Projecting the First Round of 2022 Fantasy Baseball Drafts
With the 2021 season in the books, it’s time for us all to take a break and relax. NOT! Prep work for the 2022 season begins now. It’s never too early to begin analyzing players, breaking down stats, and improving your approach for the next season. I’m going to be diving into all sorts of content this offseason here on FantraxHQ and on the Fantrax Toolshed podcast, but I figured I’d kick off my offseason content by looking at the first round of 2022 Fantasy Baseball drafts. Or, at least, what I believe the first round will look like.
Now, these aren’t my exact personal rankings. Those will be out later this month. This is how I believe the first-round ADP will look in 15-team leagues. Not only do we have several worthy candidates at the top with differing profiles, but we also have a highly intriguing group of elite talents in the back-end of the round, some of which have been top-5 picks in the last year or two.
For this list, I’m ranking for standard 5×5 roto leagues.
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2022 Fantasy Baseball – Projecting The First Round
1. Fernando Tatís Jr. (SS/OF – SDP)
In 2022 drafts, there’s not going to be a consensus #1 overall pick. You can make a case for any of the top-5 here to go #1 depending on your league format and throw Ronald Acuña Jr in as well if he’s somehow ready to go on opening day. But for me, if I have the top pick in a standard 5×5 roto league, I’m likely going to be taking Fernando Tatís Jr.
Despite playing in only 130 games, Tatís still managed to accumulate 42 home runs, 25 steals, 99 runs, 97 RBI and a .282/.364/.611 slash line. That’s a ridiculous 50 homer, 30 steal, 118 run, 116 RBI pace over 155 games played. The amount of players in the game today capable of 50/30 is a short, two-person list. And to add, Tatís picked up outfield eligibility this season giving him dual SS/OF eligibility heading into the 2022 season. Just a little added bonus on top of his superstar profile.
— MLB (@MLB) October 1, 2021
Obviously, picking Tatís doesn’t come without a bit of risk. The 22-year-old missed time this year with a shoulder injury and was dinged up on a few more occasions throughout the season. But when you’re still able to produce the numbers he did while not being 100% healthy for the full six months, it just leads my mind to wonder what could he do with a fully healthy season where he plays 150+ games. We’re talking about a player that posted a 21.3% barrel rate, 55.6% hard-hit rate, 93.9 mph average exit velocity, and a .604 xSLG. All of those, along with his sprint speed, max exit velo, and xwOBA ranked in the 96th percentile or better this season. We don’t see a talent like this very often, and I’d be more than happy to select this dual-eligibility fantasy monster 1st overall in 2022 drafts.,
2. Trea Turner (2B/SS – LAD)
You could easily make a case for Trea Turner as the #1 overall player in 2022 drafts. He checks off all the boxes one would want with their #1 overall pick.
Elite power/speed blend? ✔️
High AVG Floor & Ceiling? ✔️ and ✔️
Eligible at a premier position? ✔️(SS) and ✔️ (2B)
No glaring weaknesses? ✔️
Slide with 80-grade swagger?
Yup, check that one off too. Due to the presence of Corey Seager in Los Angeles, Turner played plenty of 2nd base following a mid-season trade from Washington and will now have multi-positional 2B/SS eligibility for the 2022 season. Isn’t that just wonderful? Of course, it is. When you can start off your draft with a 30/30 caliber middle infielder that led the National League in AVG and is a lock for 100+ runs over a full season that also gives you flexibility later in your draft and throughout the season, what more could a fantasy manager want?
Turner finished the season with a .328/.375/.536 slash line, 28 homers, 32 steals, 77 RBI, and 107 runs scored. He’s also posted a 94th percentile xBA or better in each of the last two seasons and a 99th or 100th percentile sprint speed every year of his career. As long as Turner can remain healthy, he should be a fantasy gold mine in 2022 once again, possibly posting even better numbers than he did in 2021.
3. Juan Soto (OF – WAS)
What else is there to say about Juan Goato Soto at this point? The man is the closest we’ve seen to Barry Bonds since Bonds retired 15 years ago. Soto led the league in walks and OBP this season, marking the 2nd straight season he’s led the league in OBP. Soto even got off to a “slow” start to the season with a .283/.407/.455 slash line in the first half only to put up a ridiculous .348/.525/.639 line in the 2nd half with 18 home runs, 53 RBI, and 57 runs scored. Most of that coming with very little protection around him after the Nats traded away Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber. It’s nearly impossible to find a weakness in this profile, which is evident when you see the seas of red on his savant page in literally everything besides his sprint speed and outfielder jump.
The “Soto isn’t the #1 overall pick in 2022” crowd will point to that lack of lineup potency around him as the reason they won’t take him above Tatís or Turner. For me, it’s too early to assume that Washington won’t add some offense around him. Soto has the highest floor in the game thanks to his Bondsian plate approach that saw him finish with 52 more walks than strikeouts this season. He might not have the flashy and lofty power/speed blend that Tatís has, but you can bank on an elite AVG and OBP to go along with 30 home runs, a ton of runs and RBI, and around 10 steals as well. It’s Juan Soto’s world and we’re all just living in it.
Another day, another HR for Juan Soto. 💪💪 pic.twitter.com/1NOXRSgC6T
— MLB (@MLB) September 24, 2021
4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr (1B – TOR)
Someone recently asked me why I didn’t include Vladimir Guerrero Jr in the #1 overall pick discussion. Well, simply put, he doesn’t provide any speed. If I’m picking #1 overall, I want at least some speed element with that pick, even if it’s just 10 with Soto. But with that said, once I get past the top-3 above, I’d be fine taking Vladdy and I do believe his ADP will have him as the 4th player off the board on average next season. Guerrero is coming off a near Triple Crown showing that saw him crank 48 home runs (tied with Salvador Perez) along with 111 RBI, 123 runs scored (Led AL), and a robust .311/.401/.611 slash line.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 48th home run ties him for the MLB lead and gives him an all-time MLB record for players 22 or younger! pic.twitter.com/x9FRwv30A0
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 3, 2021
That pudgy but loveable, groundball-hitting, second-generation star got in much better shape last offseason (If you followed him on Instagram, you would’ve seen the transformation) and began driving the ball in the air much more frequently this season. In addition to increasing his already elite AVG EV and hard-hit rate, Vlad Jr nearly doubled his barrel rate from 8.8% to 15.1% while cutting his groundball rate by 9% and upping his flyball rate 7.7%. His launch angle went from 4.6° to 9.4° as well. With his .290+/40+/100+/100+ profile, Vlad has become a sexier version of what Nolan Arenado used to be, which was an annual first-rounder due to his elite four-category production.
5. Shohei Ohtani (SP/UT – LAA)
As I mentioned on Twitter, I really hope everyone appreciated what we saw from Shohei Ohtani this season. Let’s start with the “weaker” side of his two-way profile. On the mound this season, Ohtani posted a 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.3% walk rate, and 29.3% strikeout rate across 23 starts and 130.1 innings. Ohtani’s splitter was one of the most dominant pitches in baseball this season with a .087 BAA, .102 SLG, .113 wOBA, and 48.5% whiff rate. Ohtani also posted the best walk rate of his three-year career and his 3.32 xERA, 3.51 FIP, and 3.54 xFIP back up his 3.18 ERA. As a pitcher alone, I have him as a back-end top-20 arm in 2022 and when you add in his offensive prowess, Ohtani is an easy top-10 pick in 2022. Maybe even #1 overall depending on your league format.
Speaking of his offensive prowess, Ohtani did something this season rarely done by any hitter in the history of baseball. Ohtani joined Larry Walker (1997), Barry Bonds (1993), Alfonso Soriano (2006), Jose Canseco (1998), and Chipper Jones (1999) as the only players with 45+ HR and 25+ SB in a single season. A pitcher did that! Yes, Ohtani is far from a normal pitcher and is actually more dominant at the plate than he is on the mound.
I’m not questioning the talent one bit, but as I mentioned on this week’s Fantrax Toolshed episode, I do wonder how long can he keep this up. It doesn’t matter how elite of an athlete you are, doing what Ohtani does is a lot for anyone. That wear and tear got to him in the 2nd half at the plate too as he slashed just .229/.382/.458. Still, a 30/15 season at the plate and a top-25 season on the mound is well within play in 2022.
6. Bryce Harper (OF – PHI)
Love him or hate him, Bryce Harper is a no-doubt top-10 pick in 2022 drafts. While Juan Soto was imposing his will at the plate late in the season, Harper was matching him every step of the way. Harper even slightly bested the Goato in wRC+ and wOBA in the second half while putting up a .338/54/20/50/6 line. Overall, Harper slashed .309/.429/.615 with 35 homers, 84 RBI, 101 runs, and 13 steals in 140 games with a 16.7% walk rate and 22.4% strikeout rate.
List of outfielders to reach 100 R, 40 2B, 35 HR & 100 BB:
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 3, 2021
Harper has always had elite quality of contact metrics and now has back-to-back seasons of a .295+ xBA under his belt as well. He’s a near-lock for a .375+ OBP and has exceeded .400 in four of his last seven seasons along with three straight full seasons of 30+ homers. His HR pace in the shortened 2020 season was above 30 as well. This is a safe 30+/10+ profile that can add in 200+ R+RBI, a .300+ AVG, and a .400+ OBP in any given season while playing half his home games in a hitter-friendly ballpark. That’s a top-10 pick in my book.
7. Bo Bichette (SS – TOR)
While everyone was gushing over Guerrero’s greatness this season and Marcus Semien’s second breakout, Bo Bichette went about his business and finished the season as one of the 10 best fantasy players in the game. The 23-year-old shortstop slashed .298/.343/.484 with 29 home runs, 102 RBI, 121 runs, and 25 steals. He was one of only six players to post a 25/25 season in 2021, joining Trea Turner, Cedric Mullins, Shohei Ohtani, Fernando Tatís Jr, and Jose Ramirez.
Sure, Bichette’s approach can be considered aggressive, but it works. Bichette consistently puts the ball in play with above-average quality of contact metrics, doesn’t strike out much, and has posted an xBA around .290 in each of the last two seasons. It’s very possible he could reach new heights in 2022 and post a 30/30 season with a .290+ AVG and many more runs and RBI than Cedric Mullins had in his 30/30 campaign this season. That type of offensive firepower while playing short and batting in the middle of a dangerous Toronto lineup makes Bichette a lock for the top-10 in 2022.
8. Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF – ATL)
Without question, Ronald Acuña Jr is the hardest one to rank on this list. A popular #1 overall pick in 2021 drafts, Acuña was having another spectacular season with 24 home runs, 17 steals, and a .283/.394/.596 slash line in 82 games before a torn ACL in early July abruptly ended his season. Although Acuña has only played in 57.7% of Atlanta’s games over the last two seasons, the uber-talented outfielder has combined for 38 home runs and 25 steals in his 128 games since the beginning of the 2020 season. And over his four-year Major League career, Acuña has averaged 43 home runs, 32 steals, 101 RBI, and 132 runs scored per 162 games.
Ronald Acuña Jr. with a walk-off HR for the Braves! 💥
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 20, 2021
If we had a guarantee he’d be in Atlanta’s opening day lineup, he’d be in the top-4 here without question. However, personal doubts about that happening have pushed him down to the middle of the round for me. After all, he’ll only be seven months removed from surgery when spring training games begin. But with that said, Acuña could still put up first-round value even if he misses the entire month of April. Keep an eye on his status this spring and adjust accordingly.
9. Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE)
Is there a more underrated first-round talent than Jose Ramirez? I’m not sure there is. While Ramirez does play on a rebuilding Cleveland Guardians (That’s weird to say) team and can be inconsistent month to month in the batting AVG department, he’s now posted three straight full seasons of 23+ HR and 24+ steals and likely would have made that four if the 2020 season wasn’t 60 games long.
And to take it one step further, no player has more HR+SB since the start of 2018 than JoRam’s 210. You’re just not going to find that type of power/speed blend from another corner infielder in baseball right now. If Ramirez had a better lineup around him, I’d be tempted to bump him a spot or two higher too. That’s really the only thing holding him back from being a top-6 pick in my eyes. I wouldn’t worry about him busting in 2022 either. JoRam’s xBA has remained consistently in the .260-.280 range and he’s proven to have one of the best plate approaches in the game. If you have a pick near the back of the top-10, Ramirez is a fine pick there.
10. Mike Trout (OF – LAA)
Recently, I was able to select Mike Trout 16th overall in a way too early 2022 mock draft. I’d be willing to bet money that his ADP will be at least 4-5 picks higher than that come draft season. Yes, the once immortal Trout has become more mortal over the last few years with various injuries keeping him out of the lineup, but he’s still Mike Fricken Trout. That’s not his given middle name, but it should be. We’re talking about a man with an illustrious career slash line of .304/.419/.583. His career 1.002 OPS ranks 8th best ALL-TIME for players with 5,000+ plate appearances. The seven ahead of him are some players named Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, and Rogers Hornsby. That’s not a bad list to be on.
In fact, Trout was off to one of the best years of his career before a calf injury ended his season after only 36 games. If we get 140+ games of Trout in 2022, he’s likely going to return a top-10 overall value, even if he’s only going to contribute around 10 stolen bases. He remains one of the safest four-category producers in all of baseball with one of the highest overall fantasy floors we’ve ever seen. If he falls to you in the back end of your first round, I wouldn’t hesitate to scoop up the future hall of famer.
11. Mookie Betts (OF – LAD)
In 2022 drafts, the back end of the round is where I want to be. Obviously, I won’t argue with getting any of the players above, but if I can grab Trout or Mookie Betts then an ace pitcher or high-upside bat in the early 2nd round like Kyle Tucker or Rafael Devers, I’m going to be on cloud nine. Many would say that the 2021 season was the worst Betts has had in quite some time. They wouldn’t be wrong either. Betts’ .264 AVG tied for his career-worst mark and he also had his lowest SLG since 2017. On top of that, Mookie only drove in 58 runs in 122 games. Yes, he spent most of his time in the leadoff spot for a National League team, but Betts has never posted fewer than 77 RBI in any full season in his career.
If all of that pushes Betts to the 9-12 range in 2022 drafts, I’m going to be waiting with open arms. Even in his “down” season, Betts still had a .264/93/23/58/10 line with above-average quality of contact metrics and his usual elite contact metrics and plate approach. We’re talking about a player that leads MLB in runs since the start of 2018 and a 31/20 pace per 655 plate appearances in that timeframe. I’m betting on a bounceback from Mookie in 2021 as he leads off for a loaded Dodgers lineup in front of Trea Turner, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, and company.
12. Corbin Burnes (SP – MIL)
Rarely will I take a pitcher in the first round. In fact, I think I’ve only done so one time and that was Shane Bieber in 2019 (Maybe 2020, I forget), as the last pick of the round in a 15-teamer. As was the case for the top pick overall, the #1 pitcher for 2022 is a wide-open debate. The trio of Corbin Burnes, Gerrit Cole, and Max Scherzer lead the way in my eyes with names like Walker Buehler, Brandon Woodruff, and a healthy Jacob deGrom in the mix as well. But for me, I’ve been all-in on Burnes for the last two seasons and that’s not going to stop now. Let’s compare my top-3 arms for 2022.
Mr. Burnes was simply the best pitcher this season, besting Cole and Scherzer in ERA, FIP/xFIP, and K-BB%. Yes, it’s very close and I’m nitpicking, but Burnes is the best pitcher in the game today as far as I’m concerned. Working off a filthy 95.2 mph cutter that he threw 52.3% of the time, Burnes attacked hitters with a total of six offerings with his slider, curveball, and changeup all registering a whiff rate above 45%. Only Burnes and Dylan Cease had three pitches with a 40% whiff rate or better in 2021.
Corbin Burnes, 10th Consecutive K.
Ties MLB Record. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/k9fTeepHZd
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 12, 2021
Burnes has a deep and filthy arsenal that he commands exceptionally well and will head Milwaukee’s phenomenal pitching development organization once again in 2022. Some will say that he’s gotten a little boost because the competition in the NL Central isn’t the best. Well, he’ll get that same schedule again next season.
13. Max Scherzer (SP – LAD)
Mad Max isn’t slowing down as he inches closer to age 40. In fact, he might be getting better. Crazy right? In 2021, Scherzer’s 2.46 ERA and 0.86 WHIP both were new career-bests and his 28.9 K-BB% was his second-best mark in his career only behind a 30.3% mark in 2019. All this at 37 years old. Having the level of command Scherzer has over all five of his filthy offerings simply isn’t fair. Each of those five offerings had a whiff rate above 27.5% and his three most used offerings – his four-seamer, slider, and changeup – had a BAA of .193 or less. What else is there to say at this point? Scherzer has been a top-5 pitcher for the last decade and has given no indication that he can’t do it again in 2022.
14. Gerrit Cole (SP – NYY)
While I would personally take a few others behind him here, you gotta think Gerrit Cole’s ADP will be inside the top-15 in 2022. Even with a bit of a rough patch in June and July following the sticky stuff crackdown, Cole still finished with a 3.23 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 5.6% walk rate, and 33.5% strikeout rate. This was Cole’s fourth straight season with a strikeout rate above 32.5% and served as his highest ERA and WHIP since he left Pittsburgh in 2017.
When a 3.23 ERA and 1.06 WHIP are your WORST marks in four years, that just speaks to how dominant Cole has been. To make matters even more impressive, he’s done this in the vaunted AL East where there are tough lineups and hitter-friendly ballparks as far as the eye can see. And similar to Scherzer, Cole has five offerings he can miss bats with at a clip above 25%. This is arguably the safest fantasy ace in the game today.
15. Freddie Freeman (1B – ATL)
The 2021 season was another highly productive one for one of baseball’s quietest superstar hitters. If JoRam isn’t the most underrated first-round talent, it’s because Freddie Freeman is. After a slow start to the season that saw Freeman hit below .240 in both April and May, he turned it on in a big way, hitting .306 in June, .371 in July, .311 in August, and .330 in September/October. That torrid final four months boosted his season slash line to .300/.393/.503 giving Freeman his sixth straight season with a .295 average or higher. That slash line nearly mirrors his career .295/.384/.509 line as well.
Is Freeman’s profile sexy? No. Is his profile very good with a high floor? Absolutely. That’s what you’re getting when drafting Freeman. If you’re more of the risk-averse type and want a first-round pick that you won’t have to worry about, Freeman is your guy in the back-end of the round. Five straight years of a .289+ xBA and seven straight years of a .533+ xSLG back that up. As does his always elite plate approach.
Media Credit: MLB, Baseball Savant, TalkinBaseball, SportsCenter, Philadelphia Phillies, Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
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