AL, NL Cy Young rankings: Short season brings surprise candidates

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Welcome to the first edition of theScore's 2020 Major League Baseball Cy Young Award rankings, in which we pick the top five pitchers from each league. The second edition will run in early September.

American League

5. Gerrit Cole, Yankees

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29.1 2.76 34 0.84 0.7

Cole hasn't looked as dominant in 2020 as he was in 2018 and 2019 when he finished fifth and second in Cy Young voting, respectively. However, the three-time All-Star is still arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and he's carried a New York Yankees rotation that has otherwise struggled this season. The right-hander owns a 0.85 WHIP to go with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings, and he can still take it up another level. There are other pitchers who've had better starts, but Cole gets here based on who he is.

4. Frankie Montas, Athletics

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23 1.57 22 1.00 0.8

Montas has silenced the doubters following an 80-game suspension in 2019 for a positive performance-enhancing drug test. The 27-year-old has a sparkling 1.57 ERA in four starts and has yet to surrender a home run. Montas is in the top 10 in most AL pitching categories and is leading an Oakland Athletics pitching staff that has accrued the third-most WAR in the majors, according to FanGraphs. Unfortunately, the righty was scratched from Friday's game due to back tightness.

3. Lance Lynn, Rangers

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32.1 1.11 36 0.74 1.1

The only pitchers to accrue more WAR than Lynn last season were Cole and Jacob deGrom. Lynn has been even better in 2020, holding opponents to an AL-best .111 batting average while allowing just 3.4 hits per nine. His 2.82 FIP indicates he's been a bit lucky this year (relative to his nearly spotless ERA), but it's hard to imagine where the Texas Rangers would be without the big righty's five starts. And after allowing two runs (one earned) while throwing a complete game, two-hitter against the Rockies in Colorado on Friday night, Lynn is making a strong case to be considered the AL's top hurler.

2. Dylan Bundy, Angels

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28.2 1.57 35 0.63 1.1

To the collective chagrin of Baltimore Orioles fans everywhere, it looks like Bundy has finally emerged as the arm they were banking on when the team selected him fourth overall in 2011. In addition to showcasing better strikeout numbers and more efficient command (0.94 walks per nine) than ever before, he's suppressing the long ball for the first time. Bundy allowed 41 homers in 171 2/3 innings in 2018 (2.15 HR/9) - the most in baseball - and wasn't much better in 2019 (1.61 HR/9). Through four starts, opposing hitters have taken him deep only twice.

1. Shane Bieber, Indians

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27.2 1.63 43 0.76 0.9

Bieber leads the AL in strikeouts after coming out of the gate firing on all cylinders. He became the first pitcher in the modern era to punch out 13 or more batters in each of his first two starts, and he now has the third-most strikeouts through the opening three starts to a season in MLB history. His absolutely elite rate stats don't hurt, either.

Bieber's grip on the top spot is extremely tenuous. Anything short of a dominant outing against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday will likely drop him to third. That's how tight this competition is right now.

National League

5. Max Fried, Braves

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22.2 1.59 21 0.84 0.8

Fried has stepped up to become the reliable ace for an Atlanta Braves staff that's been hit hard by injuries. The 26-year-old's ability to keep the ball in the yard has perhaps been the most impressive part of his start. Fried has yet to allow a home run despite facing some powerful lineups in three of his four starts. He also owns the fifth-best ground-ball rate in the NL at 54.4% and has allowed only one barreled ball all year. He's been the top lefty in the Senior Circuit, and the Braves might be lost without him.

4. Sonny Gray, Reds

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30.2 2.05 45 0.91 1.1

Gray's resurgence with the Cincinnati Reds started last season and has continued unabated into 2020, and he once again looks like the pitcher who was a Cy Young finalist in Oakland. He leads the majors in strikeouts and has won four of his five outings. He's given up just three home runs, which is an impressive feat considering the very unfriendly ballpark he calls home. Yet, somehow, Gray isn't even the best pitcher on his own team right now.

3. German Marquez, Rockies

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26 2.08 27 0.92 0.9

While it may be easy to point to the fact that Marquez has made three of his four starts away from Coors Field, he was also pretty effective at home when he held the San Francisco Giants to two earned runs over 7 1/3 innings of work. He's emerged as the clear ace on a surprising Colorado Rockies team (12-7) that isn't solely relying on its potent offense to win games.

2. Yu Darvish, Cubs

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24 1.88 27 0.75 1.0

The Chicago Cubs have the best record in baseball. And though the offense hasn't yielded a true MVP candidate due to balanced production, there have been two true aces in the rotation (Kyle Hendricks is the other). Darvish looks every bit the superstar hurler Cubs fans expected when he signed as a free agent. It's especially encouraging after he opened his tenure in rocky fashion, particularly in terms of command. Darvish has walked only four batters through four starts, though, and he hasn't issued more than three free passes in a game in 27 straight appearances.

1. Trevor Bauer, Reds

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19.1 0.93 32 0.57 0.9

Bauer is making quite the case for himself ahead of his first crack at free agency. He leads the NL in ERA, WHIP, ERA+ (524), and K/9 (14.9). He has already thrown a complete-game shutout and surrendered only seven hits in 19 1/3 innings. Bauer's walk rate is also down significantly; he's allowing just 1.9 BB/9 this season. No Reds pitcher has ever won a Cy Young Award, but that could very well change this winter if Bauer continues to throw like this.

AL, NL Cy Young rankings: Short season brings surprise candidates
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