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American League Depth Chart Battles (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

Feb 16, 2022
Jose Urquidy

Jose Urquidy has shown a lot of upside when he can continuously take the mound.

As each day passes, we’re inching ever so closely to the beginning of Spring Training and the start of the 2022 Major League Baseball season.

With news of the universal DH becoming official, it opens up more opportunities for players to get consistent playing time for their teams. However, this still leaves some question marks as to who will overtake the majority of playing time for position battles on their rosters. 

This article will highlight some of the playing time battles for AL ball clubs and how I think they will shape out once the season does begin.

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AL West

Houston Astros – Fifth Starter: Jose Urquidy (P – HOU) vs. Cristian Javier (P – HOU) vs. Jake Odorizzi (P – HOU)
There are plenty of questions about the Houston rotation for the 2022 season. Justin Verlander (P – HOU) is making his return from Tommy John surgery, Lance McCullers (P – HOU) has concerns surrounding his elbow, and can Luis Garcia (P – HOU) continue to improve on the strides he made down the stretch?

There is a three-way battle for the number five spot for the Astros. Urquidy, Javier, and Odorizzi have all proven that they can be relied on when given the opportunity. Urquidy lost two months last season, dealing with yet another injury. However, he has shown a lot of upside when he can continuously take the mound. His five starts last season were not a large enough sample size to judge him, but he consistently kept the ball in the yard. Odorizzi signed a two-year contract last off-season and comes into this battle as the established veteran. Javier stepped in admirably for Urquidy and continued to show a lot of promise when he shifted back into the long reliever role. 

Prediction: I believe Jose Urquidy has the upper hand going into the season and should round out the number five spot in the rotation for the Astros. Jake Odorrizi could be traded to fill another void on the roster. Javier should start the season as the Astros long reliever and continue to be a reliable option for them if a starter does go down. 

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – LF: Andrew Vaughn (OF – CWS) vs. Gavin Sheets (DH, OF – CWS) 
One of these names does not belong. Andrew Vaughn’s debut was much anticipated at the beginning of last season, and he managed to break camp with the big league roster. However, Tony LaRussa did not hand him a starting spot, and he found himself bouncing in and out of the lineup throughout the season, even though Eloy Jimenez (OF – CWS) was hurt. 

Gavin Sheets was not expected to make as much of an impact in his rookie season as Vaughn was, but come playoff time, he was making an impact in the lineup throughout the American League Division Series. He made sure to make the most out of his playing time with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in only 54 games played. The biggest standout was the .900 OPS that he had against right-handed pitching, which led to the platoon between him and Vaughn.

Between the injury and defensive liability concerns with Eloy, these two look to battle it out for a spot in the outfield for the White Sox entering 2022. 

Prediction: Andrew Vaughn will get the opportunity to showcase the talent that made him the number three overall pick in the 2019 draft. His potential impact with the bat will give him most of the playing time this season. 

Kansas City Royals – 1B: Hunter Dozier (1B – KC) vs. Carlos Santana (1B – KC)
Health and performance are going to be two significant factors in this battle. If neither of these two players does produce, Nick Pratto (1B – KC) could debut in Kansas City much sooner than expected. 

Santana is currently under contract for one more season and is coming off a year in 2021, where he only posted a measly .661 OPS. His contract comes at a hit of $10.5M. Because of that, the Royals will likely have a hard time finding a trade partner and will have to play him. 

Dozier has not produced the way many expected him to after his breakout in 2019. However, between injuries and poor play, many KC faithful are ready to see the future prospects play a role as soon as the season starts. The one thing Dozier benefits from is his ability to play multiple positions. Something that provides a lot of value to a big-league team. 

Prediction: Carlos Santana will likely start the year as the Royals’ first baseman. Although, I expect for the Royals to have a quick trigger in promoting Pratto should these two not produce immediate results.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles – C: Adley Rutschman (C – BAL) vs. Jacob Nottingham (C – BAL)
You might see these two names next to each other and scoff at the fact that this is a battle. However, there is no guarantee that Rutschman finds himself breaking camp with the Orioles. Much will depend on CBA negotiations and if the Orioles feel that Adley is ready for the next step. 

Nottingham was brought in to be the backup to Adley at some point this season. However, with the way the Orioles have been patient with Adley, it would come as no surprise that Nottingham begins the year as the starting backstop and quickly loses his starting job once Adley proves himself.

Prediction: New CBA will allow more accessible paths for top prospects to impact the Majors. Nottingham will be the starting backstop for the Orioles’ first month and hand over the reins to Rutschman soon after. 

Boston Red Sox – Fifth Rotation Spot: Michael Wacha (P – BOS) vs. Tanner Houck (P – BOS)
Another questionable pairing here with these two. Red Sox fans are ready for Houck to have a secure spot in this rotation after all the promise he has shown at the big league level. On the other hand, Michael Wacha recently signed with the team after a decent season with the division-rival Rays.

Wacha filled in as an admirable option for the Rays as an opener and as a follower to a one-inning relief appearance by any of the other Rays relievers. This versatility should serve well for Houck this season. 

Prediction: Tanner Houck will win the fifth spot in this rotation and officially begin his tenure in this rotation as a strong 1-2 combination with Chris Sale (P – BOS)

Tampa Bay Rays – OF: Josh Lowe (OF – TB) vs. Vidal Brujan (OF – TB) vs. Manuel Margot (OF – TB)
Unless the Rays move from Kevin Kiermaier (OF – TB) before the beginning of the season, only Josh Lowe, Vidal Brujan, and Manuel Margot will be starting in right field. 

Though seen as a natural centerfielder, Margot finds himself in a competition to start entering his contract year. In his 172 games as a Ray, he has contributed a 2.0 fWAR and was the best defensive outfielder in baseball last season with a +14 OAA. He fits the profile of a Rays player. 

Lowe and Brujan are two of what seems like an infinite amount of top prospects in the Rays organization. Many feel they are significant parts of the Rays’ future and should find themselves in the everyday lineup soon enough. But, for now, they find themselves in an intense battle that could lead to a platoon at the position with how the Rays play matchups. 

Prediction: Manuel Margot is also a candidate to get traded should the Rays find his $5M contract too rich for their taste. For now, Margot seems like the lead dog in this starting battle. Lowe and Brujan will have to wait for their turns and try making an impact whenever they find themselves in the lineup. 

Toronto Blue Jays – C: Alejandro Kirk (C – TOR) vs. Danny Jansen (C – TOR) 
This position battle highlights two players with completely different profiles. 

Alejandro Kirk is a bat-first catcher, and Jansen is the much better defender behind the dish. While Kirk does not profile as a long-term catcher, his success at the plate should give him the upper hand in this competition. Not only is he able to make contact at an above-average rate (82.1% contact% in 2021), he also walks almost the same amount as his minuscule strikeout percentage (10.1 BB% and 11.6 K%). 

On the other hand, Jansen has not been able to produce as much at the plate. His production behind the dish is a much different story. Last season, he threw out 24% of baserunners and had a career WAR of 3.6 that has much to do with his defensive paralysis. In 732 career at-bats, he has only produced a .212 batting average with 33 home runs and 99 RBIs.

While these two are battling for a starting spot on the Blue Jays Opening Day lineup, Reese McGuire (C – TOR) and top-prospect Gabriel Moreno (C – TOR), will also be up at the Major League level, making an impact at some point this season. Unfortunately, even though it seems like a good problem to have, only one of them will win out. 

Prediction: While there has been a lot of speculation about the Jays trading from their catcher depth, I believe Alejandro Kirk will be the starting catcher for the Blue Jays on Opening Day. In a day in age where hitting has taken over the league, his impact at the plate will boost one of the more potent lineups in baseball. 


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Whether you’re new to fantasy baseball or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Baseball 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our Sabermetrics Glossary or head to a more advanced strategy – like How to Make Custom Fantasy Baseball Rankings with Microsoft Excel – to learn more.Cristian Crespo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Cristian, check out his archive and follow him @CCres_26.

 

Cristian Crespo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Cristian, check out his archive and follow him @CCres_26.

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