Who Is The Breakout MLB Hitter Of 2022?

This is one of nine burning questions comprising Baseball America’s 2022 MLB Season Preview. To see the full preview, click here.  

Kyle Glaser—Luis Robert, White Sox. Robert hasn’t fully gotten to show what he can do yet after debuting during the pandemic-shortened season and playing just 68 games last year due to a torn hip flexor. With a full season of health in 2022, watch for him to take off and put himself in AL MVP award consideration. 

Ben Badler—Wander Franco, Rays. Franco finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2021. For an encore, he could be generating votes for AL MVP. We’ve seen just how big of an impact that special players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. can have in their early 20s in the big leagues. Franco has that type of talent to be one of the game’s biggest stars this year as a 21-year-old. 

Savannah McCann—Lane Thomas, Nationals. Thomas opened eyes with a .364 on-base percentage over 45 games following a trade to the Nationals. Not only was he getting on base, but he was doing so with a lot of power. During the 2021 season, he outperformed the MLB average with a hard-hit rate of 45.7%, as well as average exit velocity and launch angle. The Nats love putting speedy guys in the leadoff spot, and Thomas’ late-season surge should secure him an everyday role to get his reps.

Josh Norris—Gabriel Moreno, Blue Jays. He won’t be up to start the season, but Moreno—one of the biggest revelations of the 2021 minor league season—could make his way to Toronto at some point in the first half. If he does, he’ll only add to what is sure to be a wrecking ball of a Blue Jays lineup. 

Carlos Collazo—Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pirates. Hayes hits the ball hard—he was between the 70th and 80th percentiles in average exit velocity, max exit velocity and hard-hit rare in 2021—but last year he hit the ball on the ground far too often. His 57.1% groundball rate was the third highest in baseball among players with at least 350 plate appearances. If he can elevate more frequently, he still has the power to be an impact bat—and his glove will keep him in the lineup everyday to get the reps. 

Geoff Pontes—Dylan Carlson, Cardinals. Few players made a bigger jump than Carlson in the second half of the 2021 season. He made a concerted effort to get more out in front on contact and it led to a sizable increase in hard-hit balls, especially to his pull side. A switch-hitter with power and good supporting skills, Carlson debuted at 21 years old and will be 23 for all of 2022. Expect a big step forward this season from a talented player who has shown the ability to adjust at the MLB level. 

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle—Will Smith, Dodgers. Smith has posted a 130 OPS+ or better in each of his three seasons and now has even more protection in an all-time Dodgers lineup. He’ll make his first all-star team this year and help anchor one of the best teams in baseball. 

Matt Eddy—Jo Adell, Angels. His 2020 big league debut was among the most forgettable ever, but Adell showed more of his true ability in 2021 with a powerful half-season run through Triple-A. Called to Anaheim in August, he wavered at the outset before showing a glimpse in September—.333 with three homers in nine games—before an abdominal strain ended his year. Adell has power. He has speed. He needs to chase less, but his zone contact rate improved dramatically in 2021. Add it all up and it points to a potential 2022 breakout.   

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