Cy Young favorites and sleepers for 2024

February 13th, 2024

First-timer or repeat? That will be a big question when it comes to the 2024 Cy Young Awards after last season delivered one of each. The Yankees’ Gerrit Cole finally won the Cy that had long been expected of him, while the Padres’ Blake Snell became the 22nd pitcher to claim more than one since the honor was first bestowed in 1956.

But as we turn our attention to the season ahead, we are in the odd position of not knowing where Snell will be pitching. The left-hander remains a free agent, and therefore, can’t be considered in either the American or National League races at present.

Still, there were plenty of good options available to the panel of five writers that we tasked with picking Cy Young favorites in each league, as well as some dark horse candidates who could sneak up on the field. Here are the results:


1. , RHP, Twins
2023 CYA finish: 7th

No pitcher increased his strikeout rate more from 2022 to 2023 than López (minimum 150 innings in each season), whose 29.2% mark ranked fifth among qualified starters. He went from primarily using a four-seamer and changeup to adding a sweeper to that main mix, and went from a good pitcher with a lot of promise to a Cy Young contender. López made his first All-Star team in 2023 and received Cy Young votes for the first time. I can't wait to see what he does in 2024, continuing to build off of his changes and improvements. He would be the first Twins pitcher to win a Cy Young since his idol, Johan Santana, in 2006. Imagine the emotions there.

-- Sarah Langs

2. , RHP, Yankees
2023 CYA finish: 1st

Just because Cole finally got his first Cy Young Award doesn't mean he's about to take his foot off the gas. The right-hander is MLB’s best combination of durability and dominance on the mound, and he has a good chance to become the 12th pitcher all time to win consecutive Cy Youngs. He’ll enter his age-33 season having earned Cy Young votes in each of the past six years, with five Top 5 finishes in that span.

-- Thomas Harrigan

3. , LHP, Tigers
2023 CYA finish: N/A

After a year lost to flexor tendon surgery, Skubal returned last summer and was beyond impressive, posting a 2.80 ERA (and a 2.00 FIP, and a 2.28 xERA) in 80 1/3 late-season innings. In September, he struck out nearly 10 times as many batters (43) as he walked (4). Now: Is 80 1/3 innings the same track record as other pitchers who have been doing this for years? It is not. But as we investigated, it was very easy to identify the changes Skubal made, and it’s hard to think his success was a fluke. Steamer projections think he may be the 4th-best pitcher in the AL. We think he might be first.

-- Mike Petriello

4. , RHP, Orioles
2023 CYA finish: 8th (NL)

This would be quite the introduction. If Burnes wins the Cy Young this season, he would be the O’s first Cy recipient since Steve Stone in 1980. He would also be the eighth player to win it in each league and would join Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson as aces who became multi-time winners in their first season after switching leagues. Burnes’ strikeout and whiff rates took a noticeable dip last year, but hitters still didn’t make a lot of damaging contact against him (5.3% barrel rate; 86.4 mph average exit velocity). He should still be able to dominate as he enters his age-29 season and his last before reaching free agency.

-- Brian Murphy

5. , RHP, Mariners
2023 CYA finish: 8th

Kirby was good as a rookie in 2022 (8-5, 3.39 ERA, 133 strikeouts in 25 starts, sixth-place Rookie of the Year finish). He was even better as a sophomore in 2023 (13-10, 3.35 ERA, 172 K's in 31 starts, All-Star, eighth-place Cy Young finish). The 26-year-old just keeps getting better. Kirby has the combination of power stuff and a fearless attacking style on the mound to be a Cy Young-winning workhorse. You gotta love a guy who can rack up 172 strikeouts with only 19 walks. This'll be the year Kirby takes over from Luis Castillo as the Mariners' ace.

-- David Adler


1. , RHP, Braves
2023 CYA finish: 4th

Among NL pitchers who threw 100 innings, Strider led the league by considerable margins in FIP (2.85) and strikeout rate (36.8%), and only seven NL pitchers threw more innings, so this isn’t exactly a stretch. (Dominant starter selected to win pitching award won’t drop any jaws, is the point.) The only reason he didn’t win it in 2023 was the 3.86 ERA, and that was mostly because of a surprisingly high home run rate -- which is one of the least reliable year-to-year metrics. It’s hard to come up with a scenario where picking the best strikeout arm, who is the best pitcher on the league’s best team, is a bad choice.

-- Mike Petriello

2. , RHP, Giants
2023 CYA finish: 2nd

Webb has solidified himself as a stalwart for the Giants, receiving Cy Young votes in each of the last two seasons. He led the Majors in innings and had the third-lowest walk rate among all qualified starters. Webb’s changeup was the most valuable non-fastball in baseball last season, and the second-most valuable pitch overall, behind only unanimous AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole's four-seamer. He has the tools, and he is well set up to be the Giants’ first Cy Young winner since Tim Lincecum in 2009.

-- Sarah Langs

3. , RHP, Phillies
2023 CYA finish: 6th

Wheeler’s good-not-great 3.61 ERA cost him a chance at a better finish in the NL Cy Young voting last season, but he was one of the league’s best pitchers by many metrics. The right-hander ranked second in the NL in K/BB ratio (5.44), third in WHIP (1.08) and fourth in K’s (212). He also led all Major League pitchers in FanGraphs’ version of WAR (5.9), which is based on FIP rather than ERA. Wheeler has been a true ace since he signed a five-year, $115 million deal with the Phillies after the 2019 season. All that’s missing is the hardware.

-- Thomas Harrigan

4. , RHP, Mets
2023 CYA finish: 7th

Are ghosts real? Debatable. But Senga’s “ghost fork”? Yeah, that thing is legit. Senga recorded a .110 opponents’ average and an absurd 58.5% strikeout rate (110 K’s in 188 plate appearances ending with the pitch) on that pitch during his rookie season. He teamed his most famous offering with a fastball that averaged 96 mph and a cutter that was actually his best pitch by run value. That arsenal helped the right-hander post a 2.44 ERA and a .595 opponents’ OPS over his final 14 starts. The only NL pitchers who had a better run value during that three-month span? Snell and Webb.

-- Brian Murphy

5. , RHP, Dodgers
2023 CYA finish: N/A

Who cares that Yamamoto's never pitched a game in the Majors? The Dodgers are paying him like a Cy Young-caliber pitcher, and that's because we already know Yamamoto is a Cy Young-caliber pitcher. He won three straight Sawamura Awards in NPB -- that's the Japanese Cy Young -- he's coming to the Majors in the heart of his prime at age 25, and he showed us that he has MLB ace-level stuff firsthand at the World Baseball Classic. Kodai Senga, who was an instant Cy Young contender for the Mets last season, is the immediate blueprint for Yamamoto. And Yamamoto is better.

-- David Adler


While there could be differing interpretations about who qualifies for the "dark horse" label, the picks below had to satisfy each of the following three criteria:

  • No previous Cy Young Award wins
  • Did not receive Cy Young votes in 2023
  • Finished outside the top five in both 2021 and '22

1. RHP, Dodgers
Key stat: 99.7 MPH fastball velocity

Given all the star power in L.A., it might be easy to forget that last year, they graduated a top prospect starter in Miller, who allowed two runs in his first four starts. He didn’t quite keep that up, but it was a successful debut, thanks in part to the 99.7 MPH fastball. More interestingly, the closest comparables that popped up based on the movement and velocity of his pitchers were … Cole, Jacob deGrom, Hunter Greene and Strider. You’ll forget about him, perhaps, because he’s not Yamamoto or Shohei Ohtani or Walker Buehler or Mookie Betts or Freddie Freeman, but the man with the bland name has the talent for a monstrous season.

-- Mike Petriello

2. , RHP, Dodgers
Key stat: 30.9% career strikeout rate

We've known for a while that when healthy, Glasnow can be one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game. That health portion has been the question -- his 120 innings in 2023 were a career high. We know the ability and the stuff are there, and it would be so much fun to see it all come together this season for Glasnow. His 35.3% whiff rate last season trailed only Spencer Strider and Blake Snell among pitchers to induce at least 750 swings. He’s struck out almost a third of the batters he's faced in his career, and that percentage rises to 34.1 if we consider only his time with the Rays. I'm glad to hope for good health and pick him as my dark horse.

-- Sarah Langs

3. , RHP, Padres
Key stat: 26.2% K-rate or better on 4 different pitch types last season

King has big shoes to fill in San Diego’s rotation -- he’s effectively replacing the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Snell, after having been acquired from the Yankees in the Juan Soto blockbuster (and just 10 days before his wedding). The 28-year-old mostly has been a reliever in his career, so picking him as a Cy Young candidate may seem like a stretch, but don’t rule him out just yet. King was dominant over eight starts down the stretch in 2023 and joined Max Scherzer as the only pitchers to post a strikeout rate of 26% or higher on at least four different pitch types (min. 50 PAs ending on each pitch type), showing the type of arsenal that could translate to success as a starter.

-- Thomas Harrigan

4. , LHP, Royals
Key stat: 32.3% whiff rate with Royals

Ragans traveled a rocky road to his 2023 breakout with Kansas City. It featured two Tommy John surgeries, three completely lost seasons from 2018-20, and a 5.92 ERA in 17 games with the Rangers last year. However, once he was traded to the Royals in June, the switch flipped. Ragans was the AL Pitcher of the Month in August and authored a 26-inning scoreless streak. In 12 starts, his 32.3% whiff rate ranked sixth in the Majors (min. 500 swings) as did his 31.1% K rate. His fastball touched 101 mph. His changeup had an expected slugging percentage of .277. A newly added slider produced promising results. A former first-round Draft pick, Ragans is realizing his full potential and will confound the opposition as long as he stays healthy.

-- Brian Murphy

5. , LHP, Marlins
Key stat: 208 K's in 178 2/3 innings last season (10.5 K/9)

It's kind of surprising that Luzardo didn't get any Cy Young votes last season. It was the breakout year we'd been waiting for. He made 30-plus starts for the first time and put up a 3.58 ERA with 208 strikeouts. And if you go back to his last 50 starts from 2022-23, Luzardo has a 3.52 ERA and 10.6 K/9. If Luzardo can build on that success even a little bit more in 2024, he could easily be a top-10 pitcher in the Majors. A 26-year-old power-pitching lefty with wipeout stuff who finally showed he can dominate for a full season? Sounds like a Cy Young contender.

-- David Adler