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MLB Power Rankings: Players Who Are Heating Up After Cold Starts

Who is picking up the pace as we enter the heart of the summer?

As Memorial Day and the summer solstice are now in the rearview mirror, it’s official: Summer is here.

With the rising temperatures come rising, well, tempers, as Sunday’s brawl in Anaheim between the Angels and Mariners can attest. The 2022 season has not yet reached its halfway point, but already teams are feeling the heat. With the All-Star break looming, let’s take a look at a player on each team who has started to get hot after a relatively cold start to the campaign.

30. Washington Nationals (Last Week: 30)

As the crown jewel of the return package in the Max Scherzer deal, much was expected of Josiah Gray upon his arrival in Washington. He flashed potential—and a good amount of erraticism—in 12 starts last season, and his 2022 campaign featured more of the same. Gray allowed 13 homers and walked 25 batters through his first 10 starts but has been much sharper of late. In his past four outings, the 24-year-old has a sparkling 1.13 ERA with 28 strikeouts, eight walks and just two home runs allowed in 24 innings. Opposing batters have managed just a .151/.232/.222 slash line during that span.

29. Oakland A’s (LW: 29)

Ramón Laureano looked like a budding star back in 2019 when, at age 24, he posted a 129 OPS+ with Gold Glove–caliber defense. But a pandemic-shortened ’20, injuries and an 80-game PED suspension have dimmed his stock. When Laureano finally returned from his suspension May 8, he struggled, managing just eight hits in his first 58 plate appearances. He’s looked more like his old self of late, though, posting a .272/.336/.398 slash line with four stolen bases over his past 27 games.

28. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 27)

Following a preseason fire sale, the Reds are almost certainly to be sellers as the trade deadline nears. Starter Tyler Mahle looked to be among the team’s most enticing assets coming into the campaign, but he got off to a miserable start that did nothing to help his trade value. His ERA sat at 6.32 through his first 10 outings, but he’s since turned things around in a major way. Mahle has a 2.14 ERA with 40 strikeouts in his last five starts, though he hasn’t picked up a win in that stretch. Such is life pitching for the Reds, which Mahle might not be doing for much longer.

27. Kansas City Royals (LW: 28)

Carlos Santana hasn’t posted a wRC+ above league average (100) since 2019 and has spent most of this season hovering around the Mendoza line. But the patient switch-hitter has turned back the clock lately, batting .298/.405/.468 over his last 27 games, posting more walks (17) than strikeouts (14). He’s set to be a free agent after this season, and would likely be a trade chip at the deadline if he can maintain his current form.

Aug 12, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) delivers in the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

Hendricks is playing more like his old self lately.

26. Chicago Cubs (LW: 23)

As the soft-tossing Kyle Hendricks has moved into his 30s, his ability to induce soft contact has waned. Hendricks is allowing a 10% barrel rate this season—easily the worst mark of his career—which has led to a career-high 1.55 HR/9. June has seen some promise, though, with Hendricks giving up just two homers with 19 strikeouts with a 2.19 FIP in four starts.

25. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 26)

The Bryan Reynolds revival rolled on this week, with the center fielder hitting safely in six out of seven games. The 2021 All-Star was in a bad way through the season’s first two months but has completely flipped the switch in June. In 24 games this month, Reynolds is hitting .333/.374/.556 with five home runs.

24. Colorado Rockies (LW: 24)

A trio of shortstops headlined the 2015 MLB draft, and Rockies fans might have started to get worried theirs wasn’t going to pan out. Dansby Swanson (No. 1) and Alex Bregman (No. 2) have enjoyed sustained success and won World Series titles with their respective teams, while third pick Brendan Rodgers is still establishing himself as an everyday player. Rodgers showed promise over 102 games last season, but got off to a horrid start this year, with a .461 OPS through his first 21 games. He then embarked on a 20-game hit streak and has an .816 OPS with 20 extra-base hits over his last 41 games. Just 25 years old, Rodgers may have a bright future ahead.

23. Detroit Tigers (LW: 25)

After inking a six-year, $140 million contract this winter, things could not have gotten off to a worse start for shortstop Javier Báez. The former Cub was hitting .197/.236/.306 by the end of May, with 41 strikeouts and just six walks. June has seen things pick up, though, with Báez batting .260/.304/.481 with 10 extra-base hits in 20 games.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 20)

Ketel Marte looked to be destined for stardom following a breakout 2019 in which he hit 32 home runs with 10 stolen bases and finished fourth in National League MVP voting at age 25. But injuries and the pandemic limited him to just 135 games in the next two years, and he got off to a miserable first month in ’22. Marte has been an on-base machine since the calendar flipped to May, though, and now looks like he’s back to his old ways. He’s hitting .323/.423/.503 in his last 43 games, with 21 extra-base hits and three stolen bases.

21. Chicago White Sox (LW: 17)

The wayward White Sox avoided a sweep at the hands of Baltimore on Sunday, and Dylan Cease was the primary reason why. The righthander wasn’t exactly cold to start the year, but his 4.24 ERA through his first nine starts wasn’t an accurate indicator of what was to come. Cease has allowed just one earned run in his six starts since, including Sunday’s gem in which he struck out a career-high 13, lowering his season ERA to 2.56.

20. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 22)

Just 29 games into his big league career, Adley Rutschman is starting to figure it out. He looked overmatched in his first two-plus weeks, batting just .137 with no homers in 13 games. Since then, the former No. 1 pick is hitting .309/.356/.600 with 12 extra-base hits and just six strikeouts in 16 games. Baltimore is 11–7 during that stretch.

19. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 16)

First baseman Jared Walsh was a surprise breakout star last season, belting 29 home runs and making his first career All-Star team at age 27. He got off to a sluggish start this year, batting .213 with just two home runs in his first 23 games. Walsh has rediscovered his power since then, with an .861 OPS and 11 homers in the 48 games since. The Angels’ lineup is pretty thin these days, making contributions from Walsh that much more invaluable.

18. Miami Marlins (LW: 18)

Few hitters have been hotter than Garrett Cooper over the past month. The first baseman has a 182 wRC+ over the past 30 days, ranking eighth among qualified hitters during that span. His .457 BABIP is certainly due for regression, but his .377 expected wOBA for the season suggests his performance to date has strong underlying support.

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17. Seattle Mariners (LW: 21)

Diego Castillo was a big deadline pickup for Seattle last season, though his 2022 got off to an inauspicious start. The right-handed bullpen arm allowed 11 runs in nine outings during May, giving up an OPS of .944 across 36 batters faced. He has given up just one earned run in 11 innings during June, with 13 strikeouts and just one walk.

16. Texas Rangers (LW: 19)

It’s hard to overstate just how bad things got for Marcus Semien to start his Rangers career. Just 24 days ago, the former All-Star had a season slash line of .190/.253/.275 across 221 plate appearances, but there finally appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Semien has hit .317/.371/.524 with five home runs and five stolen bases in 20 games. He dug himself into such a deep hole that it will take a lot more to save his season line, but his emergence has been a welcomed sign for a Texas team that’s invested quite a bit into its middle infield.

Jun 23, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.

Schwarber will need to lead the Phillies’ lineup during Bryce Harper’s absence.

15. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 14)

The streaky Kyle Schwarber was posting a very Schwarber-esque .189/.294/.424 slash line in mid-May, providing ample power and not a lot of contact in the process. He has caught fire since then, driving in four runs during Sunday’s 8–5 win over San Diego as part of a torrid stretch in which he has hit .248/.383/.579 with 12 home runs in his past 36 games. Bryce Harper’s lengthy absence will be a difficult blow for Philadelphia to absorb, and Schwarber’s continued production will be needed that much more.

14. Cleveland Guardians (LW: 13)

Cleveland’s battered and inconsistent starting rotation from last season relied a lot on Zach Plesac, who led the team with 25 starts. He had a 5.40 ERA with a 28:13 K:BB ratio through his first eight starts, but has since righted the ship. Plesac has gone six innings in each of his last five outings, with a 2.40 ERA and just four walks.

13. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 15)

Corey Kluber’s Rays tenure didn’t get off to a strong start, and it seemed that the team’s $8 million gamble on the 36-year-old was unlikely to pay off. The righthander had a 4.42 ERA through eight outings, reaching the six-inning mark just three times. He has put up a 2.36 ERA in six starts since, with 29 strikeouts and just three walks in 34 ⅓ innings.

12. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 12)

Utilityman Jace Peterson has spent the majority of his career as a reserve player, but has taken the opportunity at regular playing time in 2022 and run with it. The 32-year-old is batting .270/.317/.500 over his last 26 games (20 starts), with nine extra-base hits and two stolen bases.

11. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 8)

It took catcher Alejandro Kirk 22 games and 71 plate appearances to record his first extra-base hit of the season (a double off Jameson Taillon on May 3), but the 23-year-old backstop hasn’t looked back since. Kirk has always excelled at making consistent contact, and his minor league track record indicated he would start hitting in the big leagues eventually. But he’s quickly become one of the game’s premier offensive players, batting .357/.442/.643 in his last 42 games, with 10 homers and more walks (20) than strikeouts (15).

10. Minnesota Twins (LW: 10)

All-Star second baseman Jorge Polanco was just beginning to heat up when a back injury sent him to the injured list for the first time in his career. The 28-year-old hit .292/.378/.444 in his last 19 games before hitting the IL, though he should be activated soon and get back to producing in the middle of the Minnesota lineup.

9. San Francisco Giants (LW: 6)

Thairo Estrada did well enough in 52 games last season to be San Francisco’s Opening Day second baseman. His bat hadn’t produced much by mid-May, but the Giants have been rewarded by sticking with him in the lineup. Estrada has hit .294/.373/.454 in his last 36 games, with four home runs and six stolen bases.

Sep 14, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder J.D. Martinez (28) celebrates his solo home run with Boston Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec (29) against the Seattle Mariners in the fourth inning at T-Mobile Park.

Dalbec (right) is a big reason why Boston has roared back into contention.

8. Boston Red Sox (LW: 11)

No team embodies this week’s theme better than the Red Sox, which began the year 14–22 but have since won 28 of their last 37 games. Bobby Dalbec has emerged from his abysmal season-opening slump to become a real contributor, posting an OPS of .803 with four home runs in his last 26 games.

7. Atlanta Braves (LW: 9)

The Braves didn’t get much from 2021 NL RBI leader Adam Duvall to begin the season. The 33-year-old posted a .190/.258/.268 slash line through May, but has started to rediscover his power stroke in June. Duvall has a .513 slugging percentage with 11 extra-base hits in 23 games this month. He will need to cut down on his strikeouts a bit, but at least the progress has been encouraging.

6. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 7)

Dylan Carlson’s offensive resurgence was interrupted by a stint on the IL with a hamstring injury, but thankfully the young outfielder has picked up where he left off. Carlson had a .872 OPS in the 16 games before hitting the IL in late May compared to a season mark of .506 on May 4. Since being activated on June 10, the 23-year-old is batting .250/.390/.479 with seven extra-base hits in 17 games.

5. San Diego Padres (LW: 4)

It took more than two months, but Jake Cronenworth has finally regained his All-Star form. Cronenworth had a .618 OPS with just 13 extra-base hits in 48 games through the end of May, but has been one of the league’s hottest hitters in June. The 28-year-old is batting .305/.416/.537 over 114 plate appearances this month, with 22 RBIs.

4. New York Mets (LW: 3)

Outfielder Starling Marte might not have been the most eye-popping acquisition in the Mets’ busy offseason, but his hot bat has been crucial for New York of late. The 33-year-old has an .851 OPS, 16 extra-base hits and four stolen bases over his last 33 games. Before that stretch, Marte had a .669 OPS in his first 30 games.

3. Houston Astros (LW: 5)

A pair of walk-off losses to the Yankees turned what could have been an excellent week into merely a very good one for Houston, who got outstanding pitching performances against the league’s best team. Offensively, Yordan Alvarez has reached an entirely new level lately, elevating from what was already a very productive floor. Álvarez is hitting a Bondsian .424/.495/.847 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs over his last 24 games, raising his season OPS from .885 to 1.053 during that span.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 2)

The Dodgers have so many players who were once considered to be top minor league prospects that it’s easy to lose track of them once they matriculate to the big leagues. Gavin Lux is one of them, and after floating in and out of the everyday lineup over the past few years, Lux appears to finally be solidified in his role. Still just 24 years old, the second baseman is hitting .333/.382/.478 in June and could be starting to tap into the power he demonstrated in the minors.

Gleyber Torres

Will Torres’s ankle injury be a problem for the juggernaut Yankees?

1. New York Yankees (LW: 1)

What’s this? Four losses in eight games? The sky is falling in the Bronx! Aaron Judge once again saved the day Sunday after playing the hero Thursday, saving the Bombers from a four-game sweep at home to Houston. Gleyber Torres fits the bill as New York’s key player who’s beginning to get hot, which makes his ankle injury suffered Sunday all the more concerning. Given their unmatched pitching and organizational depth, the Yankees are built to withstand absences of key players over the course of a six-month season. Given their historic first half so far, it will take more than a relatively minor speed bump to knock New York off its perch for the foreseeable future.

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