2022 MLB Preview: The lockout is over, now what?

Come March, when the offseason is generally winding down as Spring Training games, begin, we weren’t even sure if there was going to be an MLB season. However, the lockout has ended, and despite a shortened preseason and slightly delayed Opening Day, baseball is finally back. While it’s a little later than usual, the MLB preview is a staple of this blog, and I couldn’t miss the boat on it. I once again collaborated with my cousin Michael Philipkosky for this. Our predictions can be found in my article below or his podcasts, which I was a guest co-host for:

Podcast Links

AL Preview

NL Preview

Let’s get right into our division predictions, starting with the AL East.

AL East

#Andrew’s PredictionsMichael’s Predictions
1 Toronto Blue Jays Boston Red Sox
2 Boston Red Sox (Wild Card 1) Toronto Blue Jays (Wild Card 1)
3 New York Yankees (Wild Card 2) New York Yankees (Wild Card 2)
4 Tampa Bay Rays Tampa Bay Rays
5 Baltimore Orioles Baltimore Orioles

Everything is really starting to come together for the Blue Jays. To add to a flashy lineup including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., they have built one of the deepest rotations in baseball. I have them taking this division, but it won’t necessarily be a runaway. This is a very strong division and the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays could all be competitive.

If all goes well after the signing of infielder Trevor Story and several relievers, the Red Sox have World Series upside. The Yankees come back with a similar team to last year, and while they have less upside than the Sox and Jays, they should definitely be in the mix. After getting rid of several key players like they do every year, I’m expecting a step back from Tampa. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them in the playoffs either though, as Kevin Cash’s rapid development of pitching talent is unmatched.

Whether the Orioles see more production out of their youngsters or not, I expect Baltimore to be in rock bottom of this division. There’s just too much competition for them. I’m thinking at least 3, if not 4 AL East teams will make the playoffs in this expanded field.

AL Central

#Andrew’s PredictionsMichael’s Predictions
1 Chicago White Sox Chicago White Sox
2 Detroit Tigers Detroit Tigers
3 Minnesota Twins Minnesota Twins
4 Cleveland Guardians Cleveland Guardians
5 Kansas City Royals Kansas City Royals

I think the White Sox definitely stand out within this division. As the Twins declined last season, there is no team that I feel is capable of keeping up with their budding young roster, and I could even see someone like Luis Robert or Eloy Jimenez posting an MVP-caliber breakout season.

The Twins and Tigers have decent teams, but I don’t think they’re division-winning material or even playoff material this year. It appeared the Twins were gearing up for a rebuild, but their signing of SS Carlos Correa will keep them competitive. The Tigers may start slow, but with a combo of incoming free agents and young talent that will improve throughout the season, I could see them heating up later on. While they aren’t a playoff team this year, watch out for them in 2023.

That leaves the Guardians and Royals towards the bottom of the division. The Guardians are unwilling to spend money to build around their core of 3B Jose Ramirez, OF/DH Franmil Reyes, and SP Shane Bieber. I thought the Royals were starting to put it all together last year, but I think it may be getting to the point where they may need to rebuild within their already existing rebuild. The window is closing for this era of Royals players like infielders Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier. Neither of these teams will be anywhere close to contention this year.

AL West

#Andrew’s PredictionsMichael’s Predictions
1 Los Angeles Angels Houston Astros
2 Houston Astros (Wild Card 3) Seattle Mariners (Wild Card 3)
3 Seattle Mariners Texas Rangers
4 Texas Rangers Los Angeles Angels
5 Oakland Athletics Oakland Athletics

Michael and I were split on the Angels. Assuming nobody gets hurt, it’s hard to bet against Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. However, things always seem to go wrong in Anaheim. It’s not a crazy take to keep the Angels out of the playoffs, but I’m not going to predict injuries, and a healthy Angels squad is playoff material. Despite the losses of OF George Springer and Correa in the aftermath of the cheating scandal, I think we can agree that the Astros are still playoff material. This team still has one of the strongest lineups in the league, still including 2B Jose Altuve, OF Michael Brantley, and 3B Alex Bregman.

The Mariners are going to be set in the long term, and it’s possible they do sneak into the expanded playoff field, though I have them taking a slight step back compared to last year. Can we really guarantee that youngsters like Ty France and Kyle Lewis will match their 2021 numbers? I have them more towards the middle of the pack alongside the Rangers. As for Texas, they may have built one of the best middle infield duos in baseball by signing free agents Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. This team still lacks the existing talent around those two, especially in the pitching staff.

Both these teams should still beat out the Athletics. The A’s decided to tear it down this offseason by trading SP Sean Manaea, 3B Matt Chapman, and 1B Matt Olson. They will have to suffer the consequences for the time being.

NL East

#Andrew’s PredictionsMichael’s Predictions
1 Atlanta Braves Atlanta Braves
2 New York Mets (Wild Card 1) New York Mets (Wild Card 1)
3 Philadelphia Phillies (Wild Card 3) Philadelphia Phillies
4 Washington Nationals Washington Nationals
5 Miami Marlins Miami Marlins

I know I said this last season, but this division should be a neck and neck battle between the Braves and Mets. Last year, the Mets disappointed while the Braves won it all. This year, the Mets may have the chance to put an end to their rotten luck with one of the best pitching duos of all time in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. Personally, I also have the Philadelphia Phillies in the playoffs. Now that Bryce Harper has become better adjusted to the Phillies, I think he has returned to his typical elite status and expect him to lead the offense in 2022.

That leaves the Nationals and Marlins on the outside looking in. The Nationals tore things down at the deadline last year, though they did leave behind a strong foundation that includes OF Juan Soto and 1B Josh Bell. The Marlins are slowly building back from their own massive rebuild in which they traded away Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich among others, but it’s still going to be another year or two before this team is playoff material.

NL Central

#Andrew’s PredictionsMichael’s Predictions
1 St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals
2 Milwaukee Brewers Milwaukee Brewers (Wild Card 2)
3 Cincinnati Reds Cincinnati Reds
4 Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs
5 Pittsburgh Pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

This division looks to be a two horse race. You have the always competitive Cardinals, who have the perfect mix of longtime veterans such as Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols and younger, rising talent like Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson. Then there’s the Brewers, who had the biggest year to year turnaround from a pitching staff in a long time. It really comes down to whether the numbers of Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and the rest of this rotation are sustainable in the long term. While Michael has both these teams making the playoffs, I don’t think this division is strong enough for two playoff teams, and that will make for an exciting race as the Cards and Brewers compete for one.

Despite being in different stages, the rest of the division is rebuilding. The Reds sold off a good portion of their batting talent from last season to save money. The Cubs got rid of the core group of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant that won them a World Series in favor of a younger crop of players that will need time and experience to develop. The Pirates are the deepest into their rebuild, and I still see them as far away from contention.

NL West

#Andrew’s PredictionsMichael’s Predictions
1 Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers
2 San Francisco Giants (Wild Card 2) San Francisco Giants (Wild Card 3)
3 San Diego Padres San Diego Padres
4 Colorado Rockies Colorado Rockies
5 Arizona Diamondbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

The Dodgers were already stacked up and down the roster with talent in 2021. Now they come into this season and somehow look even better?! With two former MVPs in Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger already on the roster, the Dodgers went out and added a third in Freddie Freeman! They signed former Royals ace Danny Duffy and he won’t even make the starting rotation! It’s getting to the point where it’s unfair how much talent the Dodgers have. I honestly feel they could staff two borderline playoff teams. However, given the unpredictability of baseball, they obviously cannot win every game.

The Padres have continued to add to a talented roster as well, but this National League wild card race is going to get extremely competitive. It’s the Giants I have joining the Dodgers in the playoffs. While it’s easy to call the resurgences of infielders Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria a fluke, I believe these guys have something left in the tank. The Giants did lose Kevin Gausman, but they found an ample replacement in ex-White Sox star Carlos Rodon. San Diego will be missing SS Fernando Tatis Jr. until June, and that could cause them to get off to a slow start. The Padres won’t make the playoffs in this NL if they have to play catch up. They still have a far higher chance than the Rockies or Diamondbacks.

The Rockies are not the team I expected when I thought of potential suitors for Kris Bryant. Playing at Coors Field could make an already strong hitter like Bryant look even stronger, but his power alone won’t be enough to overcome poor pitching and a lack of lineup depth. The Diamondbacks have even less to be hopeful about. While I could see Madison Bumgarner or Zac Gallen bouncing back to bolster the rotation, this lineup has very few significant names. Ketel Marte is the only guy who comes to mind, and he could want out of Arizona if things don’t improve soon.

Playoff Bracket

While I do have the White Sox taking the #1 seed in the AL due to an easy division, it’s the AL East that will end up with two teams in the ALCS. The Red Sox could give the Blue Jays a hard time, but this Toronto lineup just has too much power for Boston’s pitching staff to handle.

Here’s a fun fact: since the tainted Astros-Dodgers World Series in 2017, either the Astros or Dodgers has made every World Series. The Astros have made it in odd years (2019 and 2021), while the Dodgers have made it in even years (2018 and 2020). I expect that pattern to continue in a pretty clear runaway for LA. Everyone used to associate even years with their rivals up in San Francisco, but I think that could become the Dodgers’ thing in years to come. The Mets or Braves could pull off a surprise if luck goes their way, but the Dodgers are the logical pick here.

Toronto may be a flashy team, and they could make it a fun series. Regardless, I still think it’s foolish to bet against the Dodgers to prevail.

I hope you enjoy your Opening Day. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

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