MLB 2022 Futures: Who are the early favorites?

By Vince Kennedy
2022 Mlb World Series Favorites
2022 Mlb World Series Favorites

With the 2021 World Series wrapping up this last week what better time to start thinking about next year? The Atlanta Braves stormed to six-game series victory over the Houston Astros after opening the season as somewhat of a dark horse candidate out of the NL East. Buoyed by the likes of Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., and 2021 breakout star Austin Riley, Atlanta was able to bring home a championship (their fourth overall title) after besting the odds-on favorites to begin this year.

Could 2022 be more of the same? Not necessarily likely as two major powers from this year are slated to open next season as the favorites. In fact, this last decade, aside from the San Francisco Giants three-peat, has featured eight different champions so perhaps a new contender could rise past the early front-runners.

The odds-on favorite for 2022: The Los Angeles Dodgers 106-56 (second in NL West)

Winners of 106 games this past season (the most in Major League Baseball), the Dodgers have opened as the favorites to take back their title in 2022. While their foundation is not showing that many signs of wear and tear, L.A. still needs to consider the futures of a handful of their stars that are pending free agents. Veteran aces Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are both due to have their contracts looked at this off-season and the looming uncertainty regarding starting pitcher Trevor Bauer’s off the field issues has cast a long shadow over the Dodgers’ pitching rotation.

Los Angeles still has a lot of star power to work with, especially when it comes to their batting rotation, with the likes of Mookie Betts, Trea, Turner, Max Muncy, and Walker Buehler leading the way. It will be a pivotal offseason for the Dodgers to cement their claim as baseball’s dominant franchise, but they will need to address a handful of personnel issues before they can feel confident about their chances to take home another World Series championship this next year.

Second favorite pick: Houston Astros 95-67 (first in AL West)

The World Series runner-ups have opened with the second best odds for 2022 and are poised to continue their run of success that began back in 2015. Though a handful of the stars in their lineup are aging (Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley are all in their 30’s) they all have been able to produce at a high level allowing Houston to have consistently strong teams each year.

With pending free agents Carlos Correa and Zack Greinke set to hit the open market this year, the Astros have had an uncanny ability to reload each year and stay competitive within the AL West. The rotation of the Astros should also remain pretty competitive with Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez leading the charge. It should also be noted that Houston will have some more money to spend in free agency this year to re-sign some of their aging stars and give them a leg up on the rest of the American League.

Rest of the field breakdown and Prediction

Outside of the typical favorites, there are a handful of other teams to keep an eye on. Opening as the number one team in ESPN’s power rankings are the Tampa Bay Rays (100-62, first in AL East) who won 100 games in a division with three other 90-win teams, not an easy feat to pull off! What’s interesting about Tampa is that their two starters with the most innings in 2021 ((Ryan Yarbrough and Michael Wacha) both had ERAs over 5.00 and the team was still able to win 100 games.

After failing to meet expectations this last season, the San Diego Padres (79-83, third in NL West) are another team to keep an eye on for next season. The Friars are returning NL MVP hopefuls Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado and have a new manager in Bob Melvin is a three-time Manager of the Year (2007, 2012 and 2018). Though San Diego did fall apart this last year after a torrid start (they were in first place on May 30 and just 2.5 games out on June 30 before the wheels fell off), the Padres are hopeful that their pitching staff can play well enough for the team to make a return to the World Series for the first time since 1998.

Prediction: Though Los Angeles and Houston have a dynamic mix of talent and pedigree, look for the Rays to continue the trend of a different World Series champion this next year thanks to their starting pitching improving and their existing strengths progressing as well.

Tampa Bay RaysTo Win the 2022 World Series
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