Who Will Lead the MLB in Hits in 2022?
League leaders in stats are fun and profitable markets to handicaps. We have a pick for hits and runs leaders for 2022.
When Wander Franco first came to the big leagues he took 307 PAs until his first MLB strikeout. And he kept not striking out for the rest of the season.
Franco's bat-to-ball skill made his 43-game on-base streak possible. It's the foundation of his 80-grade hit tool (he's one of only two players to receive that top-of-the-scale mark in the 10 years since MLB Pipeline started assigning scouting grades, along with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.). It's why the Rays shortstop is an easy pick to be one of the breakout superstars of 2022, and maybe a dark-horse MVP candidate.
Franco struck out less often than plate discipline extraordinaire Juan Soto. He struck out less than both batting champs, and the reigning National League MVP and star of the soon-to-be World Series winners. He struck out less often than his top-prospect predecessor and breakout 2021 slugger Vlad Jr.
Soto and Guerrero are the two names your eye should jump to in connection to Franco, as fellow phenoms whose rise to superstar status was driven by plate discipline. (Soto's discipline has been his headlining skill from the beginning, and improved pitch selection for Guerrero was one key to him making the leap to MVP-level hitter last season.)
The next step for Wander, since he's already making tons of contact, is to make harder contact. His hard-hit rate of 37.6% as a rookie was above league average, but top-tier hitters make hard contact closer to half the time, or even more. Not too much of a concern however, as Vlad Jr. had a 38.7% hard-hit rate as a 20-year-old rookie, and Soto was at 41.9% at the same age. Both made leaps to over 50% in the next few seasons. If Franco's progression follows theirs, he'll be an elite hitter soon enough.
He's on the right track. Franco's 40.3% hard-hit rate in September was his highest in any month, and he hit six balls over 100 mph in the Rays' four-game playoff series against the Red Sox -- including two home runs, a double and two singles. Franco's 37.5% clip of 100-plus mph contact in the postseason was much higher than his 21.6% mark in the regular season.
There's a reason the projection systems think Franco could be a top-10 position player in baseball in 2022. With the skill set he's showing, Franco's 80-grade hit tool could translate onto the Major League field sooner rather than later.
It's tough to really know how good he is because of how young he is but hitting second in the Rays order will give him a lot of PAs and with his unreal plate discipline, increasing hard hit rate, and above average speed we think he has a good shot at leading the MLB in hits in 2022. Also if he can keep up his ridiculous on base numbers and continues to increase his hit hard hit rate he will be on base a lot and with Meadows, Arozarena, and Choi following him up we think he has a good chance to score a lot of runs. So we added him at 28/1 to score the most runs in the MLB too.