MLB 2022 Predictions for the Winner of MVP, Cy Young and Every Major Award
We'll know in about seven months which players and coaches have captured Major League Baseball's top awards for the 2022 season, but actually waiting that long sounds like a drag.
So, might as well have some fun and make some predictions.
Ahead are our picks for who'll take home the five biggest awards in the American League and National League: Comeback Player of the Year, Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player.
When necessary, we looked to historical precedent in determining our choices. But for the most part, we simply consulted our hunches. The resulting list strikes a nice balance between predictions that are about what you would expect and others that are bound to surprise you.
Though the focus will mainly be on our picks to win each award, we'll drop plenty of other names along the way.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
We could go on about Justin Verlander's return from Tommy John surgery or Gleyber Torres possibly snapping out of his two-year funk, but...come on, the answer here simply has to be Mike Trout.
Though he played in only 40 games as a rookie in 2011, Trout still set a new career low for games played in 2021. Because of a calf strain that he simply never recovered from, the Los Angeles Angels star's campaign ended after only 36 games in May.
"It's one of the hardest things I've been through in my career," he told reporters last August. "I've been through some injuries, but this thing is tough. I never realized how much I use my calf."
It's alarming that Trout hasn't made it through a full 162-game season unscathed since 2016, yet it's a welcome sign that his spring was interrupted only by a minor illness. By all accounts, the 30-year-old is otherwise healthy.
There are thus decent odds that Trout will get back to being what he was between 2012 and 2019. That is, an annual MVP contender with an OPS in the 1.000s and a home run count in the 35-to-40 range. Even if he doesn't win his fourth MVP, the Comeback Player of the Year would be a given.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta
Like with Trout in the AL, there doesn't seem to be much point in talking about Stephen Strasburg or Cody Bellinger while the NL Comeback Player of the Year is there for the taking for Ronald Acuna Jr.
The Atlanta star was off to the races in the first half of 2021, hitting .281/.392/.593 with 24 home runs and 16 stolen bases through 81 games. But then in his 82nd game, he got a little too ambitious trying to catch a long fly ball and suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
Unlike Trout, the 24-year-old likely won't make his return until May. And even then, the plan will be to ease him back via a dual role as an outfielder and designated hitter.
Beyond that, there's the question of whether it's fair to expect Acuna's athleticism to be what it was in his first four seasons. To wit, his sprint speed may land somewhere below the 97th percentile.
But as his chase rate, walk rate, exit velocity and hard-hit rate were all in the 90th percentile or better in 2021, Acuna's bat is plenty capable of doing the talking for him. The louder it speaks, the more likely he'll be to take home Comeback Player of the Year.
AL Manager of the Year: Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners
Ah, the Manager of the Year. It's only easy to predict if you're good at predicting which managers will have the benefit of The Narrative, which is hard to do.
And yet, we feel confident in saying that if the Seattle Mariners make the playoffs for the first time since 2001, the AL Manager of the Year will be as good as Scott Servais'.
Even if there's now an extra playoff spot in each league, this isn't a given. The Mariners did win 90 games in 2021, but in a highly unsustainable fashion. According to FanGraphs, they project as the third-best team in the AL West for this season.
However, Servais is undeniably working with more talent this year. Not just in the sense that his front office went out and got guys like Robbie Ray, Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier, but also because it likewise chose not to wait to promote uber-prospect Julio Rodriguez.
As the Mariners have outperformed their expected winning percentage in three of his past four seasons at the helm, it's also apparent that Servais has a magic touch in his own right. If that holds true in 2022, Seattle's playoff drought should end, and Servais should get a nice award for his troubles.
NL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter, New York Mets
Meanwhile in the National League, the Manager of the Year seems teed up for Bob Melvin.
He's already won the award three times, including twice with the Oakland Athletics in 2012 and 2018. Now he's with the San Diego Padres, who correctly saw him as a good fit to right a ship that went askew in 2021. With Fernando Tatis Jr. sidelined with a broken wrist, Melvin could further help his narrative by navigating a critical injury.
Yet even if Melvin does his job well, he might still lose the NL Manager of the Year to Buck Showalter.
After three years away from the dugout, the 65-year-old now has the unenviable job of making the New York Mets look good. This will require dealing with whatever forms the dreaded "LOL Mets" hex might take, starting with the shoulder injury that's going to keep Jacob deGrom on the sideline for a while.
On one plus side, managers don't come much more experienced than Showalter. On another, he has a spare ace in Max Scherzer and enough talent elsewhere to give Atlanta a run for the NL East title. Even if they fall short in that regard, at least scoring a wild-card spot could clinch Showalter his fourth Manager of the Year.
AL Rookie of the Year: Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals
When MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed that their new collective bargaining agreement should include new measures to curb the practice of service-time manipulation, the likelihood of the sport's top prospects opening the season on major-league rosters went up.
It's therefore not the biggest surprise that three of MLB.com's top four prospects have made the cut:
- No. 1: SS/3B Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals
- No. 3: OF Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners
- No. 4: 1B Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers
Simply among these three, there isn't a bad pick for the AL Rookie of the Year. Torkelson could win courtesy of a bat that produced a .935 OPS and 30 homers in the minors last year. Rodriguez raked in both the minors and at the Olympics in 2021, and he's a capable outfielder to boot.
So why Witt? Because literally any time he does anything, he looks like a superstar in the making.
The 21-year-old gave himself a hard act to follow by posting a .936 OPS, 33 homers and 29 steals in the minors last year, yet he hit .406 with impressive power in spring training anyway. He's also regarded as a quality defender, so go ahead and mark us down for 1,000 shares of Witt Hype, please.
NL Rookie of the Year: SS Bryston Stott, Philadelphia Phillies
Compared to the American League, prospect promotion storylines have been relatively subdued in the National League. But rest assured, there are candidates aplenty for the NL Rookie of the Year.
The Cincinnati Reds are going to carry flame-throwing righty Hunter Greene in their opening rotation. Joey Bart is set to take over for Buster Posey behind the plate for the San Francisco Giants. And while he's not a prospect, Japanese star Seiya Suzuki will still technically be a rookie for the Chicago Cubs.
It's Bryson Stott, though, who's going into 2022 with the most helium.
He was known for being an advanced hitter as an amateur, routinely walking more than he struck out at UNLV and in the Cape Cod League. That side of him really began to show as he tallied 10 more walks than strikeouts while posting a .445 OBP in the Arizona Fall League, and he kept it up during the spring.
Though Stott, 24, isn't as known for his power, he's well put together (6'3", 200) and he's going to be taking his home cuts for the Philadelphia Phillies at one of MLB's most power-friendly parks. He thus has a route at a Jonathan India-type season in 2022, which India can vouch is an award-worthy path.
AL Cy Young Award: Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox
It's tempting to pick Robbie Ray to win a second successive AL Cy Young Award. Then again, it's equally tempting to lean toward Gerrit Cole, who's as steady as they come, or Shane Bieber, who's healthy again.
But instead, we'll tab 2022 as the year that Lucas Giolito finally makes the leap from merely existing on the periphery of the AL Cy Young Award race to actually leading it.
Since he bottomed out as the worst pitcher in the American League in 2018, the Chicago White Sox ace has rebounded to pitch to a 3.47 ERA (i.e., a 128 ERA+) over the past three seasons. It's been such a successful transformation that other pitchers are even copying the mechanical adjustment that made it happen.
Not to be overlooked is Giolito's more recent adjustment. The 27-year-old may be better known for his hard fastball and devastating changeup, yet it was his slider that was his best pitch in the latter half of 2021. The pitch itself didn't really change, but he simply came to see its value as a complementary offering.
Ultimately, it all worked toward a 2.65 ERA with 57 more strikeouts than walks over his last 74.2 innings. With more of that, Giolito would only need good health to maintain his Cy Young candidacy.
NL Cy Young Award: Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants
A healthy Jacob deGrom would have been an easy pick to win the 2022 NL Cy Young Award. With that ship having sailed, it's now a race that could be won by maybe 10 different pitchers.
Scherzer, for one. For two more, maybe reigning winner Corbin Burnes or the guy who arguably should have won in 2021, Zack Wheeler. For six more, there's always Walker Buehler, Brandon Woodruff and Aaron Nola, plus less heralded hurlers like Max Fried, Julio Urias and Sandy Alcantara.
But in lieu of any of them, we like ourselves some Logan Webb.
It's not a bad thing that the San Francisco Giants righty shares a surname with one of the great pitchers of the 2000s, but we're more so intrigued by the sheer impenetrability of his pitching style. He walked only 2.2 batters per nine innings in 2021, with a 60.9 ground-ball percentage and a 26.5 strikeout rate.
Everyone got an up-close look at how dominant Webb, 25, can be as he twirled 14.2 innings of one-run ball in last year's NLDS. Yet that was merely a continuation of the 2.40 ERA he'd posted in his last 20 starts of the regular season. Even in a Cy Young race as crowded as this one, more of that would get the job done.
AL MVP: Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros
With respect to the AL Central, it feels like the 2022 American MVP is going to come out of either the East or the West.
The former, because it has guys Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Aaron Judge, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Wander Franco. The latter, because it has Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and a Houston Astro who was last seen spearheading the team's charge to the 2021 World Series.
No, not Yordan Alvarez. The other guy. Kyle Tucker.
It may have been Alvarez who fully dismantled the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, but it was Tucker who finished them off with a late home run in Game 6. Prior to that, he had completed the regular season on an absolute tear by hitting .329/.394/.620 with 25 home runs over his last 107 games.
In so doing, Tucker was 10 percent better than any other qualified hitter by wRC+. That's a hard track for anyone to stay on, but we're talking about a formerly elite prospect who's still only 25 years old. And as such, a guy whose prime should only just be beginning.
NL MVP: Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
With Ronald Acuna Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. out for the start of the season, Bryce Harper has decent odds to repeat as the National League MVP in 2022. It would be his third time winning the award, which is rarefied air.
Unless, of course, Juan Soto decides to fully maximize his potential.
He's arguably already done so. Though he's still only 23 years old, his four seasons with the Washington Nationals have yielded a .301/.432/.550 slash line and 98 home runs. Notably, he's the only player in major-league history to top a .400 OBP annually between the ages of 19 and 22.
Soto didn't even really get going until the second half of last season, when he busted out to hit 18 home runs with an incredible .525 OBP. The latter is a mark that only nine other players have ever achieved in a single half, and the names there include Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.
In addition to an OBP that could fall closer to .500 than .400, Soto's upward-trending metrics suggest he could produce as many as 35 or even 40 home runs in 2022. If he does, the MVP voters may be all too happy to overlook whatever dismal record the Nationals are sure to end up with.