The MLB players who graduated to stardom in 2022

    ESPN MLB insider
    Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”

  • Covers MLB for ESPN.com
  • Former deputy editor of Page 2
  • Been with ESPN.com since 1995

Not all breakout seasons are created equal. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the MLB players who took the biggest steps forward in 2022 to decide who made the leap to stardom — and who still has more to prove.

To decide who graduated to stardom this season, we enlisted ESPN MLB writers David Schoenfield and Jeff Passan to break down 18 candidates with Schoenfield making the case for each emerging player and Judge Jeff rendering a final verdict.

The budding aces

Max Fried

Schoenfield’s case: Wait, Fried didn’t graduate a year ago? OK, maybe we’re a year late on him, but there’s no doubt Fried is now a bona fide ace and the Braves will feel as confident starting him in a big playoff game as the Mets would with Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom or the Astros with Justin Verlander.

Fried has improved in a few areas in 2022: He has lowered his walk rate, lowered his home run rate and increased his chase rate. The overall package is a strike-throwing lefty who doesn’t make many mistakes and induces weak contact. And don’t forget that the last time we saw him in the postseason, he tossed six scoreless innings in the clinching Game 6 of the World Series.

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