Experts predict this season's stat leaders

April 4th, 2022

The start of the 2022 season is three days away, and as part of our countdown to Opening Day, it's time to predict which players will shine brightest this year.

We polled 73 experts for their picks on who will lead the American League and National League in a number of key statistical categories, including homers, batting average, stolen bases, ERA, strikeouts and saves. Here are the results.

Home runs

AL: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
Guerrero broke out in a big way last season, tying Royals catcher Salvador Perez for the AL and MLB lead with 48 homers and becoming one of the youngest home run champions in AL/NL history. voters expect a stellar encore performance from the 23-year-old in 2022. Guerrero would be just the fifth player since 2000 to at least tie for his league’s home run lead in consecutive seasons, joining Alex Rodriguez (AL 2001-03), Albert Pujols (NL 2009-10), José Bautista (AL 2010-11) and Nolan Arenado (NL 2015-16).

Others receiving votes: Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez, Rafael Devers, Joey Gallo, Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Salvador Perez

NL: Pete Alonso, Mets
With last year’s NL home run leader, Fernando Tatis Jr., sidelined after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured wrist, our panel sees Alonso winning his second league home run crown in four seasons. The Polar Bear set a rookie record with an MLB-leading 53 dingers in 2019 and has left the park 106 times in his three big league seasons, 11 more than any other player in that span.

Others receiving votes: Matt Olson, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Tyler O’Neill, Kyle Schwarber, Joey Votto, Fernando Tatis Jr., Kris Bryant, Ronald Acuña Jr., Adam Duvall

Batting average

AL: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
While 21 individuals have belted 45 homers in a single season over the past 15 years, only five players in that span have also hit .300 or better in the same year: A-Rod (2007), Pujols (2009), J.D. Martinez (2017), Cody Bellinger (2019) and Guerrero last season. In other words, seeing someone with Guerrero’s combination of power and contact-hitting ability is rare. Our voters not only think the Blue Jays first baseman will win his second league home run crown this season but also his first batting title, giving him two of the three legs of the Triple Crown.

Others receiving votes: Tim Anderson, Wander Franco, Mike Trout, Kyle Tucker, Michael Brantley, Rafael Devers, Yuli Gurriel, Bo Bichette, Byron Buxton, DJ LeMahieu, Whit Merrifield, Corey Seager, Jesse Winker

NL: Juan Soto, Nationals
Soto was already drawing Ted Williams comps before 2021, when he put up a .313/.465/.534 slash line over 151 games at the age of 22. That included an eye-popping .348/.525/.639 showing after the All-Star break. What’s scary is that he arguably has room to get even better. Soto won a batting title with a .351 average during the shortened 2020 season, and’s voting panel sees another one coming in 2022. Soto’s astronomically high walk rate (22.2% in 2021) should work in his favor -- with so many of his plate appearances ending in walks, his at-bat total could be significantly lower than many of the other batting-title contenders, meaning he’d need fewer hits to post an average north of .300.

Others receiving votes: Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman, Nick Madrigal, Bryce Harper, Ketel Marte, Mookie Betts, Nick Castellanos

Stolen bases

AL: Whit Merrifield, Royals
Merrifield isn’t the fastest player in the game (his sprint speed of 28.6 ft/sec tied for 81st among qualifiers last season), but he picks his spots well on the bases and never takes a day off -- literally; he hasn’t missed a game since June 2018. The 33-year-old led the AL in steals for the third time in his career in 2021, tallying 40 swipes with a sparkling 90.9% success rate. Merrifield’s biggest competition for another crown might come from his own team; oft-injured Royals infielder Adalberto Mondesi has collected 114 stolen bases in just 271 games over the past four seasons.

Others receiving votes: Cedric Mullins, Adalberto Mondesi, Myles Straw, Randy Arozarena, Bo Bichette, Byron Buxton, Shohei Ohtani, Marcus Semien

NL: Trea Turner, Dodgers
Turner has electric speed -- his average sprint speed of 30.7 ft/sec tied for the MLB lead in 2021 -- and he’s not afraid to use it. Since his 2016 rookie season, Turner has stolen 201 bases in 238 attempts, averaging 49 steals per 162 games in that span and winning two league stolen-base titles.

Others receiving votes: Starling Marte, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Tommy Edman, Ronald Acuña Jr.


AL: Gerrit Cole, Yankees
Cole was in a close race for the AL ERA title with Robbie Ray and Lance Lynn in the final month of the 2021 season, but he allowed 15 earned runs over 17 2/3 innings in his last three starts and finished with a 3.23 ERA -- more than one-third of a run higher than Ray’s league-leading 2.84 mark.’s panel thinks he’ll go the distance this season.

Others receiving votes: Shane Bieber, Robbie Ray, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Shohei Ohtani, José Berríos, Nathan Eovaldi, Casey Mize, Alek Manoah, Chris Flexen, Chris Sale, Framber Valdez, Frankie Montas, Lance McCullers Jr.

NL: Walker Buehler, Dodgers
This vote might have gone differently if Jacob deGrom were healthy, but the Mets ace has been shut down from throwing after an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his right scapula, and it’s unclear when he’ll be back on the mound. Buehler nearly won the NL ERA title last season, finishing third behind Corbin Burnes (2.43) and Max Scherzer (2.46) with a 2.47 ERA.

Others receiving votes: Corbin Burnes, Max Scherzer, Max Fried, Sandy Alcantara, Freddy Peralta, Julio Urías, Yu Darvish, Logan Webb


AL: Gerrit Cole, Yankees
The Cy Young Award has eluded Cole thus far -- he finished second in 2019 and 2021, fourth in 2015 and 2020 and fifth in 2018. If he leads the AL in ERA and strikeouts this season, as our voters predict he will, we could see the Yankees ace finally raise the trophy. Considering no pitcher has racked up more Ks than Cole’s 939 over the past four years, he is as strong of a pick as any to grab the AL strikeout title in 2022.

Others receiving votes: Robbie Ray, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber

NL: Max Scherzer, Mets
Few pitchers in history have been able to rack up strikeouts as efficiently as Mad Max. The three-time Cy Young Award winner ranks fifth all time (min. 1,000 innings) in K/9 (10.71) and has finished third or better on his league’s strikeout leaderboard in nine of the past 10 seasons, winning three K crowns in that span.

Others receiving votes: Corbin Burnes, Walker Buehler, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Brandon Woodruff, Sandy Alcantara, Yu Darvish


AL: Liam Hendriks, White Sox
A pitcher hasn’t led his league in saves in consecutive seasons since Craig Kimbrel topped the NL leaderboard every year from 2011-14 (within that stretch, Jim Johnson led the AL in 2012 and 2013), but Hendriks seems well positioned to buck that trend. The overpowering righty finished two saves behind AL leader Brad Hand in 2020 before grabbing the top spot last year, his first season after signing a $54 million deal with the White Sox.

Others receiving votes: Raisel Iglesias, Ryan Pressly, Emmanuel Clase, Aroldis Chapman, Jordan Romano

NL: Josh Hader, Brewers
Hader was as dominant as ever in 2021, setting personal bests in ERA (1.23), FIP (1.69) and opponents’ OPS allowed (.421). The left-hander has collected 84 saves since the beginning of 2019, including an NL-leading 13 during the shortened 2020 season and 34 more -- in 35 chances -- last year.

Others receiving votes: Edwin Díaz, Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Camilo Doval, Will Smith