We love the game of baseball, and with so many players, it’s easy to think of 10 things every week. Here are our thoughts on the future of the game in 2022.
1) Young stars will take over the top of draft boards in 2022.
Baseball’s infusion of young hitting talent over the last couple of years, led by the “Jr.’s,” really stands out when you start thinking about putting together a first-round projection for 2022. I would take the following players (in this order) top 10 overall: Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr., Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Kyle Tucker. Every one of those players is under the age of 25, and even if you don’t necessarily agree with me in terms of selecting those guys in the first round, you have to admit that there’s a solid argument to be made. The future of fantasy baseball (and real baseball) is bright.
2) Sandy Alcantara deserves to be drafted as a top 20 pitcher next year.
You probably know this, but Alcantara has compiled a 3.09 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 2021 — he’s taken the leap. Alcantara has always had the stuff, but he learned how to miss more bats while still pounding the zone in 2021. Alcantara is hardly a prolific strikeout artist, but he’s far from a liability in that department now, having bumped his K rate from 22.7% in 2020 to 24 percent in 2021. The newfound ace accomplished this primarily through bumping his changeup (30.4% whiff rate), and to a lesser extent, his slider (38.4% whiff rate) usage up. Of course, Sandy still throws his fastballs at 97-98 mph and he has above-average command of his entire arsenal, so that helps. Sandy won’t ever be a top 10 fantast start — he doesn’t strike out enough hitters — but he’s earned the right to be viewed as an ace, and a top 20 pitcher in 2022.
3) Can Paul Goldschmidt ride the lightning all the way into 2022?
In 336 pre-all-star break ABs, Paul Goldschmidt hit .265/.335/.432 with 13 HRs. In 252 ABs post-all-star break ABs, the same player (at least allegedly) hit .333/.405/.631 with 18 HRs. The challenge when forecasting Goldschmidt in 2022 is obvious — which guy are you drafting? I looked at what changed under the hood, and the first thing that jumped out was chase rate. Goldschmidt was chasing around 28 percent of the time in the first half, but he cut that number down to around 22 percent in the second half… it’s a massive difference. Nothing else was earth-shatteringly different, so it appears that Goldy simply started swinging at his pitch. I’m inclined to believe that he’s capable of hitting .275/.350/.500 in 2022, and I will be drafting him as a top-eight first baseman.
4) Where will fantasy baseball’s most polarizing figure be drafted next season?
I’m talking about Adalberto Mondesi, as I’m sure you already knew. Mondesi is the enigma of all enigmas. He’s among the most gifted athletes in any sport, but he’s had major trouble staying healthy, and he strikes out at a 32 percent clip while walking at just a four percent clip. Mondesi is so gifted that he’s put together a .252/.292/.492 line in 107 2021 ABs despite having possibly the worst plate approach in the Major Leagues. Oh, and he’s hit six home runs and stolen 14 bases, which puts him on a full season 30/70 pace. Yes, I said 30/70 — that’s correct. I could see Mondesi’s ADP varying wildly in 2022. Some might look at the possibility of a 30/70 season and think it’s too much to pass up in the second round, even given all of the health/approach questions. Others might take him off their board entirely and attempt to let another owner self sabotage themselves. One thing is for sure, Mondesi will play a big role in deciding fantasy leagues in 2022.
5) Despite his incredible season, Logan Webb will be underrated heading into 2022.
Webb is the first-place San Francisco Giants ace, and he should be a household name, but the acclaim hasn’t quite caught up. Webb’s 3.04 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 26.2% K rate are phenomenal, and he’s done it over 136.1 innings. A lot of times when a pitcher has a breakout season of this magnitude, the ERA estimators and advanced metrics don’t quite match up. Naturally, they end up regressing the following year, and people grow skeptical of pitchers with only one elite season on their resume. Webb is different — his 3.17 SIERA is fifth in all of baseball among pitchers with 130+ innings pitched — better than Zack Wheeler, Brandon Woodruff, and Kevin Gausman. Webb has excellent command, a potent four-pitch mix, and one of baseball’s best sliders — he’s not going anywhere. Webb should be drafted as a top 20 pitcher in 2022, but he won’t be.
6) Aaron Nola is a no-brainer buy low in 2022.
Pitchers have tough luck seasons, it just happens, and it happened to Aaron Nola in 2021. Nola’s 4.64 ERA is not even close to a fair reflection of how he pitched. Nola’s LOB rate, HR/FB rate, and BABIP all indicate that he experienced bad luck, and they culminate in ERA estimators that tell a very different story. Nola’s 3.19 SIERA is sixth in all of baseball, and even the worst ERA estimator metrics estimate around a 3.39 ERA. Nola’s 25.2% K:BB is just 0.1% off of the career-best mark that he set in 2020 when he had a 3.28 ERA — expect him to be in the 3.30 ERA range in 2022, and take advantage of his depressed ADP.
7) Stay away from Randy Arozarena next year.
Arozarena, who is a projected fifth-round pick as of now, has a .273 batting average, 19 HRs, and 17 SBs. That’s not anything special, but it could’ve been a lot worse. Arozarena’s .357 BABIP and 27.5% K rate indicate that batting average regression is on the way, and his .217 xBA fervently agrees. Arozarena’s unstable launch angle and inability to pull the ball consistently also calls what mediocre power he’s shown this year into question. Randy’s .362 xSLG is far lower than his actual .457 SLG… noticing a theme here? Arozarena didn’t do anything special in 2021, and the bottom line is that people fall in love with his tools while ignoring all of the red flags, and I’m happy to allow them to do just that in 2022.
8) It will be interesting to see how drafters react to the rash of pitching injuries in 2022.
Pitchers were injured at all-time high rates in 2021, and that is a well-known fact by fantasy managers who dealt with the carnage. As we close the book on 2021, the question becomes — will fantasy managers view quality pitchers as a scarcer commodity and push them up boards, or will they balk at the uncertainty and let them slip? I predict that we will pitchers with any sort of recent injury history or injury concerns leading up to spring training drop-down boards further than they would have in past years. Whether that’s warranted is up for debate, but I do think there will be spots to pounce. I also think that healthy pitchers are going to be pushed up, as managers are likely to respond to the trend by loading up on quality pitching depth. I’ll be paying close attention to pitcher ADPs as draft season kicks into gear in February, as I think how you attack the pitcher position will dictate a lot.
9) Keep an eye on the horde of prospects that will make an impact next season.
A huge amount of young talent will debut in 2022, and being ahead of the curve on top prospects will undoubtedly pay off. Julio Rodriguez, C.J. Abrams, Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, Bobby Witt Jr., Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, Hunter Greene, Corbin Carroll, D.L. Hall, George Kirby… I could go on and on. This is an abnormal amount of supreme talent that will all debut in the same season, and these players will make a huge impact in fantasy baseball next year.
10) Thank you.
To each and every one of you that read my work from March all the way through October, thank you. I’ve enjoyed writing the 10 Thoughts column and other articles all season, maybe even more than you (hopefully) enjoyed reading them. I hope that I helped you become a better fantasy baseball player, but even more so, I hope I helped you further your passion as a baseball fan. Whether you won your league, came up just short, or had a tough campaign, here’s to a fun season, and now is the time to kick back and enjoy some sweet playoff baseball.