Draft season is a glorious time of year where us junkies can get our draft fix as early and often as we desire. Both Fantrax and NFBC have a ton of different league types already in full swing, so you can jump into a Best Ball, DC, regular roto/H2H league, or whatever your little heart desires. And of course, rankings are a must when preparing for any draft which is what this article is all about. These are my positional 2022 fantasy baseball rankings with strategy, early-rounders to avoid, late-round targets, and prospects all mixed in.
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Eric Cross’ Positional 2022 Fantasy Baseball Rankings
The catcher position has notoriously been a headache for fantasy managers over the years. However, that could be coming to an end in 2022 and 2023. In addition to the elite top tier of Salvador Perez, Will Smith, and JT Realmuto, an influx of young talent is on the horizon over the next couple of seasons. That’s going to begin early in 2022 with the arrival of Adley Rutschman. I’m fairly positive that I’ve never drafted a rookie catcher before, but that might come to an end with Rutschman, who possesses #1 overall fantasy catcher upside. He’ll likely be up with Baltimore by the end of April and is worth a look after pick 200.
As for that elite top tier, all three are going a bit earlier than I would prefer. Currently, Perez is a top-50 pick on average and Smith/Realmuto are inside the top-100. Their ADP goes up a good 20-30 picks on NFBC which uses two-catcher formats. I’m probably not going to get many shares of that trio this season, but that next tier is where I’ll do most of my shopping. Players like Keibert Ruiz, Willson Contreras, Tyler Stephenson, Mitch Garver, and the aforementioned Rutschman are solid targets in the middle rounds. And if I don’t land one from that tier, I’ll likely wait until the late-rounds and take a flier on Alejandro Kirk, Joey Bart or snag Omar Narvaez. There’s more depth at this position than there used to be, so don’t feel the need to jump in the early rounds.
Early-Round Player(s) to Avoid at ADP: Salvador Perez
Late-Round Targets: Omar Narvaez, Alejandro Kirk, Joey Bart, Carson Kelly
Prospects to Target/Monitor: Adley Rutschman, MJ Melendez
|1||Vladimir Guerrero Jr||TOR|
|33||LaMonte Wade Jr||SFG|
The first base position in 2022 is one of the easier ones to navigate in my eyes. We have a definitive top two tiers and then it gets dicey following Jose Abreu. You can say that every player following Abreu has a concern surrounding durability, performance, or track record longevity. Max Muncy is the biggest X-Factor in this range as he’d firmly be in tier two if healthy, but we don’t know how much he’ll play in 2022 thanks to his elbow injury. If he gets a clean bill of health, bump him up into tier two. Jared Walsh, CJ Cron, and Jake Cronenworth are probably my favorite targets in the ADP 100-150 range, especially with Cron resigning in Colorado. Cron posted a .281/.375/.530 line in Colorado last season with a .249 ISO and .383 wOBA in 142 games. He could easily put up tier-2 production 50-75 picks later.
Two other veterans that I’ll be targeting are Joey Votto and Kyle Schwarber, especially if the latter signs in a favorable hitter’s park. I’m not necessarily betting on a repeat of 2021 from the 38-year-old, but Votto’s resurgence was for real and could push 30 and 100 once again with a .260+ AVG and strong OBP. As for late-round targets, Frank Schwindel is a favorite of mine after his dominant 2nd half of the season. That’s certainly unsustainable, but he could flirt with top-100 overall value while hitting in the middle of the Cubs order. Brandon Belt and Bobby Dalbec if they’re in the lineup every day which is never a guarantee with Belt’s durability issues and the Red Sox possibly bringing in a first baseman via free agency. Don’t rule out Andrew Vaughn taking a step forward either and establishing himself as a solid fantasy option.
Early-Round Player(s) to Avoid at ADP: None
Late-Round Targets: Frank Schwindel, Brandon Belt, Bobby Dalbec, Andrew Vaughn, LaMonte Wade Jr., Darin Ruf, Bobby Bradley
Prospects to Target/Monitor: Spencer Torkelson, Nick Pratto
This position just continues to deepen every year, both in terms of top-level talent and sheer depth. In 2022, players like Javier Baez, Marcus Semien, and top-5 overall pick Trea Turner will all have second base eligibility in addition to their usually SS tags. And depending on your league settings, Mookie Betts might as well. Adding that level of talent into an already rising position makes second base very enticing in 2022 drafts.
If you have a top-3 pick in any of your drafts, grabbing Turner is highly recommended. I certainly wouldn’t fault anyone for taking Fernando Tatís Jr, Juan Soto, or Jose Ramirez, but getting a .300+/20+/25+ profile with dual 2B/SS eligibility opens up immediate flexibility for the remainder of your draft. Not only do you get that dual eligibility, but you also get a great speed asset and five-category stud right off the bat.
Ozzie Albies in the 2nd round is also a rock-solid selection as he’s coming off his third straight full season of 24+/14+ and was on pace for another in the shortened 2020 season. Right after him is another dual eligibility speed threat in Whit Merrifield and Marcus Semien who is the one elite option here that I’m avoiding at their ADP. Semien is coming off a career year in 2021 and is now in a worse lineup and home ballpark.
Once you get outside the top-100 picks, there are still plenty of intriguing options like Jake Cronenworth, Max Muncy, and Tommy Edman. As mentioned above, Muncy would move up several spots if deemed healthy entering the 2022 season. We also have some young, rising talent in Luis Urias, Brendan Rodgers, and Ty France along with the underrated power bat of Jonathan Schoop. In the late rounds, Gavin Lux continues to entice me if he can get a starting spot, and players like Nick Madrigal and Adam Frazier can help stabilize AVG.
Early-Round Player(s) to Avoid at ADP: Marcus Semien (If in the 30)
Late-Round Targets: Nick Madrigal, Abraham Toro, Adam Frazier
Prospects to Target/Monitor: Vidal Brujan, Jose Miranda, Nolan Gorman
Go big or go home is the mantra for the hot corner in 2022. This position, unfortunately, has more questions than answers this season once you get past the top two tiers. The elite first tier or Jose Ramirez, Rafael Devers, and Manny Machado will all go inside the top-25 overall with JoRam inside the top-5. Ramirez’s speed at a speed-deprived position is golden, so don’t be afraid to use a top-5 pick on him as he’s averaged 32 home runs, 26 steals, 99 runs, and 94 RBI over his last four full seasons. Devers and Machado are fine selections at their ADPs as well. In the second tier, I’m fully buying into Riley’s 2021 performance, minus a bit of AVG regression. Arenado is still rock-solid and Bregman could see a bounceback season assuming he’s fully healthy.
After the top-6 is where things get hairy. Basically, every player after Bregman has injury or performance concerns that make them risky selections. I’m not saying to avoid this position entirely in the middle rounds, but it’s almost better to wait a bit if you missed out on grabbing one from the first two tiers. You’ll be tempted to draft Mondesi, but don’t make that mistake again. If he falls outside of the top-120 or so, it might be worthwhile, but the odds of that happening are slim to none. The four from this range that intrigue me the most are Yoan Moncada, Anthony Rendon, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Luis Urias, with Urias and Hayes potentially taking another step forward in 2022.
In the later rounds, I’m going to be all over Alec Bohm. The talented 25-year-old struggled mightily on the surface, but still registered above-average quality of contact metrics, highlighted by a 92 mph AVG EV and a 49.5% hard-hit rate. Unfortunately, it looks like Josh Jung will miss the entire season though after shoulder surgery.
Early-Round Player(s) to Avoid at ADP: None
Late-Round Targets: Alec Bohm
Prospects to Target/Monitor: Jose Miranda, Nolan Jones, Brendon Davis
|2||Fernando Tatis Jr||SDP|
|16||Bobby Witt Jr||KCR|
The abbreviation SS might stand for shortstop, but it also stands for super sexy. That’s the term that accurately depicts this loaded position in 2022. If you thought shortstop was loaded in the past, that was just the tip of the iceberg, my friends. As it currently stands, a whopping 15 shortstops have an ADP inside the top-100 with 23 inside the top-200 overall. To put it in perspective, Jake Cronenworth is my 18th ranked shortstop-eligible player this season. That’s what you call incredible depth folks. Right at the top, we have three top-5 caliber players in the first tier with Fernando Tatís Jr, Trea Turner, and Bo Bichette. Both Tatís and Turner have strong cases to be taken 1st overall and Bichette isn’t too far behind them.
In tier two, we have an interesting mix of players. Xander Bogaerts and Tim Anderson are the “boring” picks in this tier, but you can’t go wrong with their steady top-50 production year in and year out. Mixed in with them is a trio of 2021 disappointments in Francisco Lindor (performance), Corey Seager (injuries), and Trevor Story (little of both) along with the inconsistent Javier Baez and the young phenom, Wander Franco. There’s no doubting the elite AVG potential Franco brings to the table, but will the rest of the profile be robust enough to warrant a top-50 pick? I’d rather go after more proven bats in this range that have already shown they can perform on the level we hope Franco can get to. And as mentioned above, Semien is an avoid for me at his ADP.
As exciting as the 2nd tier is, tier three is nearly just as good. Not only does phenom shortstop prospect Boibby Witt Jr fall in this tier, but we also have 2021 breakouts Jake Cronenworth and Willy Adames along with the steady and underrated Jorge Polando and the potential 300+ million dollar man, Carlos Correa. It remains to be seen where Correa will sign, but he could move up a few spots if he lands in a favorable lineup/park. And if you want to draft Witt, get ready to use a top-100 pick on him, maybe top-75 once spring training starts (hopefully on time).
Getting into the back half of your draft, you’ll still be able to land talented bats with a chance of returning positive ROI. Can Gleyber Torres build on his improved 2nd half? Can Luis Urias and Brendan Rodgers take steps forward? Will Brandon Crawford carry over any of his 2021 magic? Don’t forget about rookies youngsters Oneil Cruz and Gavin Lux either. Both are going fairly late and have the skills to break out in 2022. Lux just needs the Dodgers to finally hand him an everyday gig.
Early-Round Player(s) to Avoid: Marcus Semien, Wander Franco
Late-Round Targets: Oneil Cruz, Gavin Lux
Prospects to Target/Monitor: Bobby Witt Jr, Oneil Cruz, Pedro Leon, Jeremy Pena
|1||Fernando Tatís Jr.||SDP|
|4||Ronald Acuña Jr.||ATL|
|80||Lamonte Wade Jr.||SFG|
Ah, the outfield. No matter what you want from your outfield in 2022, you can find it here without much difficulty. Right off the bat, we have as many as six players that could be taken inside the top-10 with another half-dozen in round two or three depending on how many teams are in your league. We have our usual studs in Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, and Ronald Acuña with Kyle Tucker and Tatís added into the elite mix at this position after Tatís added eligibility and Tucker broke out in 2021.
Acuña is the X factor in this tier and could be a top-5 player once again if he’s ready to go on opening day. All reports regarding his recovery have been extremely positive thus far. In OBP formats, Soto is the unquestioned top dog and it wouldn’t surprise me if he flirted with a .500 OBP in 2022. In daily leagues where Ohtani has dual eligibility, a strong case can be made for him being taken #1 overall as well.
As for Tucker, I’m 100% on board this train as it chugs along full steam into the first round of drafts. The 24-year-old has 35+/20 upside in 2022 and beyond and all of his expected metrics were elite and backed up his 2021 breakout. There weren’t many better hitters than him for the last five months of the season. Right behind him is Luis Robert who might have an even higher ceiling, which is ridiculous to think about. Don’t count on him hitting well over .300, but the power/speed blend is massive, and he could realistically still hit .280 over a full season if his plate discipline improvements from 2021 can stick. Trout is a great value in drafts so far, he just needs to stay healthy in 2022. I’m honestly more optimistic about Trout in 2022 than I am about Betts and his hip issue.
As we move further along in the top-50, we have great power bats in Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez, and Teoscar Hernandez with a couple of speed assets in Whit Merrifield and Starling Marte. If early drafts are any indication, you’re going to have to reach a bit to grab the speed guys. Tyler O’Neill and Eloy Jimenez are fun picks in this range as well with the upside for a positive 2022 ROI. Let’s just hope O’Neill can keep his strikeouts in check. There are numerous players I’m going after in this range, but one I’ll be passing on is Cedric Mullins. The breakout in 2021 was a pleasure to witness, but I’m not sold on his power remaining at that level. This is still likely a top-50 player, but he’s being taken around the top-25 overall which I can’t buy in on.
In the ADP 50-100 range, I’m not quite sold on Randy Arozarena given his underlying metrics, but Bryan Reynolds is one to buy in on. He proved in 2021 that his 2019 performance was no fluke. If safety and floor is what you desire in these rounds, Reynolds is your guy. But if you want to go big with a potential league winner, Byron Buxton is waiting for you. We’ve seen glimpses of fantasy greatness from Buxton when he’s on the field, but it’s hard to trust a player that has played in just 39.4% of games over the last four seasons. George Springer is another player that we likely won’t see 140+ games from, but the per-game numbers are still very strong.
Following the above players in 2022 ADP is one of the most interesting group of players you’ll find this season. What can we expect from Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich? Can Trent Grisham and/or Michael Conforto bounce back? Can Jarred Kelenic carry over his September improvements into a big sophomore campaign? Here are my personal answers to each question…
Bellinger/Yelich: I’m buying a slight Bellinger bounceback, but not into top-50 territory. With Yelich, I’m less optimistic due to the various injuries over the last few years.
Grisham/Conforto: I’m a believer that each will have better 2022 seasons, especially Conforto who is one of my favorite draft-day values this year.
Kelenic: You already know the answer to this question. If you don’t, go check out my Twitter feed. But here’s the synopsis: DRAFT KELENIC AND ENJOY THE ROI
The 2022 season will see several top-100 prospects debut or be recalled. Those names can be found below. For 2022 leagues, the three I’m the most excited about are Riley Greene, Brennen Davis, and Julio Rodriguez. All three are top-10 prospects or close to it and have the skills to make an immediate fantasy impact. Just don’t overdraft J-Rod as I believe he’s more of a mid-season callup. If you only target one, make it Greene.
Early-Round Player(s) to Avoid: Cedric Mullins, Randy Arozarena
Late-Round Targets: Harrison Bader, Jesús Sánchez, Andrew Vaughn, Avisail Garcia, Bradley Zimmer, LaMonte Wade Jr., Brandon Marsh, Josh Lowe
Prospects to Target/Monitor: Julio Rodriguez, Riley Greene, Brennen Davis, Jarren Duran, Seiya Suzuki, Seth Beer, Josh Lowe, Vidal Brujan, Alek Thomas, Cristian Pache
|47||Hyun Jin Ryu||TOR|
|51||Lance McCullers Jr||HOU|
|92||Nestor Cortes Jr.||NYY|
If it feels like pitching gets pushed up more and more every season, it’s because it has. Taking a pitcher in the first round was once a laughable offense, but now we see a handful go in the first round in every draft. This year, there’s no discernable #1 overall or 1-5 rankings. For me, Burnes is the top dog with Scherzer, Cole, Woodruff, and Buehler rounding out my top-5. You’ll see that any number of ways in others rankings while likely seeing Wheeler and deGrom mixed in as well. For me, deGrom would be #1 if we could guarantee 150+ innings, but that elbow concerns me quite a bit.
If you don’t want to shell out a top-2 round pick for the seven names above but still get a great arm that you can be proud to call your staff ace, rounds three and four are going to be your happy zone. Some arms going in this range that I love are Aaron Nola, Julio Urias, Sandy Alcantara, Freddy Peralta, Logan Webb, and Chris Sale. If you have one of this group as your staff ace, I’d be happy with it. However, two that I won’t be targeting as my staff ace are Robbie Ray and Kevin Gausman whom I expect to regress in 2022.
In the SP2/SP3 range, we have a wave of young talent on the rise. Headlining this group are Shane McClanahan, Alek Manoah, Shane Baz, and Logan Gilbert. Manoah has been going a bit higher than I’d prefer, but I’ve been scooping up the Shanes often in my 2022 drafts thus far. Yes, Tampa Bay will likely limit them a tad, but you can expect good ratios and plenty of strikeouts. Both have a shot at finishing 2022 as top-15 arms.
If you want to secure a staff core that can help you win your fantasy league, you’re going to need to come out with at least three arms in your first 8-9 picks or so. With how the ADP is falling, that’s very attainable. Also don’t be afraid of pouncing on a handful of falling arms (Luzardo, Sixto, Gallen) or arms returning from injuries (Severino, Syndergaard) as those arms appear to be falling to reasonable price points in 2022 drafts so far.
Early-Round Player(s) to Avoid: Kevin Gausman, Jack Flaherty (At ADP)
Late-Round Targets: Bailey Ober, Michael Kopech, Tanner Houck, Jesús Luzardo, Tylor Megill, Eric Lauer, Steven Matz
Prospects to Target/Monitor: Shane Baz, Grayson Rodriguez, George Kirby, Cade Cavalli, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Edward Cabrera, Joe Ryan, Reid Detmers, Aaron Ashby, Matt Brash, Roansy Contreras
As with starters, if you want an elite reliever, you’re going to have to pay up. I’ve seen Liam Hendriks and Josh Hader going inside of the top-50 in nearly every draft this far with Edwin Diaz, Raisel Iglesias, Emmanuel Clase, and Ryan Pressley inside the top-100 as well. I’m more willing to dive into that 2nd tier of arms or snag someone like Kenley Jansen or Giovany Gallegos a couple of rounds later. There are plenty of names I’m targeting in the back half of the draft that you can see below, so don’t be afraid to grab one stud and then wait a bit.
Early-Round Player(s) to Avoid: Really depends on if you like to draft relievers early or not. One I’m avoiding is Aroldis Chapman.
Late-Round Targets: Blake Treinen, Garrett Whitlock, David Bednar, Dylan Floro, Andrew Kittredge
Prospects to Target/Monitor: None
Media Credit: Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire
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