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Awards & Recognition

Edinboro University & Northwestern Pennsylvania High School Journalism Competition: First Place (Daniel Anthony, Opinion Category); Fifth Place (Brendan Jubulis, Sports)

Edinboro University & Northwestern Pennsylvania High School Journalism Competition: Third Place (Website)
Student Keystone Press Awards Honorable Mention (Website)

Edinboro University & Northwestern Pennsylvania High School Journalism Competition: Third Place (Website)

2022 MLB Season Preview: Lockout Edition


As of right now, the MLB and its team owners continue to sit at a standstill as they try to end the current MLB lockout. On December 1, the league’s Collaborative Bargaining Agreement, which governs multiple aspects of the working relationship between MLB’s players and team owners, had expired. After failing to come to an agreement, owners voted to enact a work stoppage in the form of a lockout, the first in baseball since the 1994-95 season.

This lockout came at the expense of a hot free agency period with big names such as Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Robbie Ray, Javier Baez, Max Scherzer, and others signing huge deals prior to the lockout. Multiple other big names, such as Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Rodon, and Nick Castellanos and other free agents remain unsigned and massive question marks.

While the league looks to figure out its situation, it would be nice to look at the teams this year and how they line up next to each other. Obviously, there are a multitude of high-level free agents left on the market, so these rankings could easily change sooner rather than later, depending on who might sign where.

I ended up dividing all thirty teams into four categories, starting at the bottom for the squads that aren’t at the upper echelon of the MLB. These are mainly rebuilding teams that are looking to trade their top players to get back more prospects, building to the future.

The first squad of the bunch is the Baltimore Orioles, who’ve been stuck in the basement of baseball for a long time now. The O’s had breakout hitters, outfielder Cedric Mullins and young star first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, while also retaining solid batters Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini. Baltimore’s problem lies in the pitching staff, which, along with their bullpen, ranked at the bottom of the league in ERA.

There is good news, however. The Orioles’ top three prospects in their organization are expected to make their debuts in 2022. The cream of the crop is Adley Rutschman, a switch-hitting catcher with elite defense who was the first overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft out of Oregon State. Rutschman is expected to be a star in the coming years, along with top prospects, right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez and left-handed pitcher D.L. Hall. Not much is expected of Baltimore this year; 2022 is believed to be the year that the Orioles’ rebuilding process comes full circle.

The next team up is the Kansas City Royals. KC’s rebuild is expected to take a huge leap this year, with the top five prospects in the organization making their debuts. Outfielder Kyle Isbel has already made the show, soon to be followed by catcher MJ Mendelez, left-hander Asa Lacy, and first basemen Nick Pratto. Also expected to make his debut is Bobby Witt Jr., an uber-talented infielder who ranks as a top-five prospect by multiple outlets across baseball. Drafted second overall in the 2019 Draft out of Colleyville Heritage HS in Texas, Royals fans are ecstatic for when Witt Jr. makes his eventual debut.

The Royals have built themselves up as an underrated squad this year. Infielders Whit Merrifield and Nicky Lopez, slugging catcher Salvador Perez, talented defensive outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Michael Taylor round out most of the lineup. Along with the influx of top prospects, coupled with a pitching staff mixed with veterans and young players, the Royals could take a big step in the right direction.

Staying in the AL Central division, the Minnesota Twins are in a stickier situation. They were expected to compete for the postseason last year but ended up being one of the more disappointing teams in the league. Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, and Josh Donaldson are great players, and coupled with top prospects Royce Lewis and Austin Martin, the Twins can go into 2022 with a formidable lineup. The pitching really let the team down last year, but with prospects Jordan Balazovic, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Jhoan Duran expected to be called up, the new kids should help matters.

Although the Texas Rangers were one of the worst teams in the league last year, just two free agents changed the spectrum of the team’s 2022 campaign. Texas managed to acquire former World Series MVP shortstop Corey Seager and Gold Glove/Silver Slugger second baseman Marcus Semien. Although the two big offseason additions, along with Adolis Garcia and Nate Lowe, are big for the Rangers, the pitching staff will need help before Texas is ready to take the next step as a team.

The worst team in the 2021 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks will likely end towards the bottom once again. The D-backs have little talent on their roster outside of one of the most versatile players in MLB, Ketel Marte. It doesn’t help that Arizona has one of the more weaker farm systems in the majors, but the first overall pick in the 2022 Draft can help that. In the meantime, top prospects outfielder Alek Thomas and right-hander Ryne Nelson will likely be called up to the majors in 2022.

Along with the Twins, the Chicago Cubs had high expectations before falling apart, then trading franchise cornerstones Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo. However, the young talent on display this year will be fun to watch. Rafael Ortega, Patrick Wisdom, Nico Hoerner, Nick Madrigal, and Frank Schwindel will be a fun tandem to watch develop in 2022. The Cubs also have a solid farm system, with outfielder Brennen Davis, left-hander Brailyn Marquez, and catcher Miguel Amaya looking to contribute as new callups this upcoming season.

One of the more confusing teams in 2021 were the Colorado Rockies, who looked to be rebuilding after trading star third baseman Nolan Arenado prior to the 2021 season. Many thought that shortstop Trevor Story would be traded as well, but Story remained on the team, and eventually became a free agent while the Rockies received nothing for one of the more sought-after players at the trade deadline.

Outside of C.J. Cron, the Rockies are lacking offensively, and, like most years, the starting pitching and bullpen is not good. With one of the weakest farm systems in MLB, it’ll be a long time before we see postseason baseball in Colorado.

The second to last team that are amid rebuilding are the Pittsburgh Pirates. Outside of Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds, the team is very thin this year, especially in the pitching department. This year will be another step in what has felt like an eternal rebuild for Pittsburgh. Top prospect infielders Oneil Cruz, Nick Gonzales, and Liover Peguero will give Pirates fans something to cheer for. That is, unless the team trades Bryan Reynolds at the trade deadline.

The final team in this rebuilding section are the Washington Nationals. To think that this team won a World Series just over two years ago is astounding, because almost every player from that squad is gone. Juan Soto is one of the best players in the league, but there will be eyes on catcher Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray, the two big prospects Washington received in the Max Scherzer trade. Right-handed pitchers Cade Cavalli and Jackson Rutledge are expected to make their debuts in 2022, as well.

The next category of teams is those that are stuck in a limbo; they’re not good enough to compete for the playoffs nor are they bad enough to acquire top draft selections. Many sports fans define this as “purgatory,” because they can’t’ figure out if their teams are good or not.

The first team in this category will be going by a new name in 2022: the Cleveland Guardians. Cleveland’s baseball team changed their nickname for the first time since 1915. The Guardians have great players such as Jose Ramirez, Shane Bieber, Franmil Reyes, and Emmanuel Clase, but are lacking in depth overall. Prospects Tyler Freeman, Gabriel Arias, and Nolan Jones are expected to be called up, but Cleveland is not expected to make that much of an impact this year.

Cleveland’s AL Central rival Detroit is also in this section, but the Tigers have made waves this offseason for their performance last season. Players such as Akil Baddoo, Jeimer Candelario, and Casey Mize led the Tigers in what was a rebound season under former Astros manager AJ Hinch. With the huge offseason signings of left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and shortstop Javier Baez and two top 10 prospects, infielder Spencer Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene, expected to debut, the Tigers could end up as a sleeper playoff pick; they are surely headed in the right direction.

The Los Angeles Angels are a good example of this “good but also bad” moniker. The Angels have possibly the most talented baseball player ever, 2021 MVP Shohei Ohtani, and former three-time MVP Mike Trout, yet not many people are expecting much of the Angels this year. This is due to their lack of emphasis on the pitching staff, but the free agent signings of Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Loup can get them on the right track. Hopefully the Angels can succeed this year so baseball fans can see Ohtani and Trout playing postseason baseball in 2022.

Staying in the AL West, the next team to talk about is the Oakland Athletics. The A’s have a solid infield of Matt Olson, Tony Kemp, and Matt Chapman, but their outfield took a bit hit following the departures of Starling Marte and Mark Canha.

The starting rotation is formidable, with Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas heading a solid starting trio. Their bullpen is shaky; however, the arrivals of left-hander A.J. Puk and right-hander Daulton Jeffries should strengthen that weakness.

The first team in the National League in this section is the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have a lot of offensive talent, such as Jonathan India, Jesse Winker, and Joey Votto. But two problems arise: all-star Nick Castellanos remains a free agent, and the void of a solid bullpen remains. However, one of the more exciting pitching prospects, Hunter Greene, expects to make his way to the show in 2022, which can bolster a shallow starting rotation.

Alongside the Tigers, the sky is the limit for the Miami Marlins. They aren’t at that point of playoff contention yet, but they are ever so close. Young studs all over the diamond, such as Miguel Rojas and Jazz Chisholm and veterans like Jesus Aguilar, Jacob Stallings, and Avisail Garcia. Former top-5 pick JJ Bleday is also expected to make his debut soon.

The pitching staff is also extremely talented, led by a nasty trio of Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Rogers, and Pablo Lopez. The bullpen is one of the best in MLB, and along with top prospects Edward Cabrera, Max Meyer, and Sixto Sanchez making the jump, the Marlins could be a scary squad within a few years.

The last of the middle of the pack falls on the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils always seem to be blessed with immense talent, such as reigning MVP Bryce Harper, Cy Young runner-up Zack Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, and Aaron Nola. Yet the one thing that always gets in Philadelphia’s way is themselves. As it seems for most teams, the Phillies’ bullpen struggled mightily, and they did little to nothing to help that part of the team.

The next section of teams is those who have prepped themselves to make it to October. These are the playoff hopefuls, teams that are set to meet the expectations from many fans.

The first squad to discuss is the Boston Red Sox. Last year’s American League runner-up maintains nearly the same team than last year, minus lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and outfielder Hunter Renfroe. Boston’s offense will remain electric with Kike Hernandez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Alex Verdugo. Jarren Duran will likely make a full-time impact in 2022, and highly touted prospect Jeter Downs could give manager Alex Cora defensive flexibility. Chris Sale will return to full-time starting duties, backed up by Nathan Eovaldi and Tanner Houck.

Sticking with “Sox” teams, the Chicago White Sox are another team with a dynamic offense. Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez are key components in this well-oiled machine. Young stars Andrew Vaughn, Jake Burger, and Yoelqui Cespedes could provide flexibility for lineups or can be trade pieces at the deadline.

The rotation remains solid with Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech rounding out a formidable rotation. The White Sox also have a lights-out bullpen; with Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet, and newly acquired Kendall Graveman, you basically just pick your poison with that lineup.

Last year’s World Series runner-up, the Houston Astros, will look to want to continue their success, but they have a bumpy road ahead. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, and Kyle Tucker round out an electric offense. With a solid rotation of Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia, and the possibility of a returning Justin Verlander, the Astros will likely be competitive in 2022. Their only question mark left is at shortstop, with a void left by Carlos Correa via free agency.

As in most years, the New York Yankees remain highly competitive. The team retains Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, and DJ LeMahieu, but there are defensive questions in the infield with Gleyber Torres still struggling defensively. The rumors of acquiring Trevor Story or even Carlos Correa would certainly sure up those questions. Gerrit Cole is still a fantastic starter, and surrounded by a solid rotation and steady bullpen, the Bronx Bombers aren’t going anywhere next season.

A sleeper pick in my eyes, the Seattle Mariners have silently built themselves up as a playoff contender. They have a lot of great talent at the plate, such as Mitch Haniger, Ty France, Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, Jake Fraley, and Adam Frazier. Not only that, Julio Rodriguez, a top five prospect in MLB’s rankings, is expected to debut this upcoming season.

I can’t talk about the Mariners without bringing up one of the most underrated signings of the short free agency period: reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. Alongside a rotation of Chris Flexen, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, and an underrated bullpen, and Seattle could look to end their twenty-one-year postseason drought in 2022.

The final team from a stacked American League, the Toronto Blue Jays’ development has come full circle. Toronto sports Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and George Springer. The losses of Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray will be felt, Toronto still has a nasty rotation of Jose Berrios, Alex Manoah, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and the newly acquired Kevin Gausman. Along with a revamped bullpen, the Blue Jays will likely be battling for the postseason in 2022.

What might seem like a hot take, I only placed the defending world champs, the Atlanta Braves, as a playoff hopeful. While the Braves return most of their important pieces, their season practically depends on the decision of free agent Freddie Freeman. While it would seem almost unfathomable that Freeman would play anywhere else other than Atlanta, nothing is ever certain. Until Freeman’s decision is final, I’m keeping the Braves outside of the upper echelon of baseball for now. To cheer up Braves fans, Ronald Acuna Jr. is reportedly making great progress on his injury, and he looks to possibly be there on Opening Day.

Another team that is harder to get a view on is the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew won a weak NL Central, with a repeat possibly on the way. A good majority of the offensive performance this season lies on the performance of Christian Yelich, who really struggled in 2022. The acquisition of Hunter Renfroe along with Willy Adames will help their offense. The pitching will certainly put Milwaukee into contention; it’ll be a nightmare for hitters trying to go up against Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, Josh Hader, and Devin Williams.

With how the Mets’ offseason went, if they can’t at least contend for a wild card, I’ll believe in the Bobby Bonilla curse. The Mets struck gold in signing Max Scherzer, along with Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar. Returning to New York is Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, and Pete Alonso. Having a solid offense, the dominant Jacob deGrom, Scherzer, Edwin Diaz, and new manager Buck Showalter, the Mets could finally capitalize on high expectations.

After a late season collapse, the San Diego Padres knew they had to revamp to compete with the best of the NL West. They had the talent: Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, Trent Grisham, Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Mike Clevinger round out a talented team. What they needed was a change in leadership, and former Athletics manager Bob Melvin is the perfect fit.

A team hit hard by the offseason was the San Francisco Giants. Not only did they lose breakout All Star Kevin Gausman, but longtime catcher and franchise icon Buster Posey retired as well. The clock is ticking, so it won’t be long before Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford follow suit. The Giants have the pitching to compete for a playoff spot, led by postseason hero Logan Webb. Young stars LaMonte Wade, Mike Yastrzemski, Joey Bart, and Camilo Doval will look to make improvements to help San Francisco return to October.

The final team within this large section of playoff contenders are another squad that always seems to be in contention: the St. Louis Cardinals. In what will be Yadier Molina’s final season, the Cardinals have one of the more underrated offenses in the majors. Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Tyler O’Neill, Nolan Arenado, and Dylan Carlson will play a key role in the Cardinals’ success.

And finally, the last two teams in the majors that are at the upper echelon of the league, first with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay had a slow offseason, mainly signing young star Wander Franco to a multi-year deal. Pair Franco with Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows, Randy Arozarena, and Mike Zunino, and the Rays have a nice balance of contact and power to dominate pitching across the league.

But where the Rays have always excelled is pitching. They have a nice starting rotation of Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Corey Kluber, and Ryan Yarbrough. A top five bullpen will also be locking down offenses in the later half of the game. The Rays will also be retooling this season, with all five top prospects in the organization, including right-hander Shane Baz and infielder/outfielder Vidal Brujan, and the Rays are going to dominate for years and years.

The final team to discuss is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are loaded with offensive talent, with Trea Turner, Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, Will Smith, Chris Taylor, and A.J. Pollock. Having lost Max Scherzer and possibly Clayton Kershaw won’t hurt the LA that bad; they’ll have to rely on Walker Buehler and Julio Urias until Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are ready to go again following injury. The Dodgers also had the number one bullpen in the league, so they’ll be able to shut down big innings. The Dodgers, to the dismay of many baseball fans, aren’t going anywhere.

Thus ends a recap of baseball as it stands. For my very early playoff predictions, I’ll say the AL divisions will go to the Rays, the White Sox, and the Mariners. With the American League being so tight this year, I’m going with the Red Sox and the Blue Jays in a wild card race to the very last day.

For the National League divisions, I’ll go with the Mets, the Cardinals, and the Dodgers. The wild card will be Atlanta vs. San Diego. Obviously, that’s down to if Freddie Freeman resigns with the Braves, and if he doesn’t I’d replace Atlanta with Milwaukee.

Now let’s hope MLB can finally end their lockout, for the sake of the teams and the fans.

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