The Six Players With The Most To Prove During The 2022 MLB Season
Heading into the 2022 MLB season, there is a lot of uncertainty with these five players, who all either greatly exceeded expectations or greatly disappointed in 2021. This season is now their opportunity to show the baseball world that they are much better than their 2021 selves, or that they can repeat their stellar past effort.
Cody Bellinger, Outfield/First Base, Los Angeles Dodgers
The main reason this article was created in the first place, Bellinger is one of the most polarizing players in baseball today. After a phenomenal first three seasons in which he hit 111 home runs with a .928 OPS, Rookie of the Year Award, Gold Glove Award, and MVP, Bellinger seemed to be on top of the baseball world, in contention as one of the best players in the game. Then, when the world changed due to COVID, his career did as well, and Bellinger has a .195 batting average between the last two seasons combined. Reports about him being benched circulated throughout last year, and could continue this season if change doesn’t happen. The time is now for him to prove the doubters wrong.
Alex Bregman, Third Base, Houston Astros
Like Bellinger, Bregman’s production from 2017 to 2019 had fans placing him a the top of the sport, with two top-five AL MVP finishes during those years. Since 2020, it’s been a different story, and although he has battled injury and reportedly played through it, he hasn’t looked the same. His .785 OPS since the pandemic is uncharacteristic of who he can be, and 2022 is the year he can once again prove to be one of the best third baseman in the sport. With Carlos Correa gone, there is increased responsibility for Bregman to continue to produce, or else the Astros could be overtaken in their division for the first time in many years.
DJ LeMahieu, Infield, New York Yankees
LeMahieu was an absolute superstar during his first two years with the Yankees, with an overall .336 batting average, .922 OPS, and two top-four AL MVP finishes. In fact, this production earned him a 6-year, $90 million contract extension from the Yankees before the 2021 season. Unfortunately, LeMahieu fell under the trend of players performing to their potential in a contract year, then disappointing once receiving the money, because he seemed to lose it all in 2021. His clutch gene and swagger seemed to be gone, and the career .300 hitter hit just .268. In order for the Yankees to contend, he must return back to his old self for the 2022 MLB season.
Jorge Soler, Outfield, Miami Marlins
In 2021, Soler began the season with the Royals and batted .192 with a .658 OPS. After being traded to Atlanta, he had an .882 OPS, and went off in the postseason, taking home 2021 World Series MVP honors. The mid-season turnaround he experienced is on a level we rarely see, and it remains up in the air which player he will look like in 2022. Fortunately for him, he received a 3-year, $36 million contract from the Marlins this offseason to be one of the team’s highest paid players. Miami seems to have lots of faith in him, but all of baseball can only sit back and observe either All-Star level Soler or replacement-level Soler in 2022.
Kevin Gausman (Pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays) & Robbie Ray (Pitcher, Seattle Mariners)
This one is obvious. The two starting pitchers that seemed to break out out of nowhere in 2021, leaving fans everywhere to question exactly how they made it happen. Before 2021, Gausman had a career 4.26 ERA, never receiving any awards recognition, but was able to execute a 2.81 ERA for a sixth-place NL Cy Young Award finish. Ray was slightly more proven before his 2021 Cy Young Award-winning campaign, with an All-Star appearance back in 2017. Regardless, both starters seemed to come out of nowhere to become superstars, before receiving large contracts this past offseason as free agents. Toronto and Seattle can only be hopeful in 2022 as Gausman and Ray set to prove that their 2021 seasons were no fluke.