11 top plays to remember from 2022

December 30th, 2022

There's just enough time left in 2022 to take one last look back at the top plays of the year.

So let's hand out some end-of-the-year superlatives. Here are the stars who produced the standout plays of the season -- the hardest-hit ball, the longest home run, the fastest strikeout, the hardest outfield assist and more.

Here are 11 plays to remember from 2022.

Hardest-hit ball 
Oneil Cruz (Pirates): 122.4 mph single, Aug. 24

This wasn't just the hardest-hit ball of 2022 -- it was the hardest-hit ball in Statcast history. Cruz reached an exit velocity not even Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge have reached. The Pirates' 6-foot-7 rookie ripped the ball so hard off the wall that he was held to a single.

Longest home run
C.J. Cron (Rockies):
504 feet, Sept. 9

Cron joined the 500-foot home run club (yes, it was at Coors Field) with a huge blast over the concourse down the left-field line. The Rockies slugger is one of just three hitters with a 500-footer under Statcast tracking, and he's the first to hit one since Nomar Mazara in 2019.

Hardest home run
Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees):
119.8 mph, June 11

If you look at any exit velocity leaderboard, you're going to find lots of Stanton at the top. He has three of the five hardest-hit homers under Statcast tracking -- and this 119.8 mph frozen rope at Yankee Stadium in June comes in at No. 4 overall. Stanton has hit the hardest home run of the year in four of the eight seasons of Statcast tracking, including 2022.

Fastest strikeout pitch
Jhoan Duran (Twins):
103.2 mph, Sept. 11

Duran debuted with some of the nastiest stuff in baseball in 2022. That included the fastest strikeout pitch of the season, an unhittable 103.2 mph fastball with over 14 inches of run in on Oscar Gonzalez's hands. But that wasn't even the season highlight for Duran … because the Twins rookie also became the only player in pitch-tracking history to throw a 100 mph offspeed pitch. Duran's splitter (or "splinker," as they call it) reached 100.8 mph on Aug. 29 against the Red Sox -- and in that same game, he struck out Alex Verdugo with a 99.7 mph splitter.

Slowest strikeout pitch  
Diego Castillo (Pirates): 50.7 mph, June 22

This was one of the most fun at-bats of the year. The Diego Castillo pitching was not the lights-out Mariners reliever … it was the Pirates utility infielder, at the end of a blowout. And the batter? The batter was 37-year-old reliever David Robertson, who was taking the first plate appearance of his career. With Castillo throwing lobs, Robertson took a Ruthian hack at a full-count, 50.7 mph eephus at his eyes -- he wasn't about to walk after waiting 695 games for his first at-bat -- but came up empty.

Fastest inside-the-park home run
Kevin Kiermaier (Rays): 14.85 seconds, May 24

An inside-the-park home run is always one of the most exciting plays in baseball; it's even more exciting when it's Kiermaier running. Kiermaier's fourth career inside-the-parker made him the leader among active players. He circled the bases at The Trop in 14.80 seconds at a borderline-elite 29.9 ft/sec sprint speed. It was the fastest of the 12 inside-the-park home runs in MLB in 2022, and a personal-best time for Kiermaier under Statcast tracking.

Slowest home run trot 
Josh Naylor (Guardians): 35.73 seconds, Sept. 19

Naylor's "rock the baby" home run celebration gained notoriety against the Yankees in the postseason, but the Guardians slugger broke out his most deliberate home run trot of the year, cradle and all, in September. After a moonshot to right field against the division-rival Twins in Cleveland, Naylor took nearly 36 seconds to complete his trip around the bases, rocking the baby as he neared third.

Honorable mention here to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who took a 34.95-second trot after hitting this 117.5 mph, 447-foot rocket on Sept. 30.

Fastest triple
Corbin Carroll (D-backs): 10.75 seconds, Oct. 3

Carroll might be the new fastest player in baseball. The D-backs' top prospect was called up in late August and led MLB in sprint speed at 30.7 ft/sec (30-plus is elite). His electrifying plays on the bases included the fastest triple of 2022 in one of the final games of the year. The 22-year-old went home-to-third in 10.75 seconds and reached an elite 30.1 ft/sec sprint speed.

Best pop time on a caught stealing 
J.T. Realmuto (Phillies): 1.73 seconds, Sept. 30

Realmuto is forever the king of pop time. He led all catchers in 2022 with an average pop time of 1.82 seconds to second base -- his fifth season in a row leading the Majors -- on his way to an MLB-best 44% caught stealing percentage. Across all of MLB in 2022, there were 16 total caught stealings with a pop time under 1.80 seconds … Realmuto had 14 of them, including this one, the fastest of the year.

Hardest outfield assist
Aristides Aquino (Reds):
101.6 mph, April 9

Aquino's raw tools mean the outfielder can produce an eye-popping play with his bat or his arm at any moment. Aquino was the only player with a 100-plus mph outfield assist in 2022, and he had two of them. The hardest one was 101.6 mph in his second game of the season, nailing Matt Olson at the plate from left field in Atlanta.

Hardest infield assist
Oneil Cruz (Pirates):
97.8 mph, July 14

Let's put a bow on the 2022 superlatives with the player who started them. Cruz is one of baseball's most electric young talents -- one of the hardest hitters, fastest runners and strongest throwers. You thought Fernando Tatis Jr. could uncork a rocket from shortstop? Watch Cruz. His 97.8 mph throw to first on July 14 set a new record for the hardest infield assist in the Statcast era (since 2015). Who knows, maybe Cruz will even touch triple digits from the infield one day.

Bonus -- Toughest catch 
George Springer (Blue Jays): 5% catch probability, May 1 

We can't say definitively which is the No. 1 absolute best catch of the year, because there are a bunch of defensive gems with a catch probability of 5%. But here's one of our favorites: an incredible George Springer diving grab to rob Alex Bregman as he raced back onto the warning track in right field. Springer needed to cover 75 feet in 4.4 seconds to make the play. It's one of the catches of the year.