clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Every MLB team’s 2021 Opening Day starter

New, 1 comment

We’re listing and analyzing all 30 pitchers tabbed to start on April 1

Minnesota Twins Spring Training Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Spring Training is winding down. Everyday players are seeing more time on the field, players on the fringe are being reassigned to the minors, and the weather up North is getting nicer.

One more factor indicates that the regular season is almost here: the declaration of Opening Day starters. Here, we’ll list and analyze every pitcher tabbed to start on April 1.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means

There’s no real surprise here. Means is the clear frontrunner in a rotation that lacks firepower. The 27-year-old was an All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2019 before struggling a bit in 2020. In the shortened campaign, he went 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA. He allowed 22 runs, 36 hits, and seven walks in addition to striking out 42 batters.

Opening Day matchup: at Red Sox (2:10 p.m.)

Boston Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi

With Chris Sale sidelined following Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez battling arm fatigue, Eovaldi will get the Opening Day nod. A 2018 postseason hero, Eovaldi is entering the third season of a four-year, $64 million deal he signed following the World Series victory. Through 32 games (21 starts) over the past two years, he is 6-3 with a 5.04 ERA.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Orioles (2:10 p.m.)

New York Yankees: Gerrit Cole

Cole makes his second straight Opening Day start. The highly-paid right-hander had a dominant 2020, posting a 2.84 ERA over 73 innings. A 30-year-old star and former No. 1 overall pick, Cole has been lights-out throughout his entire career, pitching to a 3.19 ERA between Pittsburgh, Houston, and New York.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Blue Jays (1:05 p.m.)

Tampa Bay Rays: Tyler Glasnow

With Blake Snell and Charlie Morton gone, Glasnow is set to make his first career Opening Day starts. The tall, hard-throwing right-hander has allowed just 38 earned runs in 118 innings over the past two seasons. He has yet to spend a full season with Tampa Bay, a pattern which he surely hopes to end this year.

Opening Day matchup: at Marlins (4:10 p.m.)

Toronto Blue Jays: Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu has been confirmed as the Opening Day starter after he got the nod in 2020, too, making this his second straight selection. He has an incredible 2.31 ERA over the past three seasons combined and should continue to dominate in his age-34 campaign this year.

Opening Day matchup: at Yankees (1:05 p.m.)

Chicago White Sox: Lucas Giolito

Giolito has spent parts of five years in the majors but has just one full season under his belt. He did get the Opening Day start in 2020 and went on to post a 3.48 ERA over 72.1 innings. Veterans Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn will provide solid Nos. 2 and 3 options behind Giolito this season.

Opening Day matchup: at Angels (10:05 p.m.)

Cleveland Indians: Shane Bieber

Bieber is another player who took the bump on Opening Day last year and is set to do the same for the 2021 campaign. The right-hander dominated in the shortened campaign, going 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA over 12 starts en route to being named the American League Cy Young award winner. In 77.1 innings, he allowed just 14 earned runs on 46 hits while tallying 21 walks and 122 strikeouts.

Opening Day matchup: at Tigers (1:10 p.m.)

Detroit Tigers: Matthew Boyd

Boyd is being given the reins to start on Opening Day. This does not come as much of a surprise considering his veteran role in the Detroit rotation and experience as the No. 1 arm last season. However, he has struggled in his time on the bump, posting a 6.71 ERA in 2020 and 5.08 career ERA.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Indians (1:10 p.m.)

Kansas City Royals: Brad Keller

The Royals’ 25-year-old right-hander may have just three years of MLB experience, but he has already become the clear-cut ace in the rotation. Keller owns a 3.50 career ERA over 78 games (57 starts), but his best metrics came last year. In the shortened season, he went 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA over nine starts. In 54.2 innings, he allowed 15 earned runs, 39 hits, and 17 walks while striking out 35.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Rangers (4:10 p.m.)

Minnesota Twins: Kenta Maeda

Maeda, acquired from Los Angeles in early 2020, has been brilliant since joining the Minnesota rotation. Over 11 starts last season, he posted a 6-1 record and 2.70 ERA while allowing 20 runs on 40 hits. Better yet, through 14.1 innings of work this spring, he has allowed just one run and one walk while striking out 10 batters. The right-hander has been a true force on the mound and provides Twins fans with plenty of reasons to be excited in 2021.

Opening Day matchup: at Brewers (2:10 p.m.)

Houston Astros: Zack Greinke

With Justin Verlander out for most (or all) of 2021, Zack Greinke is set to take his place as the No. 1 hurler in Houston. Those are big shoes to fill, but Greinke is no stranger to a key pitching role. Over the past four seasons, he has a 3.20 ERA. The 17-year MLB veteran owns 500 career appearances, 208 wins, and nearly 3,000 innings, so he should be more than capable of taking on a Verlander-level workload.

Opening Day matchup: at Athletics (10:07 p.m.)

Los Angeles Angels: Dylan Bundy

One of 2020’s best storylines, Bundy joined the Halos after five seasons in Baltimore. The result? A career year that earned him an Opening Day nod. Along the way, he posted a career-best 3.29 ERA (minimum two innings) and .667 winning percentage. He made 11 starts, tossing 65.2 innings while allowing just five home runs and 17 walks. Reliable arms remain a need for Los Angeles, but Bundy’s emergence as a No. 1 starter helps alleviate some of the club’s pitching concerns.

Opening Day matchup: vs. White Sox (10:05 p.m.)

Oakland Athletics: Chris Bassitt

This Opening Day, the Athletics will roll out Chris Bassitt, whose role atop the rotation has begun to take shape as Spring Training continues. He had a career year in 2020, pitching to a 5-2 record and 2.29 ERA over 11 starts. Through 63 innings, he allowed just 16 earned runs and 17 walks while striking out 55.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Astros (10:07 p.m.)

Seattle Mariners: Marco Gonzales

Gonzales has consistently gotten better year in and year out. Now, he’s in line to start on Opening Day for the third straight year after taking over the role from Felix Hernandez. The southpaw went 7-2 over 11 starts last year, amassing a 3.10 ERA. He allowed 24 earned runs on 59 hits over 69.2 innings while striking out 64 and walking just seven.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Giants (10:10 p.m.)

Texas Rangers: Kyle Gibson

Gibson has had an up-and-down career between Minnesota and Texaas. While his career ERA of 4.57 does not resemble that of an Opening Day starter, his ability to stay healthy and be effective late into the season makes him a very reliable option for Texas. The right-hander, who has won at least 10 games in every season in which he makes 26-plus starts, has yet to allow a run through five innings of Spring Training work.

Opening Day matchup: at Royals (4:10 p.m.)

Atlanta Braves: Max Fried

Max Fried will be the hurler taking the bump on April 1. The southpaw was dominant last season, going 7-0 over 11 starts. He posted a 2.25 ERA while walking 19 and striking out 50 amidst the Braves’ 60-game sprint. He has also allowed just two runs and zero walks through 10 innings of work this spring.

Opening Day matchup: at Phillies (3:05 p.m.)

Miami Marlins: Sandy Alcantara

Alcantara was named the Marlins’ Opening Day starter on Tuesday as followers of the club gained clarity into roster and lineup construction. The 25-year-old right-hander owns a career 3.71 ERA over 53 appearances, though he brought that number down to 3.00 over seven outings last season. So far this spring, he has allowed just two earned runs over 17.1 frames.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Rays (4:10 p.m.)

New York Mets: Jacob deGrom

No doubt about it. A perennial Cy Young award candidate, deGrom continues to be the ace in a New York rotation that is suddenly very strong. He owns a staggering 2.10 ERA over the past three seasons and shows no signs of slowing down.

Opening Day matchup: at Nationals (7:09 p.m.)

Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola

In just over one week, Nola will toe the rubber for the fourth straight Opening Day. The 27-year-old has a 46-29 record and 3.24 ERA over those four years. He continues to be the ace atop Philadelphia’s rotation and can be expected to dominate on the mound yet again this year.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Braves (3:05 p.m.)

Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer

To borrow vernacular from the Nationals’ Twitter page, Opening Day falls on a Scherzday this year. (Let’s be honest: this tweet was too pure to leave it out of the article.) Anyways, Mad Max will take the bump on April 1 once again. The right-hander owns a 3.21 career ERA and has posted sub-3.00 finishes all but twice over the past eight seasons.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Mets (7:09 p.m.)

Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks

There was no question about this one. Hendricks went 6-5 with a 2.88 ERA over 12 starts last year. He was responsible for just 26 earned runs on 73 hits while walking eight and striking out 64. He averaged nearly seven innings and just over two runs per start last year and is accordingly rewarded with his second straight Opening Day nod.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Pirates (2:20 p.m.)

Cincinnati Reds: Luis Castillo

Castillo, the Opening Day starter in 2019, reclaims the No. 1 pitching role in Cincinnati after Sonny Gray got the nod last year. The 28-year-old right-hander finished 2020 with a 3.21 ERA over 70 innings. Furthermore, he has tossed five innings of scoreless baseball so far this spring. The Reds’ rotation—and entire roster—will be worth monitoring in a wide-open National League Central.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Cardinals (4:10 p.m.)

Milwaukee Brewers: Brandon Woodruff

Woodruff tied an MLB-most 13 starts last year and gets a head-start on the competition with an Opening Day nod this year. It’s the second such honor for the right-hander, who finished 2020 with career-bests in ERA (3.05), complete games (one), and WHIP (0.99). He’s also not far removed from a 2019 campaign in which he went 11-3.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Twins (2:10 p.m.)

Pittsburgh Pirates: Chad Kuhl

Kuhl emerged as the top choice from Pittsburgh’s messy rotation. He has MLB experience in parts of four seasons, posting a 4.36 career ERA. He allowed just 22 earned runs over 46.1 innings last year while striking out 44 batters and walking 28. He has some room to improve, but Kuhl makes plenty of sense for this honor.

Opening Day matchup: at Cubs (2:20 p.m.)

St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty

Flaherty will start on Opening Day for the second straight year. The right-hander is a talented hurler, though he was hit with a 4.91 ERA over 40.1 innings last year. Still, he posted a 3.01 ERA over 2018 and 2019 combined, so there is plenty of evidence that he is the Cardinals’ ace and very deserving of the Opening Day job in St. Louis.

Opening Day matchup: at Reds (4:10 p.m.)

Arizona Diamondbacks: Madison Bumgarner

Manager Torey Lovullo took his decision down to the wire but ultimately surprised nobody. He pegged Madison Bumgarner for the job, going with the obvious option after Zac Gallen went down with a forearm injury. The former Giants ace owns a career 3.20 ERA but struggled over nine starts last season.

Opening Day matchup: at Padres (4:10 p.m.)

Colorado Rockies: German Marquez

The Rockies were one of the last teams to name an Opening Day starter, ultimately opting to go with German Marquez. He posted a career-best 3.75 ERA over 81.2 innings last year and beat out Jon Gray for the top job.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Dodgers (4:10 p.m.)

Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw

The 2020 National League Cy Young award winner joined the Dodgers, but he won’t be taking Clayton Kershaw’s position atop the rotation. Kershaw, who unsurprisingly edged out Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler for the job, will get his ninth Opening Day nod in 11 years. He posted a 2.16 ERA in 2020 and owns a 2.43 career mark to accompany his 175-76 record.

Opening Day matchup: at Rockies (4:10 p.m.)

San Diego Padres: Yu Darvish

While the Padres usually bring their decision down to the wire due to a lack of obvious talent, the predicament was different this year. San Diego deliberated this decision thoroughly because of a surplus of high-end talent featuring the likes of Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. Ultimately, the job was given to the ladder, who was acquired from the Cubs this offseason following a tremendous campaign in which he finished runner-up for the Cy Young award.

Opening Day matchup: vs. Diamondbacks (4:10 p.m.)

San Francisco Giants: Kevin Gausman

On Tuesday, manager Gabe Kapler explained that being selected to start on Opening Day is a “huge honor” and he didn’t want to rush the decision. One day later, he settled on a hurler. Kevin Gausman was tabbed for the role after he pitched strong enough in 2020 to earn a qualifying offer. Johnny Cueto, who some saw as a potential No. 1 in the rotation, will likely follow Gausman instead as the No. 2.

Opening Day matchup: at Mariners (10:10 p.m.)