The players we can't wait to watch in 2022, ranked

April 5th, 2022

Who are the “must-see” players across the Majors in 2022?

That was the question we posed to seven contributors, and it’s not an easy one to answer. Different people have different definitions of that term, after all. But one thing’s for sure: To be “must-see,” you have to bring something special to the table.

This isn’t just about having talent and putting up numbers. “Must-see” is about players with presence and swag, who command attention, spark joy and defy belief. When they’re due up at bat, you postpone your trip to the concession stand, put down your remote or maximize your MLB.TV window. When they’re running the bases or going after a ball in the field, you look up from your phone. When they’re on the mound, you key in on every pitch -- then check Twitter for a slo-mo breakdown.

Below, our contributors made some tough decisions to pick just 21 of the players they are most excited to watch this year, using a traditional snake draft format. There was only one rule: in order to make sure MLB’s wide talent base was equally represented, each drafter had to select one player apiece from each of the three divisional regions (East, Central and West).

Here are the results:


1) , SP/DH, Angels
If you're picking the one player to watch in baseball today -- and I am -- it has to be Ohtani. Every time he takes the field he might do something you've never seen before. He might do something the entire baseball world has never seen before. He does things Major League Baseball hasn't seen since Babe Ruth, and he does them better than Babe Ruth. There was nothing like witnessing Ohtani throw 100 mph fastballs as a pitcher and hit a 450-foot home run in the same game last season. There's no one like Ohtani, period.
-- David Adler

2) Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Braves
There’s nothing on a baseball field that Ronald Acuña Jr. can’t do. He’s got all the swagger in the world and the game to back it up. Acuña is likely the most legitimate five-tool player in baseball right now. Before his knee injury last year, he was looking like the favorite for NL MVP, and in his last full season (2019), he finished just three stolen bases short of MLB’s first 40-40 season since 2006 (Alfonso Soriano). The reigning champs expect the 24-year-old outfielder back in early May, which is great for baseball fans and terrifying for opposing pitchers.
-- Brett Blueweiss

3) , 1B, Blue Jays
Guerrero dramatically increased his average launch angle to 9.4 degrees last year, up from 4.6 in ’20 and 6.7 in ’19. The result was the breakthrough we were hoping for: The former No. 1 prospect clobbered an MLB-high-tying 48 home runs while compiling 6.8 WAR in 2021, per Baseball-Reference. He would have been the AL MVP had it not been for the historic exploits of that Ohtani fellow. Guerrero is in great shape, and after Toronto narrowly missed the playoffs last year, he’s on a mission. In his own words, “last year was the trailer. Now, you guys are going to see the movie.” With Guerrero mashing in the heart of the lineup, it’ll be must-see cinema.
-- Nathalie Alonso

4) Juan Soto, RF, Nationals
Soto is up there among the absolute must-see plate appearances right now. No matter the score or situation, it’s always a good time to watch the master at work. He’s the best hitter in baseball, and every trip to the plate is a treat: whether he’s working a walk and testing the pitcher or blasting an extra-base hit, it’s all a joy to behold. In 2021, he had the lowest swing rate and chase rate in MLB, but he made teams pay when he swung, with 23.9% of his swings resulting in hard contact, the highest such rate in the sport. Good luck to opposing pitchers, and lucky us for getting to watch. And it isn’t just the master class: Soto has fun at the dish with his signature shuffle, radiating excitement for the game.
-- Sarah Langs

5) Bryce Harper, RF, Phillies
It’s hard to find another player in recent history who’s endeared himself to a new city so quickly. Harper is already being stacked side-by-side with Philadelphia baseball royalty; he’s had some epic, game-winning home runs; he’s made sure to pay respect to the city’s biggest, greenest star. It feels like Harper has been on the Phillies forever (it’s only been three seasons). He’s gotta be nearing the end of his career pretty soon, right? (he’s only 29). Yes, after winning his second NL MVP last season, MLB’s chosen one might be somehow just entering his prime. And with a new roster of big bats, Harper might have the protection and pop needed to lead the Phillies to their first postseason appearance in 11 years. There might not be a better time to watch him.
-- Matt Monagan

6) , CF, Twins
Thus far, Buxton’s career has mostly left us craving more. The No. 2 overall Draft pick (2012) was once the No. 1 overall prospect in the sport and has flashed jaw-dropping tools and stretches of MVP-caliber play in between frequent injuries (see his 1.005 OPS and 4.5 WAR in just 61 games last season). The only missing ingredient? Good health. If Buxton finds that, the sky's the limit. Even if not, the fun factor when he does play still justifies this draft slot. How many other guys can hit 450-foot bombs, run the bases like a gazelle AND glide around the outfield robbing hits?
-- Andrew Simon

7) Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres
When you feel the level of disappointment we all experienced when we learned that Tatis would miss the first two months of the season due to a broken wrist, you know you’re dealing with a must-see player. One of the most electric players in baseball, Tatis has dealt with injury a lot so far in his young career, and as a result has only played in 273 Major League games. Still, in that time, he’s been a superstar, hitting .292/.369/.596 with 81 home runs and 52 steals. Even after missing significant time in 2022, he could reach the 100-homer milestone before the season is over. Whether it’s at the plate, on the bases or in the field at shortstop, Tatis is appointment television whenever he’s on the diamond.
-- Manny Randhawa


8) , SS, Rays
Franco has had “must-see” written all over him for years now, and we’re just getting the chance to see what he can do at the Major League level. The No. 1 prospect in baseball when he made his big league debut last year, Franco reached base in 43 straight games, tying Hall of Famer Frank Robinson for the longest on-base streak for anyone age 20 or younger in AL/NL history. And that’s just the beginning for this guy – after finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting last year despite only playing in 70 games, even the sky isn’t the limit for this phenom.
-- Manny Randhawa

9) , CF, Angels
Yes, he missed most of last season and is now into his 30s. But I couldn’t let him fall any further. A Trout plate appearance is still a master class in savage efficiency. Few command the strike zone better or have a quicker, more powerful swing. It’s a joy to watch. Even if the recent injuries have cooled Trout’s historic career pace a bit, tracking his progress up the career leaderboards remains part of the fun. The 350-homer mark is within reach for Trout, who also has a decent shot to pass 10 more Hall of Fame position players in WAR. That includes none other than Ken Griffey Jr. (7.7 WAR away).
-- Andrew Simon

10) , DH, Cardinals
As a noted UK band once sang, “Oh, take me back to the start.” The 42-year-old Pujols is back in St. Louis for his final season. Back to where it all began 21 years ago. There will be standing ovations, there will be clutch pinch-hits and there will surely be tears for one of the greatest players to ever walk onto a baseball diamond. The three-time MVP also has a shot at hitting some impressive milestones: He’s 18 homers away from passing A-Rod for 4th on the all-time HR list and 21 from the vaunted 700 mark. He should also pass Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor to become 10th on the all-time hit list. Oh, and, in limited attempts, he also hasn’t been caught stealing a base since 2016. Let’s hope he swipes at least one bag in 2022.
-- Matt Monagan

11) Luis Robert, CF, White Sox
This was so easy. We should all be watching Robert play baseball as often as is humanly possible. A five-tool player with a very high ceiling, he will certainly be a popular MVP pick entering ‘22. He runs fast, which also helps him patrol center field expertly, and he crushes baseballs. He has fun in the outfield with teammate Eloy Jiménez, often catching fly balls for the left fielder. Lest we forget, Robert hammered a 487-ft homer in the playoffs as a rookie in 2020, the second-longest postseason home run tracked by Statcast (since 2015). Plus, whenever you tune in to watch Robert, you get the chance to listen to Jason Benetti and Steve Stone on NBC Sports Chicago, which is bonus, must-see fun.
-- Sarah Langs

12) , SS, Twins
In an offseason of unlikely unions, none was more stunning than Correa to the Twins. The former No. 1 overall Draft pick (2012) can opt out of his three-year, $105.3-million deal after the first or second year, meaning he could hit the free-agent market again this winter. Correa is betting on himself, which is why I expect to see lots of what he’s known for: hard contact and dazzling defense (if he stays healthy, of course.) As our Twins beat writer Do-Hyung Park noted, the All-Star shortstop has a career 1.205 OPS at Target Field, his highest at any ballpark where he's had 20+ plate appearances. High stakes, elite talent and an unexpected setting? I’ll be watching.
-- Nathalie Alonso

13) Bobby Witt Jr., SS/3B, Royals
At just 21 years old, MLB’s top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. makes the game look easy. His lightning-quick bat speed has already drawn comparisons to Mike Trout (and I hear he’s pretty good). Before being drafted second overall in 2019, Witt hit .500 his senior year in high school, while also lighting up the radar gun with mid-90s heat on the mound. In the Minors, he’s shown off all five tools and has real 30-30 potential. This could be a rookie season for the ages for the Royals phenom.
-- Brett Blueweiss

14) Seiya Suzuki, RF, Cubs
No one knows what Suzuki will do in the Major Leagues, and that's what makes him a must-watch player. It's the possibility of what he could be: the next star slugger to arrive from overseas. What we do know is this guy mashed in Japan. He hit 38 home runs in 2021. He’s batted .317 and averaged 30 homers a year over his six full seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball. But he hasn't played an MLB game yet, so Suzuki is still a mystery. And who can resist a mystery?
-- David Adler


15) , RF, Yankees
You have to tune in any time Judge is up because he could launch a 500-foot home run in any given at-bat. There are very few humans in the world who can hit a baseball as far as No. 99. Twice in his career, Judge has literally cleared the Yankee Stadium bleachers. Those homers traveled 495 feet and 496 feet. The ball is just different coming off his bat. Whenever Judge is at the plate, you might see a record-setting home run -- the longest or hardest since we started keeping track of such things. He has true top-of-the-scale power.
-- David Adler

16) , SP, Dodgers
For the first time, Buehler will be getting the nod on Opening Day for the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw has done so nine times in his career, but now the torch has been passed, and Buehler is ready to run with it. With his fastball in the upper 90s and a slider tighter than his pants, he’s the unquestioned ace on the team that is the odds-on favorite to win the title this year. If the Dodgers are going to compete for that ultimate goal, expect Buehler to be one of the biggest reasons why.
-- Brett Blueweiss

17) , RF, Dodgers
On a must-see Dodgers team loaded with must-see players, Betts is still the guy I want up in a big spot and the guy I want the ball hit to. (A year later, I’m still thinking about his breathtaking, game-ending catch against the Padres.) Even in a “down” year in 2021 in which he was hampered by hip issues, the 2018 AL MVP smacked 23 home runs and finished with a 128 OPS+. And his performance in Game 5 of the 2021 NLDS against the Giants (four hits, a stolen base and a run scored in a 2-1 L.A. win) was a reminder of Betts’ ability to change the course of a game, sometimes single-handedly. Am I betting on Betts in 2022? You … bet.
-- Nathalie Alonso

18) Julio Rodríguez, OF, Mariners
Julio Rodríguez is the No. 3 prospect in baseball -- but not for long, because he will be crushing it on a Major League field this week. The now-21-year-old hit .347 with a 1.001 OPS across two levels of the Minors in 2021 at age 20, with great plate discipline, power and the ability to hit the ball to all fields. He’s also worked on speed and is an electrifying baserunner. Seriously, check out this inside-the-parker from Spring Training. Rodríguez exudes excitement on the field, with palpable joy coming through. He has an active and engaging social media presence, and recently took some time to engage with Mariners fans around Peoria, Ariz.
-- Sarah Langs

19) , LF, Rockies
Once upon a time, before he even was promoted to the Cubs, Bryant was compared to the fictional character Sylvester Coddmeyer III from Matt Christopher’s “The Kid Who Only Hit Homers.” Those were, of course, tough expectations to live up to in the big leagues, but the 2016 NL MVP has compiled 167 homers over seven seasons – about 31 per year. And now, he’s in the very hitter-friendly Coors Field … where maybe he can actually hit a dinger every at-bat? (Or at least 40-50 in a season). Either way, it’ll be fun to watch Bryant in the purple and black after seeing him as the quintessential Cub for several glorious years. And who knows, with the additions of Bryant and Randal Grichuk alongside Colorado mainstay Charlie Blackmon and up-and-coming stars like Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers, maybe Colorado can make some noise in the tough NL West?
-- Matt Monagan

20) , SP, Mets
It was tough to leave Giancarlo Stanton on the table for my East region pick, because nobody hits the ball quite like Big G. With that said, a Scherzer start is some of the best theater around (and now only slightly off-Broadway!). The stuff still sizzles. The numbers still amaze. But there’s also a third ingredient here: intensity. Mad Max radiates scowling, snarling competitive fire and will to win. That mound presence is not fun for opponents, but for us? It’s a blast to observe from the safety of the couch.
-- Andrew Simon

21) Javier Báez, SS, Tigers
Báez has always been a must-see player – the daring baserunning, the incredible tags and the defensive gems have given us unforgettable moments from when he was with the Cubs. Now, following a short stint with the Mets, Báez is joining an up-and-coming Tigers squad with its sights set on moving from a rebuilding phase into a contending phase. Put all of that together and you’ve got a team in Detroit that will be fun to watch in 2022, with one of the most exciting players in the game joining a roster that could soon feature two of the best prospects in the game, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene.
-- Manny Randhawa