Where does your team's Opening Day starter rank?

April 7th, 2022

For all the talk that the value of the starting pitcher has decreased as bullpen specialization (not to mention “openers”) has increased, every team wants an ace. If you’ve got an ace, you have a tone-setter for the whole rotation and the whole team. If you have an ace, your whole team feels better about everything.

Opening Day is almost here. So let’s, for the third straight year, rank some Opening Day starters.

All listed times are ET.

1. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Yankees
Friday, 1:05 p.m., vs. BOS
Cole has finished in the top five of Cy Young Award voting five times, and there’s little reason to think he isn’t up for a sixth. For all the Yankees’ star power, he is still the best thing this franchise has going right now.

2. Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers
Thursday, 2:20 p.m., at CHC
The defending NL Cy Young Award winner has never started an opener before; Brandon Woodruff has made the two most recent starts for Milwaukee. You probably shouldn’t expect a complete game on Opening Day, but when Burnes is on the mound, there really isn’t anybody better right now.

3. Robbie Ray, LHP, Mariners
Friday, 4:10 p.m., at MIN
The other reigning Cy Young Award winner, Ray is now charged with getting the Mariners back to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. If he has another year like he did in '21, he might do just that.

4. Shane Bieber, RHP, Guardians
Thursday, 4:10 p.m., at KC
Injuries obviously hampered Bieber last year, but it’s not like he wasn’t effective in his 16 starts after his Cy Young-winning 2020 season. He looked great this spring and remains one of baseball’s true aces.

5. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
Friday, 4:10 p.m., at COL
Buehler had the best year of his career in 2021, and it should also be noted that he has been fully healthy for three consecutive seasons now. Despite his consistency for this franchise, this is, in fact, his first Opening Day start. He is very much overdue.

6. Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Marlins
Friday, 4:35 p.m., at SF
It’s probably time to start giving Alcantara his due, isn’t it? He’s developed into a top-shelf ace, throwing 205 2/3 innings and putting up a 3.19 ERA last year. The strikeout rate is still high, while his walk rate has fallen. This might be the best young rotation in baseball. Alcantara is its leader.

7. Lucas Giolito, RHP, White Sox
Friday, 1:10 p.m., at DET
Lance Lynn was supposed to be the Opening Day starter, before his injury, but you sure can’t go wrong with having Giolito as a Plan B. He might end up being even better, and remember, he’s only 27 years old. There’s more room for growth here.

8. Max Fried, LHP, Braves
Thursday, 8:08 p.m., vs. CIN
Fried wasn’t as jaw-droppingly incredible as he was in the shortened 2020 season, the one that earned him last year’s Opening Day start, but he does get to do the honor of standing on the mound after the Braves raise that championship banner.

9. Shohei Ohtani, RHP, Angels
Thursday, 9:38 p.m., vs. HOU
We’re not counting what he does at the plate here, but it is worth remembering that while Ohtani slowed a little with the bat down the stretch last year, he improved on the mound. If he can stay healthy, he could be even better in 2022.

10. Logan Webb, RHP, Giants
Friday, 4:35 p.m., vs. MIA
Webb might have seemed to emerge from nowhere last year, but close observers had seen him building up to this for a while. He’s certainly wearing the right uniform to maximize his skills, given the Giants’ recent success with pitchers.

11. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Tigers
Friday, 1:10 p.m., vs. CHW
Now fully recovered from his COVID-19 related issues, Rodriguez continues to be weirdly underrated and underappreciated, especially for a guy who pitched in Boston for so long. He’s now the ace of a Tigers staff that could probably use a veteran leader.

12. Jose Berríos, RHP, Blue Jays
Friday, 7:07 p.m., vs. TEX
The Blue Jays just lost their Cy Young-winning ace in Ray, and people are still more excited about them this year than they were last year. Berríos is a big part of the reason why, and this is just the beginning. Toronto signed him to an extension this offseason that runs through 2028.

13. Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals
Thursday, 4:15 p.m., vs. PIT
This is Wainwright’s sixth Opening Day start for the Cardinals and his first since 2016. It is, however, longtime battery mate Yadier Molina’s 18th consecutive Opening Day start.

14. John Means, LHP, Orioles
Friday, 3:10 p.m., at TB
The O’s are likely going to have a rough year, but every fifth day, they’re going to put a pitcher on the mound who gives them a legitimate chance to win. And they’ll of course never forget that no-hitter.

15. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, D-backs
Thursday, 9:40 p.m., vs. SD
Too high? Maybe. But he recovered some of his former form down the stretch last year, and he could be pitching for the opportunity to be a big Trade Deadline acquisition this year. Plus, you know, it’s Madison Bumgarner: You want his kind of star power on Opening Day.

16. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, Red Sox
Friday, 1:05 p.m., at NYY
Ideally the Red Sox would be starting Chris Sale here, of course, but Eovaldi has plenty of experience. This is his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Sox.

17. Framber Valdez, LHP, Astros
Thursday, 9:38 p.m., at LAA
Valdez has the stuff to rocket up this list, and he’s elevated himself to the top of this rotation. It’s OK if you’d have rather seen Justin Verlander anyway.

18. Yu Darvish, RHP, Padres
Thursday, 9:40 p.m., at ARI
Darvish looked like a Cy Young Award candidate heading into last year. The Padres will take just a solid 30 starts this year and consider the rest gravy.

19. Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies
Friday, 3:05 p.m., vs. OAK
Nola had the worst year of his career last year, but injuries were an issue and he seems healthy heading into this, his fifth Opening Day start. If the Phillies are going to end their playoff drought, a Nola rebound could be a big reason why.

20. Frankie Montas, RHP, A’s
Friday, 3:05 p.m., at PHI
The trade rumors are going to keep swirling around Montas following Oakland’s other recent deals, but for now, he’s still here. And he’s still good.

21. Zack Greinke, RHP, Royals
Thursday, 4:10 p.m., vs. CLE
The return of Greinke to Kansas City is a quietly terrific nostalgia story this year, and while he’s not the ace he was the last time he wore this uniform, it will be downright delightful to see him in it on Opening Day nevertheless. This is only his second Opening Day start for the Royals, for what it’s worth.

22. Tyler Mahle, RHP, Reds
Thursday, 8:08 p.m., at ATL
Mahle has been better than you realize for a couple of years now. That could make him an attractive trade candidate at some point this year, but for now, he’ll give the Reds a solid Opening Day starter against the defending champions.

23. Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies
Friday, 4:10 p.m., vs. LAD
His 2018 (2.85 ERA) and '19 (6.73 ERA) seasons may have been anomalies, in different directions. The rest of Freeland’s career with the Rockies has been solidly above average, when you consider his home park.

24. Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays
Friday, 3:10 p.m., vs. BAL
McClanahan is the only real choice for a team that does starting pitching differently than everyone else, and while he was good last year, he still averaged well under five innings a start. So don’t get too used to him out there.

25. Jon Gray, RHP, Rangers
Friday, 7:07 p.m., at TOR
Gray has to be pleased to finally leave Denver, as Globe Life Field should prove to be more hospitable. He has looked fantastic this spring, by the way.

26. Tylor Megill, Mets
Thursday, 4:05 p.m., vs. WSH
All right, so this is not exactly what the Mets had in mind for their Opening Day starter, but it’s worth noting that Megill was a lot better last year than you probably remember him being. He had the second-highest strikeout rate among Mets starters and, all told, is more pivotal to this staff’s success this year, with or without deGrom and Scherzer, than is probably appreciated.

27. Joe Ryan, RHP, Twins
Friday, 4:10 p.m., vs. SEA
There are reasons to be excited about Ryan this year, but he has still only thrown 26 2/3 big league innings. He’s just the second Twins rookie to get an Opening Day start -- the first was Tommy “the Blade” Hall in 1969.

28. Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Cubs
Thursday, 2:20 p.m., vs. MIL
A pitcher who relies on command and deception as much as Hendricks is always going to have some variance 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 who remain on the roster, and he’s one of them.

29. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Nationals
Thursday, 4:05 p.m., vs. NYM
Corbin is sort of getting the start here because he’s the last man standing in this rotation. This is his first Opening Day start, and one suspects he wishes it were happening at a brighter point in his career.

30. JT Brubaker, RHP, Pirates
Thursday, 4:15 p.m., at STL
Many thought veteran José Quintana would be the opener for the Pirates, as you don’t get a lot of pitchers with this sort of career line (6-16, 5.24 ERA) on Opening Day. But if you’re getting galaxy brain on this, Brubaker is the sort of pitcher -- hard thrower, right handed, lots of sliders -- who gives Albert Pujols a ton of trouble these days, and Pujols will be in the lineup on Opening Day in St. Louis. Every little bit helps!