2022 MLB super sophomores

It’s not easy for beginners to get off to a flying start – and that’s especially true in the last few years.

With the 2020 aborted and 21-shortened minor league season, as well as a string of major league injuries accelerating the schedules of various prospects, it’s easy to understand if players need a few more innings or bats before they really find their comfort zones.

So it’s more important than ever to pay attention to MLB’s second class, if you will. And that’s exactly what we aim to achieve with this list of Year Two standouts.

The following players all surpassed their rookie limits in 2021 with performances that did not earn Rookie-of-the-Year pick support. But in ’22, they emerged to make a bigger impact. Note that in cases where a team has multiple Super Students, we’ve opted for the type that best illustrates the improvement.

Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers
In his first 181 1/3 big league innings in the 2020-21 seasons, Skubal wasn’t consistent enough to live up to the hype that preceded his arrival. But all those glowing things said about him as a prospect have proven true in a 22-season he’s been in talks for the American League’s Cy Young Award. Skubal has a 2.33 ERA, 164 ERA+ and .94 WHIP in 65 2/3 innings over 11 starts, thanks in large part to using his command. The Tigers have also seen major hits from Alex Lange as a sophomore.

Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B, Marlins
Chisholm has become a must-watch player. He plays the game with enthusiasm and pride. And after the 2020 and 2021 seasons where his offensive impact was muted, he really turned the power on 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, seafarers
It was a pretty big deal when Gilbert and Jarred Kelenic got called up to the big leagues in May 2021, seemingly ushering in a new era for the M’s. But Kelenic endured tremendous problems at the plate that lingered into this year, and Gilbert’s 4.68 ERA and 90 ERA+ were indicative of a pitcher who simply needed to make adjustments. We saw that this year. Gilbert’s Slider and Changeup were much more effective weapons for limiting damage this year – and that helped him win 6-2 with 2.41 ERA and 155 ERA+. Outfielder Taylor Trammell, a former top-100 contender who struggled on the plate last year and picked up a hamstring injury, is also off to a good start (0.841 OPS) after being called up to replace the demoted Kelenic .

Jonah Heim, C, Rangers
Heim spent seven years with the Minors, hopping from the Orioles to the Rays to the A’s before ending up with the Rangers. He played and batted sparingly in 2021, with a .196/.239/.358 slash to show it. But this year he took over the regular catching duties and was the club’s top batsman with a .262/.324/.485 slash. He also owned Shohei Ohtani. Rangers have another super sophomore in Joe Barlow (2.21 ERA, .93 WHIP, 11 saves), but he also pulled off their pen really well in his rookie season.

Andrew Vaughn, OF, White Sox
Starter and early Cy Young contestant Michael Kopech (1.94 ERA) also deserves to be listed here. But despite not being included in the rookie vote, Kopech was a key bullpen piece for a division winner last year. Vaughn, meanwhile, struggled last season. Not only did the White Sox carry their third overall pick in the 2019 draft after just 212 professional at-bats on opening day, they also asked Vaughn to play left field for the first time to accommodate Eloy Jimenez’s absence. It all proved too much too soon for Vaughn, who was below league average at plate and finished poorly in the outfield. But while the defense is still in the works, no one ever doubted his hit tool — and this year, Vaughn’s plus bat-to-ball skill and power prevailed, with a .291/.346/.482 slash. six homers and nine doubles.

Trevor Larnach, OF, twins
The 20th pick overall in the 2018 draft, Larnach made his debut in 2021 and played in 79 games, striking in more than a third of his 301 plate appearances and not generating much power. This year, the 25-year-old Larnach won’t be fooled by quite as many breaking and off-speed pitches. He cuts .258/.331/.477 to secure a regular role in the Gemini’s outfield. Defensive metrics are split for Larnach (above-average outs rates in the 40th percentile, but he’s second among MLB outfielders with nine saved defensive runs), but his four outfield assists definitely helped. Overall, Larnach’s improvement has helped the twins establish a dominant position in AL Central.

Alejandro Kirk, C, Blue Jays
Kirk’s high-contact racquet was briefly a source of fascination during his debut in 2020, but he kind of faded into the background with the Blue Jays last year when he hit a .242/.328/.436 slash as a catcher/DH hybrid had . Kirk started off this year slowly, but lately he’s been a monster on the plate – building an all-star case with a .327/.407/.484 slash overall while spending the majority of his time behind the plate.

Owen Miller, 1B/2B, Warden
Miller’s bat-to-ball skills were highly touted ahead of his arrival in the big leagues last summer. But he was slashed .204/.243/.309 in his first appearances with 202 plates. It was a very different story this year, as Miller’s explosive performance in April (1,166 OPS, two homers, nine doubles) helped the Guards get off to a better-than-expected offensive start. Miller, 25, has cooled since then, but he’s hitting regularly on the cleanup site — and his .306/.372/.556 slash in high-leverage situations, which Baseball Reference denotes, has been vital for this club. While we’ve limited ourselves to no more than one entry per team, Cleveland is packed with sophomore standouts. Starter Triston McKenzie and helpers Sam Hentges and Eli Morgan have all made an impact on the pitching team.

Tylor Megill, RHP, Mets
An eight-run implosion in 1 1/3 innings against the Nationals in his last start before he was put on the injured list with a right bicep sore left Megill’s 2022 totals (4.41 ERA, 91 ERA+) looking similar to the ones he released in 2021 (4.52 ERA). , 90 ERA+) – and that stayed about the same as his use against the Angels after his activation from the IL (4.50 ERA, 89 ERA+). But you can’t tell the Mets’ first-place story without mentioning Megill’s amazing work for a rotation in need. He went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in April and pitched the first five innings of a combined no-no against the Phillies.

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

JP Feyereisen, RHP, rays
Though Feyereisen quickly became a hitter in the Rays’ bullpen after being acquired by the Brewers midseason last year, he’s reached another almost bloody untouchable level this year. In 24 1/3 innings over 22 appearances, the mustachioed 29-year-old didn’t even allow a deserved run with the ascending fastball while posting a paltry .49 WHIP and knocking out 29.1% of opposing batters. Unfortunately, he recently ended up on the injured list due to shoulder impingement, but an MRI showed no structural damage.

Keegan Akin, LHP, Orioles
Designed, developed and debuted as a starter, 27-year-old Akin found his first major league success as a key member of a much-improved bullpen in Baltimore. Last year he was roughed up in 24 appearances from 17 starts for a 6.63 ERA. This year, he has posted a 2.02 ERA and a .84 WHIP in 35 2/3 innings all off pen – while keeping his opponents hit hard at a 31.6% odds. They only hit .077 against his slider.

Ha-Seong Kim, SS, Padres
A skimpy and utility guy, Kim worked on the plate (.202/.270/.352 slash) during his freshman year in the States in 2021. He hasn’t fared much better this year (.219/.300/.348). The difference — and why Kim is worth including here — is that he’s locked into a regular role, briefly filling in for the injured Fernando Tatis Jr. It’s an important responsibility, to say the least, and Kim’s five above-average outs are third at that position in MLB. That’s why he was worth 1.2 BWAR — the third-highest mark among sophomores. Colombian-born volunteer Nabill Crismatt was also a key second member for the Padres.

Keegan Thompson, RHP, Cubs
Thompson’s rookie year wasn’t bad at all. He made 32 appearances, including six starts, and posted a 3.38 ERA and 127 ERA+ in 53 1/3 innings. But he had a 7.11 ERA over the past six weeks and his 12.8% walk rate was among the worst in the league. In 2022, 27-year-old Thompson tamed the walks (7.8%) and posted better numbers despite an ugly start in Baltimore last week — 3.17 ERA and 134 ERA+ in 48 1/3 innings across 13 appearances, including five launches. Scott Effross, the second-year pitcher, was also a key part of the pitching team.

Aaron Ashby, LHP, Brewer
Two-time All-Star Andy Ashby’s nephew has a 96-mile sinker with plus turn and switch. After mostly jumping out of the bullpen last year, he’s had some trouble consistently capitalizing on the potential that comes with that repertoire. But with seven starts from his 13 appearances this year, Ashby has helped fill the rotational void left by injured Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff, posting an overall 3.91 ERA and 107 ERA+ in 50 2/3 innings. He has held opponents with a 24.6% hard hit rate while eliminating 27.7% of batters faced.

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