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Projecting Each MLB Team's Ace 5 Years from Now

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

Projecting Each MLB Team's Ace 5 Years from Now

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    With the recent rash of arm injuries across the MLB, it's hard to predict what a pitcher will do next season, let alone five years from now. This is the dilemma teams face when it comes time to offer up long-term, big-money contracts to starting pitchers.

    It's really a guessing game as far as a pitcher's health is concerned, but projections can be made as to just how good a pitcher will be in five years, provided he does stay healthy.

    What follows is a look at who could be fronting each MLB rotation five years from now, a mix of current stars, up-and-coming big league arms, top prospects and even the next Japanese phenom.

    Are all of these guys going to wind up as staff aces five years from now? Probably not, as chances are that at least a few will fall off and a few more will be derailed by injury, but as things stand right now, the future looks awfully bright for these 30 arms.

Baltimore Orioles: RHP Kevin Gausman

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    22/74-65.521.313165758.2-0.2

     

    Player Overview

    Once again this season, the biggest hole on the Baltimore Orioles is the lack of a true staff ace, and the long-term hope remains that a pair of young right-handers in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy will step forward and anchor their staff.

    Bundy was viewed as having the higher ceiling when he was taken with the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft, but he has battled injuries, and at this point, it is Gausman who looks like the safer bet to be the staff ace five years from now.

    Taken with the No. 4 pick in the 2012 draft, Gausman was expected to move fast after an impressive career at LSU, and he made his debut on May 12 of last season. He has struggled so far in limited big league action, but he did allow only one run in seven innings of work last time out and could be huge for the Orioles the rest of the way.

Boston Red Sox: LHP Henry Owens

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    61/6030-143.291.210147373309N/A

     

    Player Overview

    The Boston Red Sox minor league system is loaded with high-end pitching talent, as Henry Owens, Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Trey Ball, Anthony Ranaudo all opened among baseball's top 100 prospects, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.

    There is no clear future ace among that group, but left-hander Henry Owens looks to have the highest ceiling, and he has moved quickly since being taken out of high school with the No. 36 pick in the 2011 draft.

    A deceptive delivery makes his low-90s fastball a more effective pitch, and his curveball/changeup secondary arsenal both have a chance to be plus pitches. He may not reach the big leagues until late in 2015 at the latest, but five years from now, he could be anchoring the Red Sox staff.

New York Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Age in 2019: 30

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    13/1310-12.020.9401410393.23.8

     

    Player Overview

    Masahiro Tanaka has more work on his arm than the average 25-year-old rookie, as he threw 1,315 innings for the Rakuten Golden Eagles before joining the New York Yankees this offseason.

    That could lead to an earlier drop-off than some would expect, but by the same token, Hiroki Kuroda is still going strong in his age-39 season, and he had 1,700.1 innings to his credit when he first came to the big leagues as a 33-year-old.

    As long as his splitter keeps working and he avoids injury, there is no reason to think Tanaka can't be the ace of the Yankees staff for the duration of his seven-year deal. He's been fantastic so far and looks like the front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors in a deep crop of newcomers.

Tampa Bay Rays: LHP Matt Moore

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    63/6129-173.531.3291653393474.6

     

    Player Overview

    A huge 2011 split between Double-A and Triple-A saw Matt Moore go 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA, 0.948 WHIP and 210 strikeouts in 155 innings, making him the top pitching prospect in the game heading into the 2012 season.

    His rookie season was something of a disappointment, as Moore went 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 1.348 WHIP, though he was still only 23 years old. He took a big step forward last year, though, looking like the star he was expected to be in going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA en route to his first MLB All-Star Game appearance.

    The left-hander made it just two starts this season before he was lost for the year to Tommy John surgery, but with David Price likely on his way out, it looks like it will be Moore who fronts the staff long term ahead of fellow promising arms Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi.

Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    85/7118-203.441.332174322322N/A

     

    Player Overview

    The Toronto Blue Jays mortgaged a good chunk of their farm system in a pair of blockbuster deals with the New York Mets and Miami Marlins prior to lats season, but they still have some high-end young talent.

    Chief among that young talent is a pair of right-handers in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. While Stroman has won the race to the big leagues, it is Sanchez who has the higher ceiling and is more likely to be the staff ace down the line.

    He currently has a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts for Double-A New Hampshire and still has some work to do as far as his development is concerned, but he showed what he's capable of with 15.1 scoreless innings this spring.

Chicago White Sox: LHP Chris Sale

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    Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 30

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    147/6737-252.881.06114358755318.5

     

    Player Overview

    Selected with the No. 13 pick in the 2010 draft, Chris Sale joined the Chicago White Sox bullpen later that summer, making 21 appearances and posting a 1.93 ERA and 12.3 K/9 in 23.1 innings of work.

    He returned to the bullpen the following season before finally making the jump to the rotation in 2012, when he immediately become one of the best pitchers in the American League. He finished the year 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings.

    Sale has missed some time this year, and his funky mechanics could lead to some injury problems down the road. However, when he's healthy, he may be the best pitcher in baseball today, as he's 5-0 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.669 WHIP and 10.0 K/9 in eight starts this year.

Cleveland Indians: RHP Danny Salazar

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    18/183-74.181.3493211292.20.8

     

    Player Overview

    Danny Salazar broke out in a big way last season, and he dazzled in 10 starts down the stretch for the big league club, going 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.135 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 52 innings of work.

    Bigger things were expected of him this year, and his emergence was part of the reason why the Cleveland Indians were comfortable letting Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir walk in free agency. However, he did not kick off the 2014 season in similarly dominant fashion.

    Through eight starts, Salazar was just 1-4 with a 5.53 ERA, earning him a demotion to Triple-A before he was sidelined with a triceps strain. It's certainly not a promising sign, but he's still young and the electric stuff is there for him to be an ace once he gets things sorted out.

Detroit Tigers: RHP Max Scherzer

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Age in 2019: 34

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    187/17880-473.651.2303511,1671,104.120.2

     

    Player Overview

    The first step in Max Scherzer being the ace of the Detroit Tigers staff five years from now is to get him signed long term, and that won't come cheap after he reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million extension prior to the start of the season.

    Provided they do come to terms on a contract this offseason, Scherzer will be one of the older players on this list five years from now at 34 years old. But unless Drew Smyly takes a huge step forward over the five years, it will likely be Scherzer fronting the staff.

    Robbie Ray, Jake Thompson and Jonathon Crawford all have bright futures, and it's not out of the realm of possibility to think one of those guys could improve drastically and settle into the ace role. But for now, Scherzer seems like the most likely candidate.

Kansas City Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    15/154-63.261.237277485.21.5

     

    Player Overview

    With a fastball that regularly hits triple digits and a solid curveball/changeup combination to complement it, there is no ignoring the stuff that Yordano Ventura brings to the mound, and it has been on full display in 2014.

    There was originally some question as to whether or not he would stick as a starter or end up at the back of the bullpen, but he has shown enough as a rookie that his future looks incredibly bright atop the Royals rotation.

    Fellow top prospect Kyle Zimmer is dealing with a lat injury, but he also has upside to be a front-of-the-rotation arm. My money is on Ventura being the No. 1 guy five years from now, but it would not be surprising to see Zimmer as one of the AL's top arms as well.

Minnesota Twins: RHP Alex Meyer

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    53/5318-113.001.185105314270N/A

     

    Player Overview

    A big 6'9" right-hander, Alex Meyer was taken with the No. 23 pick in the 2011 draft more for his tremendous upside than his production at the University of Kentucky.

    He throws a good, heavy fastball thanks to his tall frame and gets plenty of ground balls as a result, and his command has improved significantly since his amateur days.

    He missed some time with a shoulder injury last year but made up for lost time with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. With a high-90s fastball, plus slider and improving changeup, Meyer has all the tools to be the ace of what could be a very good Minnesota Twins team a few years from now.

Houston Astros: RHP Mark Appel

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    Bob Levey/Associated Press

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    15/153-26.021.471144852.1N/A

     

    Player Overview

    Despite being taken with the No. 8 pick in the 2012 draft, Mark Appel opted to return to Stanford for his senior season, and the decision paid off. He solidified himself as the top prospect in the class on his way to being taken No. 1 overall by the Houston Astros.

    He looked great after signing last year, making 10 starts between Low-A and Single-A and going 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA, 1.184 WHIP and 3.67 K/BB ratio, and all signs pointed to him being on the fast track to the big league rotation.

    An appendectomy slowed Appel's offseason program, and he's currently sidelined with a thumb injury, as he has managed to make just five starts this year and post a bloated 11.93 ERA in the process. That's obviously not what the Astros were hoping for in his first pro season, but the top-of-the-rotation potential is still very much there.

Los Angeles Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    25/257-104.851.32052115144.2-0.7

     

    Player Overview

    Originally drafted by the Angels back in 2009, Tyler Skaggs was shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade back in 2010, but he returned to the Angels this past offseason as part of the three-team deal that sent Mark Trumbo out of Los Angeles.

    Despite solid minor league numbers, Skaggs was just 3-6 with a 5.43 ERA in 13 major league starts heading into the season. He has shown flashes of brilliance this season, though, and still has tremendous upside as a 22-year-old.

    Five years from now, it could be Skaggs and Garrett Richards fronting the Angels staff. But as good as Richards has been at times this year, it is Skaggs who has the higher ceiling and potentially brighter future ahead of him.

Oakland Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    25/2311-52.761.147511391502.9

     

    Player Overview

    The No. 18 pick in the 2011 draft after a fantastic career at Vanderbilt University, Sonny Gray made his big league debut last July and wound up providing the Oakland Athletics with a huge boost down the stretch and into the postseason.

    He took the ball in Game 2 of the ALDS, squaring off against a red-hot Justin Verlander, and threw eight innings of four-hit, shutout ball while striking out nine. He ended up with a no-decision but showed he was capable of stepping up on the biggest of stages.

    With just 12 games (10 starts) under his belt heading into 2014, Gray earned the nod as the Athletics' Opening Day starter after Jarrod Parker went down with a season-ending injury in the spring. He has looked every bit the part of a staff ace so far, going 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.174 WHIP through 13 starts, and he should only get better.

Seattle Mariners: RHP Taijuan Walker

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    3/31-03.601.000412150.1

     

    Player Overview

    More of a basketball player than a baseball player in high school, Taijuan Walker has turned raw ability into production faster than anyone could have hoped, and the 21-year-old made his major league debut last August.

    He was 9-10 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.196 WHIP and 160 strikeouts in 141.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before earning the call-up, and all signs pointed to him being the team's No. 3 starter this year before he was sidelined with shoulder soreness.

    Walker should return to Seattle within the next week or so, and while his injury-plagued start to the season has been unfortunate, everything is still in place for him to be the heir to Felix Hernandez atop the rotation. That being said, King Felix will be 33 in five years, and it would not be at all surprising to see him still going strong.

Texas Rangers: RHP Yu Darvish

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Age in 2019: 32

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    73/7336-203.131.164196599486.113.5

     

    Player Overview

    After a solid showing as a rookie, when he went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 191.1 innings to earn a spot on the AL All-Star team and finish third in Rookie of the Year voting, Yu Darvish took a huge step forward last year.

    He lowered his ERA to 2.83, led the AL with just 6.2 H/9 and struck out a whopping 277 hitters in 209.2 innings, emerging as not only the ace of the Texas Rangers staff, but one of the few true aces in all of baseball.

    Like Masahiro Tanaka, Darvish came to the States with plenty of work on his arm already, having thrown 1,268.1 innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters. However, as nasty as his full arsenal of pitches is, it's hard to see him falling off too much by age 32.

Atlanta Braves: RHP Julio Teheran

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    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    51/4821-133.121.12475263308.25.6

     

    Player Overview

    Julio Teheran emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball following a 2011 season in which he went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA as a 20-year-old in Triple-A.

    The right-hander took a big step backward from there, though, spending another season at the Triple-A level and going 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA. That put him on the roster bubble heading into spring training last year, but a big preseason won him the No. 5 starter job.

    After a shaky first three starts in which recorded a 7.31 ERA, Teheran settled in to go 14-8 with a 2.81 ERA the rest of the way and finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Injuries opened the door for him to be the Opening Day starter this year, and he has thrived in the role of staff ace, a role he will likely fill for the foreseeable future.

Miami Marlins: RHP Jose Fernandez

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    36/3616-82.250.97271257224.17.4

     

    Player Overview

    Jose Fernandez was an absolute stud as a rookie last season, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, 0.979 WHIP and 187 strikeouts in 172.2 innings of work. If not for a pair of injuries late in the spring, he probably would have spent a good deal of the year pitching in Double-A.

    He was off to an equally impressive start this year, going 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA, 0.948 WHIP and 12.2 K/9, before he became the latest victim of the Tommy John epidemic.

    As long as there are no long-term effects of the surgery and his electric stuff gets back to where it was pre-injury, Fernandez should be very much in the conversation for the title of best pitcher in baseball five years from now.

New York Mets: RHP Matt Harvey

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    36/3612-102.390.98557261237.26.9

     

    Player Overview

    Matt Harvey will miss the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but provided he has no further injury problems, he should be one of the game's elite arms in 2015 and beyond.

    After an impressive 10-start debut in 2012, Harvey took the league by storm last year, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings before being shut down in late August. Even with just 26 starts under his belt, he still managed to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting.

    Alongside Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and top prospect Noah Syndergaard, Harvey will front what could potentially be a very good Mets rotation for years to come when he returns next season.

Philadelphia Phillies: LHP Jesse Biddle

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    103/10229-363.441.320256548526.1N/A

     

    Player Overview

    With fellow top prospects Jarred Cosart (Houston) and Trevor May (Minnesota) traded and Brody Colvin looking like a flop, left-hander Jesse Biddle is all the remains of a once-promising stable of young starting pitchers in Philadelphia.

    In his second season in Double-A, Biddle has moved methodically through the Phillies' system after being taken with the No. 27 pick in the 2010 draft out of high school.

    He still needs to work on his command (4.4 BB/9 career), but the stuff is there for him to be a front-line arm. Should Biddle fail to pan out as an ace, it will likely be a 35-year-old Cole Hamels who is leading the staff, as he's signed through 2019.

Washington Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 30

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    89/8935-232.971.096142612521.29.3

     

    Player Overview

    Stephen Strasburg was hyped as a potential once-in-a-generation talent when the Washington Nationals took him with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft.

    He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2010 but saw his season cut short by arm troubles and eventually Tommy John surgery. The right-hander returned quicker than most, and he's posted back-to-back plus seasons the past two years.

    So far, he has failed to put together the monster season everyone has been waiting for, but he's off to a terrific start here in 2014, going 6-4 with a 2.99 ERA (NL-best 2.28 FIP) and an NL-high 108 strikeouts in just 87.1 innings.

Chicago Cubs: RHP Shohei Otani

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    Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 24

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    22/208-13.711.40150105116.1N/A

     

    Player Overview

    Unless they wind up re-signing Jeff Samardzija, which seems like a long shot at this point, the next ace of the Chicago Cubs staff is probably not currently a member of the organization.

    Pitching prospects like C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson and others have solid upside, but if this team is going to be legitimately contending five years from now, it will need to add a big-time arm. Enter Japanese phenom Shohei Otani.

    It originally looked like the 19-year-old was going to head straight from high school to the big leagues, but after being taken No. 1 overall by the Nippon Ham Fighters and given the opportunity to play some outfield as well as pitching, he opted to stay in Japan.

    With a fastball that can touch triple digits and a terrific slider/curveball combination to back it up, his ceiling is as high as any pitching prospect currently in the U.S. After missing out on Tanaka, expect the Cubs to go hard after Otani, if and when he is posted.

Cincinnati Reds: RHP Robert Stephenson

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    50/4913-143.181.15789278246.1N/A

     

    Player Overview

    The Cincinnati Reds have some big decisions to make regarding their pitching staff in the next couple years, with Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake all set to hit free agency following the 2015 season. The emergence of Robert Stephenson could make cutting ties with at least one of those guys a little easier to swallow.

    The 21-year-old was taken with the No. 27 pick in the 2011 draft, and he jumped right from Rookie League to Single-A ball after signing. In his first full season last year, he was 7-7 with a 2.99 ERA, 1.111 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 114.1 innings while reaching Double-A.

    Stephenson pairs a mid-90s fastball that can touch triple digits with a terrific curveball and an above-average changeup, and he has shown terrific command throughout his time in the minors. All the pieces are there for him to be an ace, it's just a question of when he arrives in Cincinnati.

Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Wily Peralta

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 30

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    51/5019-213.781.3451062132931.0

     

    Player Overview

    Lost among the terrific rookie seasons of NL counterparts like Jose Fernandez, Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Gerrit Cole, Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Wily Peralta had a solid first season in his own right.

    Over 32 starts, he went 11-15 with a 4.37 ERA in 183.1 innings of work. Certainly not NL Rookie of the Year-caliber numbers, but a sign of better things to come for the big right-hander, and he has taken a huge step forward this year.

    Yovani Gallardo is set to hit free agency either this offseason or next if his $15 million option is exercised, but all signs point to Peralta fronting the staff five years from now. Guys like Jimmy Nelson, Tyler Thornburg, Taylor Jungmann and Johnny Hellweg are worth keeping an eye on as well.

Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    31/3116-103.391.222531691942.2

     

    Player Overview

    The Pittsburgh Pirates took Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, ahead of three other guys who crack this list in Archie Bradley, Jose Fernandez and Sonny Gray. Fernandez is obviously a stud, but Cole has a bright future ahead of him as well.

    He was taken more for his upside and raw stuff than he was for his college production, as he was not nearly as polished as UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer (taken No. 3) or a handful of others on the board like Danny Hultzen and Taylor Jungmann.

    After steadily climbing the ladder, he made his big league debut June 11 of last season, and he turned in a terrific rookie campaign. A big, burly right-hander with power stuff, Cole has all the makings of a workhorse staff ace long term.

St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    29/238-62.841.107431411493.0

     

    Player Overview

    After an eye-opening spring training performance and a handful of spot starts and relief appearances, Michael Wacha finally joined the St. Louis Cardinals rotation full time September 3 last season.

    He went 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five starts down the stretch, earning a spot in the postseason rotation by throwing 8.2 innings of one-hit ball in his final start of the year. The impressive starts just kept coming in the playoffs, as he outdueled Clayton Kershaw twice in the NLCS to claim MVP honors before finally running into trouble in the World Series.

    Wacha's 64.2 innings pitched last season left him just over the rookie eligibility requirement this season, but he is one of the best young arms in baseball and should follow in the footsteps of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in becoming the leader of the St. Louis staff.

Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Archie Bradley

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    60/5927-152.951.253165341314.1N/A

     

    Player Overview

    It was a toss-up between Archie Bradley and Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker for the title of top pitching prospect in baseball entering the season.

    My money is on Bradley at this point, as he has the polish, build and stuff to be the best pitcher on the Arizona Diamondbacks roster as soon as he is called up, although that is admittedly not saying much this season. Expect him to be the prototypical workhorse staff ace and a perennial NL Cy Young candidate once he arrives for good.

    Bradley made just five starts this season before being sidelined by an elbow strain, and after looking like he could win a rotation spot out of camp, he may now have to settle for a cup of coffee in September.

Colorado Rockies: RHP Jonathan Gray

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    21/2110-33.020.99724107101.1N/A

     

    Player Overview

    The No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft after lighting up radar guns at the University of Oklahoma, right-hander Jon Gray opened his first full professional season at the Double-A level, as he has been put on the fast track by the Colorado Rockies.

    The big, burly right-hander has an 80-grade fastball that can reach triple digits and a wipeout slider that is already a plus strikeout pitch. His changeup is a solid third pitch, and he has shown impressive command of all three pitches so far as a pro.

    Fellow top prospect Eddie Butler beat Gray to the majors, and he has a bright future in his own right, but all signs point to Gray being the one who assumes the role of staff ace. Jhoulys Chacin will still be just 31 five years from now, so don't sleep on him being an ace either if he gets things back on track.

Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 31

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    192/19082-482.621.0904001,2701,228.133.3

     

    Player Overview

    He will be 31 years old five seasons from now, and he dealt with the first significant injury of his career this year, but there is no reason to think Clayton Kershaw won't still be a stud when the 2019 season rolls around.

    He's sitting on a streak of three straight NL ERA titles and has won a pair of NL Cy Young awards in that time. His 2013 campaign was the best of his career, as he went 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA and 232 strikeouts.

    Kershaw signed a record seven-year, $215 million extension in the offseason, and it's worth noting that he will be eligible to opt out of that deal after the 2018 season, so 2019 could very well be a turning point in his career.

San Diego Padres: RHP Andrew Cashner

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 32

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    134/4217-243.291.210118290349.24.0

     

    Player Overview

    It will be interesting to see five years from now who got the better end of the Andrew Cashner-for-Anthony Rizzo trade. It looked like the Chicago Cubs were clear winners early on, but Cashner has really come into his own since the second half of last season.

    After opening the year in the bullpen, Cashner eventually found his way into the rotation, and he went 5-4 with a 2.14 ERA and 0.952 WHIP in 11 starts after the All-Star break.

    That earned him the Opening Day nod this year, and he has a 2.13 ERA, 1.137 WHIP and a complete-game shutout to his credit in 10 starts. He's already 27, but he has less innings on his arm than most pitchers his age after spending the first three years of his career as a reliever, so he should still be going strong by the age of 32.

San Francisco Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner

31 of 31

    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    132/12957-433.041.15120577282312.9

     

    Player Overview

    The No. 10 pick in the 2007 draft out of high school, Madison Bumgarner made his big league debut just two years later as a 20-year-old, and he was a regular in the Giants rotation the following season.

    At the age of 21, he threw an absolute gem against the Rangers in Game 4 of the World Series, allowing just three hits in eight shutouts innings, and he has continued to get better each season since entering the league.

    Bumgarner was 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 201.1 innings last season, reaching 13-plus wins, 200-plus innings and 190-plus strikeouts for the third straight season. He's the clear ace of San Francisco's staff right now and is just entering the prime of his career. An NL Cy Young or two is not out of the question.

     

    *All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted. All injury information via MLBDepthCharts team pages.

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