The 15 Biggest Disappointments of the MLB Season so Far

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVAugust 14, 2022

The 15 Biggest Disappointments of the MLB Season so Far

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 9: Starting pitcher Lance Lynn #33 of the Chicago White Sox throws in the first inning during the first game of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 9, 2022, in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    MLB's biggest disappointments come in all shapes and sizes.

    There are rookies who have failed to live up to the hype, players making eight figures but providing below-replacement-level value, preseason MVP candidates who have fallen out of the running for those honors and others who simply haven't been anywhere near as valuable (or available) as they were one season ago.

    In every case, we're left to wonder how things might have played out if the disappointing player had delivered what was expected in 2022.

    If the Chicago White Sox were getting any positive return for the more than $54 million they're paying Lance Lynn, Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel this season, would they be running away with the American League Central?

    If Nick Castellanos were hitting anywhere close to the level he reached in 2021—and serving as the Philadelphia Phillies' designated hitter instead of playing right field in Bryce Harper's stead—would the Phils be ahead of the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves?

    And if Patrick Corbin weren't having one of the worst seasons by a starting pitcher in history...well, OK, the Washington Nationals would still be terrible. But at least they'd feel a little better about all that money they're paying him, right?

    You know what? Let's just start there.

Patrick Corbin, LHP, Washington Nationals

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 06: Pitcher Patrick Corbin #46 of the Washington Nationals delivers a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of a game at Citizens Bank Park on August 6, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    With a $23.4 million salary, Patrick Corbin is the 10th-highest-paid starting pitcher this season.

    But he is scuffling through what may go down as one of the 10 worst seasons of all time.

    Through 18 starts, Corbin had a 5.70 ERA. It was bad, but at least it was better than last year, when he allowed a season-worst 111 earned runs and finished with a 5.82 ERA.

    Over the past month, however, Corbin has been an unmitigated disaster, approaching historic levels of ineptitude.

    He has allowed 26 earned runs in his last 15.2 innings, good for a 14.94 ERA. He twice failed to even survive the first inning, putting up identical lines of 0.2 IP and 6 ER against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Phillies.

    He now has a 7.02 ERA and a Baseball Reference WAR of negative-2.5.

    If the season ended today, Corbin would become the 21st pitcher in MLB history, the ninth since 1940 and the first since Colby Lewis in 2003 to log at least 110 innings with an ERA of 7.00 or worse. And on the value "added" front, Corbin is one of just six pitchers in the divisional era (aka since 1969) to pitch at least 110 innings and produce a bWAR of negative-2.5 or worse.

    And if that's not bad enough, the Nationals still owe Corbin $24.4 million for next season and $35.4 million for 2024.

Nick Castellanos, RF, Philadelphia Phillies

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 09: Nick Castellanos #8 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on August 9, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Nick Castellanos had an excellent 2021 season with the Cincinnati Reds, batting .309 with 34 home runs and 100 RBI—in just 138 games, no less. Though he entered that season with a career OPS of .796 and zero All-Star Games or MVP votes to his name, the Phillies bet big that Castellanos could replicate his success, giving him a five-year, $100 million deal in free agency.

    Their return on that investment has been dreadful.

    To his credit, Castellanos was solid early. Through 30 team games, he was batting .311 with five home runs and 13 extra-base hits. Maintain that pace, and he would have been an All-Star and fringe National League MVP candidate for the second consecutive season.

    But in 82 games from May 11 through Aug. 12, Castellanos batted .238 with five home runs, 19 extra-base hits and 4.6 strikeouts per walk.

    Worse yet, because Bryce Harper has been unable to throw a baseball since mid-April, the Phillies have used Castellanos and his woefully rated defense in right field on a nightly basis. Per FanGraphs, he has a defensive rating of negative-108.4 since the beginning of 2014. Among the 481 qualified players in that same time frame, only Nelson Cruz and Eric Hosmer have rated worse.

    Thanks in part to that poor defense, Castellanos has been worth negative-0.5 bWAR and ranks last among qualified hitters with negative-1.1 FanGraphs WAR.

The Chicago White Sox' $18 Million Club

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    DENVER, CO - JULY 26: Chicago White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal (24) looks on as he catches during a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 26, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The theoretical value of a single win above replacement changes on at least an annual basis, but the general rule of thumb has been that a player is worth between $4 million and $5 million per WAR.

    That means if a player is being paid, oh, let's say $18 million for one season, they are supposed to produce a WAR in the 3.6-4.5 range. Anything more than 4.5, and the team is getting a bargain. Anything less than 3.6, and the team isn't getting what it paid for.

    The White Sox opened this season with three players in that price range: Lance Lynn at $18.5 million, Yasmani Grandal at $18.3 million and Dallas Keuchel at $18 million. With those three high-priced veterans, Chicago could have expected at least 11.0 WAR—and preferred more than 13.7 WAR.

    What it's gotten is negative-3.0 bWAR.

    (Factor in the positive-3.0 bWAR that Chicago has gotten in exchange for paying Jose Abreu $19.7 million and, voilà, the White Sox spent a combined $74.5 million for 0.0 wins above replacement. Ouch.)

    Keuchel had a 7.88 ERA in eight starts before he was designated for assignment. (He was even worse in four subsequent appearances with the Arizona Diamondbacks.) Lynn missed the first two months of the season with a knee injury and has a 5.88 ERA through 11 starts. But Grandal might be the biggest disappointment of the bunch with a slugging percentage (.264) that's barely even half of what he finished with last season (.520).

    A seemingly endless string of injuries and frequent questionable decisions by manager Tony La Russa undoubtedly have contributed to Chicago's underwhelming season, but that the White Sox have been robbed blind by those three players this season is the biggest reason the team has been a colossal disappointment.

Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Detroit Tigers

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    DETROIT, MI -  JULY 1:  Spencer Torkelson #20 of the Detroit Tigers takes off his gear after getting hit in the head with a pitch against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park on July 1, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    The Detroit Tigers' Spencer Torkelson entered the season as one of the top candidates for AL Rookie of the Year. Kansas City's Bobby Witt Jr. was the favorite, but Torkelson was No. 2 on the board (per Sports Betting Dime), slightly ahead of Julio Rodriguez, Adley Rutschman, Shane Baz and Jeremy Pena.

    And why wouldn't he have been in such a position? MLB.com and Baseball America rated Torkelson as a top-five prospect heading into the 2021 and 2022 seasons. He had a 1.192 OPS in three seasons at Arizona State, was the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft and mashed 30 home runs in the minor leagues in 2021.

    All signs pointed toward greatness for the Opening Day starter.

    But aside from hitting three home runs in his first 13 games, things did not go according to plan.

    After 29 games, Torkelson had nearly three times as many strikeouts (35) as hits (13) as well as a .258 slugging percentage. He improved marginally over the next two months, but the Tigers finally threw in the towel and sent him back to Toledo in mid-July with a .197 batting average and .295 slugging percentage. He averaged one home run for every 60 trips to the plate.

    That change of scenery hasn't done anything to help, either. Through 89 plate appearances in Triple-A, Torkelson is hitting .195 with 27 whiffs.

C.J. Abrams, SS, Washington Nationals

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 7:   C.J. Abrams #77 of the San Diego Padres is tagged out by Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants as hes caught in a run down during the third inning of a baseball game July 7, 2022 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Much like with Spencer Torkelson, preseason expectations for C.J. Abrams were sky-high.

    The San Diego Padres selected the shortstop sixth in the 2019 draft. He was a top-11 prospect before the 2021 and 2022 seasons, according to MLB.com, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. And when Fernando Tatis Jr.'s mid-March wrist surgery opened the door for Abrams to potentially play every day, he quickly became a top-five candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, per Sports Betting Dime.

    Those lofty expectations fizzled out in a hurry, though, as Abrams finished April with a .146 batting average and on the wrong end of a timeshare at shortstop with Ha-Seong Kim.

    By May 11, Abrams was back in Triple-A. But unlike Torkelson, he thrived in that return to the minors, batting .314 with seven home runs and 10 stolen bases in 30 games.

    Abrams got called back up in mid-June, but he left his power and speed in El Paso. In 26 games with San Diego before he was dealt to Washington in the Juan Soto trade, he hit .271 with one homer and zero stolen bases.

    All told, he batted .232 with two home runs and one stolen base in 139 MLB plate appearances—more or less one-fifth of a full season for an everyday player.

    To be fair, Mike Trout didn't get out to a much better start. In 135 plate appearances in 2011, the future three-time AL MVP hit .220. He didn't even start the following season in the majors. Abrams might still be a phenom as early as 2023. But there's no question this season has been a disappointment.

Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 23: Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres looks on  during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies June 23, 2022 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    The player who was supposed to replace Fernando Tatis Jr. as San Diego's temporary shortstop has been a disappointment, but the biggest disappointment is that the Padres need a permanent "temporary" solution at shortstop.

    When news of Tatis' broken wrist surfaced in mid-March, he reportedly was going to be out for "up to" three months. That sure sounded like a worst-case scenario of mid-June.

    In mid-May, the expectation became late June.

    Then in mid-June, after scans of his wrist revealed his recovery wasn't up to par, it turned into a "week-to-week," maybe in July situation.

    In late June, Tatis' timeline became late July, maybe early August.

    Then, five months after the initial diagnosis, when he had just finally started to play rehab games, news broke Friday evening that Tatis was suspended 80 games for violating MLB's performance-enhancing drug policy. That means he'll miss the rest of this season plus as many as the first 32 games next season.

    Injuries happen, and it's hardly unusual for a player's rehab to take longer than expected. But Tatis' absence feels especially disappointing because he led all batters in fWAR in 2021 and was a top candidate for NL MVP prior to the injury and the whole thing turned into a "Boy Who Cried 'Wolf!'" saga in which it was getting hard to believe he was actually going to play this season.

    A special shoutout to my fellow fantasy baseball fanatics who had to use a first-round pick to stash Tatis on the injured list for the past four months. At least we are done checking for updates on a daily basis.

Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 04: Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch during the first inning against the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium on June 04, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
    Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

    From 2018 to 2021, Walker Buehler was one of the most valuable pitchers in the majors.

    Though he wasn't operating quite at the same level as Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer or Gerrit Cole, he had a cumulative 2.82 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings with 58 quality starts (in 94 starts). He twice finished in the top 10 in the NL Cy Young Award vote.

    Things haven't gone nearly as well this year for the Dodgers' Opening Day starter.

    Buehler did toss a complete-game shutout against the Diamondbacks in late April and had a sub-2.00 ERA after six starts. However, he had a 6.67 ERA in his next six starts before landing on the IL in mid-June with a strained forearm.

    A few days later, he had surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow. He has yet to begin throwing off a mound.

    Buehler's ERA (4.02), WHIP (1.29) and K/9 (8.0) are each at least 10 percent worse than his previous career worsts as a starter. And while I'll spare you the 36-year-old movie reference about wondering where Buehler is, there's reasonable cause for concern that he won't be part of the postseason rotation. (With Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney boasting sub-3.00 ERAs, though, the Dodgers aren't exactly hurting for October options.)

    When Buehler returns, it's worth watching what role he plays for the rest of the season and in the postseason.

Pitchers Named T. Rogers (Taylor, Trevor and Tyler)

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - JULY 17: Trevor Rogers #28 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at loanDepot park on July 17, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    2021 was a great year to be a pitcher with the last name Rogers.

    Then with the Minnesota Twins, Taylor Rogers was named an All-Star for the first time, posting a 2.45 ERA with eight saves and eight holds through 35 appearances.

    His twin brother, Tyler, should have been an All-Star, too. He had a 1.47 ERA with 10 saves and 17 holds at the time of the Midsummer Classic, and he ended up logging 81.0 innings with a 2.22 ERA for the 107-win San Francisco Giants.

    But the unrelated Trevor was the best of the bunch, making 25 starts for the Miami Marlins with a 2.64 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He finished second to the Cincinnati Reds' Jonathan India in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

    (He doesn't meet the T. Rogers criteria, but even Josh Rogers came out of nowhere as a September call-up for the Nationals, making six solid starts with a 3.28 ERA.)

    Flash-forward to 2022, and those Misters Rogers find themselves in a much different neighborhood.

    Taylor started well, but he has a 7.83 ERA since May 28 and was traded from the Padres to the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Tyler's ERA has more than doubled to 4.85. That's mostly because of one disastrous outing against the New York Mets in which he allowed seven earned runs, but the Giants have mostly used him in low-leverage situations since then.

    Trevor's ERA has also more than doubled to 5.85. He made nine quality starts last season but has just one in 19 starts this season—and even that came back in late April against the lowly Nationals.

    T. Rogerses had a cumulative bWAR of 6.4 in 2021.

    They have a negative-1.3 bWAR in 2022.

Preseason MVP Candidates Juan Soto, Mike Trout and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

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    TORONTO, ON - JULY 31: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays at bat in the fifth inning of their MLB game against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre on July 31, 2022 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
    Cole Burston/Getty Images

    Compared to the other players we've discussed, Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Mike Trout have been the furthest thing from disappointments.

    Soto is darn near leading the majors in on-base percentage and was recently the crown jewel of one of the biggest trades in MLB history. Guerrero is batting .287 and slugging .504, on pace for 34 home runs and 99 RBI. And though injuries have limited Trout to just 79 games, he's slugging .599, mashing at a 162-game pace of 49 home runs.

    But as far as preseason MVP odds are concerned, these multiple-time All-Stars have been substantial letdowns.

    When spring training concluded, the consensus was that it would be a three-person race for AL MVP. Per Sports Illustrated, Shohei Ohtani was the slight favorite at +350, Guerrero and Trout were both at +375, and the next-closest challenger was Aaron Judge at +1600. Check those lines now, though, and you'll find Guerrero and Trout among the swath of players listed at +10000, well behind the top four of Judge, Ohtani, Yordan Alvarez and Jose Ramirez.

    It's a similar story in the NL, as Soto has gone from the clear preseason favorite at +275 (per Sports Illustrated) to barely even in the top 10 at +5000. A lack of RBI opportunities with the Nats didn't help his case, but Soto's batting average dropped off a cliff. He entered this season hitting .301 in his career but has struggled to find holes in defenses this year. (Early returns suggest his change of scenery has been a big help, as he went from hitting .246 with Washington to .353 in nine games with San Diego.)

    Again, all three of these players have been quite good. They just haven't been great, as was anticipated.


    All stats accurate through Friday.


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