Here are the future aces of the AL West

April 2nd, 2020

The staff ace is one of the most respected titles in the game.

He’s the No. 1, and he knows it. You know it. His opponents know it, and that’s why managers often call their ace’s number to pitch the first game of the season, the first and last game of a playoff series and the important series in between, whenever it’s possible.

These guys give your favorite team a chance to win every single time they step on the mound. We know who the staff aces are now, but who’s coming next?

Here’s a look at the future aces from the American League West:

Angels: Griffin Canning
Right-hander reached the Majors quickly after being taken in the second round of the 2017 Draft out of UCLA and has the makeup and stuff to become the future ace of the staff, if he can stay healthy. He was solid as a rookie last season, posting a 4.58 ERA with 96 strikeouts, 30 walks and 14 home runs allowed in 90 1/3 innings. His strikeout rate of 25 percent was two percentage points better than the league average, and his walk rate of 7.8 percent was also nearly a percentage point lower than the league average. He saw his season come to an end in mid-August with a right elbow strain and is rehabbing his elbow after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection in early March. -- Rhett Bollinger

Astros: Lance McCullers Jr.
Right-hander has pitched alongside a number of aces in his brief career, including former AL Cy Young winners Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, plus Gerrit Cole, who finished second in the AL Cy Young voting last year. Could McCullers be next? The 26-year-old son of a Major Leaguer with the big curveball has had ace potential since he arrived in the big leagues in 2015. McCullers has pitched like it at times, going 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in his first 16 starts in 2017 -- the year he started Game 7 of the World Series. McCullers has yet to start more than 22 games in a season, though, because of injuries, missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery. He is healthy entering 2020 and could be poised for his best season in the big leagues. -- Brian McTaggart

Athletics: Jesus Luzardo
Left-hander has yet to make his first Major League start, but his dominance out of the bullpen as a 2019 September callup has the A's eagerly anticipating his move into their starting rotation. Rated by MLB Pipeline as Oakland's No. 1 prospect and the second-best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, it's easy to see why the A's believe Luzardo can anchor their rotation for the next decade or so. He's only 22, but he carries himself with the poise of a veteran. He also possesses five pitches, all of which are considered "plus" by the organization. In Cactus League play this spring, he allowed one run over 8 1/3 innings while racking up 13 strikeouts with only one walk.

A left shoulder strain wiped out his chances of making the club out of Spring Training last year, while a lat strain in July delayed his promotion to the Majors. If Luzardo can stay healthy, the A's have their ace -- one with the talent to develop into one of the premier arms in the game. -- Martin Gallegos

Mariners: Logan Gilbert
While the rebuilding Mariners have an interesting group of promising pitching prospects knocking on the door, 22-year-old is regarded as the one with the highest upside by most scouts. The 6-foot-6 right-hander was the Mariners’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019 after going 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA in 26 starts while jumping two levels to Double-A Arkansas by season’s end. The 2018 first-round Draft pick out of Stetson features a mid-90s fastball that he offsets with a capable slider, curve and changeup mix, and his lanky frame allows for an unusually long stride down the mound that makes his fastball play up even more. Gilbert, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Mariners’ No. 3 prospect, is expected to open the season back at Double-A but was having an impressive Spring Training before camp was shut down. He could be a rotation contributor at some point this year. -- Greg Johns

Rangers: Hans Crouse
The Rangers are excited about the starting pitching they have stockpiled in their farm system, and right-hander is viewed as a potential top-of-rotation guy. A second-round Draft pick in 2017, Crouse, who was at Class A Hickory last season, throws 94-97 mph with a wipeout slider and a changeup with plus potential. His control is also getting better -- he went from 4.3 walks per outing at Hickory in 2018 to 2.0 last season. Crouse, the Rangers’ No. 7 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, has made 38 starts and four relief appearances over three seasons. He is 11-4 with a 3.27 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP while averaging 9.3 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine innings during that span. The big step will be Double-A, where more polished hitters await. -- T.R. Sullivan