Now just a week from Opening Day most Major League Baseball
clubs have their 40 man rosters set and are working through their final cuts
before kicking off the regular season. Although we don’t have Opening Day on its
original scheduled time, a full 162-game season following the lockout is as
good as it gets.
The Atlanta Braves are looking to repeat as World Series
Champions, but they will be doing so with some new faces after letting
franchise favorite Freddie Freeman walk. The American League will certainly be
out to recapture the trophy, and there’s a ton of new talent being thrust into
the highest level.
You can look back at my 2021 picks here. A dark horse MVP
candidate wound up taking the crown, and it was good to see Bryce Harper pick
up his second iteration of that award. Here’s what I have for 2022.
MVP: American League – Luis Robert (Dark Horse Byron Buxton)
National League – Juan Soto (Dark Horse Manny Machado)
Maybe Robert is a post-hype type player, but he’s far too
much of an afterthought with just two seasons in the big leagues. Robert played
just 68 games last year for the White Sox, but the 24-year-old posted a .946 OPS.
He has the complete package of speed, power, and athleticism to make an impact
all over the diamond. The strikeout rates are still ugly, but he makes enough
hard hit contact to generate a strong average. Chicago should again be good,
and that puts him in a good spot.
Byron Buxton is going to be healthy this year if I have to
manifest it into existence. Should that happen, he’ll find himself squarely in
the conversation. He began 2021 on a ridiculous pace and was only overshadowed
by Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Betting on himself in his new
extension, that paying off early would be nice to see.
On the National League side it really feels like the MVP is
Juan Soto’s to lose. He’s an otherworldly talent that hits for average and
power while having a great eye. I don’t think the Nationals are going to be
very good this season, but if Nelson Cruz has any positive impact on the
youngster allowing him to take his game up a notch, that’s pretty scary. It’d
also be somewhat of a nice development to see Manny Machado step up in a big
way for the Padres with Fernando Tatis Jr. out to start the season. He’s been
close to an MVP award previously, and maybe this winds up being the year.
Cy Young: American League – Shohei Ohtani (Dark Horse Luis
Severino) National League – Max Scherzer (Dark Horse Logan Webb)
If there’s a way to follow up an MVP award after putting up
the best individual season baseball has ever seen, Shohei Ohtani could grab a
Cy Young as an encore. The greatest thing working against him will always be
the amount of starts he makes. That said, another year of learning the league,
I think this could be his true breakout on the mound. Another step forward and
he’ll be in the conversation with Gerrit Cole as the best pitcher in the
American League. Speaking of Cole, his teammate Luis Severino looked to have
elite stuff prior to dealing with injuries since 2019. If he’s at all healthy,
I wouldn’t be shocked to see that play again.
Max Scherzer jumps teams within the division, but now he’s
in a place that’s willing to spend big. Paired with Jacob deGrom, the Mets have
the best one-two punch in baseball. New York should be a very good team, and those
two arms are going to do the heavy lifting. It’s been a few years since
Scherzer won a Cy Young, and maybe he tired a bit in the postseason last year,
but I think he shows well for his new club.
San Francisco Giants star Logan Webb is an intriguing choice
here. He’s not far down the list of odds, but may be somewhat of an
afterthought. The Giants probably won’t be as good this season, but Webb could
take another step forward as he cements himself as a legitimate ace. His FIP
was sub 3.00 last season and the strikeout numbers are there. It wouldn’t shock
me if he puts up a head-turning performance.
Rookie of the Year: American League – Bobby Witt Jr. (Dark
Horse Julio Rodriguez) National League – Hunter Greene (Dark Horse Max Meyer)
It’s hard to go against the Royals superstar prospect Bobby
Witt Jr. He’s going to make the Opening Day roster and looks like someone that
should be an impact player from day one. Kansas City won’t be good, but they
shouldn’t be terrible either. The highlight reel play on both sides of the ball
are impressive, and he should be fun to watch from within the division. Seattle’s
Julio Rodriguez may also be in the conversation, but that will largely depend
on how much runway he’s given this season.
Once considered among the best draft prospects ever, Hunter
Greene’s debut should finally come in 2022. The Reds rotation has arms that
need to still be moved, but Greene should see plenty of action for a team that’s
clearly not trying. His stuff is going to play, and the triple-digit fastball
is going to be fun to watch. If the Marlins promote Max Meyer with any amount
of longevity destined for this season, he too could be in the running.
American League – Blue Jays, White Sox, Astros, Red Sox,
National League – Braves, Brewers, Dodgers, Mets, Padres,
ALCS – Blue Jays over Rays
NLCS – Phillies over Braves
World Series – Phillies over Blue Jays
Toronto had a stellar offseason adding Kevin Gausman and
Matt Chapman. Already having a strong rotation and top talents like Jose
Berrios and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it’s hard not to see them as the juggernaut
in a competitive American League East. They picked up depth talents as well,
and we’re already trending towards being among the best teams in baseball. I’d
be far from surprised if they finish with the best record in the American
On the other side, I think the Phillies give themselves a
nice chance to play spoiler as somewhat of an underdog. The Braves and Mets are
seen as the best in the division, but Philadelphia shouldn’t be far behind.
Castellanos and Schwarber are two big bats, and the addition of the designated
hitter hides the latter from playing the field. Bryce Harper is still the
reigning MVP winner, and adding what they did to a formerly bad bullpen should
help a lot.
We’re so close to regular season action in a season that
should bring the return of normalcy. It’s time to settle in for the fun.