Baseball is a wild sport and Major League Baseball is a wild league. While you have your usual contenders and pretenders in any given year, there are always some surprises on the horizon. There’s usually going to be one team that is aiming for the stars that ends up falling flat on their face and then there’s a team that comes out of nowhere to shock the world and make things interesting in September and maybe even October.
So, who’s going to be the diamond in the rough this year? Conversely, who’s going to end up being the fake diamond that ends up getting exposed by the diamond tester that is the MLB regular season? With the upcoming season finally set to get underway, it’s time to take a crack at who may end up making some noise and who could end up having another year of waiting until next year.
3 teams who may surprise the baseball world
Admit it. You weren’t really checking for the Tigers in 2021 and you likely weren’t going to be checking for them in 2022. With that being said, you probably should be. Last year, they won 77 games and that was a bit of a shock when you consider that in their most recent 162-game season, Detroit won a grand total of 43 games. Their rebuilding project has been making plenty of progress and I don’t see that progress slowing down in 2022. Jeimer Candelario, Robbie Grossman and Akil Baddoo have been solid standouts in their lineup and then they went and added Javier Baez to the mix as well. This lineup figures to be sneaky good and don’t be shocked if they’re making some noise with the bats this season.
Meanwhile on the mound, Detroit went out and got Eduardo Rodriguez to add to a young and promising rotation. They may be missing Spencer Turnbull due to Tommy John surgery, but Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning should be able to hold down the fort when it comes to starting games for the Tigers. With all of that being said, the bullpen appears to be the stark and clear Achilles heel for this team, so I’m definitely not going to say that this team is a postseason lock. I will say that this team definitely has more than 77 wins in them and with expanded playoffs, that could make this team very intriguing!
San Diego Padres
It’s kind of wild to see the Padres as a “surprise” team at this point in their existence, but hey, that’s what coming off of a disastrous end to the previous season will do for you. As of right now, DraftKings Sportsbook has the over/under for the Padres at 90.5 wins and assuming that they don’t have another calamitous collapse, they should have every opportunity to clear that hurdle and make things very interesting near the top of the NL West. They’ve made some solid moves this offseason — I really like the hire of Bob Melvin as manager and the trade for Sean Manaea should help bolster a rotation that could be one of the best in all of baseball if they live up to expectations.
If there’s a big issue here, it’s that they’re going to be missing Fernando Tatis Jr. for a significant amount of time. While the rest of the lineup with Manny Machado, Trent Grisham, and Jake Cronenworth is nothing to sneeze at, they could end up needing every last win that they can get in a division that had two 100-win teams last season. With that being said, San Diego could be the team that takes advantage of Arizona and Colorado being relatively weak and San Francisco potentially running out of magic dust in 2022. While I don’t see the Padres keeping up with the Dodgers, I do think that we’re going to see the Padres back in October and at that point, anything is possible.
Death. Taxes. The Mariners missing the playoffs. There are certain things that are impossible to avoid in life in recent years, and October baseball being played anywhere but Seattle, Washington has become one of those inevitabilities. However, I think that this is going to be the year where one of those inevitabilities finally gets broken. Nobody is immortal and paying Uncle Sam is impossible to avoid, but this very well could be the year where the Mariners get back into the postseason.
After getting to 90 wins using a versatile lineup that came together to be greater than the sum of its parts, GM Jerry Dipoto was able to bring in both Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker from the Reds. They will also eventually have Julio Rodriguez in their lineup, who already seems like one of the most exciting prospects that the Mariners have had in a while. Seattle figures to have a pretty good lineup and the same could be said for their rotation, which seems to be more on the reliable side instead of being spectacular following the addition of Robbie Ray. This is a team that came painfully short of making the postseason in 2021 and it also feels like the playoff expansion was tailor-made for this squad. The drought may finally be coming to a close, Seattle.
3 teams who may end up being disappointing
San Francisco Giants
The Giants were one of the best feel-good stories of the 2021 season. It would’ve been one thing if they had just finished over .500 and went into the 2022 season on a high note. It’s another thing to see a team come out of nowhere to rattle off 107 wins. Even though their epic playoff series with the Dodgers ended on a sour note, winning the 2021 NL West crown was an incredible achievement that appeared completely out of thin air for this team. Whatever Gabe Kapler had going on in that clubhouse, he could make hundreds of millions of dollars if he could bottle it up and sell it to other teams across baseball.
So while it would be cool and interesting to see the Giants follow up 2021 with another great season, it just seems a little too good of an act to follow up. San Francisco got so much out of their older veteran players that it seems very unlikely that they’ll all be able to follow it up with a repeat performance. Granted, there are good veterans here with the likes of Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Mike Yastrzemski and their pitching staff is rock solid with the likes of Logan Webb leading the way for their pitchers. There’s a lot to like, but again, it’s difficult to really see them coming close to 100 wins again. If a repeat performance happens then Gabe Kapler may in fact be the new baseball whisperer, but it’s not something that seems like a realistic expectation in 2022.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels should be a routine fixture in the disappointing category for as long as they have two of the best players in all of baseball playing for them. Mike Trout has been the top player in baseball since 2012 and Shohei Ohtani is an actual baseball unicorn who has taken the sports world by storm since his arrival in the big leagues. If baseball was a sport that only involved five players, then we’d likely be talking about the Angels being one of the premier sports franchises in all of baseball at this point.
Instead, there’s still a very legitimate question as to when this team will make the postseason again. They’ve brought in a lottery ticket in the form of Noah Syndergaard and they’ve already got some decent talent surrounding Trout and Ohtani with guys like Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t seem like it’s going to be enough to really compete with the defending AL Champions in Houston and a very hungry Seattle team that’s knocking on the door of the postseason. Baseball could really do with having Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani playing big games in October and hopefully it’ll come sooner rather than later. With that said, it sure seems like it’s going to come later.
New York Mets
Let's be real for a moment. You wouldn’t be shocked in any way, shape, or form if things somehow ended up going horribly wrong for a Mets team with high expectations. Granted, New York had a fantastic offseason and you can’t go wrong with adding the players that they have during this offseason. Their offseason shopping spree included bringing in Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar, while capping off that spree with a crown jewel signing in the form of Max Scherzer. They further bolstered their rotation by trading for Chris Bassitt, and they brought in Buck Showalter in order to make sure everything works just fine. It really should work out just fine for this team!
Still, nothing ever comes easy or naturally for a franchise that appears to be as snakebitten as the Mets. The dreaded injury bug has already made an appearance in the Mets clubhouse, as they’re going to be missing Jacob deGrom for an extended period of time and that’s a pretty big blow to a pitching staff that needed things to go right. The bullpen received no major help and that alone should send chills down the spine of even the most optimistic Mets fan. If the Mets end up in a position where they can’t trust their relievers to carry them to some victories and injuries keep on hitting them hard, then this could be yet another year of frustration in Queens.