After months of uncertainty caused by a labor lockout and the extravaganza of roster moves that followed, the 2022 MLB regular season is underway. With the rosters set, we can finally put the doldrums of winter behind us and get back to doing what we do best: publishing opinions about the relative quality of baseball teams that we will likely be embarrassed by three months from now.
This is the inaugural Pitcher List MLB team power rankings (applause, cheers, confetti)! The Pitcher List staff will continue to update these ranks weekly throughout the season as each team’s fortunes rise and fall. With that notice out of the way, let’s get right into what you’re here for.
1. The Los Angeles Dodgers
It feels like a cop-out to put the Dodgers at the top of a power ranking list, but there’s no other option. They have an insanely deep lineup that’s already being billed as historically good, and a starting rotation featuring a two-time All-Star (Walker Buehler), a future Hall-of-Famer (Clayton Kershaw), and one of last season’s 20-game winners (Julio Urías).
If there’s any weakness for this team, it’s the lack of depth in their starting rotation. Kershaw struggled through injuries last season and got a late start in spring training as a result. Andrew Heaney and Tony Gonsolin, who will occupy the four and five spots in the rotation, both have high upside but have also been very inconsistent throughout their careers.
If Heaney or Gonsolin get stuck in a trough or injuries strike early on, Dave Roberts may have to use his bullpen to eat up a lot of innings. That said, it’s a bullpen that includes Cy Young winner David Price, eight-time All-Star Craig Kimbrel, and the flame-throwing Brusdar Graterol. So even with a worst-case scenario in which several starters go down early in the season, they should be fine.
Why fans should be excited: “Why Dodgers Fans Should Be Excited in 2022” could be a multi-page listicle. For now, we’ll go with watching newly acquired first-baseman Freddie Freeman ply his trade at every Dodgers home game and enjoying more of Trea Turner’s smooth base running.
2. The Toronto Blue Jays
According to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., “What we did last year was a trailer. Now, you guys are going to see the movie.” Let’s hope he’s right. In his third MLB season, the 23-year-old mashed 48 homers and boasted an OPS+ of 169. He anchors a young lineup that mixes young talent like Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernández with veterans like George Springer and the newly acquired Matt Chapman.
On the other side of the ball, Toronto made up for the loss of 2021 Cy Young winner Robbie Ray by signing free agents Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi. They’ll hope for a bounce-back year from Hyun Jin Ryu and another step forward from talented youngster Alek Manoah. The stage is set. We’ll see what kind of movie the Jays can put together.
Why fans should be excited: Vlad Jr. on his own is enough to make the Blue Jays must-watch TV, but his teammates can also put on a show. Jays fans who haven’t watched Matt Chapman at work on the hot corner are in for a treat. Also, the Jays will be able to play the full season in Toronto, which is a big plus.
3. The Chicago White Sox
Despite an acrimonious start and a slate of high-profile injuries in 2021, the White Sox still managed to win 93 games and the AL Central crown. There’s little reason to doubt they’ll be the best team in their division again this year. With the addition of AJ Pollock from the Dodgers, Chicago has one of the most dangerous offenses in the MLB.
Producing runs shouldn’t be an issue for the Sox, but injuries have already thinned their options on the mound. Lance Lynn will miss the first several weeks of the season due to knee surgery. Reliever Garrett Crochet is likely due for Tommy John surgery, Joe Kelly is suffering from a biceps injury, and they traded Craig Kimbrel to the Dodgers in exchange for Pollock.
Still, the bullpen features the league’s best closer in Liam Hendriks. Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Dallas Keuchel are a formidable threesome at the front end of the rotation. Michael Kopech and Reynaldo López may both find consistency in their starting roles at the end of the rotation following strong seasons in 2021.
4. The Atlanta Braves
Despite losing the face of the franchise in the offseason, the defending World Series champions are still a force to be reckoned with in 2022.
The loss of Freddie Freeman was largely offset by their trade for Matt Olson, arguably the best first baseman in baseball behind Freeman. Ronald Acuña Jr. will start the season on the IL but, assuming his injury woes are behind him, he should return to being one of the best players in the league before the end of the season.
Those two will be flanked by the core of last season’s championship team in Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, and Austin Riley. The team also gets an offensive boost from the return of Marcell Ozuna and, with the signing of the legendary Kenley Jansen, benefits from one of the best bullpens in the MLB.
The questions for Atlanta center on its starting rotation. Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Mike Soroka, and Ian Anderson are all bona fide aces, but Morton is newly recovered from a fractured leg suffered in the playoffs and Soroka hasn’t pitched since tearing his Achilles in 2020.
Why fans should be excited: Atlanta has a chance to repeat as World Series champions. Acuña Jr. will be back on the diamond. Kenley Jansen will be wearing a uniform that doesn’t say “Dodgers” for the first time. What more could you want?
5. The Houston Astros
Last year’s runners-up enter 2022 with a starting rotation that not only proved its quality in the playoffs but is also bolstered by the return of Justin Verlander. The loss of Lance McCullers Jr. to a flexor tendon injury to start the season is a setback, but Luis Garcia, Framber Valdez, and José Urquidy have proven they can get the job done.
Although the loss of Carlos Correa to the Twins takes some potency out of their offense, the Astros feel good about replacing him with prospect Jeremy Pena and they still have a lot of firepower leftover without Correa. Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez will vie for Silver Slugger Awards, and veterans Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Michael Brantley can still do a lot of damage.
Why fans should be excited: The Astros have a good enough squad to get over the final hump from last season and finally put the demons of 2017’s sign-stealing scandal to rest. Also, seeing Justin Verlander back on the mound is reason enough to celebrate.
The Rest of the Field
6. The Milwaukee Brewers
What to Watch For: Their rotation features three Cy Young candidates. Can they generate enough offense to support them?
7. The Tampa Bay Rays
8. The New York Mets
What to Watch For: With Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer both healthy, the Mets will certainly move higher in future lists. Mets fans who are grumbling “Oh no, it’s happening already” should feel buoyed by Tylor Megill’s five-inning, six strikeout opening day performance against the Nationals.
9. The Seattle Mariners
What to Watch For: They need to prove they can score consistently, but one of the most unexpectedly fun and competitive teams in 2021 should be even better in 2022.
10. The Philadelphia Phillies
What to Watch For: With the additions of Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, the Phillies are the great “let’s see if we can win without playing defense” experiment of 2022. It will be interesting to see how the pitching staff holds up, but it’s going to be a ton of fun to watch regardless.
11. The New York Yankees
What to Watch For: There are many ifs: if they stay healthy, if they can get enough quality innings from starters not named Gerrit Cole, if Josh Donaldson and Joey Gallo start mashing again… This team will be very good. If none of that happens, they will be very mediocre.
12. The San Francisco Giants
What to Watch For: How much of an impact will the losses of Buster Posey, Kevin Gausman, Kris Bryant, and the rest of the offseason departures have? Will Carlos Rodón stay healthy for the full season?
13. The San Diego Padres
What to Watch For: The Padres will climb higher in future editions of our rankings once Fernando Tatis Jr. is healthy. The opening day trade to acquire Taylor Rogers is an important upgrade to the back end of their bullpen, although they may regret the decision if Chris Paddack has a bounce-back year for Minnesota.
14. The Boston Red Sox
What to Watch For: The Red Sox proved they can hang with anyone with their offense during the playoffs last year. Trevor Story makes them even better in that regard, but can the pitching staff keep them competitive for a full season with Chris Sale still battling through injuries?
15. The St. Louis Cardinals
What to Watch For: With Jack Flaherty out, there’s too much uncertainty about the Cardinals’ rotation to rank them higher to start the season. Even with that uncertainty, the Cards shouldn’t be underestimated: most of the key players that powered them to last season’s 17-game win streak and NL Wild Card berth are still there.
16. The Los Angeles Angels
17. The Minnesota Twins
What to Watch For: The Twins made big moves for Carlos Correa and Sonny Gray. If they get off to a hot start they can put pressure on the White Sox for the AL Central title, but a lot of things have to go right for them to come away with the crown.
18. The Detroit Tigers
What to Watch For: The Tigers’ rebuild is nearing completion. If Tarik Skubal, Spencer Torkelson, Casey Mize, and Matt Manning all fulfill their potential, they have an outside chance at a Wild Card berth.
19. The Cleveland Guardians
What to Watch For: They re-signed José Ramírez, but he’ll need more help offensively before this team can reach the playoffs. They can be competitive if Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, and the rest of the starting rotation stay healthy and regain their peak form.
20. The Texas Rangers
What to Watch For: The Rangers got two foundational pieces by signing Marcus Semien and Corey Seager in the offseason. They’ll need to generate a lot of offense to help out a questionable pitching staff.
21. The Miami Marlins
22. The Chicago Cubs
What to Watch For: The Cubs won their opening day game against the Brewers and 2021 Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes. Kyle Hendricks threw a solid 5.1 innings with seven strikeouts and only one earned run. Seiya Suzuki reached base three times by way of two walks and a single. It was an exhilarating start to 2022, but the lack of power in the lineup may limit their ceiling going forward. That said, Thursday’s game also featured the first home run Nico Hoerner has hit since 2019.
23. The Kansas City Royals
24. The Colorado Rockies
What to Watch For: The Rockies have a lot of good bats in their lineup, but the challenge at Coors Field is pitching. We’ll have to see how the bullpen holds up throughout the season.
25. The Arizona Diamondbacks
What to Watch For: If Ketel Marte plays the full season and they can find some power in their bats, the Snakes have a good enough starting rotation to sneak into a Wild Card spot. Perhaps rookie Seth Beer will continue to bring the pop after hitting a walk-off homer on opening day.
26. The Oakland Athletics
What to Watch For: After offloading their key players from 2021 during the offseason, the A’s will try to moneyball their way to a winning record with prospects and Frankie Montas. We may not see another Oakland team in the playoffs until their stadium saga gets resolved.
27. The Cincinnati Reds
28. The Washington Nationals
29. The Baltimore Orioles
30. The Pittsburgh Pirates
What to Watch For: Will Ke’Bryan Hayes break out after signing a long-term contract? Will they keep Oneil Cruz in the majors or screw with his service time? Will Mitch Keller improve his fastball control?
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)