10 bold predictions for the 2022 MLB season

2022 MLB bold predictions treated image

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For the last three years, I’ve predicted in this space that both New York teams would make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. And I’ve been wrong every time, thanks to the underachieving Mets.

So with that in mind, maybe I should see the Jacob deGrom injury as an omen, but I’m going down the same road again, believing this will be the year, despite the Mets’ bad luck.

Here’s why…

1. There’s an extra playoff spot available in each league.

2. The Mets still have an ace in Max Scherzer and a wily manager in Buck Showalter, who together should have a huge impact on the field and in the clubhouse. And I’m hanging on to the belief that deGrom will return by June and pitch with dominance again.

3. For all the hand-wringing over the Yankees’ underwhelming offseason, they’re still built to hit their way to the postseason. It’s winning in October that has been and will continue to be the problem.

All of which should make for a wildly entertaining season in New York. And if the Mets get to October with both deGrom and Scherzer healthy, anything is possible. But predicting them to go deep in October is asking too much as the season begins with the best pitcher in baseball starting 2022 the way he ended 2021, on the IL.

My bold predictions…

10. BOBBY WITT JR. EMERGES AS NEXT BIG THING

The Royals ’21-year-old shortstop is earning raves in Royals’ camp this spring for his ability with the bat and the glove. No less a KC authority than George Brett said this of Witt on MLB Network recently: “He’s a talent that I’ve never seen before at his age.”

The son of a former MLB pitcher, Witt was selected out of high school as the second overall pick in the 2019 draft. Ascending quickly, he earned USA Today’s Minor League Player of the Year Award last September, and he’s been scalding the ball this spring: Though eight games he was hitting .476 with two home runs and an .847 slugging percentage.

9. TIGERS SURPRISE, MAKE PLAYOFFS

In a sport that has become too much a case of the haves and the have-nots, baseball needs a surprise team and I think the Detroit Tigers could be it in 2022. After five straight losing seasons, including the ridiculously bad 47-win team of 2019, tanking has given them some high draft picks that look ready to pay dividends, and this offseason they spent on veteran free agents such as Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez.

With former overall No. 1 pick Casey Mize and fellow 24-year-old Tarik Skubal blossoming into front-of-the-rotation starters, the Tigers could have strong starting pitching, and if top offensive prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene are major league-ready as expected, the Tigers could win a lot of games in the watered-down AL Central and sneak into the expanded postseason.

(From left) Tigers infielders Jonathan Schoop, Javier Baez, Jeimer Candelario and Miguel Cabrera talk during Detroit Tigers spring training on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at TigerTown in Lakeland, Florida.  Tigers2

(From left) Tigers infielders Jonathan Schoop, Javier Baez, Jeimer Candelario and Miguel Cabrera talk during Detroit Tigers spring training on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at TigerTown in Lakeland, Florida. Tigers2

8. DONALDSON HURT, CORREA SHINES, TALK-RADIO FIRES CASHMAN

Yes, it could get ugly for Yankees GM Brian Cashman if his gamble on trading for Josh Donaldson hits a snag. As it is, Yankee fans are outraged that their team did not spend big bucks on one of the high-profile free-agent shortstops, all the more so after Carlos Correa signed a short-term deal with the Minnesota Twins, and they’ll be screaming for blood if the above scenario plays out.

Cashman deserves credit for recognizing that his current Yankee team might need more of an edgy persona to get over the hump in the postseason, and Donaldson can provide that. But the 36-year-old third baseman has had enough leg injuries that another wouldn’t be a surprise. In any case, Cashman has become the favorite target of disappointed Yankee fans and is sure to generate plenty of angry calls during the inevitable ups and downs of a long season.

7. VLAD JR., AUSTIN RILEY WIN MVP AWARDS

Let’s face it, this is Shohei Ohtani‘s award to lose for the immediate future if he can continue to pitch to a 3.18 ERA while also hitting 46 home runs, as he did in securing his first MVP Award last season. Hard to make a case that anyone else can match that type of value, but the voting body can be fickle, especially if Vladimir Guerrero Jr.last year runner-up, puts up big numbers in leading the Blue Jays to a division title in the big, bad AL East while the Angels again miss the postseason.

As for the NL, it’s hard to go against Juan Soto, but who’s going to pitch to him in that otherwise pedestrian Nationals’ lineup? Also, not sure how quickly Ronald Acuna Jr. comes back from his ACL injury so I’ll go with Austin Rileywho was a monster in the second half for the Braves, hitting .333 with a .976 OPS and at age 25 is still ascending as a power hitter.

6. BUCK SHOWALTER WINS MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARD

After the Mets underachieved badly the last two seasons, I feel like this is on a tee for Showalter. Players have been raving about Showalter’s attention to detail, an indication that for all of his good qualities, Luis Rojas‘inexperience as a big-league manager contributed to some of the clubhouse leadership issues that were exposed last season.

“Buck runs a tight ship,” Pete Alonso said on SNY Wednesday, clearly meaning it as a compliment. Throw in the additions of Scherzer and Chris Bassittas well as a back-to-basics hitting approach with new coach Eric Chavezand the Mets are good bet to make the expanded playoffs and earn Showalter his fourth Manager of the Year award.

Buck Showalter

Buck Showalter

5. JUDGE SIGNS NEW DEAL, LEADS MLB IN HOME RUNS

This is bound to happen again one of these years. So why not fresh off a contract extension that should get done in the next couple of weeks for – say – seven years, $ 230 million?

Aaron Judge hit 39 home runs last season even when he seemed to be focused on making more contact, as he hit a career-high .287. So maybe he cranks up the power a notch in 2022 and hits 49 dingers – as long as he stays healthy, of course. That would be three shy of his rookie total but one more than Vlad Jr. hit last season, and likely the most in the majors.

4. DEGROM, SCHERZER, BASSITT FINISH TOP 10 IN NL CY YOUNG

My original intention here was to have deGrom headlining the group accomplishment by winning his third NL Cy Young Award, but in some ways maybe this might be bolder because I still believe deGrom will come back to pitch with dominance after likely missing the first two months of the season. That will be enough to garner Cy Young votes, the way he did last year despite missing the second half of the season.

For Scherzer, meanwhile, it’s simply a matter of warding off old age as he turns 38 in July. Otherwise he’s practically automatic: He’s finished first, second or third in Cy Young voting five of the last six seasons, missing only in the COVID-shortened 2020. And Chris Bassitt has finished eighth and 10th in AL Cy Young voting the last two seasons with the A’s. Also, he has the advantage of going to a new league where a lot of hitters will be unfamiliar with his wide range of pitches and speeds.

3. YANKS EARN THIRD WILD CARD, LOSE TO BLUE JAYS IN ALDS

Who’s pitching Game 2 in the postseason? Luis Severino isn’t having a smooth return to his pre-injury form. Maybe Jameson Taillon emerges, but would you bet on it? Jordan Montgomery? A trade-deadline acquisition?

The fact that there’s no obvious answer to the question is reason enough to think the Yankees won’t go far in October. I’ll give them a Wild Card round before losing to my projected No. 1 seed, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Mar 14, 2022;  Tampa, FL, USA;  New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) during spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field.  Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 14, 2022; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) during spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2. METS EARN THIRD WILD CARD, LOSE TO BRAVES IN NLCS

Before the deGrom injury I had them getting the second Wild Card (I think the Braves win the division), but I’ll still give them the newly created third spot – and even that is a leap of faith to some degree, believing deGrom will be able to stay healthy when he returns from the scapula injury.

Still, Scherzer softens the blow and I do think Showalter will make a significant difference in getting the Mets to reach their talent level, unlike the last two seasons. In addition, putting a stop to the analytics overload that frustrated hitters last season will help the offense, and Starling Marte adds a contact-and-speed dimension they need.

Finally, Steve Cohen seems willing to spend past the highest luxury tax, so the Mets are likely to add pieces at the trade deadline, which helps get them into the postseason. I’ll give them a win over Brewers in the best-of-three WC series but can’t see them beating the Braves, who would be the likely opponent in the NLDS if the Dodgers post the best regular-season record in the NL .

1. BLUE JAYS WIN WORLD SERIES

After spending most of the last two seasons as a team without a home, playing in Buffalo and Dunedin, Fla., Due to COVID protocols in Toronto – and playing well enough to make the expanded playoffs in 2020 and just miss with 91 wins last season – it feels like the stars may be aligning for the dynamic young Blue Jays this season.

Not easy to improve after losing the Cy Young winner (Robbie Ray) and third-place MVP finisher (Marcus Semien), but I think the Blue Jays have done it, especially on the pitching side. They added Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi to Jose Berrioslast year trade-deadline pickup, and Hyun-Jin Ryu and young Alek Manoahgiving them depth and dominance in the rotation.

Meanwhile, they should have plenty of offense, especially if last year big-splash free agent, George Springercan stay healthy and mash with along with Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and the others that last season led the majors in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS.

So… Blue Jays over the Braves in the World Series. An outcome that will sting in both the Bronx and Queens.

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