2021 Draft Recap: Round One (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

<2021 Draft Recap: Round One (2022 Fantasy Baseball)>

It’s January, and the fantasy football season has drawn to a close for most of us. So now is as good a time as any to start prepping for the fantasy baseball season! Hopefully MLB and the MLBPA will settle their differences soon so that the season can begin on time. In the meantime, we’re here to help you get ready for your draft.

An excellent place to start is by looking back to last year. Over the next several weeks, we’ll dig into the players drafted in the first five rounds of 2021. The objective is to re-acquaint you with the top players and hopefully come away with some perspective on how each player, and draft slot, should be treated this year.

Without further ado, let’s get started with Round One:

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1.01:  Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF – ATL)

Acuña was worthy of the #1 overall pick for the first half of the season until he tore his ACL in early July. In almost exactly half of the season, he slugged 24 HR’s, stole 17 bases, had 52 RBI’s, scored 72 runs, and batted .283. Most players would be happy with those stats for the season! Unfortunately, if you drafted him, that’s all you’d get as he didn’t play after July 10th.

Right now, we don’t know when Acuña will return or if the injury will affect his play when he does. He’s supposed to start baseball activities by February, but it seems unlikely he’ll be ready by the start of the season. Upon his return, his stolen base totals may drop, as it may take some time for his speed to recover. Acuña may still be worthy of a first-round pick if he’s trending towards being ready sooner rather than later, but his recovery is one to follow closely this Spring.

1.02:  Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS – SD)

Tatis had injury issues of his own in 2021, starting in spring training when he injured his shoulder shortly before the season began. His ADP dropped considerably in fantasy leagues that drafted late last year. However, if you ended up with him on your roster, you were probably quite pleased even though he only played 130 games and made a few trips to the IL. Forty-two homers, 25 stolen bases, 97 RBI’s, 99 runs, and a .282 batting average will get it done. He even gained OF eligibility in the process!

The big question for fantasy managers heading into 2022 is whether the injury risk is significant enough with Tatis to pass on him with the first overall pick. He decided to rehab his shoulder this off-season rather than have surgery. Whether that ends up being the right call, only time will tell. One thing we know for sure is that when this guy is on the field, he’s fantasy gold!

1.03:  Mookie Betts (OF – LAD)

Expectations were high for Betts coming off his incredible (albeit short) 2020 season. Many experts even had him ranked #1 overall preseason. Unfortunately for those that drafted him, he didn’t live up to those expectations in 2021. While his fantasy numbers weren’t terrible, they were far from what you’d want from a first-round draft pick. Injuries were at least partly responsible for Mookie’s lack of production. He played in only 122 games, hitting 23 HR’s, with 10 SB’s, 58 RBI’s, 93 runs, and a .264 BA. Perhaps most alarming was his lack of stolen bases, leaving us all to wonder whether his speed is starting to diminish.

Like Tatis, Betts looks like he’ll forego surgery (on his hip) this off-season and hope to come into Spring Training healthy and ready to go. A bounceback is certainly possible as Mookie is still only 29 years old and has excellent plate discipline. His days of 30 SB seasons may be behind him, though. Betts is probably still a first-round draft pick. However, in 2022, he’ll likely be selected closer to the end of the round.

1.04:  Juan Soto (OF – WAS)

Unlike the first three picks, Soto stayed relatively healthy in 2021, playing in 151 games. Through May, his production was disappointing as he only had 4 HRs and 16 RBIs. From June on, though, he was a monster and ended up an MVP finalist despite playing for a last-place team. His final tally was 29 HRs, 9 SBs, 111 Runs scored, 95 RBIs, and a .313 batting average.

There’s no reason to think the 23-year old Soto won’t continue to improve – which makes him a lock to go near the top of the draft again in 2022. He’s one of the best hitters in all of baseball and has a tremendous command of the strike zone. The only thing to fear is the lineup around him. The Nationals have a lot of work to do on their roster following their fire-sale at the trade deadline last year. If they cannot improve their depth, Soto may get pitched around a ton next season, which could hurt his counting stats.

1.05: Mike Trout (OF – LAA)

Mike Trout was off to another MVP-caliber season last year until mid-May when he suffered an injury to his calf. Most felt he’d be back around the all-star break, though a firm timetable for his recovery was never established. However, his rehab went slowly. By the time he probably could have come back, the Angels were long out of contention, and he shut himself down for the season. The worst part for fantasy managers was the uncertainty, as most who drafted him ended up stashing him for the better part of the year.

Trout is one of the all-time greats, and if he’s healthy, you can be confident he’ll produce. He doesn’t run much anymore but will contribute great numbers in all other categories. Unfortunately, the injury-prone tag can now be affixed to him as he hasn’t played in more than 140 games since 2016. Note: he played in 53 of the 60 games in 2020 – a 143-game pace extrapolated over a 162-game season. The injury risk is enough to make fantasy managers blink and could drop him out of the first round of drafts this season. He could end up a great value if he stays healthy. Or he could get hurt and miss significant time once again.

1.06:  Jacob deGrom (SP – NYM)

Jacob deGrom was the first pitcher off the board last year and looked like a bargain as the sixth overall pick. He was on a historic pace until, once again, injuries intervened. He spent a short time on the IL in May but returned quickly and kept dealing until early July when a partial tear of his UCL sent him to the IL for good. He tried hard to come back before the end of the season and probably could have, but much like Mike Trout, it didn’t make sense as the Mets were out of contention.

Will deGrom be the first pitcher drafted once again in 2022? Probably, but he’ll make his fantasy managers nervous. A partial tear could flare up again or become a complete tear, leading to surgery. Still, the reward with him is probably worth the risk. Last year, his half-season stats were among the best in MLB history: 7 wins, 14.28 K/9, a 1.08 ERA, and a 0.90 WHIP in 92 innings pitched. There was nothing flukey about it either, as his FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and xERA were all in line. He’s simply the best pitcher in baseball right now, so if he’s healthy heading into April, you need to take the chance.

1.07:  Gerrit Cole (SP – NYY)

Gerrit Cole was good in 2021. He stayed healthy for the most part and threw 181 innings with a 3.23 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, 16 wins, and 12 strikeouts per nine innings. His performance was good enough for him to finish second in the AL Cy Young voting. Yet, his season seemed like a bit of a disappointment from a fantasy standpoint. After all, his ERA was over 3.00 for the first time since 2017, when he was still with the Pirates. Plus, he did his best work early in the season. His second-half ERA was 4.14, and you can trace his decline in production to MLB’s crack-down on “foreign substances.”

Heading into 2022, one has to wonder which Cole we’ll get. Will we get the dominant ace we saw from 2018 through the first half of 2021 or the good but inconsistent pitcher from the back half of last year? I’d lean towards the former. His second-half FIP, xFIP, and K-rate were only slightly higher than his first half, while the BABIP against him rose from .272 to .358. So perhaps he was just a bit unlucky. Cole should once again be among the top pitchers drafted this year, even if he slips back a bit from #7 overall.

1.08:  Trea Turner (SS – LAD)

Turner was another of the few first-round players who stayed relatively healthy and productive in 2021. He was excellent with the Nationals and the Dodgers and finished the season with 28 HRs, 32 SBs, 107 Runs, 77 RBIs, and a .328 BA. He even gained 2B eligibility in the process.

Turner is a no-brainer first rounder again in 2022. Batting atop the Dodgers order for the whole year should only serve to increase his chances to drive in runs. He appears to be one of the safer choices you can make at this point of the offseason.

1.09:  Shane Bieber (SP – CLE)

Coming off his amazing Cy Young-winning 2020 season, Bieber shot up the draft boards last year. Sadly, his season ended up very much like Jacob deGrom’s, only not as dominant. Bieber barely pitched the second half of the season after suffering a shoulder injury in mid-June. Unlike deGrom, he did make it back at the very end of September, tossing six innings over two starts – which wasn’t very helpful to fantasy managers.

The good news is that he did return, though, and thus we can assume that he’ll be healthy heading into 2022. If so, he should once again be among the top fantasy starters. He probably won’t ever duplicate his magical 2020 season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a strong anchor for your pitching staff.

1.10:  Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE)

Ramirez posted one of the best fantasy seasons of 2021 yet is often overlooked. Perhaps it is because he only batted .266, but his counting stats were terrific: 36 HRs, 27 SBs, 111 Runs, and 103 RBIs in 152 games. His production was consistent too. The only category that was noticeably different from the first half to the second half was stolen bases, as he ran much more often after the All-Star break.

Ramirez will have to do a lot of damage on his own next season as the Guardians roster will probably be devoid of stars once again in 2022. He proved last year that he is capable of doing so, though, so he should again be selected near the end of the first round.

First Round Overview

The theme of the first round in 2021 was injuries, injuries, injuries! Of the seven position players drafted, only three (Soto, Turner, Ramirez) played more than 145 games. Only one pitcher (Cole) threw more than 100 innings of the three drafted. Baseball, in general, was marred by injury last year. Perhaps it was a by-product of the wonky 2020 season. The good news regarding the players above is that they all showed they were still capable of being great when they were on the field last year. The health status of those who suffered the most severe injuries will weigh heavily on this year’s ADP.

Next week we’ll dig into Round 2 (picks 11-20)!

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Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our i">>Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with our i">>Beginner’s Guide to Daily Fantasy Football or head to a more advanced strategy – like i">>A Guide to Orchestrating Early Season Trades – to learn more.

Source : https://www.fantasypros.com/2022/01/2021-draft-recap-round-one-2022-fantasy-baseball/

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