2022 MLB Position-by-Position Power Rankings, Preseason Edition

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2022

2022 MLB Position-by-Position Power Rankings, Preseason Edition

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Last season, our MLB position-by-position power rankings were a monthly staple, always sparking some great debate as fans argued for the placement of their team's best players.

    We're back for another year!

    Before the 2022 MLB season starts next week, it's time to set the baseline for this year's rankings with our official preseason edition. Players are ordered based on expected 2022 production, using their previous track record and forward trajectory as guidelines.

    Included with each position's top 10 is a breakdown of one player I'm higher on than most, one player I'm lower on than most and a quick overview of the top rookies at each position who could challenge for a slot in the rankings before the season is over.


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    Salvador Perez
    Salvador PerezAdam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Top 10 Catchers

    1. Salvador Perez, KC31
    2. Will Smith, LAD27
    3. J.T. Realmuto, PHI31
    4. Yasmani Grandal, CWS33
    5. Willson Contreras, CHC29
    6. Mike Zunino, TB31
    7. Mitch Garver, TEX31
    8. Tyler Stephenson, CIN25
    9. Sean Murphy, OAK27
    10. Jacob Stallings, MIA32


    High On: Now that Tucker Barnhart is in Detroit, 2021 rookie standout Tyler Stephenson will be the everyday guy behind the plate for the Cincinnati Reds. He posted a 104 OPS+ with 21 doubles and 10 home runs in 402 plate appearances last year, and he'll likely slot into a run-production role with Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez gone.

    Low On: An All-Star last season, Milwaukee Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez hit just .225/.272/.320 with 11 extra-base hits during the second half. He is the unquestioned starter and entering a contract year, but it would be wise to temper expectations.

    Top Rookies: Both Keibert Ruiz (WAS) and Joey Bart (SF) are on track to break camp as the starting catcher for their respective teams, and they have strong track records of production in the minors. Adley Rutschman (BAL) should soon join them in the big leagues, and he could immediately become a top-five catcher

First Basemen

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    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.Mark Blinch/Getty Images

    Top 10 First Basemen

    1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR23
    2. Matt Olson, ATL28
    3. Freddie Freeman, LAD32
    4. Paul Goldschmidt, STL34
    5. Pete Alonso, NYM27
    6. Jose Abreu, CWS35
    7. Yuli Gurriel, HOU37
    8. Ty France, SEA27
    9. Rhys Hoskins, PHI29
    10. Josh Bell, WAS29


    High On: There will likely be more than a few people who question Matt Olson being slotted ahead of Freddie Freeman, but the numbers speak for themselves. Olson held the advantage in OPS+ (153 to 133), home runs (39 to 31), RBI (111 to 83) and WAR (5.8 to 4.7) in 2021, and he's more than four years younger.

    Low On: The 33 home runs that Ryan Mountcastle hit as a rookie were nice, but it's hard to overlook his .309 on-base percentage and 27.5 percent strikeout rate. The 25-year-old will need to improve his approach if he wants to move up to the next tier at a deep position.

    Top Rookies: All signs point to Spencer Torkelson starting the season as the Detroit Tigers everyday first baseman, and he looked ready last year when he posted a .935 OPS with 30 home runs and 91 RBI in 121 games while reaching Triple-A in his pro debut. Will we also see Triston Casas in Boston this year?

Second Basemen

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    Marcus Semien
    Marcus SemienRichard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Top 10 Second Basemen

    1. Marcus Semien, TEX31
    2. Ketel Marte, ARI28
    3. Brandon Lowe, TB27
    4. Ozzie Albies, ATL25
    5. Jorge Polanco, MIN28
    6. Trevor Story, BOS29
    7. Jonathan India, CIN25
    8. Jose Altuve, HOU31
    9. Jake Cronenworth, SD28
    10. Nicky Lopez, KC27


    High On: Following years as a top prospect, Brendan Rodgers finally appears to be on the cusp of breaking out after hitting .296/.325/.490 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI in 61 games after the All-Star break in 2021. He has followed that with a strong spring, and he could join Kris Bryant and Ryan McMahon in the middle of the Colorado Rockies lineup.

    Low On: On the flip side, Adam Frazier saw his production drop considerably down the stretch. A serviceable player throughout his career, he hit .331/.397/.463 during the first half to start the All-Star Game, but he crashed back to earth with a .266/.323/.332 showing after the break.

    Top Rookies: Slugger Nolan Gorman made the move from third base to second base in the minors last year with Nolan Arenado blocking his path in St. Louis, and he could be pushing Tommy Edman for the starting job before midseason.

Third Basemen

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    Jose Ramirez
    Jose RamirezJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Top 10 Third Basemen

    1. Jose Ramirez, CLE29
    2. Rafael Devers, BOS25
    3. Nolan Arenado, STL30
    4. Manny Machado, SD29
    5. Austin Riley, ATL24
    6. Anthony Rendon, LAA31
    7. Matt Chapman, TOR28
    8. Yoan Moncada, CWS26
    9. Alex Bregman, HOU28
    10. Jeimer Candelario, DET28


    High On: Slotting Jeimer Candelario ahead of Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, Luis Urias, Ryan McMahon and Eduardo Escobar will likely raise a few eyebrows, but he's more than deserving. The 28-year-old posted a 122 OPS+ with an AL-leading 42 doubles and a career-high 3.8 WAR last season.

    Low On: How much longer can Alex Bregman use his 2019 season to be considered an elite player? Injuries have limited him to 133 games of a possible 222 the last two seasons, and he's hit a good-not-great .262/.353/.431 for a 114 OPS+ and 3.2 WAR when he has been in the lineup.

    Top Rookies: After annihilating minor league pitching last season, Bobby Witt Jr. has gone 11-for-24 with three doubles and two home runs this spring as he tries to win the starting third base job in Kansas City. The 21-year-old is a future superstar, and he could immediately be the best player on the Royals roster.


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    Trea Turner
    Trea TurnerChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Top 10 Shortstops

    1. Trea Turner, LAD28
    2. Carlos Correa, MIN27
    3. Bo Bichette, TOR24
    4. Corey Seager, TEX27
    5. Wander Franco, TB21
    6. Xander Bogaerts, BOS29
    7. Fernando Tatis Jr., SD23
    8. Francisco Lindor, NYM28
    9. Brandon Crawford, SF35
    10. Tim Anderson, CWS28


    High On: He didn't quite crack the top 10, but don't sleep on J.P. Crawford's ability to take another step forward after he hit .273/.338/.376 with 37 doubles in a 3.8-WAR season last year while continuing to provide Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop.

    Low On: When a player has a career year at age 34, it's generally not wise to bet on him replicating that success. Brandon Crawford can still be a terrific two-way performer for the San Francisco Giants, just don't expect another top-five finish in NL MVP voting.

    Top Rookies: There are a number of prospects on the cusp of breaking through at shortstop, with Bryson Stott (PHI), Jeremy Pena (HOU) and Oneil Cruz (PIT) all likely to be starting by midseason, while CJ Abrams (SD) and Geraldo Perdomo (ARI) could wind up on their team's Opening Day rosters as a result of injuries.

Left Fielders

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    Tyler O'Neill
    Tyler O'NeillJoe Sargent/Getty Images

    Top 10 Left Fielders

    1. Tyler O'Neill, STL26
    2. Nick Castellanos, PHI30
    3. Randy Arozarena, TB27
    4. Joey Gallo, NYY28
    5. Kris Bryant, COL30
    6. Michael Brantley, HOU34
    7. Mark Canha, NYM33
    8. Alex Verdugo, BOS25
    9. Eloy Jimenez, CWS25
    10. Andrew Benintendi, KC27


    High On: The Red Sox sold low on Andrew Benintendi last offseason, and he hit .276/.324/.442 with 17 home runs and 73 RBI while winning a Gold Glove in his first year with the Kansas City Royals. He had a .969 OPS with 15 extra-base hits and 29 RBI over the final month of last season, and that could be the springboard for a big contract year.

    Low On: There is no question Eloy Jimenez has elite power potential, but he hit a lackluster .249/.303/.437 for a 100 OPS+ in 231 plate appearances last year after returning from a torn pectoral muscle. That injury was obviously a factor, but we're reaching the point where he needs to prove himself over a full season before he continues to get the benefit of the doubt.

    Top Rookies: They are not technically rookies, but Alex Kirilloff (59 games, 231 PA) and Jo Adell (73 G, 272 PA) both have limited MLB experience and could be headed for breakout seasons in 2022 as they begin the year with starting jobs in left field. Will we see Drew Waters in Atlanta this year?

Center Fielders

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutMary DeCicco/Getty Images

    Top 10 Center Fielders

    1. Mike Trout, LAA30
    2. Luis Robert, CWS24
    3. Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL24
    4. Byron Buxton, MIN28
    5. Bryan Reynolds, PIT27
    6. Cedric Mullins, BAL27
    7. George Springer, TOR32
    8. Harrison Bader, STL27
    9. Enrique Hernandez, BOS30
    10. Trent Grisham, SD25


    High On: Already one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, Harrison Bader had a career year at the plate last season, hitting .267/.324/.460 for a 116 OPS+ with 21 doubles, 16 home runs and 50 RBI in 103 games. He hit .333/.368/.613 with 10 doubles and seven home runs in his final 32 games while the Cardinals chased down a playoff spot.

    Low On: An on-base machine when he's in the lineup, Brandon Nimmo has played more than 100 games in a season just once in his six-year career. Last season, it was a bruised finger and a hamstring strain that kept him on the sidelines, and it's hard to call him a top-10 guy until he proves he can stay on the field.

    Top Rookies: After hitting .347/.441/.560 in 74 games in between playing in the Olympics, Julio Rodriguez is making a strong case to be included on the Seattle Mariners roster. The 21-year-old has as much offensive upside as any prospect in baseball, and he's polished beyond his years. An under-the-radar prospect who could make an MLB impact this year is Alek Thomas in Arizona.

Right Fielders

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    The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Top 10 Right Fielders

    1. Juan Soto, WAS23
    2. Bryce Harper, PHI29
    3. Aaron Judge, NYY29
    4. Mookie Betts, LAD29
    5. Kyle Tucker, HOU25
    6. Teoscar Hernandez, TOR29
    7. Starling Marte, NYM33
    8. Dylan Carlson, STL23
    9. Whit Merrifield, KC33
    10. Hunter Renfroe, MIL30


    High On: After posting a 117 OPS+ with 31 doubles, 18 home runs and 65 RBI as a rookie, Dylan Carlson could be headed for bigger and better things in his second year. The 23-year-old hit .301/.364/.503 with seven home runs and 22 RBI in 47 games from August 1 forward last season.

    Low On: The 39-homer, 100-RBI campaign that Mitch Haniger posted last season after almost two years on the sidelines was a pleasant surprise. However, his .318 on-base percentage and 169 strikeouts left a lot to be desired, and his average exit velocity (46th percentile) makes it hard to see how he'll duplicate that level of production.

    Top Rookies: The Chicago Cubs gave Seiya Suzuki a five-year, $85 million contract after his stellar nine-year run with the Hiroshima Carp. The 27-year-old hit .317/.433/.636 with 38 home runs and almost as many walks (88) as strikeouts (89) last year, and his well-rounded approach should help his game translate.

Designated Hitters

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    Shohei Ohtani
    Shohei OhtaniNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Top 10 Designated Hitters

    1. Shohei Ohtani, LAA27
    2. Yordan Alvarez, HOU24
    3. Giancarlo Stanton, NYY32
    4. Max Muncy, LAD31
    5. Jesse Winker, SEA28
    6. Nelson Cruz, WAS41
    7. Kyle Schwarber, PHI29
    8. J.D. Martinez, BOS34
    9. Austin Meadows, TB26
    10. Franmil Reyes, CLE26


    High On: Veteran Darin Ruf had one of the best seasons no one noticed last year, hitting .271/.385/.519 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI in just 312 plate appearances. With Evan Longoria (finger) and LaMonte Wade Jr. (knee) both headed for the injured list to start the year, he has a clear path to everyday at-bats in the DH role, and a 30-homer season is not out of the question.

    Low On: After he hit just .254/.319/.392 with five home runs after the All-Star break last year, it was tough to include Trey Mancini among the top 10 designated hitters, especially now that the field has been doubled to include NL teams.

    Top Rookies: Slugger Seth Beer finally has a spot in the D-backs lineup thanks to the implementation of the universal DH. A bat-only player who has hit .292/.392/.509 in three minor league seasons, he is a dark horse to watch in the NL Rookie of the Year race.

Starting Pitchers

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    Corbin Burnes
    Corbin BurnesPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Top 10 Starting Pitchers

    1. Corbin Burnes, MIL27
    2. Gerrit Cole, NYY31
    3. Walker Buehler, LAD27
    4. Zack Wheeler, PHI31
    5. Max Scherzer, NYM37
    6. Robbie Ray, SEA30
    7. Max Fried, ATL28
    8. Julio Urias, LAD25
    9. Lucas Giolito, CWS27
    10. Logan Webb, SF25


    High On: Ten to 20 pitchers have a legitimate case for the final four spots on this list. Max Fried (14 GS, 1.74 ERA), Julio Urias (14 GS, 2.04 ERA), Lucas Giolito (13 GS, 2.65 ERA) and Logan Webb (16 GS, 2.71 ERA) were among the best pitchers in baseball after the All-Star break last season, and all four could evolve in 2022.

    Low On: Even before he suffered a right shoulder strain in mid-June, Shane Bieber was not showing the same dominance he did during his Cy Young season. His walk rate (2.4 to 3.1 BB/9) and opponents' batting average (.167 to .229) were up, while his strikeout rate (14.2 to 12.5 K/9) was down. He is still a no-doubt top-25 starter, but he doesn't quite crack the top 10.

    Top Rookies: A handful of rookie starters are poised to break camp with a rotation spot, led by Hunter Greene (CIN), Joe Ryan (MIN) and Matt Brash (SEA). Expect to see Grayson Rodriguez (BAL), MacKenzie Gore (SD), Nick Lodolo (CIN) in the big leagues as well in 2022, while Shane Baz (TB) will start the year on the injured list after elbow surgery.

Relief Pitchers

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    Josh Hader
    Josh HaderIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Top 10 Relief Pitchers

    1. Josh Hader, MIL27
    2. Liam Hendriks, CWS33
    3. Emmanuel Clase, CLE24
    4. Raisel Iglesias, LAA32
    5. Blake Treinen, LAD33
    6. Ryan Pressly, HOU33
    7. Devin Williams, MIL27
    8. Jonathan Loaisiga, NYY27
    9. Jordan Romano, TOR28
    10. Edwin Diaz, NYM28


    High On: Flame-thrower Emmanuel Clase is baseball's next great closer. The 24-year-old posted a 1.29 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and .195 opponents' batting average in 71 appearances last year, nailing down 24 of 29 save opportunities. His stuff is so overpowering, there's plenty of room for improvement on his 9.6 K/9.

    Low On: Left-hander Aroldis Chapman had a 3.36 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 6.1 BB/9 last season, his worst numbers since his first full campaign in the majors in 2011. He still nailed down 30 of 34 save chances while racking up a 15.5 K/9 strikeout rate, but his days as a top-tier closer might be ending.

    Top Rookies: After impressive debuts last year, Camilo Doval (SF) and Aaron Ashby (MIL) are both poised to fill crucial roles in the bullpen of a pair of NL contenders. As always, expect a few under-the-radar names to emerge as relief weapons as the season progresses.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant unless otherwise noted.