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Players That Got Lucky in 2021 (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Scott Youngson | @jscottyoungson | Featured Writer
Feb 13, 2022
Randy Arozarena

Randy Arozarena may be a player in for some regression in 2022.

Luck is a concept that seems more prevalent in baseball than in other major sports, at least on a seasonal timeframe. We rarely talk about how lucky an NBA player was to hit all those threes, or an NFL wide receiver was to haul in all those catches. I blame it on math. Advanced analytics have taken over the game and, as a result, fantasy baseball. We now have a ton of data beyond traditional stats at our fingertips, which gives us a more complete picture of a player’s ability. The “numbers behind the numbers” can help us understand whether the baller’s recent performance is all skill or if he’s just been a bit lucky.

I did a bit of digging on this subject and came up with eight players – four hitters and four pitchers – who have underlying data from their 2021 seasons that is worrisome. These players are all talented and should be rostered in most leagues. However, they may not deliver to the expectations fantasy managers will have for them.

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HITTERS

Randy Arozarena (OF – TB)
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021 VBR (Hitters): 35   |   2022 ADP (Hitters): 41   |   2022 ADP (All): 62  

Arozarena made the list of hitters with the highest BABIP’s in 2021, as detailed here. But that wasn’t the only warning sign for him. His Statcast “expected outcomes” data (xBA, xSLG, xwOBA) all trailed his actuals by a significant measure. If you are unfamiliar with the Statcast data, it predicts the outcome of a batted ball based on exit velocity, launch angle, and sprint speed. For more detail, click the links above.

Getting back to Arozarena, his variances in 2021 were as follows:

BA: .274  |  xBA: .220     SLG: 459  |  xSLG: 366     wOBA: 350  |  xwOBA: 302

These variances were among the league leaders for players with at least 500 plate appearances in all three categories. While the reigning Rookie of the Year should still be a decent power/speed combo player in 2022, spending a fifth or sixth-round draft pick on him could lead to disappointment.

Jared Walsh (1B/OF – LAA)
2021 VBR (Hitters):  54   |   2022 ADP (Hitters):  71   |   2022 ADP (All):  113

Walsh’s “Expected Outcomes” portrayed a lucky 2021 as well:

BA: .277  |  xBA: .255     SLG: 509  |  xSLG: 433     wOBA: 357  |  xwOBA: 325

His slugging variance is the most concerning, as his Home Run/Fly Ball (HR/FB) percentage of 25.4% was also on the high side. So there’s a chance his HR totals will dip next season, though, for the record, the Zeile Consensus Projections don’t think they will. Based on his ADP, it seems that fantasy managers are already a bit wary that Walsh can repeat his success in 2022. Just don’t reach for him.

Javier Baez (2B/SS – DET)
2021 VBR (Hitters):  28   |   2022 ADP (Hitters):  48   |   2022 ADP (All):  74

Like Arozarena, Baez made the list of high BABIP players from 2021. As noted in the article, though, this is not overly concerning as high BABIP’s are a trend for him. More concerning is his 28.2% HR/FB ratio from 2021. His previous high was 24.4% in 2019, and his career average is 21% (including last season). Adding to this, his new home ballpark in Detroit is one of the worst for allowing home runs. Buyers beware, as much of Baez’s fantasy value is tied to the long ball.

Yuli Gurriel (1B – HOU)
2021 VBR (Hitters):  46   |   2022 ADP (Hitters):  122   |   2022 ADP (All):  198

Gurriel is a good hitter, but he’d never cleared .300 until last season when his .319 average led the American League. A .336 BABIP aided him, as his xBA was only .271. His ADP reflects fantasy managers’ doubts, so follow their lead. Don’t be fooled into thinking he can pace your BA category in 2022.

PITCHERS

Walker Buehler (SP – LAD)
2021 VBR (Pitchers):  2   |   2022 ADP (Pitchers):  3   |   2022 ADP (All):  12

Let me first say that Buehler is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. That said, he’s probably not worth the 12th overall pick, as he likely won’t put up the kind of numbers he did in 2021. In addition to ERA, there are several other “ERA Estimators” out there for pitchers to measure overall effectiveness. Some of the more popular ones include FIP, xFIP, xERA, and SIERA (click the links for detailed explanations). Buehler was good last season by all measures, just not as good as his ERA of 2.47. The other estimators ranged between 3.10 and 3.73. He was also high on a few other data points, including the low BABIP of .247 against him and a high strand rate (LOB%) of 81%. He’s still a great pitcher, but let someone else grab him in the late first or early second round.

Adam Wainwright (SP – STL)
2021 VBR (Pitchers):  9   |   2022 ADP (Pitchers):  64   |   2022 ADP (All):  162

Wainwright turned back the clock last season with an incredible effort. However, early drafters aren’t buying it because his ERA Estimators ranged between 3.66 and 4.13 vs. his ERA of 3.05. He also had a .256 BABIP against him and a somewhat high strand rate of 78.4%. He’ll also turn 41 during the season. Draft him as a disposable back-end of the rotation starter and you’ll be fine, but don’t expect him to repeat his 2021.

Mark Melancon (RP – ARI)
2021 VBR (Pitchers):  47   |   2022 ADP (Pitchers):  62   |   2022 ADP (All):  153

Most were surprised by Melancon’s effectiveness as the Padres closer last year. No one predicted he would lead the league in saves. But he did, and he carried a low 2.23 ERA with him. However, it appears some luck was involved, as the estimators ranged from 3.36 to 4.24. Surely pitching in the friendly confines of Petco Park helped, a luxury he won’t have in 2022 at Chase Field in Arizona.

Kenley Jansen (RP – FA)
2021 VBR (Pitchers):  31   |   2022 ADP (Pitchers):  41   |   2022 ADP (All):  106

In some ways, Jansen was underappreciated last season due to a few high-profile blowup outings. A deeper dive causes some consternation, however. In particular, the BABIP against him was an extraordinarily low .213. He was also fortunate with the long ball, as his HR/FB ratio was only 6%. Should he leave the Dodgers in free agency, his fantasy value could plummet depending on his landing spot anyway. But even if he’s back, he’ll continue to make his fantasy managers nervous.

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