Updated MLB Position-by-Position Rankings 1 Month into 2022 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2022

Updated MLB Position-by-Position Rankings 1 Month into 2022 Season

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    Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

    Who are MLB's 10 best players at each position one month into the 2022 season?

    That's the simple question we set out to answer, and it required casting aside preconceived notions and long-term projections.

    That means established stars such as Shohei Ohtani, Gerrit Cole, Salvador Perez, Bo Bichette, Trea Turner, Zack Wheeler and Liam Hendriks are nowhere to be found in this article.

    In their places, early surprise standouts such as Taylor Ward, Steven Kwan, J.P. Crawford, Michael Wacha, Eric Hosmer, Logan Gilbert, Joe Ryan and Ryan Helsley are all prominently featured.

    To put it simply, this is an overview of the top players at each spot based solely on what they have accomplished this season. Past performances and future expectations did not play a part.


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    Travis d'Arnaud
    Travis d'ArnaudIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Top 10 Catchers

    1. Travis d'Arnaud, ATLNR
    2. J.T. Realmuto, PHI3
    3. Tucker Barnhart, DETNR
    4. Willson Contreras, CHC5
    5. Will Smith, LAD2
    6. Sean Murphy, OAK9
    7. Elias Diaz, COLNR
    8. Jonah Heim, TEXNR
    9. Tom Murphy, SEANR
    10. Ryan Jeffers, MINNR


    No. 1 Spot: A thumb injury limited Travis d'Arnaud to just 60 games in 2021, but he has returned to the Silver Slugger-winning form he showed in 2020. The 33-year-old is hitting .313/.333/.478 for a 130 OPS+ with seven extra-base hits and 11 RBI.

    Rising: After slugging 10 home runs in 82 games as a rookie last season, Jonah Heim is off to a red-hot start this year platooning with newcomer Mitch Garver behind the plate for the Texas Rangers. The 26-year-old is hitting .364/.475/.697 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 40 plate appearances.

    Falling: Following a record-setting 48-homer, 121-RBI season last year, Salvador Perez is off to a slow start. The No. 1 catcher in our preseason rankings is hitting just .174 with a strikeout rate hovering around 30 percent, though he does have five home runs to lead all catchers.

First Basemen

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    Eric Hosmer
    Eric HosmerRalph Freso/Getty Images

    Top 10 First Basemen

    1. Eric Hosmer, SDNR
    2. Anthony Rizzo, NYYNR
    3. Josh Bell, WAS10
    4. Ty France, SEA8
    5. C.J. Cron, COLNR
    6. Matt Olson, ATL2
    7. Freddie Freeman, LAD3
    8. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR1
    9. Owen Miller, CLENR
    10. Ji-Man Choi, TBNR


    No. 1 Spot: After four largely disappointing seasons in San Diego and an offseason of trade rumors, Eric Hosmer is finally looking like a player worthy of a $144 million contract. His .382 batting average leads all qualified hitters, and his .447 on-base percentage and .579 slugging percentage both represent career-highs.

    Rising: Little was expected of Owen Miller following a forgettable debut last season when he hit .204 with a 50 OPS+ in 202 plate appearances as a utility infielder. However, he played his way into the starting first base job in Cleveland thanks to a red-hot start, and he's hitting .377/.444/.660 through his first 63 plate appearances.

    Falling: Last year's AL batting champion Yuli Gurriel was No. 7 in our preseason rankings, but he has hit a lackluster .218/.247/.346 through his first 21 games. The 37-year-old has also seen a troubling downturn in his batted-ball metrics beyond just the poor surface-level numbers.

Second Basemen

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    Jazz Chisholm Jr.
    Jazz Chisholm Jr.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Top 10 Second Basemen

    1. Jazz Chisholm Jr., MIANR
    2. Jeff McNeil, NYMNR
    3. Tommy Edman, STLNR
    4. Ozzie Albies, ATL4
    5. Andres Gimenez, CLENR
    6. Jake Cronenworth, SD9
    7. Gavin Lux, LADNR
    8. Santiago Espinal, TORNR
    9. Cesar Hernandez, WASNR
    10. Jorge Polanco, MIN5


    No. 1 Spot: Jazz Chisholm Jr. flashed some of his vast potential last season during a 18-homer, 23-steal rookie campaign. Now he's playing like the potential face of the franchise in Miami, hitting .313/.360/.657 with 12 extra-base hits and four steals in 19 games while providing a swagger that has been sorely missing in the Marlins lineup the past few seasons.

    Rising: A .235/.302/.369 career hitter entering the year, Andres Gimenez appeared to be in danger of falling victim to a crowded middle infield situation in Cleveland. Instead, the 23-year-old has been arguably the most productive second baseman in the American League, hitting .346 with a 172 OPS+ and 0.9 WAR in 19 games.

    Falling: Take your pick between Marcus Semien (103 PA, .163 BA, 37 OPS+), Ketel Marte (99 PA, .156 BA, 50 OPS+) and Brandon Lowe (99 PA, .189 BA, 79 OPS+)they occupied the top three spots in these rankings to begin the yearfor biggest disappointment at second base.

Third Basemen

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    Jose Ramirez
    Jose RamirezThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Top 10 Third Basemen

    1. Jose Ramirez, CLE1
    2. Nolan Arenado, STL3
    3. Manny Machado, SD4
    4. Austin Riley, ATL5
    5. Ke'Bryan Hayes, PITNR
    6. Yandy Diaz, TBNR
    7. Sheldon Neuse, OAKNR
    8. Eduardo Escobar, NYMNR
    9. Ryan McMahon, COLNR
    10. Rafael Devers, BOS2


    No. 1 Spot: Generally a slow starter who heats up as the season progresses, Jose Ramirez is flat-out raking right out of the box this year. The 29-year-old is hitting .341/.421/.707 for a 230 OPS+ with seven home runs and 28 RBI in 22 games. That seven-year, $141 million extension he signed is already looking like a steal for Cleveland.

    Rising: Now in his second go-around in Oakland after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2021 season, Sheldon Neuse has seized the opening at third base following the Matt Chapman trade, hitting .329/.393/.461 with 14 RBI in 22 games. He has also seen time at first base and second base and could ultimately settle into a Chris Taylor-type utility role.

    Falling: After a 3.8-WAR, 42-double season in 2021, Jeimer Candelario was No. 10 on our preseason list ahead of several bigger names. The 28-year-old has hit just .164/.238/.247 for a 47 OPS+ in 80 plate appearances as he continues to search for consistency at the MLB level.


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    J.P. Crawford
    J.P. CrawfordSteph Chambers/Getty Images

    Top 10 Shortstops

    1. J.P. Crawford, SEANR
    2. Wander Franco, TB5
    3. Xander Bogaerts, BOS 6
    4. Tim Anderson, CWS 10
    5. Francisco Lindor, NYM 8
    6. Willy Adames, MILNR
    7. Corey Seager, TEX4
    8. Jeremy Pena, HOU NR
    9. Isiah Kiner-FalefaNR
    10. Carlos Correa, MIN2


    No. 1 Spot: Former top prospect J.P. Crawford took a significant step forward last year with a 100 OPS+ and 46 extra-base hits in a 3.8-WAR season, and he has been baseball's best shortstop in the early going this year. The 27-year-old is hitting .357/.450/.595 for a 214 OPS+ with 11 extra-base hits and 1.8 WAR in 24 games.

    Rising: The Astros have not missed a beat at shortstop after handing the job over to rookie Jeremy Pena when Carlos Correa walked in free agency. Pena, 24, has a 126 OPS+ with five home runs and 14 RBI, and he has also tallied 5 DRS at shortstop.

    Falling: With just three walks in 109 plate appearances, Bo Bichette is showing an extremely aggressive approach at the plate, and his strikeout rate has also climbed from 19.9 to 26.6 percent. The 24-year-old has three multi-hit games in his past four, so things are trending in the right direction.

Left Fielders

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    Steven Kwan
    Steven KwanThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Top 10 Left Fielders

    1. Steven Kwan, CLENR
    2. Andrew Benintendi, KC10
    3. Ian Happ, CHCNR
    4. Joc Pederson, SFNR
    5. Mark Canha, NYM7
    6. Kyle Schwarber, PHINR
    7. Austin Meadows, DETNR
    8. Austin Hays, BALNR
    9. Jurickson Profar, SDNR
    10. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., TORNR


    No. 1 Spot: One of the biggest stories of the first month has been the emergence of Steven Kwan after he won the starting left field job in Cleveland this spring. The 24-year-old hit .328/.407/.527 in the upper levels of the minors last year, and he's batting .340/.439/.472 with 18 hits and nine walks in his first 16 MLB games.

    Rising: After hitting .285/.352/.569 with eight home runs and 22 RBI over the final 30 games of the 2021 season, Austin Hays is continuing his rise as a potential cornerstone piece for the rebuilding Orioles. The 26-year-old has a 132 OPS+ with nine extra-base hits, and he has raised his walk rate from 5.3 to 10.2 percent.

    Falling: Breakout star Tyler O'Neill posted a 148 OPS+ with 34 home runs and 6.3 WAR last season while winning his second successive Gold Glove, and he was No. 1 on this list to begin the year. The 26-year-old is hitting just .188 with a 58 OPS+ and four extra-base hits in 93 plate appearances.

Center Fielders

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutQuinn Harris/Getty Images

    Top 10 Center Fielders

    1. Mike Trout, LAA1
    2. Byron Buxton, MIN4
    3. George Springer, TOR7
    4. Brandon Nimmo, NYMNR
    5. Randal Grichuk, COLNR
    6. Myles Straw, CLENR
    7. Jesus Sanchez, MIANR
    8. Daulton Varsho, ARINR
    9. Cody Bellinger, LADNR
    10. Adolis Garcia, TEXNR


    No. 1 Spot: With a clean bill of health, Mike Trout is back to looking like a clear MVP candidate, hitting .319/.449/.694 with 14 extra-base hits and an AL-leading 17 runs scored in 21 games. With the Angels off to a nice start as a team, we might finally see the game's best player in the postseason again for the first time since 2014.

    Rising: Former top prospect Jesus Sanchez impressed in a 64-game sample last year, posting a 115 OPS+ with 14 home runs and 36 RBI. The 24-year-old is holding his own playing out of position in center field out of necessity, and he has a 127 OPS+ with eight extra-base hits in 90 plate appearances.

    Falling: Last year's breakout stars Bryan Reynolds (86 PA, .203 BA, 87 OPS) and Cedric Mullins (107 PA, .221 BA, 99 OPS+) are both off to slow starts at the plate after checking in at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, in our preseason rankings.

Right Fielders

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    Taylor Ward
    Taylor WardQuinn Harris/Getty Images

    Top 10 Right Fielders

    1. Taylor Ward, LAANR
    2. Aaron Judge, NYY3
    3. Juan Soto, WAS1
    4. Seiya Suzuki, CHCNR
    5. Max Kepler, MINNR
    6. Nick Castellanos, PHINR
    7. Kyle Tucker, HOU5
    8. Charlie Blackmon, COLNR
    9. Hunter Renfroe, MIL10
    10. Mookie Betts, LAD4


    No. 1 Spot: Originally drafted as a catcher with the No. 21 pick in the 2015 draft, Taylor Ward has spent the past several seasons shuffling positions and bouncing between Triple-A and the majors. The 28-year-old has played his way into a starting role this year by hitting a blistering .371/.480/.710 with 10 extra-base hits, 13 RBI and 13 walks in 75 plate appearances.

    Rising: After hitting .317/.433/.636 with 38 home runs and a 16.4 percent walk rate with the Hiroshima Carp in the Japanese League last year, Seiya Suzuki has made a seamless transition to the big leagues. The 27-year-old is hitting .263/.380/.500 for a 157 OPS+ with 10 extra-base hits, 15 RBI and 14 walks.

    Falling: One of baseball's most consistent hitters for the better part of the past decade, Whit Merrifield is hitting just .157/.206/.191 for a non-existent 18 OPS+ in 22 games. The two-time All-Star is signed through the 2023 season with a mutual option for 2024.

Designated Hitters

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    Yordan Alvarez
    Yordan AlvarezIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Top 10 Designated Hitters

    1. Yordan Alvarez, HOU2
    2. J.D. Martinez, BOS8
    3. Daniel Vogelbach, PITNR
    4. Bryce Harper, PHINR
    5. Michael Brantley, HOUNR


    No. 1 Spot: Rising star Yordan Alvarez has posted a 195 OPS+ with eight home runs and 14 RBI in 19 games to climb to the top of the designated hitter ranks. Still just 24 years old, he has made eight starts in left field, and teammate Michael Brantley has also made more starts at DH than anywhere else to join him on this list.

    Rising: A former All-Star with a 30-homer season under his belt in 2019, Daniel Vogelbach joined the Pittsburgh Pirates on a one-year, $1 million deal this offseason that includes a $1.5 million club option for next year. The 29-year-old has a 145 OPS+ with three doubles and three home runs while regularly hitting leadoff.

    Falling: After a 30-homer season a year ago, Franmil Reyes is hitting .139/.171/.215 with 38 strikeouts in 82 plate appearances. He still ranks among the MLB leaders in average exit velocity (91st percentile), but he simply isn't putting the bat on the ball regularly enough to tap into his plus power.

Right-Handed Starting Pitchers

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    Logan Gilbert
    Logan GilbertJulio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Top 10 Starting Pitchers

    1. Logan Gilbert, SEANR
    2. Justin Verlander, HOUNR
    3. Corbin Burnes, MIL1
    4. Alek Manoah, TORNR
    5. Miles Mikolas, STLNR
    6. Pablo Lopez, MIANR
    7. Joe Ryan, MINNR
    8. Michael Wacha, BOSNR
    9. Merrill Kelly, ARINR
    10. Michael Kopech, CWSNR


    No. 1 Spot: Most expected $115 million man Robbie Ray to be the ace of the Seattle Mariners staff this year, but instead it's young right-hander Logan Gilbert leading the way. The 24-year-old is 4-0 with an MLB-leading 0.64 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 28 innings over his first five starts, going at least five innings each time out.

    Rising: A resurgent Michael Wacha might top the list of biggest early season surprises. The 30-year-old signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Boston after struggling to a 5.39 ERA the past two seasons, and he has a 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and an AL-best .148 opponents' batting average through his first five starts in a Red Sox uniform.

    Falling: He didn't quite earn a spot in our preseason top 10, but Tyler Mahle was certainly in the conversation after posting a 3.75 ERA with 210 strikeouts in 180 innings last year. However, he has gotten shelled to the tune of a 7.01 ERA and .286 opponents' batting average in 25.2 innings.

Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

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    Carlos Rodon
    Carlos RodonIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Top 10 Starting Pitchers

    1. Carlos Rodon, SFNR
    2. Nestor Cortes, NYYNR
    3. Madison Bumgarner, ARINR
    4. Clayton Kershaw, LADNR
    5. Eric Lauer, MILNR
    6. Julio Urias, LAD8
    7. Patrick Sandoval, LAANR
    8. Bruce Zimmermann, BALNR
    9. Max Fried, ATL7
    10. Shane McClanahan, TBNR


    No. 1 Spot: The Giants signed Carlos Rodon to a two-year, $44 million deal in an effort to ease the loss of Kevin Gausman, and he has done just that with a 1.55 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 29 innings while holding opposing hitters to an MLB-best .141 batting average. He can opt out of his contract this winter if he reaches 110 innings pitched.

    Rising: Bruce Zimmermann has been a revelation for the Orioles in the early going, posting a 1.48 ERA in 24.1 innings over his first five starts. The 27-year-old is throwing his fastball less (42.2 to 32.6 percent) and changeup more (25.8 to 31.8 percent), and the early returns earn him a spot among the game's top southpaw starters.

    Falling: With a 4.15 ERA and 4.36 FIP, veteran Robbie Ray has experienced some early regression on the heels of last year's AL Cy Young win. His numbers are inflated by a rough start against the White Sox where he allowed 10 hits and six earned runs in 6.1 innings, so expect things to improve going forward.

Relief Pitchers

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    Josh Hader
    Josh HaderPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Top 10 Relief Pitchers

    1. Josh Hader, MIL1
    2. Jordan Romano, TOR9
    3. Ryan Helsley, STLNR
    4. Taylor Rogers, SDNR
    5. David Robertson, CHCNR
    6. Aroldis Chapman, NYYNR
    7. Trevor Stephan, CLENR
    8. Dillon Peters, PITNR
    9. Michael King, NYYNR
    10. Brock Burke, TEXNR


    No. 1 Spot: Left-hander Josh Hader has allowed just two hits and four walks in 9.1 scoreless innings while nailing down all 10 of his save chances to further solidify his status as the best relief pitcher in the game. The 28-year-old has also struck out 15 of the 34 batters he has faced en route to a dominant 0.64 WHIP.

    Rising: Hard-throwing Ryan Helsley has faced 26 batters out of the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen, allowing just one hit and zero walks while racking up 16 strikeouts. He is averaging 99.1 mph with his fastball and backing it with a lethal cutter serving in a fireman role.

    Falling: With two losses, one blown save and a 4.35 ERA in 10 appearances, Liam Hendriks has not been his same dominant self at the back of the Chicago White Sox bullpen. He does have six saves and a strong 13.9 K/9 rate, but he falls out of the rankings after starting the year in the No. 2 spot.


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