By Jacob Gurvis
After two pandemic-altered seasons, a three-month lockout and a truncated free agent frenzy, the 2022 Major League Baseball season has finally arrived.
For Jewish fans of America’s Pastime, there is plenty to look forward to this season, from Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried starting on Opening Day to the fashionable Joc Pederson playing for reigning National League Manager of the Year Gabe Kapler.
Here is a full rundown of what Jewish fans can look for in 2022, starting with the Jewish players on Opening Day rosters.
- Max Fried, Atlanta Braves pitcher: Fried is the ace of the defending champions. He is coming off a 2021 season in which he won his second consecutive Gold Glove award, given to the league’s best defensive pitcher, and his first Silver Slugger award for best hitting pitcher — he will likely be the last to ever win that award as a pitcher, as a universal designated hitter will be introduced this season. Fried also pitched his Braves to a World Series win.
- Alex Bregman, Houston Astros third baseman: Staying healthy is at the top of this slugger’s to-do list in 2022. Bregman played in only 91 games for Houston last year, but he will look to return to form this season — a form that included back-to-back top-five finishes in the American League Most Valuable Player races, in 2018 and 2019, when he hit 31 and 41 home runs, respectively.
- Joc Pederson, San Francisco Giants outfielder: The Giants are hoping Pederson’s World Series streak continues in 2022 — the flashy outfielder won rings the last two years, for the Dodgers and then the Braves. Pederson will now be playing for Jewish manager Gabe Kapler, who won the National League’s top manager award last year after guiding the Giants to a historic 107-win season.
- Rowdy Tellez, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman and designated hitter: Tellez is entering his first full season in Milwaukee after being traded by Toronto last July. The lefty has some pop — he hit 21 homers in 2019 — and will look to find a groove in his third full season in the big leagues.
- Dean Kremer, Baltimore Orioles pitcher: The first Israeli to sign a MLB contract, the young righthander is starting the season with the club in Baltimore. He only has 17 big-league games under his belt with an earned-run average near 7 — the league leaders hover around 2.5-3 — so Kremer will have to prove himself to keep his spot with the team.
- Richard Bleier, Miami Marlins pitcher: Entering his seventh season, Bleier has proven to be a solid relief pitcher, sporting a career 2.96 ERA. The soon-to-be 35-year old signed a two-year extension with Miami during spring training.
- Scott Effross, Chicago Cubs pitcher: Effross made his Major League debut last season, and made his first Opening Day roster for the Cubs this season. The 28-year-old righty had a strong spring.
- Eli Morgan, Cleveland Guardians pitcher: Morgan is another young reliever who made his debut in 2021, starting 18 games for Cleveland after his call-up in May. Morgan will begin 2022 in the Guardians bullpen.
- Garrett Stubbs, Philadelphia Phillies catcher: After appearing in the World Series with Houston last season, Stubbs has moved over to Philly to become the backup to one of the game’s better catchers, J.T. Realmuto.
There are also several Jewish players who will look to crack into the big leagues this season — including some familiar faces.
- Kevin Pillar, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder: Pillar has bounced around the league a bit since his debut in 2013. After playing for the Mets last year, the outfielder signed a minor league contract with L.A. He’s a proven veteran and should see time this year — somewhere — as a fourth outfielder.
- Ryan Sherriff, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher: Sherriff is beginning the season on the injured list, but is expected to be in the Philadelphia bullpen once he returns from his left biceps tendinitis.
- Ty Kelly, Los Angeles Dodgers utility: A former Team Israel fan favorite, Kelly is the ultimate journeyman — he has played all over the minor leagues, independent ball and in Israel, and even briefly retired. He signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers.
- Ryan Lavarnway, Detroit Tigers catcher: Another Team Israel alum, Lavarnway signed a minor league contract with Detroit. He has not appeared in more than 10 big league games in a season since 2015.
- Jake Kalish, Los Angeles Angels pitcher: The 30-year-old pitcher has yet to make his major league debut despite a long career in the minors. He is starting the season in Triple A with the Salt Lake Bees.
- Zack Weiss, Los Angeles Angels pitcher: Weiss made his debut with Cincinnati in 2018 but hasn’t broken out of the minor leagues since.
- Andy Yerzy, Arizona Diamondbacks catcher and first baseman: The 23-year-old Canadian was drafted in 2018 and has been playing in mostly low-level minors. He’s shown some power, with 21 home runs in 94 games last year.
- Rob Kaminsky, free agent pitcher: The former first-round pick hasn’t appeared in a game since 2020.
Finally, there is a special prospect to keep an eye on: Jacob Steinmetz.
The first Orthodox Jew drafted into Major League Baseball, Steinmetz is the No. 25 ranked prospect in the Diamondbacks organization, and has had an impressive spring. He is likely years away from the big leagues, but it’s worth keeping an eye on his development.
And it wouldn’t be a Jewish baseball preview without Sandy Koufax. The legendary pitcher will have his own statue unveiled at Dodger Stadium this summer.