The finalists for the 2022 Hank Aaron Award were announced with eight nominees from each league up for the prestigious honor handed out to the most outstanding regular-season offensive performances.
The award is voted on by the fans and a panel of Hall of Fame players, including Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Pedro Martínez, Eddie Murray, John Smoltz, and Robin Yount. Fan voting is currently underway, and the 16 finalists have been widdled down from the original group of 30 players.
Given annually since 1999, the award was given out in the 25th year after Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record of 714.
The Los Angeles Angels are represented by two players, Shohei Ohtani & Mike Trout, who join another duo from the American League West Yordan Alvarez & Jose Altuve. In the National League, Mookie Betts & Freddie Freeman represent the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Paul Goldschmidt & Nolan Arenado of the St. Louis Cardinals all put up incredible seasons.
Altuve recorded his sixth season with a .300-plus batting average and he posted a 164 wRC+, good for 6.6 WAR, which ranked eighth in MLB. Alvarez is truly a remarkable talent at the plate. Still just 25 years old, he slugged 37 homers in 135 games with a 185 wRC+ and 6.5 WAR while primarily playing left field and DH.
Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox had a fantastic age-25 season as well. The third baseman batted .295/.358/.521, while tallying 70 extra-base hits which was good for third, trailing only Ohtani and Trout on the AL leaderboards.
Devers is set to stay in Boston for one more season, and if the Red Sox allow him to hit the open market in 2023, will be a coveted talent that should have every team offering a mega contract for his services.
Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees set a new AL record with 62 home runs and led or shared the lead in multiple offensive categories such as runs (133), RBI (131), OBP (.425), slugging percentage (.686), on-base plus slugging (1.111) and total bases (391).
The face of the Yankees is set to be a free agent after the conclusion of the World Series. He posted an 11.5 WAR, which cleared every player by a wide margin.
Ohtani didn’t repeat his 2021 production, but it’s impossible to think of his talent as a hitter without remembering that he is a two-way superstar that can literally do it all. But in a vacuum, he ranked third in home runs, seventh in RBI and slugged 70 extra-base hits while appearing in 157 games.
Trout missed a bit of time to evaluate his health, but once he returned, his production immediately took off. In 499 plate appearances, he slugged 40 homers, which made up half of his 80 RBI. Among hitters with 400 PAs, his 176 wRC+ ranked third in MLB.
Trout previously won the award in 2014 and 2019 as the only repeat winner on the list of nominees.
José Ramírez of the Cleveland Guardians was quietly one of the league’s most consistent hitters. His league-leading 44 doubles and 309 total bases ranked second behind Judge.
Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners missed 30 games because of injury, and after a slow start, the rookie hit 28 home runs and stole 25 bases, becoming only the third rookie in MLB history to do so.
National League Hank Aaron Award candidates
On the flip side, the NL boasts a strong group as well, led by some very seasoned candidates.
Pete Alonso of the New York Mets led the league in RBI with 131 and finished second in home runs with 40.
Arenado belted 30 homers and 103 RBI, with a .891 OPS. Goldschmidt was the clear-cut MVP candidate for the better part of the season, and aside from a near-Triple Crown bid, the first baseman hit .317 with 35 home runs and 115 RBI.
Austin Riley of the Atlanta Braves is another young third baseman, just 25 years old, but his 38 home runs ranked third in NL and he led the league in total bases & XBH. Riley is an emerging superstar on the cusp of becoming a household name around MLB.
The first-year Philadelphia Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber led the NL in home runs with 46, and his incredible second half of the season propelled his club to the playoffs.
Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres totaled 32-homers, 100 runs, 102 RBI, and a 152 wRC+ for a steady presence in a lineup void of his superstar running mate Fernando Tatis Jr.
Betts and Freeman both fed off of each other with the Dodgers, and Betts led the league in runs while posting a 35 home runs season and a 16.3% strikeout rate. Freeman adapted quite nicely in his first year with the Dodgers, narrowly missing out on a batting title, but led the league in hits with 199 and carried a .325 batting average while playing in 159 games.