The 2022 MLB season saw a number of breakthrough performances. However, there were quite a few notable names that failed to live up to expectations last season. Many of those names, in particular, include some of the highest-paid players in the league. With Spring Training inching closer and closer, let’s take a look at 10 notable names that need to have a strong rebound in 2023.
We’ll start off with Rockies third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant. Bryant’s appearance on this list has less to do with on-field production last season, and more to do with the time the 2016 World Series champion missed last season. The former NL MVP did just fine when on the field, as Bryant hit .306/.376/.475 across 42 games in his first season with the Rockies. However, Bryant did miss most of the season with a series of injuries.
Bryant’s decision to join the Rockies remains a curious one to this date. Nonetheless, the friendly confines should benefit the four-time All-Star’s numbers, so long as Bryant stays off the IL.
Much like in this offseason, the previous one featured an impressive crop of shortstops. Tigers shortstop Javier Báez was one such name, and the two-time All-Star joined Detroit on a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez’s 2022 numbers, though, could not have been what Detroit hoped to receive from the 30-year-old. Báez hit just .238/.278/.393 with the Tigers last season, a stark departure from the .813 OPS figure that the former Cub recorded in 2021.
Strikeouts and whiffs have long been a problem for Báez, but the shortstop interestingly posted improved K% and Whiff% rates last season. One interesting note from Báez’s 2022 season is that the shortstop saw 8% more breaking balls than in the past. Last season, Báez hit just .213 against breaking pitches.
The top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Tigers infielder Spencer Torkelson made his debut this past season. Unfortunately for the Arizona State product, it didn’t go as planned. Torkelson hit just .203/.285/.319 for the Tigers in his first season. The 23-year-old did showcase good pop when he made contact, but below-average Whiff% and K% rates paint a picture as to why things went awry for the rookie.
Torkelson continued to struggle after a demotion to Toledo (AAA) last season. The Tigers infielder has shown good tools, but Tigers fans will want to see the young slugger put it together for Detroit come 2023.
It’s hard to put into words what has happened to Angels slugger Jared Walsh. In the first half of 2021, Walsh smacked 22 home runs and posted a .892 OPS, the latter of which was good for the top 25 in all of baseball (min. 225 PA). Since then, Walsh posted a .689 OPS and hit — interestingly enough — 22 home runs. The Georgia product had a brutal 2022, quite the difference from solid overall seasons in 2020 and 2021.
Anaheim will need its supporting cast next season, in order to the Angels to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Walsh, however, is not the only Angel that needs a reset.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon parlayed an incredible 2019 campaign into a massive contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Rendon performed well in his first season, but has failed to produce similar numbers in each of the past two seasons. Injuries have played a role, as the 32-year-old played just 47 games last season and 105 in total between 2021-22. During that span, the 2019 World Series champion hit just .235/.327/.381.
Anaheim made a number of tweaks to its roster this winter, but the Angels will need the cast that’s been in place — Rendon included — to produce in order to make a splash in the AL West.
After a number of impressive seasons in Cincinnati, Seattle made a major trade during last year’s offseason when it acquired both Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker from the Reds. While Suarez performed reasonably well for the M’s in 2022, the opposite could be said for Winker. The 29-year-old hit just .213 with 29 extra base hits last season, a far cry from Winker’s 2021 season that saw him hit .305 with 24 home runs and an OPS of .949.
Despite a rough 2022, Winker recorded an .831 OPS over the last three seasons, a total that ranks 31st out of 231 in MLB over that span (min. 800 PA). Now with Milwaukee, the outfielder will look to bring his disciplined approach and power, all while attempting to return to his pre-2022 form.
Despite a 111-win campaign by the Dodgers in 2022, a number of prominent players from that group struggled at the dish. One such name was two-time All-Star infielder Max Muncy. Muncy hit 21 home runs and recorded a rough .196 batting average for the Dodgers last season. The power-hitting infielder failed to crack the 30 home run marker for the first time in his career, in a season in which Muncy played at least 100 games. While Muncy did draw on base plenty of times, a career-low in Under% (33.4%) helps explains why the 32-year-old’s numbers cratered.
Even though Muncy hit a skid last season, there were a number of positive signs. Muncy’s chase and whiff figures roughly fell in line with his career norms. Additionally, the Dodger did round back into form after last year’s Trade Deadline. 12 of Muncy’s 21 home runs came on or after August 2. Between August 2 and the end of the season, Muncy hit a much more respectable .247/.358/.500.
Now, we move on to the pitchers. Among qualified pitchers, no individual had a higher ERA last season than Blue Jays RHP José Berríos. A two-time All-Star, Berrios pitched rather well in 2021 with the Jays. Berrios struck out 78 over 70.1 IP after the trade that sent him from Minnesota to Toronto. 2022, however, as a different story. Berrios’ K/9 rate dropped from 9.6 to 7.8, and the right-hander gave up the most hits out of any pitcher in the American League.
Toronto bolstered its rotation earlier in the winter, when the Jays signed right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt to a multi-year contract. The Jays have a chance to boast one of the league’s strongest and deepest rotations, but Toronto will need Berrios to improve after he posted a 5.23 ERA.
Marlins LHP Trevor Rogers made his first All-Star Game in 2021 in what was an electric season for the New Mexico native. The left-hander struck out 157 batters over 133 innings in 2021, a season that saw Rogers finish second in the NL Rookie of the Year vote. Last season, Rogers failed to replicate his sparkling numbers from 2021. Rogers gave up 26 more earned runs in 2022, even though the left-hander threw 26 less innings. Rogers’ K/9 and BB/9 rates also went in the opposite direction.
It’s been an uneven career thus far for Rogers. At 25 years of age, the lefty stilly boasts plenty of potential heading into 2023.
Between 2019-2021, just four pitchers recorded more strikeouts than White Sox RHP Lucas Giolito. The right-hander proved to be a dominant pitcher, but things fell apart last season. Giolito recorded an ERA of 4.90 ERA last season for an underwhelming White Sox team. That figure marked a big change from the 3.53 ERA that the 28-year-old posted a year prior. Additionally, Giolito’s fastball velocity took a hit, as the average MPH on it dropped over 1 MPH from 2021.
Giolito did induce whiffs at a solid clip last season, but it wasn’t smooth sailing for the right-hander last season. If the Sox want to make it back to the postseason, Chicago will need the version of Giolito that fans saw in the previous three seasons.