We have reached the quarter point of the 2022 season. Isn’t that wild? It feels like we just got started, and here we are, 25 percent through. There have been some surprising teams -- remember when everyone, including me, was skeptical of the Yankees’ offseason? -- and some pretty surprising disappointments (sorry Tigers, Mariners and Braves). And we know a lot less than we think we do. Last year around this time, the Padres were in first in the NL West, and the Cubs were making a charge in the NL Central. It’s all just a fixed point in time.
We can, however, look back at the first quarter of the season and put together our all-MLB team: The best baseball has had to offer over the first lap of 2022. There are some surprising names, some expected names and even some inspiring names. Here’s your best of '22 -- so far.
Willson Contreras, Cubs
5 HR, 14 RBIs, .258/.382/.458
Catching has always been more of a defense-first position, but it does feel like we’ve hit an extreme point: There are only three catchers in baseball with five homers or more, and two of them are members of the Contreras family. (The other is Salvador Perez, who has a .239 OBP.) Willson gets the edge here in a less-than-impressive field, though if Texas’ Jonah Heim had played more (he only has 85 at-bats), he could have broken through here. Also: Contreras -- an impending free agent -- is likely going to be a big name bandied about at the Trade Deadline.
Runner-Up: Jonah Heim, Rangers (.282/.365/.518)
Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
7 HR, 33 RBIs, 16 doubles, .344/.411/.575
This was a tough one that came down to five players: Goldschmidt, the Mariners’ Ty France, the Rockies’ C.J. Cron, the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman and the Mets’ Pete Alonso. Cron and Alonso have the homers -- they’re tied for second in the NL at 11 with Arizona’s Christian Walker, another first baseman -- and France is second in the AL in hits. But ultimately the call here is Goldschmidt, who has been a monster in May and is a linchpin of one of the best infield defenses in the game. Ultimately: The walk-off extra inning grand slam may have clinched it.
Runner-up: Pete Alonso, Mets (11 homers, 41 RBIs)
Jazz Chisholm, Jr., Marlins
.290/.341/.581, 7 HR, 27 RBIs, 6 SB
So this is what the Marlins were waiting for. The team still has issues with its offense, but it’s obvious now it has a bona-fide star at second base. Chisholm, who is still only 24 years old, has broken out big time, especially as a power hitter: He has a chance to pass his total of 18 homers last year by the All-Star break. But his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is way down. The Marlins have a pillar around which to build.
Runner-up: Tommy Edman, Cardinals (.278/.367/.437, 10 SB)
Tim Anderson, White Sox
.365/.405/.527, 19 RBIs, 7 SB
Lost in all the controversy at Yankee Stadium last weekend is just how much of a star Anderson has been so far this year. On a White Sox club that has been ravaged by injuries, Anderson has been the team's salvation, having his career year at the exact time Chicago needs him most to do so. Anderson is a stealth MVP candidate at this point, particularly if the White Sox can rebound to win the AL Central, and he remains one of the most magnetic, compulsively watchable players in the game.
Runner-up: Jeremy Peña, Astros (7 HR, 22 RBIs, .293/.347/.504)
Manny Machado, Padres
8 HR, 27 RBIs, .368/.441/.601, 1.042 OPS
Fernando Tatis Jr. has been such an electric addition to the MLB landscape that you almost looked past the superstar the Padres signed to kickstart their resurgence into gear. Fair to say, no one’s looking past Machado now. He has been the best player in the National League, leading in nearly every category, and he's playing his usual terrific defense at third base too. Machado has never won an MVP -- he has finished in the top five in MVP voting three times -- and he may never have a better opportunity to do so than right now. Also: There are so many great third basemen in baseball right now. (We somehow don’t have space for Nolan Arenado or Rafael Devers here.)
Runner-up: José Ramírez, Guardians (11 HR, 43 RBIs)
Mike Trout, Angels
Taylor Ward, Angels
Aaron Judge, Yankees
17 HR, 34 RBIs, .314/.386/.692
These three were the easiest calls on the board. Trout is having arguably the best year of his career so far and … he’s the second-best player in his own outfield. And Judge, heading into free agency, has bet on himself, a bet that has paid off gloriously. It’s making me nervous for pitchers just typing this paragraph.
Runners-up: Mookie Betts, Dodgers; Juan Soto, Nationals; Byron Buxton, Twins
Justin Verlander, Astros
6-1, 1.22 ERA, 0.716 WHIP, 300 ERA+
So how awesome is it that Justin Verlander -- who pitched in exactly one game after the 2019 World Series until the beginning of this season -- has been the best pitcher in baseball so far? Verlander is doing everything right, and everything no other pitcher is doing: He’s shutting down bats, he’s keeping the ball in play (his strikeout rate is actually down, as is his walk rate) and he’s throwing a ton of innings, 51 2/3 in eight starts. Old-guy pitchers remain all the rage, and no one has been better than Verlander. It’s truly remarkable.
Runners-up: Pablo López, Marlins; Michael Kopech, White Sox; Corbin Burnes, Brewers; Shane McClanahan, Rays
J.P. Feyereisen, Rays
20 IP, 0.00 ERA, 20 K, 5 H, 4 BB
Of the six pitchers we wrote about last week who hadn’t given up an earned run (The Untouchables!), five of them still haven’t been touched. Feyereisen has the most innings of that crew, at 20, and while, to be fair, he has had two starts, they’ve been as the opener for the Rays -- which means he’s still a reliever for our purposes. This is the year of incredible relief performances. Feyereisen has been the best of all of them.
Runners-up: Josh Hader, Brewers; Jarlín García, Giants; Ryan Helsley, Cardinals
Bryce Harper, Phillies
.302/.352/.617, 10 HR, 31 RBIs, 6 SB
This was not the plan, of course. Harper was supposed to be one of the best defenders on this team. But his right elbow injury has limited him to DH duty for most of the year and, unsurprisingly, he’s the best at it -- the best of an incredibly deep field. Apologies to Yordan Alvarez, J.D. Martinez, Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani, but Harper has stood out among the stacked group this year. Even if the Phillies would rather not have to play him there.
Runner-Up: Yordan Alvarez, Astros. (12 HR, 25 RBIs, .250/.352/.559)