By MLB Correspondent D. Higgins
Previewing MLB in 2022
It’s that time again: Baseball season is back. “Let’s go, batter up, we’re taking the afternoon off… It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame!”
Let’s see how my 2022 predictions shake out. Last year, my predictions were a mixed bag, but this time I’m sure to be 100% correct, right? (Probably not…)
Is it a World Championship or bust for the Dodgers? Are the Angels going to finally get Mike Trout back to the postseason? Are the Giants going to surprise everybody again with another 107-win season? Are the Rays going to keep coming out on top in a very competitive AL East? Are the poor Orioles capable of winning more than 60 games? Come back in October to check and see how I did!
Los Angeles Dodgers
Before I get to my overall MLB predictions, let’s take a long look at our home team.
The 2021 Dodgers ran off a historic 106-win season, finishing a game behind the surprising Giants in the division before walking off against the Cardinals in a do-or-die Wild Card game and then beating San Francisco in a thrilling 5-game NLDS. Ultimately, however, the Dodgers were beaten up by injuries and fell short against the eventual World Champion Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.
Re-tooling for 2022, the Dodgers made several key roster changes, but are still the consensus pick to win the World Series this year. Let’s check in on the offseason moves:
•Future-hall-of-famer Clayton Kershaw re-signed with the Dodgers the day after the lockout ended for 1 year and $17M. If healthy, Kershaw can still be a top 3 starter. He had a great spring training and appears ready to continue his winning path.
•Outfielder Cody Bellinger agreed to a one-year, $17 million deal. He is in his walk-year, looking to return to his MVP form after an injury-plagued 2021 (although he had some big moments in the postseason).
•Super utility man Chris Taylor signed a four-year, $60 million deal to stay with the Dodgers. He will continue to fill his role all over the field, most likely in LF, as well as taking some at-bats at DH.
•Freddie Freeman (1B): It took $162M and a 6-year deal to get Freeman out of Atlanta, the place where he spent the first 15 years of career. He comes back to his SoCal roots to add his All-Star, Gold-Glove, and MVP skills to first base for the Dodgers through the year 2027. Indisputably one of the best hitters in baseball, Freeman also has an excellent track record of being healthy and consistent.
•Craig Kimbrel (RHP): Speaking of former Braves… The Dodgers pulled off another surprising trade, acquiring eight-time all-star closer Craig Kimbrel for AJ Pollock on April 1. The trade filled a need for both teams, with the Sox adding a much-needed OF bat and the Dodgers adding to their strong bullpen with a proven veteran closer. He has one year and $16M remaining on a deal he signed with the Cubs 3 years ago.
•Daniel Hudson (RHP): The Dodgers added the experienced Hudson to fill valuable bullpen innings. He returns to the Dodgers on a 1-year deal for $7M (he pitched in 40 effective games for the Dodgers in 2018)
•Andrew Heaney (LHP): The starter signed a 1-year deal for $8.5M, looking to revive his stuff in the back-end of the rotation after an up-and-down 2021.
•Tyler Anderson (LHP): Signing a 1-year, $8M contract, the 32-year-old lefty starter will be expected to eat some innings in the rotation until reinforcements arrive mid-season in the form of Dustin May and/or pitchers acquired via trade.
•Hanser Alberto (IF): The Dodgers gave the versatile defender a 1-year, $1.6M deal (with an option for the 2023 season). Alberto can fill in all over the infield and is one of the toughest players to strike out in baseball.
•Corey Seager: signed a mega-deal with the Texas Rangers ($324M/10 years)
•Kenley Jansen: signed a 1-year, $16M deal with the Atlanta Braves
•Max Scherzer: signed for 3 years and $134M with the New York Mets
•AJ Pollock: traded to the White Sox for Craig Kimbrel on April 1
•Joe Kelly signed a 2-year deal with the White Sox for $17M.
•Albert Pujols signed one final contract, reuniting with the Cardinals for one last season on a $2.5M deal.
•Reliever Corey Knebel signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Phillies
•Bench players Matt Beaty, Billy McKinney, Zach Reks, Luke Raley, and Sheldon Neuse were traded away or DFA.
You would think that a team that lost Seager, Jansen, Scherzer, Pujols, Pollock, and Kelly were having a fire sale, but the Dodgers are so loaded that they will pick right up where they left off thanks to major additions like Freeman and Kimbrel. With this mixture of new and old faces, the Dodgers are very determined and talented. The sky is the limit for this team, and they have the depth to withstand any prolonged slumps or injuries.
With MLB getting a late start due to the offseason’s labor issues, the league is allowing 28-man rosters through May 1 (after that, rosters go back down to 26 players, including a 13-pitcher limit). Many pitchers are simply not built up or on track to begin the season, so the Dodgers will go with an enormous 16-man pitching staff and a 12-man position player roster (opening the season against the Rockies with a 3-game series in offense-heavy Coors Field helped with that decision, too).
Keep in mind that this is just the Dodgers’ roster to start the season; they will send many players up & down from the minors to build a championship roster as the year goes on.
1) Mookie Betts – RF
2) Freddie Freeman -1B
3) Trea Turner – SS
4) Justin Turner – 3B/DH
5) Max Muncy – 2B/DH
6) Will Smith – C
7) Chris Taylor – LF/Util
8) Cody Bellinger – CF
9) Gavin Lux – 2B/Util
Austin Barnes (C), Edwin Rios (IF), Hanser Alberto (IF)
*Minor League Depth:
Jake Lamb (OF), Kevin Pillar (OF), Zach McKinstry (IF/OF), Andy Burns (IF), Eddy Alvarez (IF)
*Position Player Prospects to Watch:
Jacob Amaya (IF), Eddys Leonard (IF), Andy Pages (OF), Miguel Vargas (IF)
1) Walker Buehler
2) Julio Urias
3) Clayton Kershaw
4) Andrew Heaney
5) Tony Gonsolin
RHP: Craig Kimbrel, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, Daniel Hudson, Mitch White, Evan Phillips
LHP: Alex Vesia, David Price, Tyler Anderson, Garrett Cleavinger, Justin Bruhil
*On the injured list, but ready soon:
Victor Gonzalez, Caleb Ferguson, Tommy Kahnle, Danny Duffy, Jimmy Nelson, Dustin May
*Pitching Prospects to Watch:
Michael Grove, Andre Jackson, Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot
*Now it’s time for my predictions for the 2022 MLB season. Last year, I predicted a Dodgers vs Yankees World Series (which was wrong on both ends), and my division winners included the Astros, White Sox, and Yankees in the AL, and the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Braves in the NL (not too shabby). My wildcard teams were the Padres and Mets (I was dead wrong); and my AL wildcard teams were the Twins and Blue Jays (even deader wrong).
Here are my predictions for the 2022 standings:
|NL WEST||NL CENTRAL||NL EAST|
|1. Los Angeles Dodgers|
2. San Diego Padres*
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies
|1. Milwaukee Brewers|
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
|1. Atlanta Braves|
2. New York Mets*
3. Philadelphia Phillies*
4. Miami Marlins
5. Washington Nationals
|AL WEST||AL CENTRAL||AL EAST|
|1. Houston Astros|
2. Los Angeles Angels*
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers
5. Oakland A’s
|1. Chicago White Sox|
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Cleveland Guardians
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals
|1. Toronto Blue Jays|
2. Tampa Bay Rays*
3. Boston Red Sox*
4. New York Yankees
5. Baltimore Orioles
(Note: Starting this season, the MLB postseason will feature 12 teams–the three division winners and three wild card teams. The teams will be seeded, with the top two division winners receiving a first-round bye, and the remaining four teams locked into a best-of-three Wild Card Playoff round. After that, the Division Series and Championship Series will commence as they have been for years.)
In the American League, the Blue Jays are a hot pick this year thanks to a young and powerful lineup. The Astros keep plugging along and filling holes after several key departures like Carlos Correa (MIN) and George Springer (TOR) last season, and you can never count them out. Still, I think the White Sox will win the American League pennant due to a balanced veteran lineup, solid rotation, and a shutdown bullpen.
Ultimately however, this is the Dodgers’ year. Anything short of a championship would be a disappointment. As a lifelong fan, I am, of course, rooting for the Dodgers, too. But it’s not just a homer pick–the players, fans, and experts all around MLB feel the same way. Barring a disastrous injury to a key player like Trea Turner, or Betts, Freeman, or Buehler, everything is lining up for a fun & memorable season. They are the class of the National League and should win their fourth pennant in the last six seasons, as well as a championship.