The 2022 MLB season is officially underway with players new and old ready to compete for a chance at holding a World Series trophy in November. While plenty of players hold the respect and admiration of the entire sports world, many have yet to earn the respect they deserve. The Daily Campus sports section aims to answer this question in this week’s edition of the roundtable.
Josh Donaldson, New York Yankees
The general opinion about a player like Donaldson is that he is older and overpaid. While being 36 years old and valued at $23 million per season is certainly cause for concern and fits that criteria, I’m going to throw a different statement out there: Donaldson, at the minimum, still has one more solid year out of him, with the chance to be a valuable contribution for this current New York Yankees team in 2022. After all, he’s already got one walk-off moment under his belt in Yankee pinstripes and has been providing some solid defense for the team. He also still has plenty of power for a team that is currently placing him in the leadoff spot. Donaldson can show that he’s still got it and earn the respect of his doubters who were angry about New York’s trade for the former AL MVP in March.
Garrett Whitlock, Boston Red Sox
On Tuesday, April 12, Whitlock made his second appearance of the season against the Detroit Tigers. Down 3-0 and getting a lackluster performance from Rich Hill, the Red Sox needed someone to keep them in the game. Whitlock was that guy, throwing four innings of perfect baseball with two punchouts as Boston rallied for the 5-3 victory. Whitlock was an underrated arm in the Red Sox’ run to the ALCS last year, and the sky’s the limit for this kid. In 2021, Whitlock went 8-4 in 46 games, striking out 81 batters and posting a 1.46 ERA. The 25-year-old has his entire future ahead of him, and the Red Sox worked efficiently to extend him for four more years. I’m on the fence about whether he will be a starter or a closer in the future, but he most certainly will be an All-Star this season. Cool jersey number (72) aside, Yankees fans should look away because this guy will be the next Yankee killer on the mound.
Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox
At one point in Dalbec’s early career, he may have been overrated. The slugger jumped to a historic start in 2020, becoming the first player in Red Sox history to have a five-game home run streak in his first 10 career games. In fact, coming into the 2021 season, Dalbec was projected to hit over 35 home runs. Things didn’t go as planned for the first baseman, hitting just 25 over the course of the year and slashing a paltry .214/.261/.390 by August 7, marking him as a clear weak spot in an otherwise solid Red Sox lineup. That’s when things began to change for Dalbec, as he finished the regular season on a tear, hitting .299 with a 1.110 OPS over his last 42 games. Over that span, critics’ biggest knock on him — his strikeout percentage — went from 38.1 percent to 26.6 percent, just above league average. If this kid can continue to see the ball well enough, he’s going to (re)earn his due respect this year and be a key contributor to this Boston lineup.
Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox
Despite once being renowned as one of the best closers in the league, all of a sudden Matt Barnes is on the road to respect again thanks to his late season collapse in 2021, which included six blown saves. Although the closer posted one of the best ERA marks of his career and the best WHIP, the season felt less good thanks to the negative momentum. He only pitched once in the playoffs, and with the Red Sox poised to contend again, the UConn alum will be hoping to see more action in October than he did last year. Although Jake Diekman did a great job closing on Sunday in the Sox’s first win of the campaign, Barnes still has everything to gain from here. There is no reason why he can’t revert to his early season success from 2021.