With the 2022 MLB All-Star festivities in the books, it’s time for a quick round of bold predictions before the second half of the season gets underway on Thursday.
What follows are 10 bold predictions for the remainder of the 2022 season, focusing mostly on individual players rather than teams since there will be plenty of postseason predictions to comb through in the coming months.
It’s a mix of award predictions, individual milestones and even some trade deadline and extension talk, all of which meant to set the stage for the second half of the season. Remember, the idea here was to be bold, not safe.
Seattle Mariners rookie phenom Julio Rodriguez entered the All-Star break hitting .275/.337/.477 with 16 home runs, 21 steals and 3.6 WAR in 91 games.
He earned an All-Star selection and put on a show in the Home Run Derby, and he’s now set to anchor the M’s playoff push as they try to snap a postseason drought that stretches back to 2001.
The 21-year-old is currently on pace for 28 home runs and 37 steals. Given his slow start to the season, it’s not out of the question to think he could outplay his current pace over the final two-and-a-half months.
If Rodriguez can get to 30 home runs and 30 steals, he would be just the second 30/30 rookie in MLB history. He’d join Mike Trout, who had a 30-homer, 49-steal rookie campaign in 2012.
Only 11 players have ever had a 20-homer, 20-steal rookie season, so Rodriguez is already just four home runs from joining select company.
Michael Harris II did not make his MLB debut until May 28, but he has made an immediate impact for Atlanta. He’s hitting .283/.319/.497 for a 122 OPS+ with 19 extra-base hits, 10 steals and 2.1 WAR in 48 games.
With a 43.8 percent hard-hit rate and an 89.6 mph average exit velocity, Harris’ batted-ball metrics don’t point to any obvious regression. He has a strong track record of production throughout his minor league career, too.
The 21-year-old’s biggest competition for NL Rookie of the Year honors is his own teammate, Spencer Strider, who has a 3.03 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 74.1 innings.
While there is no reason to think Strider’s numbers are going to drop off, he has never eclipsed 100 innings pitched in any professional season. It’s reasonable to expect his innings to be limited at some point.
That will open the door for Harris to run away with top NL rookie honors.
After he pitched only six innings in 2020 and missed the entire 2021 season to recover from Tommy John surgery, it was fair to wonder how much the 39-year-old Justin Verlander had left in the tank.
The Houston Astros gave Verlander a one-year, $25 million deal with a matching player option for 2023 in the hope of him returning to frontline form. He’s done just that during the first half of the season.
In 17 starts, Verlander has gone 12-3 with a 1.89 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 108 strikeouts in 109.1 innings. He has a 0.67 ERA in his last four outings, two of which came against the New York Mets and New York Yankees on the road.
Verlander already has two AL Cy Young awards on his mantle, one from his time with the Detroit Tigers in 2011 and one from his last full season in 2019 with the Houston Astros.
Young pitchers Shane McClanahan (TB), Alek Manoah (TOR), Dylan Cease (CWS), Nestor Cortes (NYY) and Logan Gilbert (SEA) are all having excellent seasons, but Verlander is the proven commodity and the pick here to win AL Cy Young.
Shohei Ohtani took home AL MVP honors last season when he led the majors with 9.0 WAR, posting a 158 OPS+ and 46 home runs at the plate and a 141 ERA+ and 156 strikeouts in 130.1 innings on the mound.
The 28-year-old is not having quite as dominant a season at the plate in 2022, but he’s been significantly better on the mound. He has a 2.38 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 87 innings, and he has taken things to another level on the mound as of late.
In his last six starts, Ohtani has a 0.45 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 58 strikeouts in 39.2 innings while limiting opposing hitters to a .146 batting average. He also has double-digit strikeouts in four straight appearances.
Ohtani seems like a safe bet for another top-five finish in MVP voting given his unique, all-encompassing contributions. The way he’s pitching could make him a serious contender for AL Cy Young honors as well.
The Texas Rangers will be interesting to monitor at the trade deadline. After spending a combined $500 million to sign Corey Seager and Marcus Semien in free agency, they aren’t going to dismantle their roster even though they were sitting eight games below .500 at the All-Star break.
In fact, they might not sell at all. Buster Olney of ESPN reported that it will take a “difference-making” return for them to trade All-Star starter Martin Perez, even though he’s only on a one-year, $4 million deal.
Could we even see them buy?
There is history of teams swinging a deal for a controllable starter when they aren’t contending in the hopes of taking a step forward the next year. Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018, Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets in 2019 and Jose Berrios to the Toronto Blue Jays last summer all fit the bill.
Luis Castillo is the top arm on the market this summer, and he’s controllable through the 2023 season. There will be no shortage of interested contenders, but here’s predicting he’ll wind up as the Rangers’ newest high-profile addition.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming to an interesting crossroads as far as their offensive core is concerned.
In theory, Justin Turner ($16 million club option, $2 million buyout), Max Muncy ($13 million club option, $1.5 million buyout) and Cody Bellinger ($17 million salary, arbitration-eligible in 2023) could all come off the books after this season since none of them have a guaranteed contract for 2023.
Given how that trio has underperformed this year, it puts the Dodgers in an interesting position to retool the roster. It also gives them potential flexibility to retain All-Star shortstop Trea Turner.
The Dodgers did not make an extension offer to Turner this spring, and the assumption has long been that he’ll hit the open market after the season. He would sit alongside Aaron Judge as the top player of the 2022-23 free-agent class.
However, given the lack of an in-house replacement and the potential roster upheaval to come, the Dodgers could try to hammer out a long-term deal with Turner before he has a chance to test the market.
Turner is two years older than Corey Seager was when he hit free agency last offseason, and Seager ended up signing a 10-year, $325 million deal with the Rangers. Would an eight-year, $264 million offer to Turner get the job done?
Trying to predict who will throw the next no-hitter is a fool’s errand, but we’re going to do it anyway.
When everything is clicking, Cleveland Guardians right-hander Triston McKenzie is as unhittable as any pitcher in baseball. His .199 opponents’ batting average makes him one of only eight qualified starters below the .200 mark.
The 24-year-old threw seven innings of one-hit ball against the New York Yankees on July 3. Over his last three starts, he has allowed only nine hits while rattling off 21 straight scoreless innings.
With a mid-90s fastball and two elite breaking pitches in a slower curveball and a tight slider, there is little question that he has the stuff to silence an opposing lineup for nine innings.
Is there a more underappreciated player in baseball than Tommy Edman?
His .259/.322/.377 batting line and 102 OPS+ don’t jump off the screen, but Edman has been one of MLB’s most valuable players this year.
Aside from becoming a better leadoff hitter by raising his walk rate from 5.5 to 7.8 percent, he has also statistically been the best baserunner in the game. He’s provided elite defense at second base (404.2 INN, 11 DRS, 4.7 UZR/150) and shortstop (365.0 INN, 6 DRS, 12.7 UZR/150) as well.
All of that has been worth 4.4 WAR, a total that trails only Sandy Alcantara (5.3), Nolan Arenado (5.0), Shohei Ohtani (4.9) and Paul Goldschmidt (4.8) among all players, yet he was snubbed from the All-Star Game.
Speed and defense are more regression-proof than any other facets of the game. Don’t be surprised if Edman ends the 2022 season as baseball’s WAR leader.
When a player has 30 home runs before the All-Star break, it’s hard not to start talking about a run at the elusive 60-homer club.
There have been 41 total seasons in which a player has tallied at least 30 home runs before the Midsummer Classic. With two home runs on the Saturday before the All-Star break, Aaron Judge ran his season total to 33, tying Roger Maris for the New York Yankees’ first-half record.
The Yankees played only 82 games before the All-Star break in 1961 when Maris reached the mark, while the 2022 Yankees have already played 92 games, so Judge is behind Maris’ pace at this point.
However, Judge went through a drought at the beginning of July where he homered just twice in 12 games before his two-homer performance on Saturday, so he could easily close the gap if he heats back up.
In a contract year, and with the Yankees looking like bona fide World Series contenders, expect Judge to bring it during the second half as he makes a run at history.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association haven’t been able to agree on much over the years, and the gap between the new sides was abundantly clear in the contentious negotiations leading up to the new collective bargaining agreement.
However, they do seem to be able to agree on one thing: the idea of potential expansion.
While MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said sorting out the stadium situations in Tampa Bay and Oakland is the No. 1 priority, there continue to be rumblings about possible expansion. MLBPA president Tony Clark has come out in support of expanding the league to 32 teams.
It might not happen in 2023, but there seems to be some real momentum toward expansion. It wouldn’t be surprising to see MLB announce those plans in the near future, even if it doesn’t happen until several years down the road.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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