Continuing our series of early predictions of American League awards, the next accolade to predict is the Cy Young award, given to the best pitcher in each league.
There are so many terrific pitchers in the AL right now that the award will ultimately go to whomever can remain dominant for 25-35 games pitched. At this point in early June these guys are only a third of the way through those starts but here is our early look at the 2022 AL Cy Young.
Odds to win AL Cy Young provided by Bet365.
1. Martin Perez – TEX (Odds Not Available)
Last week we projected the starting lineup for the AL All-Star Game and had Perez as the starting pitcher so it’s no surprise that he is on this list as well, projected to be best pitcher in the league at season-end. In his return to Texas this season, Perez has started ten games and has allowed only 10 Earned Runs in 63.1 innings, which is a 1.42 ERA; good for best in the league. Opponents are batting .200 against him and he has 49 strikeouts to 14 walks. The challenge for Perez will be earning more wins, with the fewest on this list at only 4, and that definitely matters in the voting at season-end. He has earned those 4 wins in the last 5 starts, including a complete game shutout of the Astros so he is trending in the right direction on a team looking much stronger through May than they did April.
On a betting note, Martin Perez does not even have odds listed currently on Bet365 but if he continues to trend the right direction look for him to pop up soon and with good initial value.
2. Nestor Cortes – NYY (+800)
As a hitter, you just never know what you are going to get from Cortes: fastball, cutter, shimmy-shake, normal pitching motion, a long pause. It is all in the scouting report! Cortes’ unique style of throwing off hitter’s timing has them calling timeouts with smiles on their faces, but it has been effective. He is 5-1 in 10 starts, only allowing 10 ERs for a 1.50 ERA. Opponents are hitting .178 off Cortes and have struck out 68 times against him, which is the lowest batting average against on this list and second in the whole American League. He could easily be the top of this list if not for my belief that Perez looks the strongest in the last 5 games, but has still been dominant for the Yankees so far this season.
3. Alek Manoah – TOR (+900)
The third guy on this list with an ERA below 2.00: Alek Manoah. Manoah comes in with the least experience, pitching extremely well in his first full season in the big leagues. Last season he started 20 games where he won 9, had 40 ERs, and opponents hit .192 against him. Not bad for a debut. This season he is on a similar trend after 10 starts, with a .207 BA against and only 14 ERs for a 1.98 ERA. The biggest improvement for Manoah has been control, putting only ¼ the number of guys on base from either a BB or HBP.
Casual baseball fans likely know Manoah for his slider that looks like he is throwing a whiffle ball, which makes for great Instagram videos. Everyone will really know his name if he keeps up this performance and gives Toronto two AL Cy Young awards in a row.
4. Shane McClanahan – TB (+650)
We knew the AL East was going to be a tight race, and I have been saying as much in half my articles this season. That only makes it more fitting for a third pick on this list to come from that division. McClanahan is also the third lefty, and only in his sophomore season in the big leagues. After a strong rookie season, he follows that this season by allowing a .195 batting average against, a 2.01 ERA, and has a league leading 81 strikeouts vs. 12 walks. McClanahan is also very hot right now, winning 4 of his last 5 games with the fifth being a 7-inning 0 ER no-decision performance against LAA. His two losses on the season both occurred in April and I see him grabbing Cy Young voters’ attention with all those strikeouts.
5. Justin Verlander – HOU (+450)
Verlander is a 2-time Cy Young winner and only one of a few pitchers in history to win the Cy Young and MVP in the same season, so why wouldn’t we be talking about him again in 2022? Through 10 starts this season he also has six wins and is allowing opponents to hit .179, a tick off Cortes. His WHIP is also the lowest in the league at 0.80 (all 5 guys on this list are below 1.00), and he also has 61 strikeouts. Compared to the 34 starts he made in 2019, the last year he won the Cy Young, Verlander’s stats are very similar. in 2019, He had a WHIP of 0.80 as well, a BA against of .172, and allowed 36 homeruns, which make his 9 so far this season seem like less of a problem. The challenge now is in that 2019 season Cortes was still a reliever, and both Manoah and McClanahan had not made their debut.
It might be time for a new king of the hill!
Honorable Mentions: Jameson Taillon, Paul Blackburn, Tarik Skubal, Logan Gilbert, and Adam Cimber.