Wednesday, March 30, 2022

2022 Award Winners and World Series Victors


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, Rays, Twins

National League – Braves, Brewers, Dodgers, Mets, Padres, Phillies

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 League.

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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

2022 AL Central Division Projection

We are less than two weeks away from the 2022 Major League Baseball regular season. The free agent frenzy was every bit the excitement we had hoped for following the lockout and teams are largely complete at this point. The American League Central Division had just one Postseason participant, but the hope would be for two with the field expanding to 12 teams.

The Chicago White Sox return as the division winners and will look to carry that crown for a second season. While there’s no juggernaut here, it should be expected that there’s no cellar dweller either.

Here’s how I see the division shaking out with PECOTA projections in parentheses.

Chicago White Sox 89-73 (91-71)

Chicago really didn’t do a whole lot this winter, but they also really didn’t need to. Having Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez for a full season will represent the greatest benefit they could gain from the offseason. Kendall Graveman makes an already good bullpen better, and Joe Kelly only enhances that. They should still have a very strong lineup, and the hope would be continued dominance from the rotation. There’s no doubt that they are the favorites here.

Minnesota Twins 85-77 (86-76)

If there’s a team that could go up or down more than almost any other in baseball it could be Minnesota. Byron Buxton is a superstar, and now he has a partner in Carlos Correa. How much resurgence could Gary Sanchez or Gio Ursehla find in their new home? Sonny Gray is a dependable arm, but from there it’s questionable veterans and untested rookies. If things go bad, it will likely be because the arms simply weren’t enough. This could be a very good team, a mediocre team, or a relatively bad team virtually all tied to what happens on the mound.

Detroit Tigers 77-85 (67-95)

Javier Baez’s deal with Detroit surprised many because of the assumed tie between Carlos Correa and A.J. Hinch. Baez has plenty of flaws but some of them are a bit overstated. He gives a winning presence to a team on the cusp. Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson should be in the lineup soon, and Akil Baddoo turned out to be a bad man last year. I don’t know how well they’ll pitch, but acquiring Eduardo Rodriguez was a smart move.

Kansas City Royals 75-87 (70-92)

Prospects are the name of the game for the Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. looks like a superstar as does both M.J. Melendez and Nick Pratto. Salvador Perez put up insane numbers a season ago and will look to replicate that performance. Pitching is questionable here too, and I’m not sure Zack Greinke has much left in the tank. The bullpen is uninspiring, and there’s plenty of lineup holes. They’re getting better, but not there yet.

Cleveland Guardians 73-89 (77-85)

You don’t have to look much further than the newly named Guardians to find the Central’s most rudderless team. The farm system isn’t elite, but the Major League roster is also barren. Jose Ramirez is amazing, and a healthy Shane Bieber is lights out, but beyond that there’s very little to like here. A lot of post-hype prospects and guys that have ceilings they never got close to touching reside on this roster. Alongside their lack of spending this offseason, deciding not to blow it up was a weird path forward.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

How Can You be Romantic About Baseball?

Right now Major League Baseball may be as low as it’s ever been. Back during the 1994 and 1995 strike I was just five years old, way too young to be bothered by what was taking place. At this point in my life, it’s anything but. After Rob Manfred’s address yesterday I could produce nothing more than apathy.

The Minnesota Twins have long been my favorite team. Major League Baseball has been among my most invested interests for the majority of my life. Because of just thirty owners and their puppet, Opening Day is cancelled with no end in sight. As Manfred stepped up to the podium, made that announcement while laughing, and then suggesting it was a both sides issue (hint: it’s not) emptiness set in.

Manfred has done very little to distance himself from the notion that he’s an awful commissioner. Obviously, he’s in a position to represent the interests of the owners, but each opportunity for him to provide a galvanizing rallying cry or momentum, he chomps on his own foot. Manfred comes across like a sleazy businessman with little desire to actually enjoy the sport he oversees. There isn’t a jovial attitude and there’s certainly nothing redeeming about him in connecting with the fans.

For months those connected to the league have attempted spewing a stance that players are needed to move things forward. Despite delays, lack of negotiating, and bad faith bargaining, it’s consistently been a blame game from the league with the only intention being the greatest win. Instead, we the fans, now all lose.

Opening Day is supposed to be a highlight of Spring. We get through the final days of winter with baseball action in Arizona or Florida. It’s the eight month calendar that creates drama on a daily basis through the lens of a wonderful sport. Not only do we not have that calendar to look forward to at this point, but we also have no clue when Rob Manfred and the league will work towards getting things back on track.

I’ll rebound from this; it’s necessary for the union to remain steadfast for change. Baseball will return, maybe in June, or maybe next year, but it will return. I’ll continue to write and enjoy the sport from afar. Right now though, it all feels a bit empty and hollow with one man and one group so carelessly and ruthlessly denying us normalcy on the diamond. Most times it’s hard not to be romantic about baseball, but right now is not most times.