National League Depth Chart Battles (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
In a previous article, I broke down some of the competitions going on in the AL for a starting spot on their teams’ lineup.
We now benefit from the universal DH in Major League Baseball, which NL teams are going to benefit immensely. As we wait for the new CBA to be agreed upon, here are some of our battles in the National League going into Spring Training.
Colorado Rockies – Closer: Daniel Bard (P – COL) vs. Carlos Estevez (P – COL)
The current roster situation in Colorado is a tough one to look at. They are entering a new era after trading away Nolan Arenado (3B – STL), and they will likely be watching Trevor Story (SS – COL) leave them in free agency.
The late-inning bullpen role will be one to monitor for fantasy. Closers are treated like gold in drafts, as we have seen their ADPs rise significantly over the past couple of seasons.
Incumbent closer Daniel Bard returns to the Rockies after a subpar performance in 2021. He was often a lockdown option for them heading into the ninth inning. However, he had his fair share of blowups. The blowups allowed relievers like Carlos Estevez to emerge and put his name on the radar of many fantasy owners as they scavenged through the waiver wire, looking for safe options.
Prediction: Daniel Bard will open the season as the closer for the Rockies in hopes of boosting his value and getting traded to a contender later on. Estevez should still be considered in deeper formats as Bard’s history has shown him unreliable for long periods of time.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Closer: Blake Treinen (P – LAD) vs. Daniel Hudson (P – LAD)
All indications point to the Dodgers moving from Kenley Jansen (P – LAD) to 2022. However, even with this departure, there are still plenty of options to solidify the back end of this bullpen for Dave Roberts.
The two main options are Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson. Both have plenty of closing experience in their careers and have shown that they can be reliable in that role.
Treinen was pitching on another level in 2021. He posted a 2.47 xERA, 2.88 FIP, and a 21% K-BB%. He possesses two above-average pitches in his slider and sinker that both rank in the top 13% of baseball. On the other hand, Daniel Hudson was just signed to a one-year, $7M contract that puts him right in consideration for that backend role as well.
Prediction: Although much has been said about this being a closer-by-committee situation, I see Treinen as the Opening Day closer for the Dodgers. Both of these relievers can provide significant value to a fantasy roster throughout the 2022 season as Dave Roberts might deploy them in high-leverage situations instead of the typical ninth-inning role.
San Diego Padres – Fifth Rotation Spot: Dinelson Lamet (P – SD) vs. Chris Paddack (P – SD)
Both of these pitchers enter 2022 with big question marks. Lamet has had the elbow issues continue to flare up, and Paddack has not shown consistency throughout his time in the Majors after a strong debut.
I do not think there is much to question regarding Dinelson’s talent. His arsenal is highlighted by a wipeout slider that generated a 22.3% swinging-strike rate and 42.5% whiff% in 2021.
Paddack is entering an important year. He is going into this season looking to prove himself to an organization that is not afraid to wheel and deal for big-time talent when a player on their roster is not producing. This organization has many pitching prospects that could overtake his spot on the roster, or he can ultimately be packaged for another player with a proven track record.
Prediction: If Lamet goes through Spring Training healthy, he should win out the final spot in this rotation, pushing Paddack into the long-relief role for the Padres.
Cincinnati Reds – Shortstop: Kyle Farmer (SS – CIN) vs. Jose Barrero (SS – CIN)
The Eugenio Suarez (SS – CIN) experiment at SS should now be officially put to rest. The Reds look to be entering a “re-tooling” phase as there have been plenty of trade rumors swirling around regarding players on their roster.
Kyle Farmer and Jose Barrero look to be battling it out to see who will get the starting nod at short on Opening Day. Farmer has been a solid contributor for Cincy, serving as a key role player for them over the past couple of seasons. Barrero’s arrival to the Majors was highly anticipated by Reds fans, and the eagerness to see him only grew after his big-time performance at the 2021 Futures Game in Colorado.
Both of these players have proven to show flexibility and the ability to play different positions on defense.
Prediction: Jose Barrero will come out of Spring Training as the starting SS and solidify his everyday role in the lineup. Farmer will join teammate Mike Moustakas (3B – CIN) as a key role player for the Major League roster throughout the season.
Milwaukee Brewers – Fifth Rotation Spot: Eric Lauer (P – MIL) vs. Aaron Ashby (P -MIL)
Many will say that the Brewers don’t need anyone in their rotation after the top-three horses that headline this pitching staff. The breakout seasons from Corbin Burnes (P – MIL) and Freddy Peralta (P – MIL) have created, arguably, the best top-3 in all of baseball.
Eric Lauer proved to be a reliable option for the Brewers when called upon. Pitching to a 3.90 xERA, and a 4.04 FIP, Lauer has a strong chance of winning this spot entering the season.
Top pitching prospect, Aaron Ashby, did not have a great debut when he arrived in Milwaukee. However, he showed his talent later in the season, when he grew more comfortable on the mound as both a starter and reliever for the Brewers. He has all the upside imaginable and will be in the rotation sooner rather than later.
Prediction: Aaron Ashby will emerge victorious here. His high-upside prospect pedigree will prove him capable of rounding out this rotation and will move Lauer into the long reliever role for the Brewers. When called upon, he will provide them with another strong option as starting pitcher.
Miami Marlins – Closer: Dylan Floro (P – MIA) vs. Anthony Bender (P – MIA)
GM Kim Ngn has made it known that the Marlins would like to sure up the backend of their bullpen heading into 2022. For now, Anthony Bender and Dylan Floro look to battle it out to see who will lock down the ninth inning.
After acquiring him in a trade from the Dodgers, Floro has been consistent for the Marlins late in games. However, among Marlins pitchers, Floro ranked second in lowest average exit velocity and was in the 90th percentile in all of baseball in HardHit%.
In his first season with the Marlins, Bender provided the Marlins with an elite sinking fastball (avg. 97.4MPH) and a swing and miss slider that produced a Batting Average Against of .148. He started his Major League career with 21.1 shutout innings, allowing only ten hits, five walks, and 23 strikeouts.
Prediction: Bender’s ability to produce above-average offerings will give him the nod as the closer for the Marlins, should they not add a more proven option.
Fifth Rotation Spot: Sixto Sanchez (P – MIA) vs. Jesus Luzardo (P – MIA) vs. Elieser Hernandez (P – MIA)
When you talk about building starting pitching depth and its importance going into the baseball season, the Marlins have sure put themselves in a great position.
Some may call it an embarrassment of riches. However, the Marlins have three high-profile arms to round out their starting five. Two of which were once labeled as top pitching prospects in baseball.
Sixto Sanchez is looking for a fresh start in 2022. After missing all of 2021 with a shoulder issue, it’s no secret there is not much optimism entering this year regarding him being ready to go once Spring Training does start. However, Sixto’s skill set is not one to be ignored, and he had proven that when he made his debut back in 2020.
Jesus Luzardo was acquired at the 2021 deadline from Oakland in a one-for-one swap of Starling Marte (OF – NYM). Unfortunately, he has failed to live up to expectations thus far in the big leagues. But, like Sixto, Luzardo is looking to leave the stink back in 2021 and bounce back strong in 2022.
Probably one of the most undervalued arms in the organization, Elieser’s big caveat is his inability to stay on the field. However, when he is healthy, his plus walk rate of 2.4, and steady 9.2 strikeout rate, prove to be a reliable option for the Marlins rotation. Additionally, even though his average of 91MPH on his fastball leaves much to be desired, he offers a plus slider and an efficient changeup that produce miniscule BAAs of .185 and .158, respectively.
Prediction: Jesus Luzardo rounds out the Marlins starting rotation. Sixto will likely begin the season on the injured list as he builds back up from his shoulder injury. Elieser will be the longman in the Marlins bullpen and should be their first option to re-enter the rotation should they need someone to step in.
New York Mets – Designated Hitter: Dominic Smith (OF – NYM) vs. J.D. Davis (3B – NYM) vs. Robinson Cano (2B – NYM)
There probably isn’t a more significant benefactor to the universal DH than the New York Mets. They have made a lot of big moves since Steve Cohen took over the team, and they look to take that next step in the NL East and prove to be one of the top teams in baseball in the future.
There is no bigger name here than Robinson Cano. Entering his age 40 season, he will try to regain fans’ trust across all of baseball after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2021. With a strong performance in the Caribbean Series and the Dominican Winter League, Cano is a perfect fit for the DH role in this lineup.
Davis has not been able to find consistent playing time for the Mets because of his defensive liability at third base. He proved to be a balanced hitter in the COVID-shortened 2020 season but was never able to build off of that as he was dealing with a hand injury that caused him to miss a lot of time in 2021. However, he could record an OPS of .820 games over 73 games when he was healthy.
Dominic Smith was a big part of the Mets lineup in 2020. He finally showcased his hitting ability, slashing .316/.377/.616 with ten home runs in 50 games in the shortened season. However, that success did not translate over into 2021, however, as his ISO dropped from .299 to .119 and a WRC+ at 86, well below the league average of 100.
Prediction: Robinson Cano will most likely begin the season as the starting DH as the strong side of the platoon with J.D. Davis. Dominic Smith will find most of his playing time spelling Cano when he needs a day off against righties and giving one of Mark Canha (OF – NYM) or Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM) a day off during the week.
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