Fantasy Baseball Bold Predictions for 2022

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – APRIL 12: Taylor Ward #3 of the Los Angeles Angels bats against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 12, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

If you’re like me you’ve had enough of the “star player X out plays star player Y” bold prediction type.

Forgive me, but I don’t find it terribly bold to expect well known, star players to perform a little better or a little worse than they have before. Bold is “Corbin Burnes reverts back to his 2019 form” or “Vlad Guerrero Jr. doesn’t hit 20 home runs.”

Bold can also be something different. A prediction of high performance from a player few people are touting is bold. And what I find most interesting about a prediction like that isn’t so much the prediction itself – these aren’t projections, after all – but it’s the rationale behind it that draws attention to someone otherwise unworthy of our focus. 

So with that in mind I give you my Fantasy Baseball Bold Predictions for 2022:

One of the players Oakland acquired this Offseason will outperform Matt Olson or Matt Chapman

Matt Olson is a bonafide star player and Matt Chapman is likely on the positive end of many bold predictions this spring. But one of them will produce less than one of the players Oakland received in trades this offseason. That player will be Kevin Smith who was part of the return from Toronto for Chapman.

My thinking is tied to three things: 1). High expectations for Olson 2). Overexcitement for Chapman’s change of scenery and 3). Kevin Smith’s almost bottomless opportunity. 

Not only was Olson acquired to anchor the Atlanta Braves’ lineup, the Braves offered him life changing money to play for them for years to come. With great cash comes great responsibility. That’s the saying, right? In all seriousness it’s likely that Olson just keeps doing what he’s doing and in front of his hometown crowd. But if he’s only the Olson of 2018-2019 then he’s a good-not-great hitter who doesn’t steal bases and who matters less in leagues that don’t count walks or OBP. 

With Chapman it’s more about his decline the past couple of seasons and the flaws in his game. Chapman is my absolute favorite player in baseball. He’s the best defensive third baseman I’ve ever seen and truly has 30-home run power. But there’s a chance that’s all you get and those home runs come with a low batting average, no speed, and that keeps him batting in the bottom 7 of the order. After carrying enormous strikeout rates in the minor leagues it appeared Chapman corrected his swing-and-miss ways upon reaching the big leagues. But the strikeouts returned with a vengeance in 2020 and weren’t addressed in 2021. His fly ball rate has also skyrocketed (no pun intended) resulting in a lower batting average. And I’ll say again: there’s little to no speed here. Not that Chapman isn’t a good runner, he just isn’t a base stealer. 

That leads me to Smith. He is completely unproven, doesn’t have a sparkly prospect pedigree, and he’ll bat in the bottom half of possibly the weakest lineup in baseball. But there are plenty of opportunities in Oakland this season. Opportunity to play and opportunity to move up in the order should something click for Smith. The standout tool for Smith here is his speed. 29 swipes in 2018, 11 in 2019, and 18 more in 2021 suggests there’s certainly double-digit speed at the major league level, and perhaps he finds his way to 20+ steals. He’s also always had power. Smith’s minor league ISO ranged from .193 to .284 at his five stops in four years.There is a legitimate 20+ HR, 15+ SB bat just waiting to emerge from that rebuilding Oakland lineup. And as I’ll touch on a bit later, The 20 HR/15 SB threshold isn’t as common as you might think. If Smith joins that club with even a decent average you could be looking at a final stat line similar to that of Trevor Story or Javier Baez last year. 

Bobby Dalbec becomes a 2023 3rd Round Pick

My thinking here is simple: Dalbec continues his torrid 2021 second half and bats .260 with 35 home runs and 180 R+RBI. I wrote about Delbec a lot here and you might notice who the aforementioned predicted stats resemble. Teoscar Hernandez is projected for between 32 and 36 home runs, a .256-.268 AVG, and between 174 and 202 R+RBI. He’s going in the top-3 rounds by NFBC ADP. 

The Boston lineup is potent and Dalbec will have plenty of run scoring opportunities, even batting in the bottom half. If he cuts his strikeout rate like he did in the second half of last season then I think he can get close to the .269 average he also posted in the summer of 2021. This is Matt Olson-lite and I think the price will reflect that next year.

Harrison Bader hits 20+ homers, steals 15+ bases

In 2021 only 15 players hit 20 or more homers and stole 15 or more bases. In his last 526 PAs Bader hit 20 home runs and stole 12 bases. He reached double-digit home runs and steals in 2018, 2019, and 2021 but he hasn’t exceeded 427 PAs in a single season. This is the year Bader receives 600+ PAs and breaks out as a reliable power/speed fantasy contributor.

 I’ve written a lot about him here but the bottom line is I think the power output is legitimate, he possesses elite speed, and his elite defense should keep him in the lineup everyday when healthy. He might not hit higher than 6th in the order but that will still be enough for 140-150 R+RBI to go along with the home runs and steals. 

Tyler Wells finishes as Baltimore’s best SP

You know who had an awesome spring training being stretched out to start? Tyler Wells. Do you know who was an awesome starting pitcher in the minor leagues? Tyler Wells. Do you know who has a confirmed rotation spot on a team desperate for pitching? Tyler Wells. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Tyler Wells is primed for a breakout and it’s possible you haven’t heard of him before. The former rule-5 draft pick finished 2021 on the injured list, but before that he notched a handful of saves and heading into 2022 was seemingly penciled in as Baltimore’s closer. 

In real baseball a good starting pitcher is typically more valuable than a good reliever, even a closer. So it makes a lot of sense for Baltimore to give the former starter another shot at starting. After all, he was quite good the last time he was a starter even if it was just the minor leagues.

Now for the prediction part. This one is less about quality and more about quantity.

Let’s say Wells is a good starter — Is he really better than John Means? What about the prospects? Well, Grayson Rodriguez might be the best pitching prospect in baseball but he’s still just that. A prospect. Not that I expect him to flame out but it’s unclear when he’ll be up this season and how many innings he’ll throw. That’s unclear for Wells too, but it’s certain he’s in the Orioles rotation as of now. And for Means, well, he’s a good-not-great pitcher who has never posted a FIP below 4.62, struck out a batter per inning, or pitched more than 155 innings. Maybe this is the year he puts it all together but I prefer Wells’ skills. Plus Wells 106.4/119.2/106.7  Stuff+/Location+/Pitching+, according to The Athletic’s Eno Sarris, bests Means’ 90.7/102.9/95.5 by a good margin. 

I don’t anticipate Wells throwing much more than 120 innings, but projections say he’ll strike out more than a batter per inning and The Bat has his ERA down at 4.25, compared to Means 4.50 ERA projections. If given comparable innings totals I think Wells is by far the better pitcher. 

Taylor Ward Finishes as the Second Best Angels OF in Fantasy

Perhaps this was a bolder choice a week ago, before the Angels cut Justin Upton loose and Joe Maddon named Ward their regular right fielder.

This is simply a matter of opportunity and I think Ward has one. Ward demonstrated last season (and then again this spring) that he is an above-average hitter, even if only slightly. He ended 2021 with a 111 wRC+, league average plate discipline, and league average power. He isn’t a big base stealer, but he has mid-20s home run power and will hit for a good enough average in a strong lineup. 

Projections all say he’ll duplicate last season’s output, although in a limited role. But if we are to trust Maddon (and I’m not fully sure we should) Ward’s final numbers might look awfully similar to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (21 HR,146 R+RBI, .276 AVG) , except you aren’t spending a top-150 pick on Ward.

This prediction hinges on two things: 1). Ward’s ability to replicate his 2021 per-game output and 2). Jo Adell’s ineptitude.

I’m not an Adell believer. There is so much raw talent in his bat, but it’s just that: raw. The combination of power and speed is certainly tantalizing, but Adell’s inability to make contact pushes his floor down so far that Ward seems like the better every day option for a team with playoff aspirations.

Let’s hear your bold prediction! Leave a comment or find me on Twitter @JoeyThomasD.

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