Imanaga, Yamamoto climbing SP Power Rankings

Wheeler maintains hold on the No. 1 spot

May 9th, 2024

This past offseason, two highly successful Japanese starting pitchers made the move from NPB to MLB. Yoshinobu Yamamoto sparked a heated bidding war and ended up going to the Dodgers for $325 million. Shota Imanaga (five years older than Yamamoto) flew a bit more under the radar, ultimately settling for a $53 million guarantee with the Cubs.

Roughly six weeks into the season, both deals are looking plenty good so far. And now, for the first time, the two countrymen have both cracked the Starting Pitcher Power Rankings. While neither has risen into the top three just yet, it will be interesting to see how high they can climb over the course of 2024.

This is the fourth edition of these rankings this season, and like always, our voting panel weighed factors such as track record, season-long performance and recent success. Here are the results. (All stats are through Tuesday's games.)

1. , Phillies (Last poll: 1)
This is back-to-back No. 1 finishes for Wheeler, who has ranked in the top three in each of our four polls in 2024. As he approaches his 34th birthday on May 30, Wheeler is as effective as ever, posting a 1.64 ERA through his first eight starts, while allowing zero or one earned run six times. He leads NL pitchers with a 2.29 FIP and is tied for the Major League lead with 63 strikeouts.

2. , Tigers (3)
The lefty still might not be a household name, but within baseball, Skubal is gaining plenty of recognition. Recently, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch has called his stuff “off-the-charts good,” Royals skipper Matt Quatraro labeled Skubal as “one of the best pitchers in the league,” and Aaron Judge pegged him as a “young ace,” even after tagging Skubal for a rare homer. (Our voters certainly agree.) In that contest, Skubal struck out 12 Yankees despite rainy conditions that made it hard to grip the ball and forced him to ditch his slider. Fortunately for Skubal, he could fall back on his changeup -- one of MLB’s nastiest pitches.

3. , Dodgers (2)
Glasnow pitching effectively is hardly a surprise. But this is what really stands out: He entered Wednesday with at least a share of the NL lead for games started (eight), innings pitched (50), strikeouts (63) and wins (six). If this is the season when the quantity of Glasnow’s pitching matches its quality … look out.

4. , Cubs (not ranked)
Imanaga narrowly missed making our top 10 two weeks ago, but there was no way for our voters to ignore him this time around. The lefty’s ERA skyrocketed all the way to … 1.08 when he allowed two runs over seven innings against the Padres on Tuesday. Imanaga’s transition to the Majors has been absolutely seamless as he continues to befuddle hitters with his combination of a rising, 92 mph fastball and a diving splitter.

5. , Phillies (10)
Suárez just won NL Pitcher of the Month for April after going 5-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 40-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio over six starts. He allowed three runs in his first outing of May but still came away with a quality start in a Phillies win over the Giants. Suárez’s 0.72 WHIP leads the Majors, and opponents are just 1-for-32 against his changeup.

6. , Dodgers (not ranked)
Give Yamamoto a mulligan for his MLB debut, way back on March 21 in the Seoul Series. Since then he has shown exactly why the Dodgers invested so heavily in him this past winter, going 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA and 45-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his past seven starts. Yamamoto throws a ton of strikes, and his splitter and curveball both have been capable out pitches. Basically, it’s all coming together.

7. , Orioles (4)
Burnes has slid a bit since leading our rankings back on April 11, even though he has continued to pitch well. That might be a reflection of the fact that, following an electrifying 11-K Orioles debut, Burnes has leaned more toward solid than spectacular. While he has yet to allow more than three runs in any outing, the righty also has struck out six or fewer in seven straight starts, and he owns a 66th-percentile K-rate overall.

8. , Mariners (not ranked)
This is Gilbert’s first Starting Pitcher Power Rankings appearance of 2024, something he has earned with an AL-leading ERA that fell to 1.69 after he tossed eight scoreless innings against the Astros on Saturday. Houston manager Joe Espada noted Gilbert’s “explosive fastball,” which is a credit not only to his velocity (95.7 mph average) but also his 100th-percentile extension. What does that mean? With his 6-foot-6 frame, the long-striding Gilbert releases his four-seamer closer to the plate than just about any other MLB pitcher.

9. , Pirates (9)
Take a step back, and Jones’ emergence as one of the best pitchers in baseball this season is an incredible story. While Jones was a second-round Draft pick and Top 100 prospect, he also walked at least 3.6 batters per nine innings and posted at least a 3.85 ERA in each of his three Minor League seasons. Through seven MLB starts, though? Jones has a 1.1 BB/9 rate and 2.63 ERA. In fact, Jones’ 71.9% strike rate leads all qualified pitchers.

10. , Blue Jays (8)
Had more ballots been cast after Berríos was lit up for eight earned runs on Tuesday night, he might have slipped out of the top 10. Nonetheless, it’d be fair to give Berríos a pass for one bad outing -- on the road against a tough Phillies lineup -- in which he allowed more runs than he did in his first seven starts combined. Even now, his ERA remains under 3.00.

Others receiving votes: Dylan Cease (Padres), Kutter Crawford (Red Sox), Tanner Houck (Red Sox), Seth Lugo (Royals), Cole Ragans (Royals), Bryce Miller (Mariners), George Kirby (Mariners), Sonny Gray (Cardinals), Jordan Hicks (Giants), Luis Castillo (Mariners), Jon Gray (Rangers), Jack Flaherty (Tigers), Javier Assad (Cubs), Dean Kremer (Orioles)

Voters: Chris Begley, Jason Catania, Theo DeRosa, Daniel Feldman, Brian Murphy, Efrain Ruiz, Shanthi Sepe-Chepuru, Andrew Simon, Ismail Soyugenc, David Venn, Tom Vourtsis, Andy Werle