Sometimes, it’s just not your year. Whether it’s injury, general ineffectiveness, random chance or just bad mojo, every once in a while excellent players have years far below their standards. It’s not the end of the world: In a few years, that down year will seem like an aberration.
So, in the spirit of such optimism, today at The Thirty we take a look at the player on each team who has had a down year, but whom you shouldn’t give up on just yet. 2022 might not have been that year, but that doesn’t mean 2023 won’t be.
Blue Jays: José Berríos
Don’t let that 11-6 record fool you: This has been Berríos’ worst year by a rather wide margin. His ERA is the highest of his career since his rookie season, and he has given up more earned runs than anyone else in the American League. He’s signed through 2028, so he’ll have plenty of time to return to his usual form.
Orioles: Ramón Urías
It’s hard to find a lot of “underachievers” on a team on the rise like the Orioles, but while Urías’ power has been there, his OBP has dropped roughly 60 points. There’s reason to remain optimistic about him, though.
Rays: Wander Franco
The expected ascension to the top tier of players in baseball did not happen for Franco this year, largely because of injuries, which hampered him all season. This is the point where we remind you he is still only 21 years old.
Red Sox: Chris Sale
It’s always a little bit of a roller coaster with Sale, but he ended up making only two starts this year … which gives him 11 since 2019. His luck can’t possibly get any worse -- can it?
Yankees: Aroldis Chapman
Just about everything that could go wrong went wrong for Chapman this year, but he still throws hard and surely will for whoever decides to sign him when he hits free agency this offseason.
Guardians: Zach Plesac
In 2020, it looked like Plesac might be one of the best young pitchers in baseball. This year, he was 3-11 and broke his hand for the second time in two years. It can only go up from here.
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr.
Is it fair for a guy’s rookie year to feel like a “down” year? Such is the pressure of the hype with which Witt came into the league. Here’s a good bet, though: These are the worst numbers he’ll put up in a season for the next 10-15 years.
Tigers: Javier Báez
Báez has quietly -- very quietly -- had a much better second half than his disastrous first half. He’s so obscenely talented that it can’t possibly get worse than this.
Twins: Miguel Sanó
Sanó’s .083 batting average in only 20 games is the very definition of a lost year. The Twins may or may not pick up his option this offseason, but don’t be surprised to see a power resurgence from Sanó with someone over the next couple of years.
White Sox: Lucas Giolito
Of all the disappointments for the White Sox this year, Giolito -- who had been in the top 11 of AL Cy Young voting the past three years -- might be the biggest one. But there’s still all the talent in the world here. It’s just looking for the right little tweak.
Angels: Anthony Rendon
Nothing in his tenure in Los Angeles would make you believe this, but, we swear, this used to be one of the best, most reliable players in baseball. He has many years to start earning out that contract, and if he can get his wrist right, next year could be the first one.
Astros: Yuli Gurriel
Sure, Gurriel is getting up there in years -- he’s one of the 20 oldest active players in baseball -- but this is the first full season in which he hasn’t hit the ball much all year. You’d have to think there’s something left in that bat.
Athletics: Paul Blackburn
Blackburn ended up not being sent out at the Trade Deadline, and it turns out he broke his finger anyway. But there was a reason he was so rumored to be on the market: Many teams want a guy who can do what he does.
Mariners: Jarred Kelenic
OK, so maybe Kelenic wasn’t quite ready to be a franchise centerpiece. But considering everything else the Mariners have going right now, maybe he doesn’t have to be.
Braves: Ozzie Albies
It’s difficult to have more of a nightmare season than Albies has had, returning from a long rehab after a fractured left foot just in time to break his right pinky finger in his second game back. There are few players who will be happier to see the calendar turn to 2023.
Marlins: Jazz Chisholm Jr.
For the first couple of months of the 2022 season, Chisholm looked like one of the most exciting players in baseball. But a stress fracture in his back -- and, it turned out, a torn meniscus -- ended his season in June. If he’s healthy as expected for the start of ‘23, he can pick up right where he left off.
Mets: Dominic Smith
Smith is just about the only Met who hasn’t lived up to what the team was hoping for; do you remember when he got MVP votes a couple of years ago? A fresh start might be in order.
Nationals: Victor Robles
We’re not ready to give up on Robles just yet. Sure, it was another meek offensive season, his third in a row. But he’s still only 25! The skills that had everybody so excited have to be in there somewhere, right?
Phillies: Corey Knebel
Knebel struggled in a way he hadn’t in years, and the tear in his right lat sure seems like it was the reason why. It might be a while until he returns, but when he does, he could absolutely do what the Phillies had been wanting him to do.
Brewers: Freddy Peralta
The Brewers’ big three starters became their big two when Peralta got hurt. He has made so many strides in recent years that he’ll hold on to most of them when he returns.
Cardinals: Dylan Carlson
The Cardinals resisted putting Carlson in any potential trade for Juan Soto, in large part because they consider him a linchpin of the team moving forward. They’ll need better offense from him if that’s the case, and they absolutely trust he’ll give it to them. You should, too.
Cubs: Nick Madrigal
Madrigal seemed like quite the steal when the Cubs got him for Craig Kimbrel, but he never quite got it going this year. He still feels like a perfect fit at Wrigley Field over the next half decade.
Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes
The defense was there, but the defense will always be there. What the Pirates want to see is the offense they got in 2020. Hayes is young enough to have plenty of time to get there.
Reds: Joey Votto
Just when Votto was about to get going, he had to undergo surgery and missed the rest of the season. He’ll be back in full form next season, and, we presume, back to being Votto again.
Dodgers: Max Muncy
Muncy, after a dreadful start, has worked his way back to an average offensive season. He won’t be anything as low as “average” for quite some time, one suspects.
Giants: Mike Yastrzemski
There are a lot of questions about what is going to come next for the Giants, but little Yaz, who was here before the Giants’ resurgence, may have a second act around the corner.
Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr.
Heavens, Tatis would like to turn the page on 2022 more than any player in baseball, and maybe more than any person on earth.
Rockies: Kris Bryant
When Bryant played, he played well, but he barely played. The Rockies, fair to say, are paying for him to play.