A month ago, the big question facing the baseball world was existential in nature: Would we have a season in 2022?
Thankfully, a disastrous outcome was averted and this year will see a full-scale 162-game season unfolding over the next six months. As opening day approaches, questions about the sport’s future remain. But, on a smaller scale, each team ends spring training with its own crucial question that needs to be answered enough to succeed in the new year.
To that end, we’ve focused on the biggest question for every team in 2022. I’ll focus on the American League in this article, and Will Laws will address the National League on Thursday.
Unless otherwise stated, all lead rankings are based on FanGraphs.
TO THE EAST
When will Grayson Rodriguez be ready?
the Orioles have plenty of exciting players marinating in their minor league system, including catcher Adley Rutschman, the highest-ranked prospect in all of baseball. The development of Rodriguez, who ranks first among pitching prospects and third overall, is most crucial for Baltimore this season and going forward due to the team’s hunger for quality pitching. The 22-year-old right-hander dominated the minors last year, going 9-1 with a 2.36 ERA over 23 starts in High A and Double A. He will start the year in Triple A and, barring injury or significant regression, he should reach the majors during the second half, if not sooner.
The Orioles have lost 108 or more games in each of the last three 162-game seasons, and with or without Rodriguez, they are once again doomed to an equally difficult campaign. Either way, Rodriguez is expected to make his big league debut sometime in late 2022, and his performance will give us a better idea of how much longer Baltimore will be a bottom feeder.
Boston Red Sox
Will a patchwork rotation be enough to redo the playoffs?
With Eduardo Rodríguez, Garrett Richards and Martín Pérez out of sight, the Red Sox will once again rely on a rotation of second chancers (Michael Wacha, Nick Pivetta), a relative newcomer (Tanner Houck) and a 42-year-old . former hanger (Rich Hill) behind ace Nathan Eovaldi to start the season. Chris Sale — with a stress fracture in his rib cage — is set to return in late May, but even with the seven-time All-Star, it could be tough for this group to navigate a division with some of the best offenses in baseball.
New York Yankees
Can Gleyber Torres get back on track?
At 22, Torres was a two-time All-Star with 62 home runs in 267 games. Since the start of the 2020 season, Torres has homered just 12 times with a lower slugging percentage (.366) than guys like JP Crawford, Jonathan Villar and Tommy Edman. the Yankees thinks Torres will benefit from a return to second base after looking lost as a shortstop. Speaking of shortstop, New York opted out of signing one of the few free agent All-Stars in the position and instead opted to upgrade defensively via the trade of Isiah Kiner- Falfa. This decision to add a lighter, more affordable Gold Glover instead of a Silver Slugger will seem much wiser if Torres finds his groove in the flat.
Tampa Bay Stingrays
Is Shane McClanahan about to take the plunge?
the Rays seem to grow impact arms from trees, but McClanahan’s rookie season was a particular bright spot for an organization that makes its bones developing pitchers. Depth is king for Tampa Bay, so a second slump wouldn’t be unbearable for the team’s pitching staff. But the southpaw has a high ceiling and the potential to emerge as the ace of a crowded rotation. That would make the reigning division champions much more dangerous.
Toronto Blue Jays
Can Matt Chapman regain his power?
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Thanks to his otherworldly defense, Chapman’s production floor is an above-average starter, and the blue jays doesn’t need much more than that to be one of the most dangerous lineups in the league. But if Chapman can recapture his 2018 and 2019 form, then Toronto could deliver the cinematic sequel to last season’s 91-win prequel.
Chicago White Sox
Can they hang on to the best teams in the AL?
the White socks beat the little guys last year, posting a 66-40 record against teams under .500, but only had 27 wins against teams with winning records. Central appears to be quite weak from top to bottom, so opportunities to reverse this trend will be rare.
What will Cleveland do with José Ramírez?
The three-time All-Star is one of the most dynamic players in the league and is under the control of the club throughout the 2023 season. The two parties have reportedly discussed a contract extension, although talks appear to be in progress. be in their infancy. If no agreement can be reached and the Guardians start slow, trade rumors will undoubtedly swirl.
Are young people ready for prime time?
the tigers had a turbulent and productive offseason, bringing in established players like Javier Báez, Eduardo Rodríguez, Tucker Barnhart, Michael Pineda and Andrew Chafin. But the way this team can raise their cap is to get their young stallions delivered early. Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson are rising stars, and the rotation has plenty of young talent in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. These names represent the core that will usher in the next competitive window in Detroit, which could open as early as this year.
Kansas City Royals
Can Adalberto Mondesi stay on the pitch?
When healthy, Mondesi is a dynamic playmaker, but he played just 35 games last season and didn’t hit well. Still just 26, his best days should be ahead of him, and an on-court duo of Mondesi and Bobby Witt Jr. is something to dream for. Royals fans are waiting for better days.
Can the spin keep pace with the attack?
the Twins made a series of moves to completely revamp their lineup, which could be among the best in the AL with Carlos Correa and a healthy Byron Buxton. Rotation, however, has more uncertainty. Acquiring Sonny Gray was essential, but counting on the rebound seasons of Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer? It’s a much riskier proposition.
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Los Angeles Angels
Does this team have enough pitch?
New year, same big question for the angels. Full seasons of Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon would go a long way to ending a seven-year playoff drought, and the front office has done pretty well revamping the team’s bullpen with proven weapons. . But Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen are the only additions to a rotation that ranked 22nd in ERA (4.78) in 2021.
Can Justin Verlander become Justin Verlander again?
The two-time Cy Young Award winner will once again be relied upon to lead Houston’s rotation. The prospect of a 39-year-old returning to his old form after Tommy John surgery isn’t a typical recipe for success, but Verlander isn’t a typical pitcher. If he can get closer to his old self, the Astros will be in fine form to win their fifth division title in six years.
Who’s next on the trading block?
Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Chris Bassitt have all been shipped off, while Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Josh Harrison and Andrew Chafin have all signed elsewhere in free agency. The sale is in progress in Oaklandwith starters Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas most likely to be dealt next.
Can Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez acclimatize quickly?
the sailors surprised many of us last year when they won 90 games and almost made the playoffs. They won’t come out of nowhere this season, mostly because they have a loaded core of young players ready to shine on the big league stage, but how this team performs will depend on outfielders Kelenic and Rodríguez.
Kelenic was overwhelmed in his first crack against major league pitchers, posting a .181/.265/.350 slash line in 377 plate appearances. Rodríguez, meanwhile, hit 0.347/0.441/0.560 on High A and Double A in 2021, and if he doesn’t make the opening day roster, it won’t be long before he tries his luck in the majors. If these two can become impact players in 22, Seattle has a real shot at ending its 21-year playoff drought.
Can the starting spin keep its head above water?
the Rangers made some big swings to add to their roster this winter, adding Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to form perhaps the strongest (and most expensive) middlefield duo in the league. The rotation, on the other hand, is… not great! Jon Gray was a savvy signing, but the rest of the band have major question marks.
More MLB coverage:
• Red Sox hopes hinge on new story, same rotation Meh
• Cody Bellinger is MLB’s happiest spring training king
• Giants don’t have to chase last year’s ghosts
• Five-Tool Newsletter: Cubs Are Better Than You Think
• Correa’s move to Minnesota could be a perfect match