It’s not easy for rookies to hit the ground running — and that has been especially true the last couple of years.
With the Minor League season canceled in 2020 and shortened in ’21, plus a spate of big league injuries accelerating the timetables of various prospects, one can understand if players need a few more innings or at-bats before they truly find their comfort zone.
So it’s more important than ever to pay attention to MLB’s “sophomore” class, if you will. And that’s what we aim to do with this list of second-year standouts.
The following players all exceeded their rookie limits in 2021 with performances that did not garner any Rookie of the Year ballot support. But in ’22, they have emerged to make a bigger impact. Note that in cases in which a team has multiple super sophomores, we went with the guy who best illustrates improvement.
Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers
In his first 181 1/3 big league innings across the 2020-21 seasons, Skubal wasn’t consistent enough to live up to the hype that preceded his arrival. But all those glowing things said about him as a prospect have been proven true in a ’22 season in which he’s in the American League Cy Young Award conversation. Skubal has a 2.33 ERA, 164 ERA+ and 0.94 WHIP in 65 2/3 innings over 11 starts, thanks in large part to harnessing his command. The Tigers have also gotten big outs from second-year reliever Alex Lange.
Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B, Marlins
Chisholm has become a must-watch player. He plays the game with enthusiasm and swagger. And after 2020 and 2021 seasons in which his offensive impact was muted, he’s really turned on the power in ’22. His .559 slugging percentage following play on Friday leads all second basemen (Jose Altuve’s .515 mark ranks second). Chisholm is a dynamic defender, too.
Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners
It was a pretty big deal when Gilbert and Jarred Kelenic got the call to the big leagues in May 2021, seemingly ushering in a new era for the M’s. But Kelenic…