.
11. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Tigers
Friday, 13:10, against CHW
Rodriguez is now fully recovered from his COVID-19 related issues and continues to be strangely underrated and underrated, especially for a guy who played in Boston for so long. He is now the axis of Tiger employees who could probably use old-fashioned leaders.
12. Jose Berríos, RHP, Blue Jays
Friday, 19:07, against TEX
The Blue Jays recently lost their Cy Young winning streak to Ray and people are even more excited for them this year than last year. Berrios is a big part of the reason and this is just the beginning. Toronto bought him for an extension during this period, which lasts until 2028.
13. Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals
Thursday, 4:15 p.m., vs. PIT
This is the sixth opening day that Wainwright starts for the Cardinals and his first since 2016. However, this is the 18th opening day in a row that Yadier Molina, a battery club member, starts.
14. John Means, LHP, Orioles
Friday, 15:10, in TB
The O-team will probably have a difficult year, but every fifth day, they will put a pitcher on the pile that gives them a fair chance to win. And of course, they will never forget this no-heater.
15. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, D-backs
Thursday, 21:40, against SD
Too high? Maybe. But he regained some of his former form last year and he could be offering the opportunity to be a big buy-in this year. Plus, you know, it’s Madison Bumgarner: You want to kind of his star power on opening day.
16. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, Red Sox
Friday, 1:05 p.m., in NYY
Ideally, the Red Sox would be starting Chris Sale here, of course, but Eovaldi has a lot of experience. This is his third opening day in a row for the Sox.
17. Framber Valdez, LHP, Astros
Thursday, 9:38 p.m., in LAA
Valdez can afford to pop up this list, and he has risen to the top in this round. It’s okay if you would have preferred to see Justin Verlander anyway.
18. Yu Darvish, RHP, Padres
Thursday, 21:40, in ARI
Darvish looked like a Cy Young Award nominee heading into last year. The Padres will take just a solid 30 start this year and consider the rest of the sauce.
19. Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies
Friday, 15:05, against OAK
Nola had the worst year of his career last year, but injuries were a problem and he seems to be recovering well on his way into this, the fifth start of the opening day. If the Phillies are going to put an end to the drought in the finals, Nola’s rebound could be a big reason for that.
20. Frankie Montas, RHP, A’s
Friday, 3:05 p.m., at PHI
The rumors will continue to swirl around Montas following other recent Oakland deals, but he’s still here for now. And he’s still good.
21. Zack Greinke, RHP, Royals
Thursday, 16:10, against CLE
Greinke’s return to Kansas City is quietly a great nostalgia story this year, and while he may not be the ace he was when he last wore this costume, it will be quite gratifying to see him in it on opening day. This is only his second opening day starting with the Royals, for what it’s worth.
22. Tyler Mahle, RHP, red
Thursday, 20:08, in ATL
Mahle has been better than you realize for a few years now. It could make him an attractive candidate in business sometime this year, but for now he will give the red team a solid start to the day against the defending champions.
23. Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies
Friday, 16:10, against LAD
His periods 2018 (2.85 ERA) and ’19 (6.73 ERA) may have been deviations, in different directions. The rest of Freeland’s career with the Rockies has been above average when it comes to his hometown.
24. Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays
Friday, 15:10, against BAL
McClanahan is the only real option for a team that starts throwing differently than everyone else, and although he was good last year, he was still well under five innings in the beginning. So do not get used to him too much out there.
25. Jon Gray, RHP, Rangers
Friday, 19:07, in TOR
Gray needs to be happy to finally leave Denver, as Globe Life Field should be more hospitable. At least he’s looked great this spring.
26. Tylor Megill, Mets
Thursday, 4:05 p.m., against WSH
Okay, so this is not exactly what the Mets had in mind for their opening day, but it’s worth noting that Megill was much better last year than you probably remember him. He had the second-highest starting percentage among the Mets and is, by all accounts, more important to the success of this team this year, with or without deGrom and Scherzer, than is likely to be estimated.
27. Joe Ryan, RHP, Twins
Friday, 16:10, against SEA
There is reason to be excited for Ryan this year, but he has still only thrown 26 2/3 games in the big leagues. He’s just the second Twins newcomer to start opening day – the first being Tommy “the Blade” Hall in 1969.
28. Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Cubs
Thursday, 14:20, against MIL
An explorer who relies as much on control and deception as Hendricks will always have some variation in his performance, but the bottom fell out for him (and the rest of the staff) last year. Still, there are three Cubs who played in the 2016 World Series that remain on the list, and he is one of them.
29. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Nationals
Thursday, 4:05 p.m., against NYM
Corbin is like starting here because he is the last man to stand in this turn. This is his first opening day and one suspects that he wanted it to happen at a brighter point in his career.
30. JT Brubaker, RHP, Pirates
Thursday, 16:15, on STL
Many thought that the elder José Quintana would be the originator of Pírata, as you do not get many throwers with such a career line (6-16, 5.24 ERA) on the opening day. But if you’re getting a galaxy brain on this, then Brubaker is such a pitcher – hard thrower, right hand, full of slider – that Albert Pujols is causing a lot of trouble these days and Pujols will be in the group at Opening Day in St. Louis. Every little bit helps!