This is the final installment in a week-long look at baseball's best pitchers for 2010-14. All ages as of April 1, 2010
10. David Price (24 - Rays) - The first overall pick in the 2007 draft burst onto the scene in the second half of September last season and turned into one of the Rays' most trusted relievers in the postseason. He just this week returned to the majors, as the Rays weren't willing to carry him from the start of the year and put him on 200-inning pace. Dealing with a severely limited pitch count, he's been quite inconsistent this year. However, he has a dominant mid-90s fastball-slider combination when he's on. If his changeup comes along with experience, he'll be one of the game's best pitchers. Even if it doesn't, he should be very good anyway.
9. Yovani Gallardo (24 - Brewers) - Gallardo has proven to be a remarkably solid pitcher at a very young age. The question is whether he has the same kind of ceiling as the other pitchers in the top 14. He throws 90-93 mph and relies a great deal on a curve that gets him a lot of his strikeouts. It's going to be tough for him to take his game up another notch without a better changeup. Of course, if he just stays at this level, he'll be in the top 10 in the NL in ERA every year. Missing most of 2008 with a knee injury may pay off in the long run, as it saved significant wear and tear on his arm in what was his age-22 season. I think he has a better chance of staying healthy than most of the other under-25 pitchers here.
8. Chad Billingsley (25 - Dodgers) - The Dodgers have jerked Billingsley around a bit in his young career, but it's never stopped him from progressing. His ERA has dropped from 3.80 as a rookie to 3.31 in 2007 to 3.14 last year and 2.82 so far this season. Billingsley possesses the build of a workhorse, plenty of movement on his fastball and a strikeout curve. His command is below average, but all of the other pieces are in place for him to serve as a top starter for a long time.
7. Zack Greinke (26 - Royals) - With a 90-mph fastball, excellent command and a strong array of pitches, Greinke was compared to Greg Maddux after being drafted sixth overall in 2002. That didn't work out, but there's no shame in being the new Bret Saberhagen instead. Greinke typically works at 92-95 mph these days, and he can throw strikes with the best of him. 2009 may well go down as his career year, but unlike Saberhagen, he won't be asked to throw 260 innings. He'll have a much better chance of holding up for the long haul.
6. Cole Hamels (26 - Phillies) - Health is the big question with Hamels, who pitched the Phillies to a championship last year. It took him 262 innings to get it done, though, and he developed some elbow soreness this spring that caused the Phillies to go slowly with him. He also missed time in 2006 with a strained shoulder and 2007 with a strained elbow. Before arriving in the majors, he missed much of 2004 with elbow woes and had back problems. Last year was proof that he can stay healthy and perform as a Cy Young candidate for a full year. Now he just needs to do it again a few more times.
5. Brandon Webb (30 - Diamondbacks) - Obviously, this isn't a good time to be ranking Webb. The injury that's sidelined him since the beginning of April has been labeled bursitis, which suggests that there will be no long-term ramifications. However, there's clearly something more going on in his shoulder. We now know that there were significant concerns raised over a physical Webb had last summer and that he was examined by Dr. James Andrews over the winter. If it were just bursitis, Webb would be two spots higher here. If I knew of a tear somewhere in his shoulder, he'd be at least 10 spots lower.
4. Felix Hernandez (23 - Mariners) - Even in his fourth season, King Felix still hasn't become the pitcher everyone expected. But it's well worth nothing that he's actually eight months younger than Price and he already has 44 victories to his credit. He's become much more of a pitcher in the way he battles hitters, especially when he's working with men on base. That has more to do with his velocity drop than any arm problems. Of course, he still throws quite a bit harder than most and both his slider and curve are legitimate strikeout pitches. If he continues to stay healthy -- and the Mariners have done a fine job of taking care of him -- it's only a matter of time until he puts it all together and becomes a Cy Young candidate.
3. Roy Halladay (32 - Blue Jays) - When Halladay was limited to 21 starts in 2004 and 19 in 2005 and then spent much of 2006 pitching through forearm issues, it looked like he might not remain an ace into his 30s. However, after a disappointing season in 2007, he suddenly reemerged as the AL's best pitcher in 2008. Sure, Cliff Lee won the Cy Young, but Halladay, who had to deal with a tougher schedule, would have been at least as good of a choice. He's been just as good so far this year, and it doesn't look like he'll begin to fade again anytime soon.
2. Johan Santana (31 - Mets) - Santana averaged 230 innings per year from 2004-08, so it's of no surprise that his velocity has declined a bit. Still, he's quite likely baseball's best pitcher anyway, and he'll probably remain outstanding even if he's working at 88-90 mph by the time he's 35. That's because he has outstanding command and one of baseball's very best changeups.
1. Tim Lincecum (25 - Giants) - It'll be years before I stop cringing every time the Giants let Lincecum approach 130 pitches. However, there is the real possibility that the kid is simply a freak. He has a delivery unlike anyone else, he has a very modest build and he doesn't ice his arm, yet he's never had any problems. For what it's worth, his velocity is down a bit this year, though it's bounced back a bit recently. The results have been outstanding since two poor outings to begin the year. Hopefully, he'll rack up 230-inning seasons for years without incident.