The beauty of MLB comes from the unexpected stars that come out of nowhere.
These three players have taken a huge step forward and qualify as the most surprising performers in 2022.
3. Tarik Skubal, SP, Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers’ young ace Tarik Skubal had made his debut in 2020, pitching to a disappointing 5.63 ERA in 32 frames.
He took a step forward in 2021, going from ineffective rookie to solid MLB starter by pitching 149.1 innings with a 4.34 ERA.
It appears, however, that he took another sizable leap forward in 2022: he looks like an ace.
So far, the tough left-hander with the funky delivery and the great fastball is sporting a 2.22 ERA in 44.2 innings, validated by an incredible 2.00 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).
There are two major areas in which Skubal improved: walks and home runs.
In his first two MLB seasons, he allowed more than two homers per nine innings.
This season? He is at 0.40.
Additionally, his walk rate went from 7.4 percent in 2021 to just 4.5 percent this year.
He is blossoming into an ace right before our eyes.
2. Taylor Ward, OF, Los Angeles Angels
28-year-old outfielder Taylor Ward has shocked the baseball universe with his early-season hitting performance.
He has unexpectedly become a star this season: after hitting .250/.332/.438 in 237 plate appearances last year, he is at .370/.481/.713 in 131 trips to the plate in 2022.
Ward has knocked nine home runs, scored 27 runs, and driven in 23 through Wednesday, and is a big reason why the Angels are fighting neck to neck with the Houston Astros for the AL West lead.
The best thing of all is that Ward’s minor league performance validates his current success, so we are likely talking about him having some staying power at his current level.
He has been quite a find for the Angels.
The @Angels Taylor Ward has been one of the biggest surprises in @MLB this season, posting numbers as good as @MikeTrout! @jillpainter caught up w/ @Warrdyboy7 to find out how it's been going so well! #GoHalos #Angels
— CBSLA Sports Central (@SportsCentralLA) May 20, 2022
1. Nestor Cortes Jr., SP, New York Yankees
If you look at Nestor Cortes Jr.’s build, height, and fastball velocity, you wouldn’t imagine he has been the best pitcher in the New York Yankees’ rotation.
Yet, here we are, and Cortes leads the Bombers’ starters in ERA (1.80), Wins Above Replacement (1.3), and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP, with 2.58).
Yes, he had a 2.90 ERA in 93 innings last season, but few people thought he was legit.
This year, he is showing that you don’t need a 100-mph fastball to dominate at the major league level.
Cortes improved his cutter and it has now become his most trusted weapon.
He relies on deception, changing speeds, funky deliveries, and different arm slots and release points to baffle and dominate his rivals.
His four-seam fastball averages about 91 mph, but it’s one of the most valuable heaters in baseball.
He knows how to pitch, has very good command, and messes with hitters’ timing.
There is no reason why the Yankees’ unsung hero can’t continue to dominate.
Yankees start a series tonight out in Tampa with the Rays.
— Diamond Talk Podcast (@DiamondTalkPod) May 26, 2022