Opening Day is nearly here, and it’s the perfect time to preview some of the opposing players who will be coming to Kansas City this season.
Multiple future Hall of Famers are coming early in the season followed by some very exciting young players—one of whom is injured now but should be healthy when his team arrives after the All-Star Game. And, around that same time, an old foe returns to Kauffman.
Cleveland Guardians, April 7—11: Jose Ramirez. Enjoy him while you can because he’s going to be a very hot trade commodity this year. After a slight down year in 2019, he bounced back strong in 2020 and followed up with a 6.7 WAR season in 2021. He could net a strong return for the thrifty Guardians. And he just signed a five-year extension to stay in Cleveland.
Detroit TigersApril 14-17: Miguel Cabrera. The 38-year-old still has three (!) years left on his contract but perhaps he retires sooner rather than later. He’s only 13 hits away from 3,000, which puts him in that elite 3,000-hit, 500-home-run club. The Tigers have some more exciting players than Miggy but we’ll get to them.
Minnesota TwinsApril 19—21: Carlos Correa. The Twins—the Twins!—made the biggest splash in free agency (outside of the Mets) this offseason, signing the former Houston Astros star shortstop to a three-year, $105 million contract with opt-outs after the first two seasons. He might be one-and-done in the Twin Cities, and yet I think he’ll lead them back to the playoffs.
New York YankeesApril 29—May 1: Aaron Judge. The Evil Empire makes its annual trip to Kansas City at the end of April. Judge bashed 38 homers last year while slugging .544, so look for a couple of balls of his bat to land in the fountains this home stand. Oh, and booing a pinstriped Josh Donaldson? Sign me up.
st. Louis CardinalsMay 3 & 4: Albert Pujols. nostalgia time. Pujols has returned to St. Louis after wandering the desert known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (and the Dodgers) the past decade. Who knows how much he’ll play this year, but it’s definitely cool to see him back in Cardinal Red to wrap up his career. Though it’s unlikely, I hope he gets to 700 career home runs. He’s currently 21 away.
Chicago White SoxMay 16—19: Louis Robert. I very nearly picked Robert to nab the American League MVP this season. He was worth 3.6 WAR and posted a .946 OPS in limited at-bats last year due to injury. Expect a further breakout in a healthier 2022. Plus, he’ll be fun to watch roam in center.
Minnesota Twins, May 20—22: Byron Buxton. Speaking of guys it will be fun to watch roam center field, Buxton and the Twins return for a second time toward the end of May. Buxton had fewer at-bats than Robert did last year but posted a higher WAR, 4.5. Can you believe he’s been in The Show since 2015? He signed a seven-year extension in the offseason. Here’s to hoping his body holds up through it all.
Houston Astros, June 3—5: Jose Altuve. George Springer and Carlos Correa have departed Houston in the past two offseasons, but Altuve remains. Though his style of play has changed over the years—he’s more of a slugger now, less of a threat to steal a base—he remains the soul of a perennial contender.
Toronto Blue JaysJune 6—9: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Are you a fan of players who are sons of former Major Leaguers? Well, have I got the team for you. Aside from Vlad, there’s Cavan Biggio, Son of Craig, and Bo Bichette, Son of Dante. Guerrero Jr. is the best of the trio, and he would have won the MVP last year if not for a dual threat on the West Coast. Can Guerrero Jr. top his .311/.401/.601 slash line of 2021? It will be fun to find out.
Baltimore OriolesJune 10—12: Cedric Mullins. Originally had rookie catcher Adley Rutschman here, but how exciting it is to go watch an opposing catcher, even if Baseball America ranks him the No. 1 prospect over the likes of Bobby Witt Jr.? Instead, give me Mullins, who broke out last year for the woebegone Orioles, putting up a 30-30 season with an OPS+ of 135. Thing is, the Orioles may trade him by this date.
Oakland AthleticsJune 24—26: Christian Pache. A former top prospect in the Braves system, Pache went to Oakland not too long ago in the Matt Olson trade. He’s an outstanding centerfielder, but in 22 games with Atlanta last year, he slashed .111/.152/.200 for a -7 OPS+. I didn’t know a player could have a negative OPS+! He’s still just 21, so he should turn it around. Besides, there’s no one else on this squad worth watching.
Texas RangersJune 27—29: Marcus Semien. The Rangers spent quite a bit of dough this offseason re-tooling their middle infield by signing Semien and Corey Seager. Seager might be the more exciting of the two, but I’m a big fan of Semien. He struggled during the Covid-shortened year of 2020 (same) and then returned to form last year with the Blue Jays, hitting a career-high 45 home runs to go with a career-high 102 RBIs while scoring 115 runs. I hope he lights it up down in Arlington.
fWAR leaders since 2020 among the star SS free agent class of 2021-22 (Lindor and Craw were extended before reaching free agency):
Marcus Semien – 7.8
Carlos Correa – 6.6
Brandon Crawford – 6.4
Trevor Story – 6.0
Corey Seager – 5.5
Francisco Lindor – 4.5
Javier Baez – 3.6
— Ben Kaspick (@BenKaspick) April 3, 2022
Cleveland Guardians, July 8—10: Shane Bieber. Hey, a pitcher! Are fans still excited to see a specific pitcher? I mean, I guess I am. I wouldn’t mind seeing Clayton Kershaw or Gerrit Cole. I’m excited to see the Royals’ young crop of pitchers throw this year, too. On the whole, though? Meh. Bieber’s the pick here because, aside from Ramirez, there’s no position player on Cleveland that exciting.
Detroit Tigers, July 11—13: Riley Greene. The Tigers are right alongside the Royals in rebuilding things, maybe a step ahead, and certainly seem willing to spend more money. Greene’s one of two rookies in Detroit that I can’t wait to watch for the next several years, even if he is a thorn in Kansas City’s side.
Tampa Bay RaysJuly 22—24: Wander Franco. By this time, Franco will finally be able to legally drink in the United States as he turns 21 on June 22. Of all the exciting young players in the American League, he may be the best, and he’s already got 70 games under his belt . In that time, he posted an .810 OPS, played slick defense, reached base safely in 44 straight contests, and finished third in last year’s Rookie of the year voting.
Los Angeles Angels, July 25—27: Shohei Ohtani. It’s a conundrum here with the mediocre Angels: going with Ohtani, the phenom who posted 9.1 WAR last year en route to his first All-Star Game, the AL MVP Award, and a Silver Slugger, or with Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the game. I’m going with Ohtani because a) Trout gets hurt a lot, so who knows what he’ll be like in late July and b) I’ve yet to see Ohtani in person. Plus, it would be very dope to see him hit and pitch in the same series.
Boston Red SoxAugust 4—7: Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox seem…a little boring on paper, don’t they? Sure, they have Boegarts and Trevor Story up the middle and JD Martinez at DH and Rafael Devers at third. Still, this team doesn’t seem all that exciting, which is weird for a successful team in a big market. Maybe it’s just Boston fatigue. Bogaerts posted a .863 OPS last year, which is somehow his lowest since 2017. His days in Boston may be numbered.
Chicago White Sox, August 9—11: Tim Anderson. Now, this isn’t me saying I like Tim Anderson, because I don’t. I find his whole persona grating and overwhelming. Still, it cannot be denied that he’s one heck of a player and the leader of the Pale Hose. While his numbers tailed off a bit last year (OPS down to .806 from .886 in 2020 and .865 in 2019), they were still quite good. He also struck out 97 more times than he walked.
Los Angeles Dodgers, August 12—14: Mookie Betts. There’s no wrong answer here if you want to see one of the other number of stars littering the Dodgers roster. Clayton Kershaw? Great choice. Walker Buehler? Could win the Cy Young. Freddie Freeman? Max Muncy? Trea Turner? Curious to see if Cody Bellinger can turn back into an MVP? So many choices with the Dodgers. Betts is your (I’m so sorry) best bet, though, despite a down 2021. He’ll challenge for the MVP this season.
Chicago White Sox, August 22: Eloy Jiménez. A rare one-game series in the middle of August. Thanks, lockout. The White Sox are another team filled to the brim with young talent, and Jimenez is looking to bounce back to form after posting a league-average OPS in 2021 while limited to 55 games.
Arizona DiamondbacksAugust 23 & 24: Madison Bumgarner. Things haven’t been great for Bumgarner since he joined the Diamondbacks as he’s tossed only 188 innings in 35 games over two seasons. Perhaps that changes this year. But I surely hope it lines up so that he starts in this two-game series when Arizona visits. He’s not the same pitcher he was during the 2015 World Series, and yet I’d still enjoy the next era of Royals roughing him up.
San Diego PadresAugust 26—28: Fernando Tatis Jr. To me, Tatis is the most exciting player in the majors right now. Thankfully, he’ll actually be playing (or, at least, should be) when this series rolls around as he’s out until July with an injury. Despite missing 32 games last year, he led the National League in home runs with 42, posted a .975 OPS, was worth 6.6 WAR, and finished third in MVP voting.
Cleveland Guardians, September 5—7: Triston McKenzie. Another pitcher from the Guardians. What is it about Cleveland and pitchers? They just seem to churn those suckers out. McKenzie looked raw last year but still struck out 10.2 hitters per nine innings.
Detroit Tigers, September 9—11: Spencer Torkelson. Another rookie, Torkelson is a former No. 1 overall pick who hits, hits, and hits some more. Through three minor league levels last year, he hit 30 home runs and 29 doubles while slashing .267/.383/.552. For the Tigers, with Greene and Torkelson, the future has arrived.
Minnesota Twins, September 20—22: Royce Lewis. Another AL Central foe, another rookie, and another former No. 1 overall draft pick. After missing out on the last two seasons, Lewis won’t be starting the season in the majors, but he should get a chance in September, whether merely as a call-up or as a new starting middle infielder. He’ll be 23 by this series, which, and this sounds crazy, is old compared to some of the other guys mentioned on this list.
Seattle MarinersSeptember 23—25: Julio Rodriguez. What an excellent way to wrap up the season at home with what may very well be a showdown between the top two rookies in the league, Rodriguez versus Bobby Witt Jr. Rodriguez is a dynamite player who should instantly give the Marines, a 90-win team in 2021, both an offensive and defensive boost.
What do you all think? What opposing player visiting Kauffman this season are you most excited to see?