MLB’s Opening Day is on April 7 and while that sport doesn’t have a salary cap it has had a lot of parity of the past couple of decades – when is the last time the big-spending Yankees won a title? Here’s a look at four longer-shot teams to win the MLB pennant that could make some noise.
MLB 2022 Season Analysis
Minnesota Twins (+2800 for AL pennant)
The Twins have been very busy this offseason, trading for the likes of Reds pitcher Sonny Gray, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and signing the most coveted free agent on the market in ex-Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. The team also just signed pitcher Chris Archer. The two-time All-Star, was limited to six appearances last season with the Tampa Bay Rays. He threw 19 innings and accumulated a 4.66 ERA (86 ERA+) and a 2.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Just two of his appearances occurred before August. It’s a good low-risk, high-reward deal.
The Twins are in a really interesting spot heading into 2022 because they were really good in both 2019 and 2020 — with an average winning percentage of .612 (which equates to 99.1 wins per 162 games) across those seasons — yet they were also really bad in 2021. Suffering a stunning collapse in both pitching and defense, Minnesota won just 73 games and finished dead last in the AL Central.
This season marks Rocco Baldelli’s fourth as the Twins’ manager. He will enter the regular season with a career managerial record of 210-174 and two division titles (2019 and ’20). Baldelli is one of nine managers in team history (since 1961) with 200 victories, while his .547 winning percentage is second best among those who have managed the club for multiple seasons. There’s some potential here.
Seattle Mariners (+1400 for AL pennant)
The longest playoff drought in the majors belongs to the Mariners, who last made it in 2001. This writer believes they at least get a Wild-Card spot in 2022. Last year, Seattle finished with a 90-72 (.556) record, 2nd place in the AL West Division. Seattle went 19-10 (.655) in the month, 48-43 (.527) in the first half of 2021 and 42-29 (.592) in the second half.
The team’s biggest offseason addition was signing 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to along-term deal. The contract includes a no-trade clause for the first two years and an opt-out after the third. The 30-year-old led the AL last season in ERA (2.84), ERA+ (154), innings (193 1/3), starts (32) and WHIP (1.045), and he led the Majors with 248 strikeouts. A 2017 All-Star with Arizona, Ray will be an immediate top-of-the-rotation piece.
The club also traded for former Pirates All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier. The left-handed-hitting Frazier will take on the everyday second-base job for now, though his role will hinge on other acquisitions the Mariners make before Opening Day, particularly given that Frazier can also play left field.
Should Seattle need to make another trade, it has the best farm system in the majors.
Miami Marlins (+3300 for NL pennant)
The most well-known Miami Marlin had been team executive Derek Jeter, but in February he announced a surprise departure from the team after 4 1/2 mostly unsuccessful years that didn’t come remotely close to matching his success as a player for the New York Yankees. The Marlins had the fourth-worst record in baseball over Jeter’s four seasons, making the playoffs only in 2020 when more than half of the MLB’s 30 teams qualified in the pandemic-affected year.
The Marlins do have some very good young pitching, though. While Sandy Alcantara is firmly entrenched as the team’s frontline ace, the Marlins had no better pitcher in 2021 from a productive standpoint than Trevor Rogers. Though he only threw 133 innings across 25 starts — missing a month due to family health concerns — Rogers led all National League rookies in ERA (2.64), WHIP (1.15), and BAA (.218). Among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched Rogers’ 2.64 ERA ranked 6th, and his 2.55 FIP trailed only eventual NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes (1.56).
The farm system remains one of the best, and the solid starting pitching should only get better as the arms continue to develop and mature. The offense is a big question mark, although the team added the likes of Avisail Garcia, Joey Wendle and 2021 World Series MVP Jorge Soler. While power is the key to Soler’s game, he also is prone to the swing and miss. But when Soler makes contact, he often crushes the ball, as evidenced by his 82nd-percentile barrel rate. His 43 homers of at least 420 feet since 2019 are the most in the Majors.
From the very beginning of the offseason, the Marlins have made adding middle-of-the-order bats a priority after finishing 29th in OPS and runs, as well as 28th in homers, in 2021.
Washington Nationals (+7500 for NL pennant)Since shocking the baseball world with their World Series run in 2019, the Nationals have put together a pair of disappointing, forgettable last place campaigns, losing 97 games in 2021. Former World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has thrown under 30 total innings since the start of the 2020 season. Patrick Corbin has been healthy, but ineffective, posting a 5.50 ERA across 237.1 innings over the same two seasons
This is the biggest stretch of the bunch but the Nationals might have the best offensive player in baseball in Juan Soto. The Nats did get him some protection in signing Nelson Cruz, who can now DH full-time in the NL. Cruz, who is entering his 18th major league season, will turn 42 in July. With the Twins and the Rays last year, Cruz batted .265 with 32 home runs and 86 RBI in 140 games. He is coming off his seventh All-Star appearance.
Washington also has two very touted prospects who came over from the Dodgers last summer in catcher Keibert Ruiz, a favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, and pitcher Josiah Gray.
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