Defining an “ace” pitcher in Major League Baseball is difficult because it’s subjective. What’s more, just about everyone has a different opinion on how many actual “aces” there are and whether specific pitchers qualify or come up just short.

In some ways, however, it’s simple: You know an ace when you see one.

But in the interest of trying to make this exercise of identifying the sport’s next aces-in-the-making a bit more objective, there needs to be some criteria.

To qualify for this endeavor, a pitcher…

  1. Must have a legitimate chance to become a full-blown ace in 2015, as in this upcoming season
  2. Must never have placed in the top 10 in Cy Young Award voting to this point in his career
  3. Must not have more than five years of MLB service time

Take careful note of these three standards, because the first requires a pitcher who is not only in relatively good health but also ready for the majors right now.

That goes a long way toward answering why, say, Lucas Giolito or Noah Syndergaard, widely considered two of the best pitching prospects in the game right now, don’t make the cut. While the Washington Nationals right-hander is too far away for 2015, the New York Mets righty might need a season or two before he really takes off, as most on-the-cusp prospects do (i.e. Carlos Rodon, Archie Bradley, Daniel Norris, etc.).

The second criterion explains why you won’t see, for instance, the San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner or the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg or even the Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, one of 2014’s breakout arms. Those three have finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting, so they are considered aces already, to varying degrees.

As for the service time requirement, well, let’s just say that if it ain’t happened after five seasons in the big leagues, chances are, it ain’t happenin‘. Although, there’s a case to be made for an arm like Jeff Samardzija, who just misses the cut with five years and 28 days of service time.

One last thing to keep in mind here: Pitching is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious deep these days, so there was no shortage of candidates, even with the above specifications. But because the aim here—it needs to be reinforced—is to find the next true front-of-the-rotation starting pitchers, don’t be dismayed if [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE PITCHER HERE] didn’t quite make the cut.

All that considered, here are the top 10 candidates to ascend to “ace-dom” this year.

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