The year is 2022. For reasons unknown, looking across the entire landscape of Major League Baseball, one number stands out. That number is none other than 22. There’s a quality team out there to be filled only with players that wear the number 22, and what better to fill out that squad than on the 22nd of July.
From Jim Palmer through Andrew McCutchen, many great players have worn the number 22, those two, in particular, stand out in longevity, for having worn the number for the majority of their careers, and other all-time greats such as Mike Schmidt and Roger Clemens did so for shorter periods of time.
What if you were to learn that this year, there is a Cy Young favorite, a couple of former MVPs, a recent runner-up, and enough depth to fill out a lineup and starting rotation made entirely out of players with the number 22.
SP1: Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
"Starting pitcher… from your Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw!" 👏 pic.twitter.com/YOlXhZjRPT
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 20, 2022
Leading off the rotation is left-hander, three-time Cy Young award winner, one-time MVP, and 2022 World Series champion, Clayton Kershaw. We’ll start here because unlike the majority of our list, there is a well-documented reason why Kershaw chose the number 22, and why we will eventually see it retired in Dodgers Stadium.
Growing up in Texas, Kershaw’s favorite player was the Texas Rangers‘ first baseman, Will Clark. Although Clark eventually wore other numbers through the tail-end of his career, 22 was the only number he used in a Texas Rangers uniform (1994-98).
Interestingly enough, Kershaw didn’t get the chance to wear number 22 through his years in the minors, and the southpaw actually debuted with the number 54. At the time of his call up to the big leagues, the Dodgers already had someone wearing the number 22, Mike Sweeney.
Sweeney in his own right had an attachment to the number 21 and had lost it over the offseason when Esteban Loaiza re-signed earlier than Sweeney. Shortly after Kershaw’s debut, the Dodgers DFA’d Loaiza, and Sweeney decided to take his old number, opening up the chance for Kershaw to take 22.
Sweeney was quoted as saying the following regarding giving Kershaw the number 22:
“(he is) going to be in this uniform for a long, long time. It’s something important to do from an organizational standpoint.”
2008 ended up being Sweeney’s last year with the Dodgers and in the big leagues, and as far as Kershaw, well, the rest was history.
With Kershaw leading the charge here is the rest of the all-22 roster:
SP2: Sandy Alcantara (MIA)
Sandy Alcantara 3-pitch strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton 😈🤩
Best pitcher in baseball on display pic.twitter.com/8Fus5FenOG
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 20, 2022
By Kershaw’s own words, the best pitcher on the planet right now, Alcantara is a unicorn in the current era. The Marlins ace is the prohibitive favorite for the NL Cy Young, and his league-leading WAR warrants a conversation about his MVP case in the National League.
SP3: Jon Gray (TEX)
Jon Gray, White Castle Special. 🤢🍔🍔🍔 pic.twitter.com/CWTa8VJV9b
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 21, 2022
Many expected and predicted the breakout season from Gray following his departure from Coors Field, and although it took a little longer than originally thought, that breakout is here. Gray has already taken over as the ace duties of that team, despite Perez’s top-notch efforts in the first half.
SP4: Jack Flaherty (STL)
Jack Flaherty, Pretty 75mph Knuckle Curve. 🌈 pic.twitter.com/Au7ypOkDNu
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 14, 2021
The Cardinals ace can’t seem to catch a break over the past few years, failing to stay healthy at every term, but if available Flaherty has the upside of a top 15 starter in baseball. Here’s to a full recovery from the Cardinals’ star.
SP5: Nick Martinez (SD)
Nick Martinez lit up Statcast with the vertical movement on his cutter, four-seamer & change on Monday. That vulcan change (below) is impressive looking but Pitching+ wasn’t as into it. 96 Stuff+ on fastball, 93 on the change, 92.5 Stuff+ overall. I’m watching & holding still. pic.twitter.com/ObzVYbXzDs
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) April 12, 2022
Martinez may not hold the grip on a starter role that he did on Opening Day, but that speaks more to the quality of the Padres pitching staff than anything else. Martinez has been effective in his return to Major League Baseball
Catcher – Luis Torrens (SEA)
Pinch Hitting, Luis Torrens Smokes a Ball off of the Center Field Wall in the Bottom of the 9th to drive in Jared Kelenic and Walk it off for the Mariners 2-1 over the Rangers pic.twitter.com/xpUBCwyTeS
— MLB Walk Offs & Game Winning Plays (@MLBWalk_Offs) August 12, 2021
The Mariners’ backup catcher is experiencing a poor 2022 campaign after showing a decent bat in 2021, but he runs opposed for the position in the All-22 squad and is the selection behind the plate.
First Baseman – Josh Naylor (CLE)
Josh Naylor demolished this ball! pic.twitter.com/grpGFRT6Iq
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 14, 2022
The former first-round pick of the Marlins, Naylor and his 136 OPS+ on the 2022 season is one of the main reasons why the Guardians are surprising many as contenders in the AL Central.
Second Baseman – Robinson Canó (ATL)
— Baseball Today (@dailymlbtweets) July 12, 2022
One of the greatest second basemen of the twenty-first century, Cano wore the number 22 back in his Yankees days and has taken it up again in 2022 with the Braves.
Third Baseman – Brandon Drury (CIN)
"Every little one counts!"
— Bally Sports Cincinnati (@BallySportsCIN) July 16, 2022
The journeyman Drury has been on a tear since joining the Reds before this season, and he’ll be one of the most sought-after hitters on the market at the deadline.
Shortstop – David Fletcher (LAA)
How the heck did David Fletcher hit this pitch for a double? pic.twitter.com/cmp4wckJp6
— Cut4 (@Cut4) August 22, 2020
The Angels’ contact specialist hasn’t seen much of the field in 2022 because of injuries, but he also doesn’t have a competitor for the role in this squad.
Left-Field – Christian Yelich (MIL)
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) July 16, 2022
The former MVP goes back to his Marlins days moving over to left because right-field is set aside for the star hitter of this team.
Center-Field – Ramón Laureano (OAK)
Oh my, Ramón Laureano CRUSHED this. You know he enjoyed that one in Houston 👀
A's lead 4-0! pic.twitter.com/3ZVgXmUkXR
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 10, 2021
After serving a PED suspension to begin the year, Laureano is back with the A’s and reestablishing his value with a fine 2022 campaign.
Right-Field – Juan Soto (WSN)
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 19, 2022
The hitting savant, Soto is the star of the lineup, and although his position as a National is in question for the future, his role as thumper for the All-22 squad is firmly entrenched.
Designated Hitter – Miguel Sanó (MIN)
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) July 17, 2022
Another hitter in the middle of an injury-plagued year, Sanó has shown more than enough power over his career to be the DH for this team.
Could This Team Compete?
Just on starting rotation and lineup alone, this team would have a total of three all-stars in Soto, Alcantara, and Kershaw, which is more than many franchises that end up with a marginally underserving all-star just to fill a quota.
Jack Flaherty is currently on the shelf and hasn’t really been able to pitch this season, making only a couple of starts after a prolonged early absence due to shoulder issues. However even considering his total, this starting staff would have a combined 9.4 bWAR.
To get some perspective on what that total would mean, as Major League Baseball entered the all-star break, the team leading the sport in bWAR by a pitching staff is the Atlanta Braves with 15.1, and only five teams are above the 12 mark. That 9.4 mark from only five pitchers with one of them (Flaherty) providing negative value, well, it would be the 10th ranked staff in all of baseball. Ahead of the likes of the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres, and Milwaukee Brewers.
Any pitching staff that has Sandy Alcantara’s league-leading 5.3 wins above replacement starts the race well ahead of the pack, but Clayton Kershaw and Jon Gray are having very productive seasons, both are right now the ace of their respective staffs, and Nick Martinez is having a productive season in a flexible role with the Padres following his return to MLB.
On the hitting side, Ramón Laureano had a late start due to his PED suspension, but is regaining form and should be a primary chip on the hitting market for the A’s. Brandon Drury has been the best Reds hitter in 2022 and was an outside shot candidate at the All-Star game with his .864 OPS. Christian Yelich is far from the player he once was but is still a solid player, and Juan Soto is back to Juan Soto’s ways, after an unimpressive start to his campaign. The Nationals superstar has a 160 OPS+ in what many would describe as a down year.
Honorable mention goes out to a couple of players that didn’t make the cut. Jason Heyward, another well-known, once looked poised for big things, but unfortunately, his career has taken a downturn for a few years and he missed the spot on the #22 team and is the honorary defensive replacement. Joc Pederson wore the number 22 during his championship run with Atlanta, in part because of his former teammate Clayton Kershaw, but he switched to #23 with the Giants this year.
This would by all accounts be a pretty interesting team fittingly formed in the year 2022.
Featured Image by Drew Wheeler (@drewisokay on Twitter)