Throughout the 2022 fantasy baseball season, I will be posting your in-season Top 100 Hitters. These rankings will be kept up to date and posted every other week with a continuation of deep dives on the movers and shakers in the off weeks. As we roll up to the season, I will be slowly introducing the Top 100 Hitters and adjusting them for all the spring training action. To get us started as we dig into these rankings, we will preview the Top 10 hitters for the 2022 fantasy baseball season. This will be a mix of the usual suspects and up and coming stars.
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As we dive into the top 10 there are a few notes we need to call out about the general shifting of the landscape in traditional 5×5 fantasy baseball. The game has continued to change and therefore how we need to value players shifts as well:
- Over the past 10 years, we have seen scoring increase nearly 6% with an increase in home runs of over 30%. In 2021, we had 40 players with 30+ dingers compared to merely 23 players in our look back at 2011.
- At the same time batting average has dropped over 10 points. This combined with the power metrics above means we have more and more mashers available in the draft. Oftentimes this masher will come with a significant batting average penalty.
- As many of you know, speed has been a scarcity in recent seasons. In the past decade, steals have been cut by nearly one third. Last year only 6 players breached the 30 steal threshold which is down significantly from the 17 in 2021.
So why should we care about this? Well, the top of the draft is one of the few places that speed can be found without a significant deficit to other categories such as power or average. This has never been more apparent than the first gentleman in our Top 10.
1. Trea Turner – Turner has been a first round mainstay for years due to his speed, but since 2018 he has also been growing into his power. Add in a lethal Dodgers lineup and multi-position eligibility and there is nothing not to like. In 2022, it would not be out of the question to see him deliver a 30/40 line upon a .320 average and delivering 110 runs to boot.
2. Jose Ramirez – If Ramirez simply repeated his 2021 season with a little regression to the mean on his BABIP, we are looking at a 35/25 line with 100+ runs and RBI with a .275 average. That will certainly fill up the stat sheet and be a plus contributor in every category. I would not mind if a change of scenery resulted in a little lineup protection for Jose.
3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – I had to go with a slight deviation here on the need for speed with Vladdy Jr. For a kid that just turned 23, he does have one pretty Statcast chart. He is in the top 2% of the league in xBA, average exit velocity, maximum exit velocity, hard hit rate, and the list goes on. It is a matter of if and not when Vladimir will put up a .310 season with 50 home runs and 125 RBI. Who needs speed when you can trot around the bases.
4. Bo Bichette – Staying in Toronto, we get back to some balance across the stat sheet with Bichette. Another young star that may be still growing into his potential, Bo will not let you down. While I do not expect much growth on his 25 home run power we saw last year, put me on the record for 35 steals and .300 average. Did you know he was 25 for 26 on the base paths last year?
5. Kyle Tucker – I expect I will be the high man on Kyle Tucker this year, but there is too much to like here. Tucker saw improvements in his exit velocity, batting average, launch angle, plate discipline, and other categories last year. We already know he is a 30 homer bat with a .300 average. To justify this position, he will need to increase those steals closer to 25 than 15 which he can do if he is given the green light.
6. Juan Soto – If I am starting a real word baseball squad, Juan Soto is probably pick #1 considering he is maybe the best pure hitter in the league at just 23 years old. Speaking of beautiful Statcast charts, Soto puts everybody else to shame. He has the ability to hit .350 with 30 homers. The downfall is that the Nationals lineup will limit his counting stats and he should not really be that much of a threat on the base paths. The 9 steals last year were nice, but considering he was caught 7 times, he is probably best to stay put. I know I will hear about this one in the comments!
7. Shohei Ohtani – Why do I have a guy that went 46/26 with over 100 runs and RBI a piece last year in the middle of the first round? Simply put, he has a number of risk factors to overcome and deliver a similar season. Do we like the impressive walk rate or the league leading exit velocity? Sure. What about the 30% strikeout rate or the unsustainable HR/FB rate? Maybe not. Ohtani is a special talent and he will not fall off the map, but there is risk here that certainly includes the additional injury risk presented by pitching.
8. Bryce Harper – Harper had an outstanding season in 2021 and has the potential to be the first guy on this list at year end. However, there are two key items holding him back. The first is that he plays the game hard and therefore tends to risk injury and miss time. Second of all, he is just plain inconsistent. Is he going to hit .250 or .300 this year? Is he going to steal 15 bases or 5? I wish I knew…
9. Mike Trout – Speaking of injury risk, it seems like Mike Trout has had nagging injuries for a few years now. He is said to be fully healthy heading into the season, but I am hedging my bets. While he may be the best player of a generation or longer, from a 2022 fantasy baseball perspective, we are looking at a Bryce Harper with less speed.
10. Luis Robert – Robert is certainly a gamble based on two partial seasons. That said, there were some significant improvements between those two seasons. Between 2020 and 2021, Robert dropped his strikeout rate over 10 points. Extrapolating his 2021 season, we see a 30/15 hitter with. .300+ batting average. Still young and growing into the league, there is upside beyond those 2021 numbers.
There we have it, the Top 10 Hitters for the 2022 fantasy baseball season. There will be much debate and I guarantee all of these hitters will have some value. Is it first round value? Well, that is why they play the game. Let the debate begin.