As the calendar flips to September, it's natural to look ahead as the postseason draws nearer. But let's take a minute to look back.
We are now one month removed from the 2022 Trade Deadline. The days leading up to the Aug. 2 cutoff featured more than 140 players and prospects landing on new clubs. Many players are still acclimating to their new environments, but others have already made significant contributions. Let's give those guys some shine in this article as we rank the players who have performed the best since being dealt on or after July 22.
All stats are updated through Wednesday's games.
1. Jordan Montgomery, Cardinals
No one else came close to topping this list. Even after allowing five runs over five innings in his previous start, Montgomery still boasts some sparkling numbers as a Cardinal: a 1.76 ERA, only four walks in 30 2/3 innings, and a .193 opponents' batting average with a .503 OPS. Prior to that forgettable outing versus the Braves, the former Yankee left-hander was having a month to remember. He gave up only one earned run through his four turns in St. Louis, becoming only the third AL/NL pitcher over the previous 100 years to throw at least 25 innings and permit no more than one run across their first four starts with a team. The other two pitchers who qualify were a couple of Dodgers -- Kenta Maeda in 2016, and Fernando Valenzuela in the "Fernandomania" season of 1981.
St. Louis probably isn't planning to make "Montymania" a thing, but Cardinals fans were surely going wild after Montomgery's outing against the rival Cubs at Wrigley Field on Aug. 22. In his 101st MLB start, he faced one batter over the minimum en route to recording a Maddux. It marked the first time Montgomery had ever pitched beyond the seventh inning in the Majors.
2. Juan Soto, Padres
The Padres had a dramatic August, to put it lightly. There was the Soto trade, Fernando Tatis Jr.'s suspension, the Josh Hader trade -- and Hader's subsequent struggles out of the bullpen -- as well as the team's diminishing hold on a Wild Card spot. All of this may have obscured the fact that Juan Soto has been pretty much as advertised. If there is one gripe, it's that he isn't hitting for as much power; his .171 ISO is about 70 points lower than what he registered with the Nationals this year. But otherwise, Soto has been stellar in the middle of San Diego's lineup.
He is hitting fewer ground balls and more line drives. His healthy 52.9 hard-hit rate and 12.9 barrel rate are both improvements from his 2022 work in D.C. Of course, Soto is still walking a ton (21.0 percent) and rarely striking out (12.4 percent). That has all led to a steady .840 OPS and 147 wRC+. The Padres have their issues, but Soto's bat isn't one of them.
3. Daniel Vogelbach, Mets
Designated hitter was an obvious area of need for the Mets as the Deadline neared. Entering July 22, their DHs ranked in the bottom third of MLB in home runs (nine) and OPS (.668) through 93 games. And their lefty DHs were even worse, sporting a .458 OPS with just one homer. Enter Vogelbach, who was acquired that evening and has slotted in comfortably right behind Pete Alonso in the Mets' lineup.
After posting a decent .228/.338/.430 slash line in 237 at-bats with the Pirates, Vogelbach has taken his game up a couple of notches with the NL East leaders, slashing .247/.385/.471 in 85 at-bats. He has collected four homers and 11 extra-base hits during that short span. He has also bumped his walk rate up to an impressive 17.3 percent. Thanks to Vogey, Mets DHs, which ranked 22nd in the Majors in OPS prior to his acquisition, rank 13th in that stat since.
4. Luis Castillo, Mariners
The Mariners paid a hefty price to obtain Castillo's flamethrowing right arm, surrendering three of the system's top five prospects. But he has been worth the cost through five starts. Castillo has compiled a 2.84 ERA and a 2.84 FIP with 38 strikeouts in 31 2/3 frames. His 24.6 strikeout-minus-walk rate since his first Seattle start on Aug. 3 ranks 11th among qualified pitchers, and his 11.0 K/9 rate sits sixth, directly behind new rotation mate Robbie Ray.
Seattle brought Castillo aboard to help the franchise end its 20-year playoff drought, and two of Castillo's best performances last month came against postseason contenders. He dominated over eight scoreless innings against the Yankees on Aug. 9 and then struck out 10 during a six-inning appearance versus the Guardians on Aug. 27. On the day they acquired Castillo, the Mariners' playoff odds were at 76.7 percent, according to FanGraphs. They now sit at 97.5 percent.
5. Tommy Pham, Red Sox
Signed to a one-year deal shortly before the start of the regular season, Pham floundered through 91 games with Cincinnati. He batted .238 with an 87 OPS+, the lowest of his career with any team, minimum 150 plate appearances. So, the rebuilding Reds dealt him on Aug. 1 for a player to be named from Boston, where the 34-year-old seems to have found new life.
Pham has squared up just about everything he has seen with the Red Sox; his 63.5 hard-hit rate since making his debut is the best in the American League and trails only the Phillies' Kyle Schwarber. He's upped that batting average to .292, and his OPS+ with Boston is a solid 124. Pham has hit safely in 18 of his past 20 games, and he entered Wednesday with a hit and a run scored in seven consecutive contests.
6. Emmanuel Rivera, D-backs
While the baseball world was reacting to the Padres' blockbuster deal with Milwaukee and the Yankees' acquisition of Frankie Montas, Rivera was traded from Kansas City to Arizona for veteran right-hander Luke Weaver. You're excused if this one-for-one swap between also-ran teams flew under your radar, but Rivera deserves your attention because he has been one of the better hitters in baseball since the move.
The 26-year-old rookie third baseman has put together a .264/.376/.556 slash line with six doubles and five dingers through 85 plate appearances out west. That's a far cry from what he accomplished in 309 plate appearances as a Royal: .243 average, .673 OPS, seven homers and 12 doubles. Rivera's plate discipline has also improved as he has reduced his strikeout and chase rates while nearly doubling his walk rate from 6.1 percent to 11.8 percent. He owns a 157 wRC+ since the trade, and his 16.1 barrel rate with the D-backs ranks seventh among qualified hitters.
7. Chris Martin, Dodgers
What do you get if you are a relief pitcher with elite command who has turned in a ground ball rate above 50 percent and a career-best K/9 rate? Well, if you're Martin, you get an unflattering 4.31 ERA. The 36-year-old righty was victimized by a .393 BABIP through 34 appearances with the Cubs before he was traded on July 30 to a Dodgers team in need of relief.
While closer Craig Kimbrel has been spotty, and the Dodgers have missed a host of injured bullpen arms, Martin has been a rock in the middle innings. He limited hitters to two extra-base hits and a .122 average through 11 1/3 innings last month. He struck out 14 without issuing a walk during that span, so Martin owns a 54:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season. He could be crucial to leading the best team in baseball to the World Series, and he has experience there after winning a ring with Atlanta last year.
José Quintana, Cardinals: Overshadowed by Montgomery in the Cardinals' rotation, Quintana has a 3.38 ERA and a 3.43 FIP in six starts with St. Louis.
David Robertson, Phillies: The 37-year-old closer has a 1.54 ERA and four saves with Philly. He has been scored upon in only one of his 12 appearances.
J.D. Davis, Giants: The righty bat has posted a .359 on-base percentage and a .518 slugging in 56 at-bats with the Giants. He's already hit as many home runs with San Francisco (four) as he did across 181 at-bats with the Mets this season.
Reese McGuire, Red Sox: The catcher has just 52 at-bats with the Red Sox, but he's been getting more chances lately as he possesses a .385/.400/.481 slash line.