Consensus Rankings Analysis: Early February (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
Feeling down about onerous labor negotiations threatening MLB’s Opening Day? From this writer’s personal experience, diving into early fantasy baseball research anyway is a great cure.
The 2022 season may not start as scheduled on March 31. Heck, nobody can truly guarantee there’s a season at all. They can take away the warmth of pitchers and catchers reporting, but they can’t take our fantasy baseball rankings.
Analysts are starting to file their rankings into FantasyPros’ database. That contributes to the master list known as our Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR). While this can’t replace individual draft prep catered to your league, it’s helpful to see which players the industry values more than early drafters.
It also helps those rankers see where they line up with the rest, especially early in preseason prep. I’m not highlighting discrepancies to tell you how wrong everyone but me is. Stark differences forced me to take a closer look and re-access. While I won’t defer to the wisdom of the crowd, a deeper dive often reveals something I overlooked the first time.
The ECR will keep changing as more analysts submit and update their rankings. While it can help identify ADP miscalculations, there are also some cases where drafters are more on point. For now, let’s make it all about me by seeing where my 2022 rankings veer from the ECR.
Note: All Rankings and consensus Average Draft Position (ADP) are as of February 2.
Players I Like More
Pete Alonso (1B - NYM)
Sluggers are no longer a paramount priority in the opening rounds, but that doesn't explain why Alonso is ranked lower than Austin Riley and Nolan Arenado. The 27-year-old first baseman leads MLB with 106 home runs since 2019, and Eugenio Suárez (95) is the only other player to reach 90. He's done this while missing just 13 games in his career, and the masher should now have the extra benefit of receiving semi-off days as a designated hitter.
What's more, Alonso lowered his strikeout rate to 19.9 despite swinging at more pitches. Among the 19 hitters with at least 35 long balls last season, he joined Vladimir Guerrero Jr., José Ramirez, and Matt Olson as the only ones with a K rate below 20.0%.
Despite their similar power profiles at the same position, Olson's contact gains are rewarded with a No. 32 ECR. Although Polar Bear Pete isn't receiving the same recognition, their ATC projections give off real Spider-Man pointing vibes.
The others projections systems all churn out similar lines for Alonso, predicting 38-42 home runs with over 100 RBIs and a batting average in the .258-.263 range. A dependable, durable star in his prime is exactly what drafters should desire in the top-50 picks.
Freddy Peralta (SP - MIL)
Of all the second-tier aces with significant question marks, I'm most willing to put my faith behind Peralta. Before 2021, the righty was a two-pitch strikeout artist who seemed destined for a high-profile bullpen role. Instead, he fine-tuned a slider that induced a .229 wOBA while introducing an effective changeup. This gave him four offerings with a wOBA below .300 and a swinging-strike rate of 11.5% or higher.
The results? Pure filth. Peralta produced a 2.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 195 strikeouts in 144.1 innings. No starter with at least 100 innings had a lower batting average against than Peralta's .165, and his .174 xBA also led the pack.
A limited track record and high walk rate certainly make Peralta a risky top-20 starter. And to be fair, his ECR is still above his No. 66 consensus ADP. There's also a legitimate NL Cy Young Award ceiling.
I was pessimistic about Corbin Burnes last season because of workload concerns and a condensed track record. Don't make the same mistake with Peralta in 2022 drafts.
Tyler Stephenson (C - CIN)
Keibert Ruiz (C - WAS)
Mitch Garver (C - MIN)
This is purely a dispute in the overall rankings, as the experts and I both have Stephenson and Ruiz as our No. 7 and 8 catchers, respectively. I have Garver one spot above the experts (leapfrogging Travis d'Arnaud) at No. 9. Remember that the standard 12-team Yahoo league only drafts 276 players, so you're certainly not reaching by selecting from this trio outside the top-200 picks.
I'll likely do just that in those single-catcher formats. Stephenson flaunted an impressive plate approach in his rookie campaign, batting .286 with an 18.7% strikeout rate. Among all catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, only Yasmani Grandal and Buster Posey bested Stephenson's .366 OBP.
Ruiz also provides a high batting-average floor as a career .301 hitter in the minors. If your squad needs power instead, Garver quietly bounced back from a dreadful 2020 with 13 homers, a .261 ISO, and a 137 wRC+ (third behind Grandal and Posey) in 243 plate appearances.
Abraham Toro (2B/3B - SEA)
I have the highest ranking on Toro, which makes me wonder if it's too aggressive for a career .220/.299/.358 hitter. However, the 25-year-old flaunted some intriguing pop and speed with 11 home runs and six steals in 375 plate appearances last season. Although yet to transfer these plate skills into results, he boasted an 84.0% contact rate with modest improvements in barrels.
Toro, who is already eligible at second and third base, will work in the outfield before the season to increase his versatility and ensure the Mariners keep giving him regular plate appearances. He could provide sneaky value across the board without wowing investors in any one category.
Lane Thomas (OF - WAS)
Perhaps I'm overrating a small sample size, but Thomas batted .270/.364/.489 with seven home runs and four steals in 45 games after joining the Nationals in August. He played well enough to spend September atop Washington's lineup, and the Nationals did nothing to bolster their lineup before the lockout. Even looking at his full body of work, a career 12.9% walk rate and 80.9% contact rate represent a promising plate approach for Thomas, who placed in the 93rd percentile of Sprint Speed last season. Maybe everyone else needs more time to dig into his late breakout once football stops diverting their attention.
Lucas Sims (RP - CIN)
Sims concluded the season with 25 strikeouts to no walks over his final 14.1 innings. Buoyed by an excellent 39.0% strikeout rate, his .168 expected batting average (Liam Hendriks finished at .167), 2.50 SIERA, and 2.51 xERA all paint the portrait of a lights-out relief ace. The experts must not trust him to lock down Cincinnati's closer role, as 11 of 24 analysts have him below 300 or unranked. This is the perfect situation to bet on elite skills at a reasonable price.
Players ECR Likes More
Robbie Ray (SP - SEA)
You might say it's hypocritical to be all in on Peralta but out on Ray. To that, I say... you might have a point. Ray also paired his elite strikeout stuff with a 2.84 ERA during an improbable AL Cy Young Award campaign. Along with the hardware, Ray is receiving more love because his tremendous season came in 193.1 innings. He'll also get a ballpark upgrade by moving from Toronto to Seattle, so why am I being such a Debbie Downer?
I've seen too much to believe. Ray is a 30-year-old with a career 4.00 ERA and 10.3% walk rate. While he posted a 1.04 WHIP last season, it was only the second time he got below 1.30 in his seven-year career. Ray also benefitted from the highest strand rate of all qualified starters.
Perhaps I should split the difference between these ranks and bump Ray up to No. 56. However, when push comes to shove, I'll probably be too squeamish to pull the trigger.
Christian Yelich (OF - MIL)
And here I was thinking No. 86 was too generous for a player who hit .248 with nine home runs and nine stolen bases last season.
Yelich is one of this offseason's toughest players to rank, as he delivered two elite seasons worthy of the top pick before suddenly cratering. Even before jumping to superstardom in Milwaukee, Yelich was an underappreciated five-category contributor in Miami. Although his ground-ball rate rising back to 54.4% last year is troublesome, he offered 20 home runs with a high average with even more grounders early in his career.
The main question is health. A player typically doesn't go from a .342 ISO to .125 in two years before turning 30. If Yelich's back is better, he should regain some of that lost power while at least inching closer to his career .292/.379/.477 slash line. I could see myself moving him up closer to the ECR with encouraging offseason news, but that scenario would likely also yield a spike in his ECR and No. 97 consensus ADP.
Camilo Doval (RP - SF)
Like Sims, Doval ended the season on fire. He went 16.1 innings without yielding a walk or run, collecting 24 strikeouts with just eight hits allowed. However, the 24-year-old is far more popular because he recorded a six-out save against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS.
Based on his aggressive ECR and No. 180 ADP, everyone is expecting Doval to parlay this momentum into a closing gig. Don't assume that's the case. A Giants bullpen that brandished baseball's best ERA (2.99) last season will welcome back Jake McGee and Tyler Rogers.
Also, let's not forget that Doval is far from a proven commodity. Before pitching 30.2 innings for the Giants (including the playoffs), he issued 24 walks and a 4.99 ERA in the same number of innings at Triple-A. Doval is a tantalizing upside pick, but I'd prefer Sims, Corey Knebel, David Bednar, or Scott Barlow.
Mike Clevinger (SP - SD)
Luis Severino (SP/RP - NYY)
Noah Syndergaard (SP - LAA)
I'm clearly not as confident in pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery. By internally grouping this trio together, I ended up particularly hard on Clevinger, who has a career 3.19 ERA and 27.3% K rate.
The shallower the league, the more likely I am to throw a dart on one of them. They also have considerable room for upward mobility if healthy and throwing hard this spring.
Jorge Soler (OF - FA)
Soler merits a closer look. I initially punished him severely for his awful first half without giving enough credit to his second-half redemption at Atlanta. I also put him in the "empty power" box, but at second glance, his .223 batting average should rise. He improved his strikeout rate to a career-low 23.6%, down to 18.8% after the All-Star break. A .250 BABIP nevertheless prevented Soler from playing up to his .249 xBA and .358 xwOBA.
I'm the only analyst with Solder outside my top 200. That will change after my next update.
Kyle Hendricks (SP - CHC)
Zack Greinke (SP - FA)
I actually moved these workhorses up out of respect for their innings, but the other analysts remain bigger fans. Their draftability is entirely format-dependent, and my rankings reflect their lack of viability in a 12-team roto or head-to-head mixed league.
Greinke has gone at a discount for years because drafters didn't want to hold the bag when the bottom broke. He was again a bargain for most of 2021, brandishing a 3.41 ERA on August 28. Then he surrendered 19 runs over his final three starts. While that could lead some to envision buy-back value, his strikeout rate cratered to 17.2% after spending the past decade comfortably above 20.
Hendricks was great from May through July but irrevocably bad the other three months. Perhaps he settled down enough to help investors in deeper formats, but managers can't risk him torpedoing their ERA with a lackluster strikeout rate in standard mixed leagues.
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.