It’s a fun exercise every year to stare into the crystal ball and see what magical feats might be in store for the ensuing campaign. This preseason, I dusted off my fortune-telling sphere and gazed into its depths, only to see a reflection of Grey sipping boba in the living room armchair behind me. I jumped up in startled disbelief like a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt meeting Christopher Lloyd at the ballpark for the first time. By the time I came to my senses, the mysterious Grey was nowhere to be found, except for a few scribbled notes left behind on his boba receipt telling tales of sensational predictions for the 2022 fantasy baseball season. So without further adieu, let’s get to a handful of those bold predictions, featuring lofty expectations for the likes of Tanner Houck, Gleyber Torres, and more.

1. Tanner Houck strikes out 200 batters and finishes as a top-25 starting pitcher.

In his first 86 major league innings, Houck has a 163 ERA+ with an 11.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and 0.5 HR/9. He’s also a former first-round pick, having gone 24th overall to the Red Sox out of Missouri in 2017. This is a one-time blue-chip prospect coming into his own, and entering his third year in the big leagues. Seeing as he’s penned into the Boston starting rotation and made 13 of 18 appearances in a starting role last year, he should be able to accumulate enough innings to make this prediction a reality as long as he stays healthy. In 2021, Houck ranked inside the top 23% of pitchers in average exit velocity (82nd percentile), hard-hit rate (77th), xwOBA (85th), xERA (85th), xBA (81st), xSLG (83rd), K% (87th) and whiff rate (81st). A quick search of “Houck” on Urban Dictionary retrieves the result, “a d-bag chemistry teacher that has a really shiny forehead,” but other than that, what’s not to like? Oh yeah, and be sure to check out Grey’s Tanner Houck sleeper. I read it while dining with not two, but three princes at the local Bojangles.

2. Jonathan India hits .280+ with 25+ home runs while turning in a top-five finish at second base.

Before writing this, I took a quick peek at FantasyPros’ consensus rankings just to see where the industry was on India. His current ECR has him as the No. 11 second baseman, peaking at No. 7 with his floor at No. 14. How can a 25-year old who just ran away with NL Rookie of the Year honors after batting .269/.376/.459 with 21 homers and 12 steals be at best the seventh-best player at the position this season? Are Whit Merrifield, Jose Altuve, Brandon Lowe, Javier Baez, Ketel Marte, and Jorge Polanco really that good? The answer is no, guys and one girl reader plus my mom. As a rookie, India ranked in the 86th percentile of qualifying hitters in chase rate. Like Houck, India is a former top prospect, holding status as the No. 5 overall selection in 2018. Yet, after 2021 he produced, Steamer is projecting him for 24 homers (three more) and a .258/.356/.447 slash line — which would represent a decline in all three categories. I’m buying on India being one of the future faces of the position. Hopefully, this works out better for me than it did for Jon Hamm.

3. Gleyber Torres finishes as a top-10 second baseman and shortstop while popping 30+ homers.

We all know Torres had a poop year in 2021, the kind you can only compare to a child flinging dung around the restaurant changing room while you’re just trying to clean yourself off and get back to your broiled salmon. He batted just .259/.331/.366 with six homers and 14 steals. We also know that he hit .289/.338/.456 with six homers and 12 doubles in the second half, and showed further improvement in September while playing primarily second base. As a stats nut, I’m not going to tell you all of Torres’ problems are a direct result of him playing a position (shortstop) he isn’t capable of handling at the MLB level, as the underlying metrics tell a similarly gruesome tale, but it was certainly a factor. With him now expected to handle primary second base duties, expect the numbers to reflect totals closer to his 2021 second half and then some, as it’s my belief the true Gleyber lies somewhere between that post-All-Star output and his outstanding 2019 season. With his current ADP of 174, that makes Torres a steal, and he holds a valuable floor in the middle infield positions with the counting numbers that should come with Yankee Stadium and the New York lineup — especially once he regains dual SS/2B eligibility on certain platforms.

4. Brandon Woodruff ends the season as the top-ranked pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers roster.

Okay, okay. I get it. All three arms (Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta) are studs. They all have ace-caliber stuff. Would it really be a shock to anyone if they finished the year in any particular order? Not necessarily. But if you’re reading this, then you know as well as I that Razzball is the go-to place for starting pitching rankings, not to mention all positional rankings. And in his top-20, Grey ranked Burnes at No. 1, Woodruff at No. 5, and Peralta at No. 9. I picked Woodruff to win the NL Cy Young last year, and I’m going to follow suit again in 2022. The metrics for Burnes are phenomenal, but I’ll take Woodruff’s innings with his respective numbers any day. He’s in the top 19% of baseball in average exit velocity (92nd), hard-hit rate (90th), xwOBA (83rd), xERA (83rd), barrel rate (81st), strikeout rate (86th), walk rate (81st), chase rate (88th) and fastball velo (89th). Yes, Burnes outperforms Woodruff in virtually all of those metrics, save for an advantage for Woodruff in fastball velocity. However, I’ll take Woodruff’s advantage in the innings department and deeper track record baked in with his discount price (relative to Burnes), and live with the consequences. This is the only prediction that is at odds with Grey’s rankings, but also the least bold of the predictions laid out in this post.

5. Jesse Winker (top-20 OF) and Eugenio Suarez (top-10 3B) will be among the best draft values in fantasy baseball.

So, a lot of my 2022 draft strategy has revolved around buying on a select handful of players whose 2021 output cannot be used as a direct reference point due to revised situations for this season: Torres, Winker, and Suarez — just to name a few. Here’s what Grey said about Winker while rankings him 29th in his Top 40 Outfielders for 2022 Fantasy Baseball: “Winker appeared to be a top 20 overall player at the break last year. Then he got hurt and everyone forgot about him. Another less-than-casual reminder, his numbers at the break were 19/.301. He looked like a 30/.300 hitter. He only played 28 games after the break, and he hit .317, but with only five homers. Wait, five homers in 28 games isn’t bad. That’s a 30-homer pace. Once again, are you discounting a guy due to injury history? Don’t do that. That’s what we did to Hobbs, before he proved us wrong with a breakout 2021 campaign while sporting the best hair of any writer on staff.” Honestly, I don’t have a ton more to add, other than the fact that Grey must have confused me with another writer as I’ve had a buzz cut since 2017. But I expect Winker to return to his pre-ASG 2021 self this season, and if anything, the trade to Seattle is making him a better draft value based on ballpark factors. As for Suarez, I owned AY-YOU-HEENY-OH for two years from 2018-19. During that time, I not only enjoyed yelling his name in bed while watching highlights after my girlfriend had fallen asleep, but I also absorbed how great of an all-around hitter he was. Those skills have disappeared the last two seasons, but I’m betting that they’re still hidden beneath the surface, and like Torres, a positional change should create some enhanced everyday comfortability leading to sustainable success. In layman’s terms, that means a batting average you can stomach while reaping the benefits of 30+ homer power.

That’s all for this week! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.

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LenFuego
LenFuego
8 months ago

Sure hope you’re right about Gleyber … he is ALL I have at 2B.

The Itch
8 months ago

Love the Suarez and Houck calls!

Nick
Nick
8 months ago

about options in Dynasty
i got Brujan 2B optioned to minors, Miranda 3B, but Suarez looks yummy at 3B, and i have Rendon to ,,, replace sonner or later

pick Suarez for ???

Post apocalypse scriptum : i got some HOUCK now!!

i don't want to brag but i have IBS
i don't want to brag but i have IBS
Reply to  Nick
8 months ago

if he’s into suarez as a bounce back that would still make rendon’s bounce back better