John Bazemore/Associated Press
6. Zack Wheeler, SP, Philadelphia Phillies ($26 million)
2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 18.3
2022 Stats: 7.2 IP, 9.39 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 7.0 K/9
Wheeler doesn’t have anywhere near the career numbers of the other two pitchers in this tier, and maybe he doesn’t deserve to land five spots ahead of Gerrit Cole. But Wheeler was phenomenal over the past two seasons since he relocating from Queens to Philadelphia. He narrowly missed out on winning the NL Cy Young last year with a 2.78 ERA and 247 strikeouts in 213.1 innings of work. The Phillies took a bit of a risk in giving him a five-year, $118 million contract, but it has paid off nicely thus far.
5. Francisco Lindor, SS, New York Mets ($34.1 million)
2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 22.6
2022 Stats: 13-of-42, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB, 1,061 OPS
Lindor’s first season with the Mets started out rough and later included a 36-game stint on the IL. But over his final 81 games in 2021, he was on a 162-game pace for 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in. This year, he’s already back to looking like the perennial All-Star from his days in Cleveland. That’s wonderful news for the Mets, who still owe him more than $300 million through the end of 2031.
4. Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets ($36 million)
2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 27.6
2022 Stats: N/A
One could argue we should put deGrom in the “If They Could Just Stay Healthy…” tier since we haven’t seen him since last July, but the two-time Cy Young Award winner averaged 30 starts per year from 2015-19 and pitched every time through the rotation during the shortened 2020 campaign. It wasn’t until nine months ago that there was any indication deGrom was anything less than a durable robot built to mow down opposing hitters. His career 2.50 ERA and 1.011 WHIP are just laughably dominant.
3. Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies ($27.5 million)
2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 21.0
2022 Stats: 10-of-45, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, .765 OPS
Harper already has two MVPs (2015 and 2021) under his belt—one of 32 players in MLB history with multiple MVP honors—and he doesn’t turn 30 until October. Maybe he’ll drop off by the end of the 13-year, $330 million deal that will theoretically keep him in Philadelphia through 2031. Even if that happens like it did to Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols, Bam-Bam should still have at least five more MVP-caliber seasons left in the tank.
2. Max Scherzer, SP, New York Mets ($43.3 million)
2017-21 FanGraphs WAR: 27.6
2022 Stats: 3-0, 18.0 IP, 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 11.5 K/9
Fun fact: If you include the $15 million in deferred money Scherzer is getting from the Nationals this year (as well as each of the next six years, by the way), he is making slightly more in 2022 ($58.3 million) than Mike Trout and Trea Turner combined ($58.1 million). That’s a bit excessive, but with three Cy Youngs and five other top-five finishes in the past nine years, it’s not hard to understand why Scherzer is so well-compensated. “Mad Max” will turn 38 this July, but he has yet to show any signs of slowing down—even carrying a no-no into the sixth inning against the Giants on Tuesday.