Just over three weeks into the 2022 MLB season, some players wearing new uniforms are picking up right where they left off last season. Here are top six players keeping up the elite production on new teams to start the 2022 season.
- OF Seiya Suzuki — Chicago Cubs
Suzuki’s hype coming over from Japan seems completely justified through his first few weeks in the bigs. In his first seventeen games, Suzuki not only has eight extra-base hits (four home runs and four doubles) and a .327 batting average, but he also has shown incredible plate discipline. With 13 walks in just 67 plate appearances, Suzuki is on pace for over 100 walks this season. Add on the strong defense he has provided, and everything screams “perfect fit.” The Cubs are not contending this season, but Suzuki gives the fans a reason to come to the ballpark and watch. The 2022 National League Rookie of the Year award seems like his to lose.
- SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa — New York Yankees
No, he does not bring the elite bat of Carlos Correa, Corey Seager or Marcus Semien. No, he does not bring the elite defense of Correa or Javy Baez. No, he is not a prototypical “Bronx Bomber,” but Kiner-Falefa is fitting like a glove with the Yankees. After an ice-cold start, the Yankees’ new shortstop raised his batting average to .296. Kiner-Falefa may not do any of the things mentioned above, but here are four ways he has contributed to the Yankee’s early success: he makes a ton of contact, limits his strikeouts, steals bases and plays well-above-average defense. Those four traits perfectly sum up what the 2021 Yankees lacked. Additionally, he does not cost $30 million per year and does not have a contract that will carry over into the next decade. He will not be a Yankee forever, but IKF is excelling as their shortstop this season.
- 1B Matt Olson — Atlanta Braves
Moving on from 2020 NL MVP and 2021 World Series Champion Freddie Freeman seemed like an ice cold move for the Braves. However, Olson’s .333 average, OPS near 1.000 and Gold Glove-quality defense are all helping Braves fans move on from Freeman, who is now a Los Angeles Dodger. The Braves have lacked consistency from the whole lineup and pitching staff so far in 2022, which is the main reason why the team is 8-10 so far. Olson, however, has been the best player on the team. Even if his red-hot bat cools off, Braves fans should have no problem with their new first baseman.
- SP Carlos Rodón — San Francisco Giants
The top three on this list are all pitchers. Hurlers keep getting injured more and more, so depth at the pitching position is becoming more important than star hitters. There are a few pitchers bucking that trend, however. Rodón dominated on the White Sox in 2021 with a 2.37 ERA and a fifth place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting. The cherry on top was a no-hitter against Cleveland. That campaign earned him a two-year deal with the Giants. He has even improved this season with a 1.17 ERA, nearly fifteen strikeouts per nine innings and zero allowed home runs through four starts. Alongside Logan Webb, Alex Wood and the rest of the San Francisco pitchers, Rodon will be an exceptional replacement for Kevin Gausman (more on him next) as long as he stays healthy.
- SP Kevin Gausman — Toronto Blue Jays
Gausman revived his career with San Francisco last season, leading its pitching staff with a 2.81 ERA and over 220 strikeouts. All of that work landed him sixth in National League Cy Young Voting last season and a subsequent five-year deal worth over $110 million with the Blue Jays. Alek Manoah, Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi are already a good enough rotation, and yet Gausman looks better than all of them so far. Gausman’s ERA is 2.19 through four starts, but his zero surrendered walks and home runs to the loaded AL East lineups he has faced makes his start that much more impressive. The Blue Jays were supposed to be a team led by their lineup. Thanks to Gausman, however, the pitching is carrying Toronto to its 12-7 start.
- SPs Chris Bassitt and Max Scherzer — New York Mets
The top spot goes to two players who do the same job for the same team. Regardless of their average age of 35, Bassitt and Scherzer strengthened an already-deep Mets pitching staff. Between Bassitt and Scherzer, Tylor Megill, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker and Jacob deGrom when he returns, the Mets’ staff is best in baseball by a country mile. Scherzer and Bassitt have a combined 2.03 ERA through 49 total innings over their first eight starts in 2022. On top of that, they have 59 strikeouts and just three home runs allowed between the two of them. They are also both top-five in Wins Above Replacement for the Mets through nineteen games per Baseball Reference. If they both stay healthy, they can help lead the Mets to the elite season their 14-5 start seems to imply is coming.