Fantasy Baseball Category Analysis: Connor Joe, Anthony Bender, Brandon Nimmo (2022)
Week one is already in the books! Well, it was more of a weekend, really, but still, it was glorious to see meaningful baseball being played once again. A handful of roster decisions were revealed, and some closer situations were somewhat cleared up. While some managerial decisions raised a few eyebrows, fantasy players need to note who is starting, where in the order guys are hitting, and who’s been phased out to more of a platoon situation.
There are still more than a few league winners waiting patiently on the waiver wire this early in the season. While they may be available in most leagues now, they could quickly shoot up to 85 percent rostership by the end of the month. So don’t delay! Now is the time to pay close attention and grab those undervalued players who will make a significant difference throughout the season.
These 10 players are all rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues. Many will contribute handily across multiple categories, but their most substantial contributions will likely come in the category under which they are listed.
There is one player on this list that I am incredibly excited about, and I think it will become quite clear once you reach his section.
McNeil brought his big boy bat with him to kick off the year. With six hits, a walk, and only one strikeout, McNeil’s hot start brings back memories of his earlier successes. Those who drafted him are hoping for the 2019 version again and over the opening series, the Mets second baseman looked every bit the part. Buck Showalter named McNeil his everyday second baseman early in Spring, taking a bit of the pressure off and allowing McNeil to settle into his most natural position. His excellent start was against the Nationals, but I expect McNeil to flirt with .300 again this year. Claim him now to boost your average.
A slimmed-down and more fit Sandtander opened the season with a towering bomb off Rays’ reliever, Matt Wisler (RP – TB). Wisler gave up just two home runs last season while limiting opponents to a 0.92 WHIP. While the home run was impressive, it was the only run the Orioles scored all game. He may not have the most productive line in terms of RBI and runs scored considering the talent around him, but Santander could be in for a solid season.
After the home run on Opening Day, he continued his impressive start by adding two more hits against the Rays’ proficient staff, plus an HBP.
The Orioles’ outfielder had a down year in 2021 after missing almost a third of the season due to injury (although he still hit 18 home runs). However, he was a consistent power threat the two years prior, totaling 31 long balls over 533 at-bats. He’s off to a good start and batting third in Baltimore’s lineup puts him in the most beneficial spot. Add the switch-hitting Santander now if your team is lacking thump.
Fantasy circles ignored Joe ignored all off-season. Come draft day, I knew I would have no problem obtaining his services because he wasn’t on anyone’s radar. He was ranked well beyond the top 300 and was being drafted in under 8 percent of leagues. Well, for those willing to dig a little deeper, the writing was on the wall for the Rockies’ first baseman/outfielder long ago.
Joe’s Minor League numbers were exemplary. It’s something to note whenever a young player shows the ability to walk and strike out at nearly the same rate while also producing above-average power. Not only did Joe walk often and hit for well over .300, he did it for multiple organizations, and mashed consistently for over a .200 ISO. The Rockies eventually had no choice but to call him up, where at 29 years old, Joe raked from day one. He hit so well he earned a regular role atop the lineup, where the USD alum hit for a .848 OPS and a 116 wRC+ over 63 MLB games.
This season, I made sure to follow Joe closely throughout Spring Training. I wanted to see if his success would carry over and if his approach looked similar at the plate. He did not disappoint. Joe crushed for a ridiculous .412 batting average, with a .500 OBP and .647 SLG over 40 plate appearances. He also knocked in eight runs and walked more than he K’d (five to four).
In the regular season, Joe has started both games against righties so far, despite being a right-handed hitter. In the first game of the Dodgers series, Joe singled and worked a walk-off of Dodgers’ ace Walker Buehler (SP – LAD). He hit an eighth-inning, game-tying home run off of sinkerball specialist Blake Treinen (RP – LAD) (whose career HR/9 is 0.60) in game two. He finished the night with two hits and two RBIs.
The San Diego native is leaps and bounds ahead of Sam Hilliard (OF – COL), Garrett Hampson (2B, OF – COL), and Yonathan Daza (OF – COL) in terms of hitting talent and should continue to start daily. Playing in Coors will obviously help his production, as will hitting directly behind a handful of solid on-base guys. Add Joe everywhere available as he could be one of the year’s biggest surprises.
He did it! After an impressive Spring, the young Padres’ phenom made the opening day roster. The youthful 21-year-old will likely take his lumps over the early portion of the season and may sit against some lefties, but as the old saying goes, speed never slumps.
One of the only players in the Major Leagues with an 80-speed rating, look for Abrams to run every opportunity he gets. He already tried to swipe his first bag on Opening Day, but his 24 mile-per-hour sprint speed took him over the bag (he would have been safe). The young man is lightening on the bases and, with Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, OF – SD) out until midsummer, expect Abrams to play more often than not. The Padres didn’t bring him up to sit on the bench!
If he struggles, there’s a chance he’s sent back down when rosters are reduced to 26 at the end of the month, but my gut says he’ll do enough on both sides of the ball to remain on the roster. If your team lacks speed, turn your attention to the young blue-chip speedster in San Diego.
Nimmo. Nimmo. Nimmo. Nimmo. Nimmo. I’ll say his name 100 times if I have to. Give me Brandon Nimmo in every and all leagues this year. He missed Opening Day with a slight neck issue, but he is not going to platoon and is going to bat leadoff nearly every day.
With his profile, Nimmo could easily lead the league in runs scored. No one outside of Bryce Harper (OF – PHI) or Juan Soto (OF – WAS) has matched his OBP over the last few years and with the Mets revamped lineup hitting behind him, the sky is the limit. In Nimmo’s first two games to start the season, he reached base five times and scored three runs. I know I mentioned him last week under this same category, but seeing how his rostership is still at a pathetic 13 percent, I had to spotlight him again.
Marco Gonzales belongs on the annual “All Boring Team.” But you know what? He wins games. Last season, over his final 10 starts of the year, Gonzales was the winning pitcher of record seven times. He also won seven games in just 11 starts in the shortened 2020 season. And in 2019, he secured 16 victories, finishing fifth in the American League. The Mariners’ bullpen is fantastic, and their much-improved lineup should offer plenty of run support. Gonzales isn’t exciting, and his ceiling is limited, but he provides a safe floor and will earn you a sizable number of wins.
Bailey Ober’s still available! If Nimmo can make this list twice, then so can Ober. The 6’9″ behemoth does nothing but throw strikes. Sometimes, too many, in fact! He’s around the dish so often that hitters take a hack more than 50 percent of the time. With hitters swinging so aggressively, Ober gives up his fair share of home runs and earns a lot of strikeouts.
Homers aside, Ober could easily produce a WHIP under 1.20 and a K/9 north of 9.0. Those two numbers alone make him worthy of an add in most leagues, even with an ERA hovering around 4. I’ll be tuning in on Sunday to observe his start against the M’s and from there I’ll consider whether I want to start him in Boston later this week. Even if I keep him on the bench for that one (although I’m leaning towards starting him), Ober should be a valuable piece throughout the entire season.
Are you feeling lucky? Last year, Matt Brash had some of the nastiest stuff in the Minor Leaguer. With a devastating slider, filthy curveball, and high 90’s fastball, the smaller framed Brash put up some gaudy strikeout numbers. He struck out 12 this Spring in a little over nine innings while limiting batters to just three hits and two walks. It will be his first taste of action above Double-A this week as he makes his first MLB start, but the gambler in me says to add him now even if you have to drop a more established, but lower-ceiling player.
I want to put Tylor Megill (SP – NYM) here but seeing as he has to take on the Phillies on the road this week, I’ll go with Houser instead. Houser has one of the best ground ball rates in baseball. And while he may not be as flashy as his teammates with high strikeout totals, Houser keeps the ball in the yard and rarely has a bad outing. Last season over the righty’s final ten games, he gave up 11 earned runs (51.2 IP).
Overshadowed by the rest of the Brewers staff, Houser has flown under the radar for the past two seasons. His sinker is second to none and should be added everywhere for his two-start week, kicking off with a tasty matchup against the Orioles.
Well, Don Mattingly didn’t heed my warning and went with Bender to close Opening Day which cost him another game. The fact that he went right back to him the following day shows precisely what kind of confidence he has in his young reliever. Bender has the stuff to close but fell a bit short in the role last year. Dylan Floro (RP – MIA) could eventually earn back his closer title, but with a bum shoulder, it could be a while. Plus, if Bender proves capable, which I believe he is, it’s highly unlikely they move away from him.
The Marlins are going to play in a lot of close games this year which could result in Bender finishing as a top 10 RP.
Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.