Blame it on the social media age that takes “what have you done for me lately” and hones it to “what have you done for me tonight,” or the socially-accepted ageism that goes hand-in-hand with being a sports fan. Whatever the reason, we love to bury athletes who are coming off a bad season. And sometimes for good reasons! When athleticism wanes and the player either can’t or won’t adjust, a bad season can signify the downward slope or end of a career. But sometimes players just have a bad season, especially in baseball.
With the high variance from season to season in metrics like batting average on balls in play (BABIP), or fielding independent pitching (FIP), one can pretty easily decipher who fell off due to injuries or are no longer viable for whatever reason, and those who were just unlucky. Then you have players who were just in a bad state of mind for a year (we’ve all been there), or were in a bad situation or realized they needed to figure out what went wrong and did their best to fix it.
We’ve got a mix of young guys who experienced sophomore slumps, players who were still dealing with injuries from the prior season, and guys who are just too good to keep playing as poorly as they did in 2022. It’s a lot easier to get excited about new free-agent signings or top prospects, but sometimes the guys who contribute the most to a surprisingly good season are the ones we wrote off months ago. The The Athletic’s baseball writers looked at the numbers and the stories behind the scenes to pinpoint players who didn’t perform up to expectations in 2022, but have a good chance to prove a lot of people wrong in 2023.
Player: Ketel Marte, 2B
I wouldn’t go so far out on a limb to guarantee a return to form from Ketel Marte, but the guy is not that far removed from his MVP-caliber 2019 season. At 29, Marte is still in his prime. He put on muscle after that breakout year, but he’s slimmed down again after realizing the extra weight played a role in the frequent hamstring and back issues he’s had over the past few years. Marte still has lightning-quick hands and power from both sides of the plate. Everyone is talking about Corbin Carroll, but Marte is also capable of being the best player on the team.
Player: Eddie Rosario, LF
Rosario had his worst season in 2022, but it was understandable: After starting 3-for-44, the lefty hitter had laser surgery for blurred vision and swelling in his right eye, sidelining him for more than two months. Rosario had 13 multi-hit games in 55 starts after returning July 4, but never surged as he did after being traded to Atlanta at the 2021 deadline when he was the National League Championship Series MVP and helped the Braves win the World Series. This spring, the left fielder has looked more like himself and had a homer, double and three RBIs in Puerto Rico’s first three WBC games.
Player: Ryan Mountcastle, 1B
It’s probably a little harsh to say Mountcastle struggled in 2022. He still hit 22 homers and had a similar batting average, on-base percentage, strikeout and walk ratio as he did in his breakout 2021 campaign. But that was supposed to be a launching point, not the high bar. Mountcastle’s power production plummeted; he hit 11 fewer homers than he did in 2021. Part of that can be blamed on the Orioles moving and lengthening the left-field wall; Mountcastle’s pull percentage dropped to a career-low 20.8 percent. But he had career highs in exit velocity and hard-hit percentage. And he’s only 26. So, the Orioles believe he simply had an unlucky year.