June 7, 2021

Ranking the 10 Early Contenders for 2021 American League Cy Young Award

Through the first two months of the MLB season, offensive numbers are down compared to past years, which means that pitching has been dominating thus far.

Even with all of the deep lineups in the American League, there have been more than a few pitchers who have helped to stand out from the pack. Of course, most pitchers have barely made 10 starts this year. With most pitchers eyeing at least 30 starts before the end of the season, there is obviously a lot of season left.

That being said, now could be a good time to take an early look at the 10 leading candidates for the Cy Young Award in the American League.

10. Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins

Jose Berrios has been far from perfect this season, but he’s still managed to pitch a few absolute gems.

The Twins starter also won five games in his first 11 starts on one of the worst teams in baseball. He’s at an age where everything should be starting to click for him, too.

If he can find a little more consistency during the second half of the season, he can become a legitimate Cy Young contender.

9. Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox

Even without the no-hitter on his resume, Carlos Rodon belongs in the Cy Young discussion. He’s put two subpar seasons behind him and taken a huge step forward for the White Sox. Keep in mind that he was once the third overall pick in the draft, so he’s always had this in him.

His 1.98 ERA is one of the best in the American League and his strikeout numbers also jump out. The only concern is that he had a couple of troubling starts in May, so it’s possible that he’s cooling down after getting off to a fast start in April.

8. Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

If there’s a reliever who can win the Cy Young this year, it’s Aroldis Chapman. He’s blowing away hitters the way he used to in the old days, averaging close to two strikeouts per inning.

He’s also rocking a 0.41 ERA over his first 22 appearances of the season. Obviously, that will be tough to keep up all season. But he’s surely done enough to put himself on the Cy Young radar, which isn’t easy for relievers.

7. Aaron Civale, Cleveland Indians

Surprise, surprise, Cleveland’s farm system has produced another high-end arm.

Aaron Civale’s Cy Young hopes could be hindered by his lack of name recognition. However, he’s slowly starting to gain some attention throughout the American League after winning seven games in his first 11 starts and posting a 3.28 ERA.

Also, Civale isn’t striking out batters at a high rate, so he’ll need to lower his ERA even more to get serious Cy Young consideration.

6. Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays

When he’s on, Tyler Glasnow has looked unhittable this season. He’s also racking up strikeouts at a higher rate than almost any pitcher in the American League.

The problem is that Glasnow’s hiccups are significant and can cause a massive jump in his ERA. There’s no doubt that Glasnow has the stuff to dominate good lineups and win a Cy Young one day. But if that Cy Young is going to come this year, he’ll have to find a way to limit the damage on his bad days.

5. Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians

The reigning Cy Young winner will surely be in the discussion again in 2021.

Of course, Shane Bieber isn’t going to run away with the award like he did last season. But his strikeout rate is nearly as high as it was in 2020 and his ERA is hovering just a hair over 3.00. Plus, Bieber’s name will always come up in a discussion about the best pitchers in the American League, which will help keep him in the Cy Young race.

4. Hyun Jin Ryu, Toronto Blue Jays

After 10 starts, Hyun Jin Ryu is 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA. For him, that’s on par with what he’s done over the last handful of years. It also makes it clear that he’s one of the best pitchers in the American League. However, his consistency might work against him in the Cy Young race because he doesn’t stand out as much.

Also, Ryu isn’t as flashy as other candidates because he doesn’t throw hard or strike out an absurd number of batters. He may not win the Cy Young, but he’s probably the safest bet to finish in the top five. 

3. John Means, Baltimore Orioles

John Means has used a no-hitter to fuel a comeback season and turn himself into one of the best pitchers in the American League. He may not strike out as many batters as some other pitchers or win as many games because he pitches for the lowly Orioles. But his 2.05 ERA is low enough to garner some serious attention.

If he can keep his ERA among the lowest in the American League, he’ll be talked about in the Cy Young race all season.

2. Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

If not for his most recent start, Gerrit Cole looked like the obvious frontrunner for the Cy Young. However, that gives him two subpar outings in his last four starts, as he’s cooled off a little over the past month following an incredible April.

Of course, there’s plenty of chances for Cole to get back on track at some point and put together a string of starts that mimics what he did in April. In other words, he’s not going to drop out of the running for the Cy Young any time soon.

1. Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox

Lance Lynn has to be considered the Cy Young frontrunner in the American League right now.

He’s tied for the league lead in wins, earning seven victories in his first 10 starts. Lynn is also pitching to a 1.23 ERA over those 10 starts. His strikeout numbers aren’t as eye-popping as some other starters. But his efficiency and consistency have been incredible.

Obviously, he’s bound to hit a speed bump at some point. But based on the first two months of the season, Lynn is in pole position to win the Cy Young.

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