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8 Must-Have Players (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 18, 2022

Spring Training is officially underway, marking the true start of fantasy baseball draft season. Each new season brings the hope of a title to every team, the fans and fantasy baseball managers. However, a gigantic first step in achieving that fantasy championship is nailing the draft, and your chances of doing so move up when you take the players you genuinely believe are primed for a breakout season.

Taking “your guys” and honing in on upside as the draft progresses maximizes your chance at getting the high-value studs who push your squad into title contention. Those who took Julio Urias or Marcus Semien in 2021 likely experienced this themselves. That said, our featured analysts are back today to share who their must-haves are as we enter the season. Read on to see which breakout candidates you shouldn’t pass on.

For even more fantasy baseball draft prep advice, check out our 2022 MLB Draft Kit >>

Q1. Who is the one hitter outside the top 50 in hitter ADP you are targeting as a must-have on all your teams and why?

Bryan Reynolds (OF – PIT): ADP – 59th Hitter and 91st Overall
“It’s without a doubt Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates at ADP 91 overall. If you just look at the line (93 Rs/24 HRs/90 RBIs/5 SBs/.302 BA) that’s a slam dunk top-25 player. Yet because he plays for the lowly Pirates, no one cares. Well, I care! He makes great contact, is a five-category contributor and the Pirates may actually be a better offense than last year. Cedric Mullins at 33rd overall may steal more bags, but he won’t match Reynolds’ HRs and RBIs totals. I’d rather have Reynolds for less.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Bryan Reynolds is the easy target for me among hitters going outside the top 50 in FantasyPros’ hitter ADP. He has as high of a floor as any hitter going outside the top-two rounds of drafts as well as a high ceiling. Reynolds added power last season while not sacrificing any batting average. He hit 24 home runs with 93 runs and 90 RBIs in a putrid Pirates lineup. Factor in a .302/.390/.522 slash and you have the makings of a very valuable fantasy hitter.”
– Chris Clegg (Fantrax)

Kris Bryant (1B/3B/OF – COL): ADP – 54th Hitter and 82nd Overall
“Is it cheating to go with Bryant now that we know he’s landed in Coors? At this moment his hitter ADP is 54th, which makes him eligible for this survey, but I am sticking with him here because that number now could easily climb 20 spots, and with justification. He’s had one bad year, which was limited by injury. One bad year when almost every year of his career has been hampered by something ailing him. One bad year for the man we used to say could beat Chuck Norris in a fight. And now he goes to Coors, where we’ve seen batting averages inflated by anywhere from 30-50 points? If he can get 150 games in (especially now that there’s an NL DH), I would be somewhat shocked if he didn’t produce a line in the range of .315/40/120/110/10. That would easily be good for a top-30 player, thus making any date of this posting a value for where he has been going.”
– Andy Singleton (Expand The Boxscore)

Kris Bryant was likely to wind up on the majority of my rosters even before news broke that he signed with Colorado. His ADP will no doubt rise in the wake of that development, but Bryant has averaged something like .280-100-30-85-8 in his five healthy seasons, so the helium will have to carry him pretty far up the board before I’m hesitant to call his name.”
– Kyle Bishop (RotoBaller)

Jonathan India (2B – CIN): ADP – 61st Hitter and 94th Overall
“My first thought for this question was Jarred Kelenic, but I’ve already written about him a ton this offseason. Instead, I’ll go with Jonathan India. Despite breaking out last year, fantasy managers are slightly fading him this draft season, perhaps because they don’t believe he can replicate his 2021 campaign. I actually think he can be better in 2022 and could steal more bases on what looks like a bad Reds team. India is a five-category contributor who isn’t being drafted until the seventh or eighth round.”
– Mike Maher (FantasyPros)

Q2. Who is the one starting pitcher outside the top 30 in starting pitcher ADP you are targeting as a must-have on all your teams and why?

Tanner Houck (BOS): ADP – 63rd Starting Pitcher and 201st Overall
“Whilst the Yankee in me is born to hate Boston players, the soon-to-be 26-year-old has TONS to offer. Currently being drafted as the 63rd overall starting pitcher, he turned in 69 innings of his ‘rookie’ season bouncing between the pen and 13 starts. The benchmarks I look for in fantasy pitching are GB% (+45%) + K/9 (+12/9) + HR% (~1). Had he qualified, his K/9 of 11.35 would have placed sixth, his ground ball rate of 48.2% would have been 12th, his 0.52 home runs allowed would have been good for second, and his swinging strike rate of 13.4% would have landed him ninth. Those numbers weren’t amongst rookies or even the American League — it was for all of baseball. He’s currently locked in as Boston’s fifth starter, but even a relief role still offers value. Plus, his 6’5″/230 frame is made to eat innings. I like him more in a starting role, but the versatility to plug into a RP spot is icing on this cake.”
– Andy Singleton (Expand The Boxscore)

Sonny Gray (MIN): ADP – 47th Starting Pitcher and 150th Overall
“Now that he has been traded out of Cincinnati, Gray is a prime target and is the 47th starting pitcher off draft boards. Last season, he pitched just 135.1 innings due to injuries, but had a 4.19 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. His FIP of 3.99 and SIERA of 3.85 suggest he pitched better than his actual ERA indicated, which is not surprising considering the Reds’ poor infield defense. Looking at his splits, Gray had a 4.89 ERA at home and a 3.44 ERA on the road. The move to the Twins should be a significant value increase for Gray.”
– Chris Clegg (Fantrax)

Clayton Kershaw (LAD): ADP – 37th Starting Pitcher and 124th Overall
“For the first time in a long time, I’m going to have a ton of Kershaw shares this season. Yes, he’s turning 34 years old and, yes, there’s a significant injury history there. But those things are baked into his price. He may only throw 150 innings in 2022, but they’re going to be 150 really good innings for what will once again be an excellent Dodgers team. The days of Kershaw being a fantasy ace are behind us, but let me be the one to welcome you to the era of ‘Clayton Kershaw as a mid-round value.’ Come on in. The water’s fine.”
– Mike Maher (FantasyPros)

Justin Verlander (HOU): ADP – 33rd Starting Pitcher and 105th Overall
“Verlander as SP33 right now is bound to climb the ladder with a few spring training starts. He’s had a long time off to recover and the Astros are once again the favorite in the division. The last time we saw Verlander, he struck out 300 guys. I’ll take my chances with the HOFer who could easily end up being the ace of my fantasy rotation. He’s a great target if you go early offense in your draft.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Joe Ryan (MIN): ADP – 65th Starting Pitcher and 215th Overall
“Ryan only made five starts for the Twins last year, but he did what he’s done at every other level — strike out lots of hitters while hardly walking anyone. He’ll need to trust his secondary offerings a little more and get the home runs under control, but the building blocks are there for a leap in 2022.”
– Kyle Bishop (RotoBaller)

Thank you to the experts for sharing their must-have players. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter for more advice all season and check out our latest podcast below.

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