Ranking the 10 Biggest Disappointments in MLB so Far in 2022
When spring training was shortened and the start of the MLB season was delayed because of labor negotiations, it was reasonable to expect some odd performances once baseball came back.
The delay, however, did not temper expectations already set based on performances from last season.
Teams still spent a lot of money in free agency and were aggressive with trades, and a handful of top prospects made Opening Day rosters.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the 10 biggest disappointments so far.
Our lists can be different depending on our own expectations, so let’s see how they match up. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments.
10. Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners
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Jarred Kelenic was supposed to build on the last five weeks of 2021, when the 22-year-old outfielder slashed .248/.331/.524 with seven homers and a 135 wRC+.
It was impressive enough to make him one of the players trending toward becoming an All-Star this year, or at least it seemed.
Instead, it’s gone in the opposite direction for Kelenic, Baltimore Ravens Jersey who was demoted back to Triple-A last week after a putrid start. He had slashed .140/.219/.291 with an alarming 37.5 percent strikeout rate.
He looked lost. It got so bad that MLB insider Jon Heyman declared the New York Mets winners of the trade featuring Kelenic, Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, even though Cano had just been released three-and-a-half years after the swap.
Morry Gash/Associated Press
World Series hangover? Whatever it is, Atlanta isn’t exactly defending its title admirably. Part of this is because of the bolstered rosters within the National League East.
The New York Mets appear to be as good as advertised following their offseason moves. The Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies aren’t great, but they look better than Atlanta.
All three teams entered Wednesday with 17 wins and losing records, but only Atlanta had a negative run differential (minus-12).
Atlanta has the highest strikeout percentage in baseball (26.3), is 19th in wRC+ (94) and 26th in batting average (.223).
Its pitching is pedestrian, with a 1.26 WHIP and 3.91 ERA, which rank 18th and 22nd. It would be worse without the strength of the bullpen. Atlanta relievers have the second-highest WAR (2.4), behind only the New York Yankees’, while the starters rank 17th (2.3).
8. Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
This rookie was supposed to take the game by storm. As the No. 1 prospect in baseball, it was assumed by many that Bobby Witt Jr. would make a seamless transition to the big leagues.
But the Kansas City lineup has been so bad that it would take more than a phenom to save it. The Royals rank 28th in OPS (.627), and 27th in wRC+ (84).
Witt is not helping. The 21-year-old is slashing .215/.261/.377 with three home runs through 130 at-bats.
He’s also striking out a lot while not hitting the ball very hard when he does make contact. Panicking would be an overreaction, and perhaps the disappointment stems from such heightened expectations. But Witt’s performance so far has not lived up.
7. Boston Red Sox
Charles Krupa/Associated Press
The Boston Red Sox are a far cry from the 92-win wild-card team that made a run to the American League Championship Series last year.
Instead of stacking up against the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, Boston is more comparable to the Baltimore Orioles, the only American League East team with a worse record and run differential.
If that’s not bad enough, the Red Sox on Tuesday had an embarrassing beatdown at Fenway Park at the hands of the Houston Astros, who hit five home runs in one NFL Jerseys for Cheap inning against Nathan Eovaldi, who became just the third pitcher to give up as many long balls in one frame.
A large portion of Sox’s offensive production is coming from the heart of their order with Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts. They are the only position players with a WAR over 1.0.
Instead of another pennant race, the Red Sox may be sellers at the trade deadline, when all eyes should be on Bogaerts.
6. Trevor Story, Boston Red Sox
Steven Senne/Associated Press
Trevor Story’s first home run at Fenway Park fueled a comeback against the Astros on Monday night. It had been a rough stretch for Boston’s shiny free-agent acquisition prior to that moment.
Red Sox fans had even booed Story earlier this month when he struck out four times in a game.
Story hasn’t been great since signing a six-year, $140 million contract. His strikeout percentage (30.1) is 16th-highest in the majors, and he is slashing .210/.294/.328.
Story’s last seven games (.269/.355/.539 with two homers) have been encouraging, but he has a long way to go.
5. Chicago White Sox
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
While the American League Central improved this year, the Chicago White Sox were still expected to be the class of the division. That might still turn out to be the case, but it has not been at this point.
The White Sox held a .500 record through 36 games and were 2.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins and just one ahead of the Cleveland Guardians. Of those three teams, Chicago by far has the worst run differential (minus-26), and similar to last year it has not performed well against good teams (5-9 against teams over .500; 27-29 last year).
The White Sox’ OPS (.635) ranks 27th, only better than the lowly Royals’, Detroit Tigers’ and Oakland Athletics’.
Their pitching is middle-of-the-road in most areas but ranks 24th in WHIP (1.31).
Chicago brought back Tony La Russa last year because of its World Series aspirations. In Year 2, the White Sox seem to be taking a step back—and at best just running in place.
4. Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
The narrative on Tyler O’Neill seems to have changed with his slow start. He emerged for the St. Louis Cardinals last year as someone who appeared to have stardom in his future, slashing .286/.352/.560 with 34 home runs.
Based on that output, which was by far the 26-year-old’s best in his four seasons, it was reasonable to expect O’Neill to pick up right where he left off.
Instead, O’Neill entered Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Mets hitting 12-for-77 (.156) with a home run and 12 RBI in his previous 21 games. The Cardinals held Hoka Shoes him out of the lineup for the two previous games to work on his swing.
It paid off, at least in the second game of that doubleheader, when O’Neill hit a two-out infield single to drive in the deciding run.
O’Neill still has much to do to get back to how he was viewed at the end of last year, when his .583 xSLG, .384 wOBA, .392 xWOBA and 52.2 hard-hit percentage ranked among the top 7 percent in the game.
Those numbers through 118 at-bats this season: .381, .248, .294 and 35.0.
3. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ashley Landis/Associated Press
This was supposed to be a bounce-back season for Cody Bellinger after career lows in his peripheral numbers last year. He picked things up in the postseason, showing glimpses of his 2019 National League MVP form.
But his start has resembled the recent Bellinger everyone has come to know.
It might even be worse.
Bellinger is striking out at a higher clip than he ever has (32.4 percent through 129 at-bats).
The peripheral numbers tell a similar tale. He’s slashing .194/.268/.403 with a .237 xBA, .316 xWOBA and .427 xSLG. His WAR is 0.6 through 35 games.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are still the best team in the National League, with division rivals in the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants plus the Mets out east challenging that notion. But for now, they’re doing it without Bellinger, who should be one of their best players.
2. Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers
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After doling out more than half a billion dollars this offseason, the Texas Rangers don’t have many wins to account for their lavish spending.
The Rangers are not necessarily the worst team in the American League West, but they’re still far behind the defending division winner Astros and the contending Los Angeles Angels.
Texas ranks 26th in baseball with a .637 OPS, which is actually worse than last year’s MLB-worst .669 mark. By that measure, the lineup has become worse despite the additions of free agents Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.
Neither acquisition has been great, but Semien’s performance has been especially alarming. He ranks in the bottom 4 percent of the majors in xBA (.183), xSLG (.289), wOBA (.202), xWOBA (.241) and hard-hit percentage (25.5). Simply put, Semien is not doing anything well at the plate.
1. Toronto Blue Jays
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The Toronto Blue Jays are barely over .500 and sit third in the AL East behind the Yankees and Rays. This was always expected to be a loaded division—but Toronto was to take another step and emerge as the front-runner.
That just hasn’t happened, as the Blue Jays are 5-10 in their last 15 games.
The strength of the team is supposed to be the lineup, but it’s been mediocre. That group carried a .681 OPS through 1,220 at-bats, which ranked 18th in baseball. The Jays are 15th in offensive WAR, while they were second in that category last season. They’re also 17th in wRC+ (97) compared to second last season (112).
Toronto is still hitting home runs, tied for the fourth-most in baseball going into Tuesday. But they led MLB by far last year, so this performance is underwhelming.