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    Five Bold Takes For The 2022 MLB Season

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    A new year means a new Major League Baseball season is rapidly approaching, hopefully. With lockout discussions reportedly not moving, we can only hope the Players Association and Major League Baseball are able to agree on terms to resume the offseason and get baseball activities started as soon as possible. While we are waiting for this to happen, here are five bold takes for the 2022 MLB season.

    The Toronto Blue Jays have the best record in Major League Baseball and win the World Series

    Despite narrowly missing the postseason by a game last season, the Toronto Blue Jays showed that they were one of the best teams in MLB last season and for years to come. The Blue Jays’ 113 team wRC+ was the second-best in MLB last season, only behind the American League champion Houston Astros. Additionally, the Blue Jays’ 3.91 team ERA was the tenth best in MLB last season. Among teams that ranked top 10 in both wRC+ and ERA, the Blue Jays were the only team that missed the postseason. While Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien were a big part of what the Jays were able to do last season, I’m not overly concerned with their departures. Just before Ray signed with the Seattle Mariners, the Blue Jays signed Kevin Gausman. Although Ray won the American League Cy Young and Gausman didn’t finish top five in the National League Cy Young voting, they were very similar pitchers in 2021.

    Via FanGraphs.com

    While losing the reigning AL Cy Young is a blow to the team, the Blue Jays did a good job replacing Ray. Despite doing a good job replacing Ray, the Blue Jays have yet to do anything out of house to replace Semien. Unless they trade for a superstar like Jose Ramirez, it is highly unlikely the Jays can replicate Semien’s 2021, but their lineup should be great nonetheless. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had an MVP-type season in 2021, Teoscar Hernandez has been one of the best hitters in the American League since 2020, Bo Bichette has been great at the plate since debuting in 2019, and a healthy Geroge Springer is one of the premier bats in Major League Baseball. If the Jays can get any of Cavan Biggio to return to 2019 form, Santiago Espinal to perform as he did last season, or Alejandro Kirk to become one of the best offensive catchers in baseball, it would be an added bonus to form an elite lineup. My only concern with the Blue Jays roster is their bullpen. Jordan Romano and Tim Mayza both had great seasons in 2021, but I think the Blue Jays need to add a couple more quality arms to their bullpen. Backed by a top-five lineup and starting rotation in 2022, the Blue Jays will finish with MLB’s best record and win the World Series.

    Jeremy Peña wins the American League Rookie of the Year

    Some order of Adley Rutschman, Spencer Torkelson, Bobby Witt Jr., and Julio Rodriguez will likely be the consensus top four in preseason American League Rookie of the Year predictions. While all of these guys are extremely talented and could definitely end up winning the award, Jeremey Peña is a darkhorse to be the one taking home the honors. At the time of writing this, Carlos Correa is still a free agent, so there’s still a chance he returns to Houston, but it’s looking unlikely. If Houston fails to sign Correa, they could make a trade or signing to bring in another infielder, but this take is under the assumption that they do not. Peña has only played in 37 games over the last two seasons due to COVID-19 and a wrist injury, but he will be 24 years old when the 2022 season begins, so he could be on the active roster shortly after Opening Day. Under the assumption that the Astros don’t add any infielders to their active roster before Opening Day, Aledmys Diaz would likely be the primary starter until Peña is called up. Diaz is better suited as a utility man off the bench than every day shortstop, so I don’t think it’d take much time for Peña to be called up if he’s playing well in AAA. In addition to playing shortstop, Peña can play second and third base so if Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, or Diaz need to go onto the IL, he could be an immediate replacement. Peña’s bat has been very good throughout his Minor League career and FanGraphs’ 2021 Updated Prospect Report graded his fielding a 55/60. If he gets enough plate appearances, look out for Jeremy Peña to have a big rookie season in 2022.

    The San Diego Padres Win The NL West

    The NL West figured to be a two-team race between the Padres and Dodgers at the start of 2021, but it was the Giants who won the division with a league-leading 108 wins. The Dodgers were able to make it to the National League Championship Series, but the Padres didn’t even finish above .500. Between Fernando Tatis Jr.’s shoulder injury and temporary switch to the outfield, Blake Snell struggling for most of the season, the botched trade for Max Scherzer, or their painful second-half collapse, the Padres 2021 season was a complete disappointment. Although their 2021 season was disappointing, the Padres roster is once again very talented going into 2022. Although talented, there are still some improvements the Padres should look to make. Besides Trent Grisham, the Padres outfield looks bleak at the moment. There are many quality options available when free agency eventually resumes including Michael Conforto, Kyle Schwarber, Seiya Suzuki, and Nick Castellanos among others. I wouldn’t be surprised if the aggressive A.J. Preller signs any of these players to man one of the corner outfield spots. The Padres have one of the best infields in baseball, but Eric Hosmer is not a very good first baseman. There have been rumors that the Padres have been looking to trade Hosmer — and his ugly contract — so the Padres might look into acquiring a veteran like Anthony Rizzo. With just a couple of moves, the Padres lineup could go from good to elite. While I still think the Dodgers and Giants will be very good, don’t be surprised if the Padres win the NL West.

    The Miami Marlins have the most surprising season

    Without a doubt, the San Francisco Giants had the most surprising 2021 season. While I don’t think the Marlins will win over 100 games or win the NL East, I think they will finish above .500 and stay competitive through September. With the World Series defending Braves and big money Mets in their division, it will be tough for the Marlins to make the postseason, but not close to impossible. What will carry the Marlins in 2022 is their pitching staff. Headlined by Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers, the Marlins rotation has the potential to be among the league’s best in 2022. Alcantara pitched over 200 innings in 2021 to a 3.19 ERA while Rogers finished as the runner up for the NL Rookie of the Year after pitching 133 innings to a marvelous 2.64 ERA. Behind them, Pablo Lopez figures to be the number three starter, if he is not traded. Lopez was having a great season, but his season was cut short up until game 162 due to a shoulder injury. In his 102.2 innings pitched, Lopez had a 3.07 ERA. The Marlins may ultimately decide to trade Lopez and acquire an impact bat due to their rotation depth in the minor leagues, but he will be a great number three starter should he be on the team. The fourth and fifth rotation spots will likely be occupied by Elieser Hernandez and Jesus Luzardo to start the season, but that could change later on in the season due to the likes of Sixto Sanchez, Max Meyer, Edward Cabrera, Max Meyer waiting in the wings of the Marlins farm system. Hernandez and Luzardo both have shown their potential, but 2021 wasn’t kind to them as Hernandez was only able to pitch 50 innings due to a bicep injury and Luzardo struggled to a 6.61 ERA. The Marlins already brought in veterans Jacob Stallings, Joey Wendle, and Avaisail Garcia this offseason, but adding an impact bat like Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos could pay big dividends. Look out for the Marlins as a sleeper team in 2022.

    Byron Buxton stays healthy and finishes the season with the highest WAR among position players

    Despite only playing in over 100 games one time in a season, the Twins gave Byron Buxton a seven-year $100 million contract extension. When he was on the field in 2021, Buxton was one of the best players in Major League Baseball. The problem is that he was only on the field for 61 games. Despite this, Buxton’s 4.1 fWAR was higher than Nolan Arenado’s (159 games played), Mookie Betts, (122 games player), and Kris Bryant’s (144 games played). Buxton is such a great player because he does everything on the field at such a high level. Buxton had a spectacular 169 wRC+ hitting for both a high average (.306) and tremendous power (.340). Combined with his great bat, Buxton’s 99th percentile sprint speed helps him on the bases (4.4 BsR) and in the field (7 OAA which was in the 94th percentile). Had Buxton played in 150 games in 2021, he was on pace to have a league-best 10.3 fWAR, 2.2 higher than Shohei Ohtani’s combined pitching and offensive 8.1 fWAR. Buxton has all of the skills to lead the league in WAR, it’s just a matter of if he can stay on the field for a full season.

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    I am a 12th grader from New York City who enjoys writing about Major League Baseball. @mlbzone_ on Instagram

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    Justin Girshon
    I am a 12th grader from New York City who enjoys writing about Major League Baseball. @mlbzone_ on Instagram

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