Is Corbin Burnes the best starting pitcher in MLB? At least one media outlet thinks so

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at American Family Field.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at American Family Field.
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Each year ramping up to the Major League Baseball season, MLB Network ranks the best players "right now" at each position, and Brewers fans will like the name forecasted as the best starting pitcher.

That would be Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes, the 2021 Cy Young winner who's produced three straight superb seasons on the hill for the Brewers. Not Jacob deGrom, not reigning Cy Young winners Justin Verlander or Sandy Alcántara, not prized offseason acquisitions Max Scherzer or Carlos Rodón. Corbin Burnes.

Burnes posted a 4-1 record and 2.11 ERA in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, a massive bounceback from his nightmarish 2019 season in which he posted an 8.82 ERA in 32 games and allowed 17 homers in 49 innings. But he really took a star turn in 2021, posting an 11-5 record, 2.43 ERA and logging 234 strikeouts in 167 innings, on his way to the National League Cy Young award. He also threw eight innings in what became the Brewers' first no-hitter since the only other in franchise history, Juan Nieves in 1987.

In some ways, 2022 was another leap forward, with an increase in workload (202 innings), strikeouts (243) and hits per nine innings (down from 6.6 to 6.4). He led the league in swing-and-miss rate (35.2%).

Though his home-run count elevated (23 compared to 7 one year earlier) and his ERA moved from 2.43 to 2.94, he still produced a high quality season that landed him seventh in the Cy Young voting and netted a second straight all-star appearance.

Burnes, 28, shouldn't be expected to drop off going forward, either. The annual Fangraphs ZiPS projections anticipate Burnes will be the most valuable pitcher in baseball this season, while the site's Steamer projections pick him second behind deGrom, newly signed with the Texas Rangers and a dominant force if healthy.

There's one small hitch; Burnes and the Brewers have not yet come to terms on a contract for the 2023 season and at the moment appear headed to an arbitration hearing, with Burnes filing for a salary of $10.75 million and the Brewers offering $10.01 million. The two sides could still come to an agreement before the hearing; otherwise an arbitrator will hear the case and pick which dollar figure will go into effect for 2023. Burnes remains under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2024, but he'll be a free agent heading into the 2025 season unless the club and player work out a contract extension.

JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or jradcliffe@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: One media outlet ranks Corbin Burnes as baseball's best starter