MLB 2022 Regular Season Hot-Take Predictions That Make SenseApril 7, 2022
MLB 2022 Regular Season Hot-Take Predictions That Make Sense
Finally, the start of the 2022 MLB season is here.
About a month ago, an easy hot take would have been that this day would never come. This baseball season would either be lost or greatly diminished, as it was two years ago by the pandemic.
That would not have been an unreasonable opinion, considering how at odds the players and owners were on collective bargaining negotiations.
But look, baseball is here. All 162 regular-season games of it.
To celebrate this moment, let's go over some hot-take predictions for the season. These aren't the takes of the true gasbag variety, rather ones that actually make sense.
Feel free to add your own to the list, but here are eight predictions in front of mind as this season begins.
New York Yankees Trade for Frankie Montas
As the trade deadline approaches this year, it should be clear the Yankees will need more from their starting rotation after Gerrit Cole.
Their second-best pitcher is Luis Severino, who has tossed only 18 total innings in the past three seasons. The Yankees hope Severino can return to his All-Star form of 2017 and 2018 but can't rely on it.
Even if Severino hops in the time machine and is good for the Yankees, they are in one of the two toughest divisions in baseball.
Considering their aspirations to win their first World Series since 2009, and the fact that Oakland is trading away all of its good players, this is the perfect fit.
Montas' 3.37 ERA and 207 strikeouts last year would've been second only to Cole among Yankees starters.
Mike Trout Takes Back Seat to Shohei Ohtani as Best Player
As previously stated here, this is the most pressure Mike Trout has ever faced in his MLB career. His only healthy season since 2017 was the pandemic-shortened 2020, though he still managed to win MVP in 2019 with 28 missed games.
It's still curious that Trout missed 4.5 months with a calf strain last year, and it must concern Angels fans about his durability going forward.
What if Trout just isn't the same player and all these injuries take their toll on his body?
To be clear, this prediction is just as much about Ohtani as it is Trout. Maybe this transition would've happened naturally last year even if Trout had stayed healthy. Ohtani is doing things we've never seen before, hitting and pitching at an elite level.
Thanks to a rule change this year, Ohtani will be allowed to continue DH'ing even after he's done pitching in a game, setting up the potential for him to be an even scarier two-way threat.
Bobby Witt Jr. Makes Push for AL Rookie of the Year
Three of the top four prospects in baseball, including No. 1 prospect Bobby Witt Jr., are on the Opening Day rosters for their respective teams.
The only one of the four missing is Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, who would probably be out there if it wasn't for his triceps injury.
Expect the Royals third baseman to compete with Spencer Torkelson, the Detroit Tigers first baseman and No. 4 overall prospect, along with Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez (No. 3 overall prospect), for the AL Rookie of the Year.
DraftKings has Witt at +310 to win the award, with Torkelson and Rodríguez both at +450.
Jacob deGrom-Max Scherzer Pairing Falls Flat
The warning signs are already there. DeGrom has a shoulder issue that could keep him out for a month-plus, while Scherzer, whose body broke down for the Dodgers at the end of last season, recently dealt with a hamstring injury.
If these two are healthy, there is not a better 1-2 combination in baseball. But it is fair to wonder how many starts the Mets get between the two pitchers.
The Mets have World Series aspirations after all the money they spent this offseason, including the three-year contract worth $130 million for Scherzer, the most ever for a 37-year-old.
What if deGrom is gone for more than a month or something else surfaces with Scherzer? Both of those are possibilities and would pour cold water on a highly anticipated Mets season.
Incremental Progress After Rangers' Half a Billion Dollars in Investments
While we're on the subject of potentially massive disappointments, let's talk about the Rangers. They signed Corey Seager to a 10-year, $325 million contract, Marcus Semien to a seven-year, $175 million deal and Jon Gray to a four-year, $56 million contract.
That's a lot of money just to compete for the third-best team in the AL West, which is not exactly the best division in baseball.
These signings are a longer play for Texas, so fans of the team should not be alarmed if immediate results are lacking.
Still, this feels like the kind of money a team spends when it is trying to get good quickly.
That's not going to happen for Texas, with the in-state rival Houston Astros, who decided not to pay sticker price for superstar free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa, still running the AL West.
Shane Baz Has Breakout Season After Returning from Arthroscopic Surgery
Baz will miss the start of the season as he recovers from surgery in his right elbow to remove loose bodies. He is on track to return in May and has said he feels "exponentially better" since his arm locked up after a March 15 bullpen session.
The Rays have high hopes for their top prospect, who made his MLB debut last September and finished the season with a 2-0 record, a 2.03 ERA and 18 strikeouts against three walks across 13 1/3 innings in three starts.
Tampa Bay wants Baz to be as close to special as he can be considering Tyler Glasnow is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is unlikely to pitch in 2022.
The Rays have the pitching depth to compensate for any weaknesses in their rotation, but Baz won't be one of those weaknesses.
Cubs' Rebuild Gets Accelerated by Marcus Stroman, Seiya Suzuki Signings
It would defy expectations for the Cubs to seriously compete in the NL Central. This is the Milwaukee Brewers' division to lose, and only the St. Louis Cardinals are legitimate threats.
But the Cubs at least have something interesting going with the moves they made this offseason.
Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley join Kyle Hendricks in Chicago's rotation.
Seiya Suzuki will have to adjust from Japanese pitching to MLB pitching, but the five-year, $85 million deal he signed suggests the Cubs anticipate he'll figure it out eventually.
There is the slight chance that the Cubs find themselves a year ahead of schedule after these moves, especially if Hendricks returns to form after allowing the most home runs of his career last season (31).
Charlie Morton Makes Serious Push for NL Cy Young Award
That's right. A 38-year-old pitcher who suffered a broken leg in the World Series the last time we saw him pitch will make a big push for the award, and he's my pick to win it.
Morton is not thought to be limited by the injury at this point, which is incredible to consider.
But how can one underestimate a pitcher who recorded three outs after taking a 102.4 mph comebacker off the AL batting champion in Game 1 of the World Series? Legendary stuff.
Morton over his last 20 regular-season starts posted a 2.71 ERA and by all accounts appears ready to pick up where he left off.
DraftKings gives Morton long odds to win the Cy Young Award, but you know what they say about scared money.