I have to admit that this is one of my favorite fantasy baseball articles to write each year.
Sure, most of these predictions might not come true. But that’s the fun of this exercise, where I expand my mind and envision what could happen with small leaps of faith in certain players. And to be clear, there are fantasy nuggets throughout this article. For example, I know that Aroldis Chapman is the heavy favorite to lead the Yankees in saves, but my bold prediction regarding Chad Green clearly shows that I am apprehensive about drafting Chapman this year.
I’ve teased enough — let’s get into my 2022 bold predictions:
Corbin Burnes will be the No. 1 player in fantasy baseball
Burnes will not only be the No. 1 pitcher (which wouldn’t be a bold prediction), but he will be more valuable than Trea Turner, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and all the other hitters who currently precede him in Yahoo drafts. The ninth-overall selection by ADP, Burnes can already make a strong case to be considered the best pitcher in baseball after producing a 2.43 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP and a ridiculous 30.4 percent K-BB rate last season. To ascend to the top of the fantasy mountain, the right-hander needs to continue his recent success while persuading the Brewers to allow him to build on his 167 innings from a year ago.
I predict that Burnes will throw 190 frames and lead many teams to their title.
The Blue Jays collect two consecutive Cy Young awards
Anyone who read my recent article on potential breakout players knows that I’m bullish on Jose Berrios for the 2022 season. The right-hander has been a high-end workhorse for several seasons, with nary an IL stint since entering the league in 2016. Berrios produced a 3.32 FIP and a 1.09 WHIP in 12 starts after joining the Blue Jays last season and matching those numbers across 200 innings this year will put him squarely in the Cy Young race. Beyond Gerrit Cole, the American League starters all have some levels of question marks attached to their profile, making the durable Berrios a solid candidate to match the feat pulled off by Robbie Ray last year.
Andres Gimenez leads the AL in steals
With 19 steals in 342 career plate appearances, Gimenez clearly has the speed to burn. The 23-year-old is far from a finished product as a hitter, but he possesses some pop and should get regular playing time on a retooling Guardians team that made Gimenez the centerpiece of the Francisco Lindor trade a little over a year ago. The guess here is that Gimenez produces a dozen homers and 30 steals, making him a serviceable roto option who does not help much in the other three standard categories and stays on waivers in points leagues.
The 2022 MLB batting average champ is going undrafted in Yahoo leagues
Nick Madrigal has contact skills that few players can match, having logged a 7.4 percent strikeout rate during the initial 83 games of his Major League career. He also has plus speed, which can be seen by his 43 steals in 163 career Minor League contests.
Do you see where I’m going here?
Madrigal is going to have the type of career that we rarely see in this era, putting the ball in play often and using his fleet feet to leg out plenty of base hits. I don’t expect Madrigal to make a massive fantasy impact, but he can lead the Majors in batting average by securing most of the Cubs' opportunities at second base.
Pete Alonso will be more valuable than Freddie Freeman
Fantasy managers with short memories may have already forgotten that Alonso produced 53 homers and 120 RBIs in his 2019 rookie season. He slumped a bit as a sophomore (.817 OPS) and started slowly last year (.802 OPS in first half) but came roaring back during the summer months and posted a .921 OPS after the All-Star break. And Alonso wasn’t alone in his inconsistency last year, as a Mets lineup that was supposed to be one of the better groups in the National League wound up finishing 27th in the Majors in runs scored.
The prediction here is that Alonso will have a more consistent 2022 season while also benefitting from the additions of Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha, and expected bounce-back seasons from Lindor and Jeff McNeil.
Luis Urias will be a top-five third baseman
Urias will open the season on the IL with a quad injury that is not expected to sideline him for a significant length of time. And when he returns, the 24-year-old has a great chance to build on a productive 2021 season that included 23 homers, 75 RBIs and 77 runs scored. Urias hasn’t picked up the same fantasy buzz as some of baseball’s other top prospects, perhaps because some of his value to the Brewers is tied to his career 10.2 walk rate. With third base lacking quality options this year, Urias has a good chance to use his on-base skills to hit high in the lineup and make a significant fantasy impact.
Tanner Houck will be Boston’s most valuable fantasy pitcher
The Red Sox have plenty of pitchers, but arguably none that can be relied on. Chris Sale is already injured, Rich Hill is 42 years old, Nick Pivetta has a career 5.16 ERA and Michael Wacha couldn’t succeed (5.05 ERA) while working with the Rays pitching gurus. In terms of relievers, the team enters 2022 without an established closer and seems unsure of how to deploy youngster Garrett Whitlock. Only Nathan Eovaldi seems reliable, but he has had his share of injuries during his 11-year career.
Houck is easily one of the most talented pitchers on Boston’s roster, having posted a career 2.93 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP across his initial 86 Major League innings. Boston needs Houck to develop quickly into a reliable starter, and he has the talent to meet expectations.
I’ll throw in a pair of quick-hitters here at the end ...
Robbie Grossman will be more valuable than Randy Arozarena
I expect Grossman to produce a reasonable facsimile for his 20-20 season from 2021. And although Grossman is unlikely to produce a high batting mark, the same can be said for Arozarena, who logged a .220 xBA last season.
Chad Green will lead the Yankees in saves
As stated at the start of this piece, I don’t feel good about Chapman after he struggled with consistency at times last year. The Cuban closer is in the final year of his contract, which means that the Yankees can be quick to turn to an alternative such as Green.