We’re a month into the 2022 season and there are a number of surprising developments in the NL East. Throughout the season, I’ll be covering the good, the bad, and the ugly from this division.
In this first installment of the NL East roundup, you’ll find a recap of each team’s recent performance along with their biggest surprise, biggest disappointment, and injury updates. Let’s dig in!
The Mets are finally firing on all cylinders. Max Scherzer is doing Max Scherzer things. Tylor Megill and Chris Bassitt have been nothing short of fantastic, and Carlos Carrasco is healthy and looking like the best version of himself. Despite missing Jacob deGrom thus far, the Mets’ rotation is arguably the best in baseball.
Things are going well offensively, too. Francisco Lindor looks like the version of himself that we know and love. Jeff McNeil, despite not hitting the ball all that hard (18.5% hard contact rate), has been extremely productive. He’s hitting .337 with a 160 wRC+. Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar have been tremendous additions, and the team is getting tremendous production from Luis Guillorme and Travis Jankowski off the bench.
The one unfortunate slow start is from right fielder Starling Marte. His quality of contact has been uncharacteristically poor. Among all qualified hitters, Marte’s 82.4 mph average exit velocity is the worst in baseball. He tends to be a slow starter, so he’ll be someone to watch over the next month or two.
Biggest surprise: Tylor Megill, or as Nick Pollack prefers: Tylord Megill.
Megill has not only been the biggest surprise on the Mets, but one of the biggest in all of baseball. The righthander struck out 11 and walked none in his first two starts of the season thanks to an uptick in velocity and increased movement. More recently, Megill was the starter in the Mets’ combined no hitter against the Phillies last week. PL’s very own Sami Alsado covered Megill’s changes in his recent Is it legit? article. Sami’s conclusion: legit.
Biggest disappointment: Zero starts from Jacob deGrom.
The game of baseball is at its best when the best players are healthy. Unfortunately, deGrom has been sidelined since the start of the season with a shoulder injury. The good news? A recent MRI showed “considerable healing” that has allowed him to begin “loading and strengthening of the shoulder,” per Mets’ beat writer Anthony DiComo. It’s unlikely that deGrom, whose last start was July 7, 2021, will actually begin throwing until a few weeks from now. The Mets currently have the best record in the National League; when they get deGrom back, they’ll be an even greater force to be reckoned with.
- SP Taijuan Walker returned to the mound on April 30 after a stint on the injured list due to shoulder soreness.
Welcome back, @tai_walker 🙌 pic.twitter.com/NrTdqMS9mw
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 30, 2022
- SP Jacob deGrom has not pitched in 2022 because of a stress reaction in his right scapula.
- RP Trevor May was placed on the 15-day injured list Tuesday with a stress reaction in his arm.
- SP Joey Lucchesi remains on the injured list as he recovers from last year’s Tommy John surgery.
- RP John Curtiss also underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2021 and remains on the IL.
- RP Sean Reid-Foley is out with a partially torn elbow ligament he sustained at the end of April.
Despite mediocre starts from ace Sandy Alcantara, NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Trevor Rogers, and offseason acquisitions Jorge Soler and Avisaíl García, the Marlins were surprisingly adequate throughout April. They took two of three games in Atlanta to jumpstart a 7-game winning streak, ending April with a 12-8 record and high hopes going into May.
Starting pitcher Pablo López was a huge reason for the team’s early success. He looked fantastic in his first four starts, allowing one run in 23.1 innings with just four walks and 23 strikeouts. His 0.39 ERA led all of baseball, and he was named the National League Pitcher of the Month.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesús Sánchez also started off well. Chisholm hit .298 with a 1.011 OPS in April. He’s hitting the ball hard boasting a 32.1% hard contact rate and is much more disciplined at the plate (23.9% chase rate). Sánchez went cold at the end of the month, but was the team’s hottest hitter in the first two weeks where he hit .340 with a 1.009 OPS.
Biggest surprise: The often under-appreciated utility men!
Who would have thought that Joey Wendle would be the most productive and valuable player that the Marlins added this offseason?! The Marlins traded for Wendle the day after acquiring Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings, and the day before signing free agent outfielder Avisaíl García. For this reason, the trade for Wendle flew under the radar and didn’t get as much appreciation as it should’ve. Through the first month, the infielder has been one of the team’s most productive bats while sliding all around the diamond. Additionally, utility man Jon Berti has been unbelievably stellar. Although he’s not starting every day, Berti has taken advantage of every at-bat. Brian Anderson, splitting his time between third base and the corner outfield spots, has done the same. Both Berti and Anderson dealt with injuries in 2021, with Anderson struggling mightily when he was on the field.
Biggest disappointment: Jorge Soler and Avisaíl García.
For all that’s going right for the Marlins right now, Soler and García’s performances are going very wrong. Both are hitting under the Mendoza line with strikeout rates well north of the league average (Soler: 28.0%; García 31.1%). To Soler’s credit, he’s hitting the ball harder as of late. He hit two home runs in the team’s weekend series against the Mariners, both traveling more that 450 ft. with exit velocities above 112 mph. There’s not many moral victories for García, however. He’s worked one walk and struck out 23 times in 74 plate appearances, a 1.4% walk rate and 31.1% strikeout rate. He seems to be underperforming his expected statistics, but the contact is so infrequent that it doesn’t seem to matter.
- RP Dylan Floro is nearing a return from rotator cuff tendinitis that has sidelined him this season.
- RP Paul Campbell hit the injured list on April 20 with a strained elbow.
- RP Sean Guenther is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in early April.
Atlanta is out with the old and in with the new. The Freddie Freeman era is over, and Matt Olson, to his credit, has made the transition as seamless as could be. He’s slashing .283/.395/.485 with a 151 wRC+. Third baseman Austin Riley has been outstanding, crushing nearly everything he sees to the tune of a 160 wRC+ with contact quality that jumps off the charts.
And have you heard? Ronald Acuña Jr. is back! He hasn’t looked so hot in his return, hitting a measly .200 with a .526 OPS in six games since returning from a torn ACL injury. But we all know that Acuña will get it going sooner or later. The rest of the NL East likely knows it, too.
Along with strong starts from their rotation, the Braves’ revamped bullpen is also looking good. Kenley Jansen has successfully converted all seven of his save opportunities. His 36.1% strikeout rate and 5.6% walk rate is also the best we’ve seen him since the 2017 season.
Biggest surprise: Kyle Wright.
Wright dazzled in his season debut, holding the Reds scoreless on two hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. He was even better two starts later, striking out 11 Marlins’ hitters in six innings of scoreless work. MLB.com’s Mike Petriello highlighted the keys to Wright’s breakout season last week: he’s throwing more curveballs, has had better four-seam fastball command, and is getting more movement on his changeup and sinker. How’s that working out for Wright? Pretty darn good.
Biggest disappointment: The outfield.
For an outfield that was revamped mid-way through 2021 and was praised as a defining moment in their World Series run, the Braves outfield is off to a less than ideal start in 2022. Their rotation of Marcell Ozuna, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, Guillermo Heredia, and Travis Demeritte have combined for a .200/.266/.325 line.
Adam Duvall has really failed to get going, slashing just .188/.250/.288 with a 56 wRC+. The low average is something we’ve come to expect but can reconcile because he usually provides enough power to remain productive. That power, however, hasn’t come yet. Nine of his 15 hits have been singles, and he’s striking out 33.0% of the time. The 2022 season hasn’t been kind to Eddie Rosario, either. He’s currently on the injured list with blurred vision and eye swelling which may have contributed to his 3-for-44 start. He’s likely to be sidelined for 8-12 weeks, per Braves’ beat writer Mark Bowman.
- OF Ronald Acuña Jr. was recently activated from the IL after missing significant time with a knee injury. He is currently playing in the designated hitter’s role.
What? Like it's hard?
In his first game since July 10th, @ronaldacunajr24 collects a hit and 2 SB.
(MLB x @HankookTireUSA) pic.twitter.com/lPl6XN0J6C
— MLB (@MLB) April 29, 2022
- OF Eddie Rosario received laser eye surgery on April 27 after dealing with swelling and blurry vision. He will be out for 8-12 weeks.
- C Manny Piña hit the injured list on April 24 with wrist inflammation.
- SP Mike Soroka is continuing to rehab from his second torn Achilles and targeting a return in the second half of the season.
- RP Kirby Yates hopes to return in August after needing Tommy John surgery in 2021.
- RP Luke Jackson will miss the entire 2022 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 13.
The Phillies loaded up on bats this offseason, signing Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. Both have been productive at the plate so far, although Schwarber in a less conventional way. He’s only hitting .193, but has a 126 wRC+ thanks to a high walk rate and absolutely mashing when he does make contact. Of his 16 hits, three have gone for doubles and seven for home runs. Nick Castellanos is hitting even better boasting a line of .307/.374/.477 with a 145 wRC+. Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Alec Bohm are also giving the team meaningful production, but the inconsistency has led to struggles on the road and a current three-game losing streak.
Pitchers Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin haven’t had dominant performances, but they seem to be running into some bad luck when comparing their results to what their xERA and xFIP show. Can we really be that surprised though? Adding Castellanos and Schwarber didn’t exactly bolster their defense; one of them would have to play the field to get both of their bats in the lineup.
Biggest surprise: Alec Bohm.
Bohm has had a wild ride. The top prospect had a dismal 2021 and, after struggling this spring, didn’t have the third baseman’s job locked down. Then he had a three error game, endured boos from the Philly faithful, and voiced his displeasure for “this place.” To his credit, Bohm owned up to his comment and admitted his emotions got the best of him. Phillies fans appreciated the honesty and supported him with a standing ovation. The young third baseman has turned it around, consistently hitting the ball hard, displaying more discipline at the plate, and producing in a way we’d expected all along.
Biggest disappointment: 4th place in the NL East.
After the moves they made this offseason, the Phillies likely didn’t think they’d be sitting in 4th place. Sure, it’s still early, but they don’t have much time to waste with the Mets leading the way and the Braves getting Acuña back. Manager Joe Girardi’s every move is under a microscope, and some wonder if he’s on the hot seat.
- OF Mickey Moniak is expected to return this month after a hit by pitch broke his right hand in the final spring training game.
- RP JoJo Romero is working his way back from his 2021 Tommy John surgery.
- RPs Ryan Sherriff, Kent Emanuel, and Sam Coonrod are playing catch, but all three have no current timetable for a return.
The Nationals didn’t come into the season as a realistic threat, and they’ve lived up to the lack of expectations. Despite recording more hits than any team besides the Mets, the Nationals aren’t barrelling the ball up in a way that’s needed for any significant type of production. Josh Bell and Juan Soto are carrying the team on their backs, along with some help from an unsuspecting Yadiel Hernandez. They can’t do it all, though, especially when the pitching and defense isn’t sharp.
Nationals pitchers hold the second-worst ERA (4.89) and WHIP (1.46) in baseball. Patrick Corbin and Joan Adon have ERAs north of 7, while Aaron Sanchez’s ERA is north of 6. Josiah Gray is the only starter that gives them a realistic chance of decent starts. Meanwhile, Tanner Rainey has at least pitched well in the closer’s role, but as Nationals writer Mark Zuckerman noted, there hasn’t been a save situation for him in two weeks. Things don’t seem like they’ll improve for the Nats, who have a 0.1% chance to make the playoffs per FanGraphs’ playoff odds calculation.
Biggest surprise: Josh Bell.
After watching first baseman Josh Bell struggle through a dim 2020 and first half of 2021, it’s really good to see him bounce back into dominance at the start of 2022. Coming into today, Bell’s slash line is .349/.446/.523 with a 179 wRC+ that is 10th-best in baseball. Bell is walking more than he’s striking out (13.6 BB% vs. 11.7% K%), and his quality of contact backs up the gaudy line he’s currently posting. He recently told Nationals’ writer Jesse Dougherty that it’s the first time in his career where he’s felt locked in from both sides of the plate.
Biggest disappointment: Nelson Cruz.
The only significant move the Nationals made all offseason was the free agent signing of designated hitter Nelson Cruz. His lackluster performance is the team’s biggest disappointment. The 41-year-old is slashing .143/.233/.209 with a 31 wRC+ that is the fifth worst among all qualified hitters in baseball. I don’t think anyone expected Cruz to perform like he did in Seattle and Minnesota, but we surely didn’t expect this.
- SPs Stephen Strasburg (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery) and Joe Ross (bone spur removal surgery) were scheduled to throw live batting practice yesterday.
- SP Aníbal Sánchez is still dealing with a nerve impingement in his neck and has not begun to throw.
- RP Sean Doolittle was transferred to the 6-day IL yesterday after he received a PRP injection in his elbow last week and cannot throw for six weeks.
- 3B Carter Kieboom is still dealing with a strain in his elbow and forearm.
- UTIL Ehire Adrianza started running in his rehab from a strained quad.
Artwork by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)