2022 MLB super sophomore

2022 MLB super sophomore

2022 MLB super sophomore

It’s not easy for rookies to get off the ground – and it has been especially so for the last few years.

With the Minor League season canceled in 2020 and shortened in ’21, plus a spate of big league injuries speeding up the timelines of various prospects, one can understand whether players will need a few more innings or at bats before they really find their comfort zone.

So it’s more important than ever to pay attention to MLB’s “sophomore” class, if you will. And that’s what we want to do with this second-year shiner list.

The following players all exceeded their rookie limits in 2021 with performances that failed to generate a Rookie of the Year vote. But in ’22 they came forward to make a bigger impact. Note that in cases where a team has multiple super sophomores, we’ve gone with the guy who best illustrates improvement.

Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers
In his first 181 1/3 big league innings in the 2020-21 seasons, Skubal was not consistent enough to live up to the hype that preceded his arrival. But all those glowing things that have been said about him as a prospect turned out to be true in a ’22 season where he’s in the American League Cy Young Award conversation. Skubal has a 2.33 ERA, 164 ERA+ and 0.94 WHIP in 65 2/3 innings over 11 starts, thanks in large part to using his command. The Tigers also got big outs from sophomore reliever Alex Lange.

Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B, Marlins
Chisholm is a player you must see. He plays the game with enthusiasm and swagger. And after the 2020 and 2021 seasons in which his offensive impact was muffled, he really turned on the power in ’22. His .559 slugging percentage after Friday’s game leads all second basemen (Jose Altuve’s .515 mark is second). Chisholm is also a dynamic defender.

Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners
It was a pretty big deal when Gilbert and Jarred Kelenic got a call up to the major leagues in May 2021, seemingly ushering in a new era for the M’s. But Kelenic had huge problems at the plate, which continued this year, and Gilbert’s 4.68 ERA and 90 ERA+ were indicative of a pitcher who just needed to make adjustments. We have seen that this year. Gilbert’s slider and change-up have been much more effective weapons this year at damage control — helping him to 6-2 with a 2.41 ERA and 155 ERA+. Also outfielder Taylor Trammell, a former Top 100 prospect who struggled at the plate last year and suffered a hamstring injury, is off to a good start (.841 OPS) after being called up to replace the relegated Kelenic.

Jonah Heim, C, Rangers
Heim spent seven years with the Minors, bouncing from the Orioles to the Rays to the A’s before landing with the Rangers. He played and batted sparingly in 2021, with a slash of .196/.239/.358 as proof. But this year, he took over regular catching duties and was the club’s leading hitter, with a .262/.324/.485 slash. He also owns Shohei Ohtani. The Rangers have another super sophomore in closer Joe Barlow (2.21 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 11 saves), but he also threw very well in his rookie season.

Andrew Vaughn, OF, White Sox
Starter and early Cy Young candidate Michael Kopech (1.94 ERA) also deserves to be featured here. But while he didn’t factor in the rookie mood, Kopech was an important piece for a division winner last year. However, Vaughn had a hard time last season. Not only did the White Sox take third overall pick in the 2019 Draft on Opening Day after just 212 professional at bats, but they also asked Vaughn to play left field for the first time to explain Eloy Jimenez’s absence. It all proved too early for Vaughn, who was below the league average at plate and scored poorly in the outfield. But while the defense is a work in progress, no one ever questioned his hitting tools—and this year, Vaughn’s plus bat-to-ball skills and strength came through, with a .291/.346/.482 slash, six home runs and nine doubles .

Trevor Larnach, OR, Twins
Larnach, the 20th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, made his debut in 2021 and appeared in 79 games, struckout in more than a third of his 301 at bats and didn’t strike for much strength. This year, 25-year-old Larnach won’t be fooled by so many breaking and offspeed pitches. He cuts off .258/.331/.477 to play a regular role in the Twins’ outfield. Defensive stats are split between Larnach (Outs Above Average percentages in the 40th percentile, but he ranks second among MLB outfielders with nine defensive runs saved), but his four outfield assists certainly helped. Overall, Larnach’s improvement has helped the Twins take a leading position in the AL Central.

Alejandro Kirk, C, Blue Jays
Kirk’s high-contact bat was briefly a source of fascination during his 2020 debut, but he kind of faded into the background with the Blue Jays last year when he slashed a .242/.328/.436 as a catcher/DH hybrid . Kirk got off to a slow start this year, but lately he’s been a monster on the record – building an All-Star case with a .327/.407/.484 slash overall while spending most of his time chasing the record record.

Owen Miller, 1B/2B, Guardians
Miller’s bat-to-ball skills were highly acclaimed for coming to the major leagues last summer. But he was outdone in his first 202 at bats, with a .204/.243/.309 slash. It was a very different story this year, as Miller’s explosive performance in April (1,166 OPS, two home runs, nine doubles) helped the Guards offense get off to a better-than-expected start. Miller, 25, has since cooled down, but he is regularly hit in the cleanup spot — and his .306/.372/.556 slash in high-leverage situations in Baseball Reference have been pivotal for this club. While we’ve limited ourselves to no more than one entry per team, Cleveland is packed with sophomore highlights. Starter Triston McKenzie and relievers Sam Hentges and Eli Morgan all impacted the pitching staff.

Tylor Megill, RHP, Mets
An eight-run implosion in 1 1/3 innings against the Nationals in his last start before hitting the injured list with right biceps inflammation left Megill’s overall 2022 numbers (4.41 ERA, 91 ERA+) about the same. looked like what he posted in 2021 (4.52 ERA , 90 ERA+) — and that pretty much stayed the same after his performance against the Angels after his activation of the IL (4.50 ERA, 89 ERA+). But you can’t tell the Mets’ story in the first place without mentioning Megill’s great work for a rotation in need. He went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in April and threw the first five innings of a combined no-no against the Phillies.

William Contreras, C, Braves
We already had a pretty good hitting catcher called Contreras in the big leagues in the form of William’s brother, Willson. But hey, what else is there? The younger Contreras is making a name for himself in Atlanta, seizing the opportunity that presented itself when veteran signer Manny Piña was injured. Contreras has lowered .289/.366/.651 to become more than just a backstop backup.

JP Feyereisen, RHP, Rays
While Feyereisen quickly became an impact piece in the Rays’ bullpen after being taken over from the Brewers mid-season last year, this year he reached a different, almost untouchable level. In 24 1/3 innings over 22 appearances, the mustachioed 29-year-old with the rising fastball didn’t even concede a run as he posted a ridiculous 0.49 WHIP and struckout 29.1% of the opposition. Unfortunately, a shoulder impingement recently put him on the injured list, but an MRI revealed no structural damage.

Keegan Akin, LHP, Orioles
Drafted, developed and debuted as a starter, 27-year-old Akin has found his first Major League success as a key member of a much-improved Baltimore bullpen. Last year, in 24 appearances, including 17 starts, he racked up a 6.63 ERA. This year, in 35 2/3 innings exclusively from the pen, he racked up a 2.02 ERA and 0.84 WHIP — while keeping his opponents at a hard-hit rate of 31.6%. They hit just 0.077 against his slider.

Ha-Seong Kim, SS, Padres
A pinch-hitter and utility man, Kim worked his first year in the United States in 2021 at the plate (.202/.270/.352 slash). He hasn’t fared much better this year (.219/.300/.348). The difference – and the reason Kim is worth it here – is that he’s stuck in a regular cast, basically the injured Fernando Tatis Jr. to replace. It’s a major responsibility to say the least, and Kim’s five Outs Above Average ranks third in MLB at that position. That’s why he’s been worth 1.2 BWAR – the third-highest mark among second-year players. Colombian-born reliever Nabill Crismatt is also an important sophomore for the Padres.

Keegan Thompson, RHP, Cubs
Thompson’s rookie year wasn’t bad at all. He made 32 appearances, including six starts, and racked up a 3.38 ERA and 127 ERA+ in 53 1/3 innings. But he had a 7.11 ERA in the last six weeks and his 12.8% run was one of the worst in the league. In 2022, 27-year-old Thompson tamed the walks (7.8%) and, despite an ugly start in Baltimore last week, put in better numbers – a 3.17 ERA and 134 ERA+ in 48 1/3 innings over 13 appearances, including five starts. Sidearm-throwing sophomore reliever Scott Effross has also been an important part of the pitching staff.

Aaron Ashby, LHP, Brewers
Two-time All-Star Andy Ashby’s cousin has a 96-mph sinker with a plus curve and change. Last year he mostly threw out of the bullpen, but he had some trouble exploiting the potential that comes with that repertoire on a consistent basis. But with seven starts from his 13 appearances this year, Ashby has helped fill the void of the rotation left by the injured Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff, posting a 3.91 ERA and 107 ERA+ in 50 2/3 innings overall. He kept opponents at a hard hit rate of 24.6% while striking out 27.7% of the batters.