2022 MLB Season Preview

Hello readers of Music City Drive-In! With the calendar turning to Spring, that means one thing and one thing only. Baseball is back. The MLB season was in jeopardy over the winter, with the owners locking out the players for 99 days total until a new collective bargaining agreement could be signed by MLB and the MLBPA. There are a few new rules this season that are going to change the way the game looks like because of the new CBA, including the universal DH. Many people have opinions on this new rule, but truth be told pitchers in the National League hit a combined .111 last season. We all love watching pitchers flail at the plate as entertainment and at the end of the day this will change the way the game is played, but it should be good for baseball. It will speed the game up and hopefully make the game more interesting, appealing to more fans to be able to grow the game.

If there is one thing MLB is bad at, it is connecting with a younger fan base that will take the popularity of the sport to the next level. It has increasingly fallen behind the NFL and NBA in recent years because of the three true outcomes and there being very little action during a day at the ballpark. For baseball to grow like it needs to, there had to be changes to how it is played. The universal DH is one of the first steps. Including the new “Shohei Ohtani” rule, MLB got these rule changes correct. That rule indicates that if a pitcher is pulled, their team does not lose the DH spot like in recent years when Ohtani pitched. He was either removed from the game or moved to right field after being pulled to get an extra at bat.

All in all, the new CBA included a few wins for the players. We get a full season, albeit one that is shortened by a week but includes a full 162 games for each team. MLB was able to accomplish that by including games on mutual off days as well as scheduling doubleheaders between teams. The 7-inning doubleheader is gone, so at least we won’t have to hear about whether a no-hitter during a 7-inning game should count in the record books. At the end of the day, we have real baseball starting this week which is great for everyone. Let’s get to our breakdowns of each division and at the end, I will give my picks for division winners, wild card participants as well as a World Series prediction.

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays – 97-65

The Blue Jays should be the cream of the crop in a crowded AL East this year. The starting pitching leaves a bit to be desired, but that offense should be lethal. The lineup shouldn’t have a weakness in it, 1-9. If they can outscore their opponents, it won’t matter if the starting pitching is league average.  

Tampa Bay Rays – 94-68

The Rays are here because for some reason no matter how much they sell, they keep bringing up prospects that are impact players. Oh, and Wander Franco. Franco could potentially be the best shortstop in the American League by the end of the year. With the bullpen the Rays always have, look for Kevin Cash to compete for the AL East title and at least get the first Wild Card spot.

Boston Red Sox – 92-70

Boston made a big splash right after the lockout ended by signing Trevor Story to a 6-year, 140-million-dollar deal to play second base this year. This not only gives the Red Sox the best middle infield in the AL East, it also represents a hedge against Xander Bogaarts opting out of his current deal at the end of the year. If Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi can stay healthy, look for this team to contend.

New York Yankees – 90-72

Yankees fans are not going to like to hear this, but this team is no better than it was a year ago. There were many options out there in free agency that could have represented a huge boost to the offense (*cough* Carlos Correa *cough* Corey Seager *cough*) but all New York did was bring back Anthony Rizzo. This team is going to strike out a lot and leave a lot to be desired, but hey at least they saved some money to give to Aaron Judge on an extension.

Baltimore Orioles – 65-97

The Orioles have been bad since the beginning of the 2010’s, and that is going to continue this season. Orioles fans at least get to watch Cedric Mullins do fun things in center field until they inevitably trade him for prospects at the deadline. Adley Rutschman should be up sometime this year after his current rehab stint, so Baltimore fans have that to look forward to as well.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – 95-67

If the White Sox can stay healthy, they South Siders should run away with the AL Central. They have the best rotation potentially in the American League with an offense that can carry them if the pitching staff has an off day. The lineup has mashers up and down the order, look for Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez both to push for 40 homers each this season if healthy.

Minnesota Twins – 85-77

The Twins got Carlos Correa on a 3-year deal that is effectively a 1-year pact, but they have shown they are going for it. Trading for Sonny Gray gives them another sure-fire starter as well. Minnesota will be Chicago’s biggest challenge in the Central this year, but the lack of offense around Correa will ultimately leave them on the outside looking in when it comes to the expanded playoffs.

Kansas City Royals – 82-80

Kansas City is finally starting to round the corner on their rebuild, with a stable full of young starting pitchers with impact prospects ready to make their debuts in 2022. Bobby Witt Jr. should be a front runner for rookie of the year as soon as he debuts.

Cleveland Guardians – 81-81

Jose Ramirez cannot play every position, even though the Guardians wish he could. The pitching depth will keep this team close to .500 but there just won’t be enough offense to put them in playoff contention. Just like the Cleveland owners want it to be.

Detroit Tigers – 75-87

The Tigers made some big splashes in free agency, signing Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez to big money deals. Spencer Torkelson will make his debut on opening day and the young starters are all going into their second season in the big leagues. However, I believe this team is still a year away from competing.

AL West

Seattle Mariners – 92-70

Give him credit, after missing the playoffs by a few games last season Jerry Dipoto is going for it. After signing Robby Ray to a big free agent deal, the Mariners are set up to take the division from the Astros this year. If prospects like Julio Rodriguez and Jared Kelenic can break out, this team could be dangerous.

Houston Astros – 91-71

Letting Carlos Correa walk could be the reason why Houston misses the playoffs this season. While getting Justin Verlander back will be a huge boon to their rotation, the lineup just doesn’t look the same without Correa in the middle of it. Relying on prospects to man the most important position on the field could backfire badly for the Astros.

Los Angeles Angels – 89-73

Shohei Ohtani had a new rule created for him because of the new CBA, and I’m sure Joe Maddon is happy about it. If the risks the Angels took on signing Noah Syndergaard and other high-risk starters this offseason pay off, they could make the playoffs for only the second time in Mike Trout’s career.

Oakland Athletics – 74-88

Billy Beane and the Athletics are in full-blown sell mode again, what’s new? After dealing the Matts (Matt Olson and Chapman) they have now traded Chris Bassit and Shawn Manea as well from their starting rotation. This team should be bad.

Texas Rangers – 72-90

The Rangers spent over 500 million dollars on free agents this offseason, but even that won’t have them sniffing .500 ball. Corey Seager and Marcus Siemien make this team better up the middle, but there are too many holes around the rest of the diamond to predict anything but a bottom of the barrel club.

NL East

Atlanta Braves – 94-68

The defending World Series champions let Freddie Freeman walk in free agency this offseason, but replaced him with a younger, similar bat in Matt Olson. It is always tough to watch the face of the franchise leave, but Liberty Media wanted to pinch some pennies. The rotation should be lethal, headlined by Max Fried and Ian Anderson. Look for the Braves to repeat as NL East champs and contend for a second consecutive World Series.

New York Mets – 88-74

The Mets cannot stay healthy. As of this writing, Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom are both expected to miss their first scheduled starts of the season, with DeGrom likely to miss at least a month. For this team to live up to Steve Cohen’s checkbook, those two guys are going to have to get back soon. Otherwise, this could be not only the first 300-million-dollar team to exist but also to miss the playoffs.

Philadelphia Phillies – 84-78

This offense is going to be fun. The defense? Not so much. Signing Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos gives this team plenty of pop to go with Bryce Harper, but the outfield defense leaves a lot to be desired. However, they will score plenty of runs to make up for bad defense.

Miami Marlins – 80-82

The Marlins are close. The rotation they have is hard-throwing and has a lot of depth at the upper end of the minors as well. However, the position players are not very good. If they could sneak into the playoffs, the rotation could carry them but that is highly doubtful to happen.

Washington Nationals – 74-88

The rebuild is on in the nation’s capital. Mike Rizzo doesn’t want to waste Stephen Strasburg or Juan Soto’s prime by going through an extended rebuild, but there just is not much here to keep them out of the basement in the NL East.

NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers – 95-67

The Brewers have the best pitching staff in the NL, bar none. Headlined by Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddie Peralta, the starting rotation can stack up against anyone in the majors. If they can get a bounce-back year from Christian Yelich to his MVP form from 2018-2019, then this team can win the NL Pennant.

St. Louis Cardinals – 85-77

Albert Pujols is back for one last ride, and you would think it is 2005 again with Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright all in a Cardinals uniform together again. Unless a few no-name prospects come up and rake like the Cardinals always seem to bring up, they should finish a distant second in the NL Central to the Brewers.

Chicago Cubs – 76-86

There were a lot of free agents that made sense for the Cubs to sign, but they would have had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make this team an on-paper contender. Marcus Stroman gives them another starter to eat up some innings, but the Cubs seem to be punting in 2022 so their prospects at the lower end of the minors can grow a bit more.

Cincinnati Reds – 74-88

The Reds have sold off a lot of their talent heading into 2022. Trading away Sonny Gray, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez would make a lot of fan bases angry, but it is just par for the course for the Reds. They will try to compete this season, but don’t look for them to win many games.

Pittsburg Pirates – 62-100

The Pirates are the Pirates. They are going to be bad and there won’t be much to watch when they are playing. They already designated their top prospect, 6’7” shortstop Oneil Cruz, for more “development” even though their shortstops had an OPS under.600 last season.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers – 101-61

The best lineup in the NL got a lot better when the Dodgers inked Freddie Freeman to a deal. Adding his bat at first base moves Max Muncy to full-time DH role, which makes this offense incredibly scary. Add in the fact that their rotation has Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw headlining it, and they may get revenge on Freeman’s former team in the playoffs this October.

San Diego Padres – 94-68

Fernando Tatis is currently hurt, so the Padres will be less than 100% starting the year. They have a great rotation though that rival any in the NL, having just traded for Shawn Manea from the Athletics. If they can avoid the injury bug that plagued them last season, they’ll snag a Wild Card spot.

San Fransisco Giants – 92-70

The Giants played to the absolute top-end of their talent last year, winning the NL West last season. I expect them to go back to the mean this season, having lost Kris Bryant and Kevin Gausman to free agency. Gabe Kapler made every correct decision last year; it will be a tall task to repeat that in 2022.

Colorado Rockies – 75-87

Colorado is in a constant state of purgatory. They want to give off the impression that they are trying to compete, but trade away players like Nolan Arenado and let guys like Trevor Story and Jon Gray walk while signing Kris Bryant to an almost 200-million-dollar deal. A lot will have to go right for this team to hit .500.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 69-93

Just like the Pirates, the Diamondbacks aren’t really trying right now. Can you blame them? The NL West is stacked right now, and Ketel Marte can’t carry this team to a division title. Arizona will bide their time in the basement until the other teams in the division maybe fall back a bit.

AL Pennant Winner – Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays finally come to the top of the AL East and blow past the rest of the AL to get to the World Series. The offense carries this team and the rotation, lead by Kevin Gausman and a healthy Hyun Jin Ryu and a slew of top prospects, becomes the best in the AL.

NL Pennant Winner – Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers have been knocking on the door for a few years now, and with a bounce back year from Christian Yelich they finally get over the hump and make it to the World Series on the back of their stellar rotation.

World Series Champion – Toronto Blue Jays

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