Last Updated: 2/16
A couple of things to note before reading:
- These rankings are for 10- and 12-team head-to-head category leagues with standard scoring and a starting lineup consisting of 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF, 2 UTIL, and a shallow bench, and were created by Scott Chu with input from Nick Pollack.
- These rankings do not contemplate keeper or dynasty rules, nor do they consider whether there is an overall prize beyond the league itself (such as NFBC).
- Within the write-ups, we will call out individual players who would see value boosts or drops in alternative formats, such as rotisserie leagues, deeper leagues, or points leagues
- We are more than happy to answer your questions, requests, and counter-points in the comments or on Twitter!
Tier 4 (continued)
21. Eloy Jiménez (Chicago White Sox) – Like his teammate Luis Robert, Eloy Jiménez missed a big chunk of the 2021 campaign, logging just as many games (55) as he did in the shortened 2020 season. In a roughly identical amount of playing time, Jiménez was able to bump up his walk rate while keeping his strikeouts the same, but saw a significant dip in his overall power and contact. His batting average dropped nearly 50 points and his ISO saw an even more dramatic plunge from .263 in 2020 to .188 in 2021.
I’m not overly worried, however. Despite turning into a replacement level bat in 2021 (101 wRC+/perfect 100 OPS+) with a sub-par glove, I think it’s hard to put too much stock into a season where he got injured in spring training and was initially expected to completely miss the 2021 season. The lack of plate discipline decline gives me hope that he just never was quite able to get his timing down and back into the flow of things. We do know that Jiménez has massive power upside in an elite lineup that could be one of the highest-scoring offenses in baseball.
Don’t overthink it. Eloy is a stud.
22. Bryan Reynolds (Pittsburgh Pirates) – One of the few bright spots in Pittsburgh’s otherwise forgettable 2021 season was center fielder Bryan Reynolds. After a nice debut season in 2019 with a slash line of .314/.377/.503, Reynolds’ production collapsed in 2020—he hit just .189, his wRC+ dropped from 130 in 2019 to a measly 72 in 2020, and his strikeout rate jumped to over 27%.
He entered 2021 with an ADP close to 100 and delivered as the 14th-ranked outfielder according to Fangraphs. In 159 games, he returned to 2019 form, with better plate discipline and more power. Reynolds put 24 balls over the fence in 2021 and threw in five stolen bases for good measure—totals that feel sustainable for the 22-year-old in 2022. While he might not quite finish over .300 like he did in 2019 and 2021, he shouldn’t fall too far below. 20+ home runs and a batting average near .300 is a nice plug-and-forget outfielder, even if it doesn’t come with too much speed or, to be frank, counting stats, as the Pittsburgh offense isn’t exactly likely to rank among the league’s elite. But hey, he’s likely to continue batting third for the Pirates—which provides some value in itself—and if Pittsburgh youngsters perform at a high level, they could surprise some folks.
23. Ketel Marte (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Marte broke out in 2019 at the age of 25, smashing 32 home runs while slashing .329/.389/.592 to finish fourth in MVP voting. 2020 was not so successful, as the versatile Marte played in just 45 games, logging under 200 plate appearances and seeing a significant drop-off in power as his slugging percentage fell nearly 200 points.
While he played in just 90 games last season, Marte had a nice resurgence to finish with a solid .318/.377/.532 slash line and 14 homers. He had the worst strikeout rate since he arrived in Arizona, but was able to boost his power stroke up much closer to his 2019 levels.
2021 feels like a pretty decent expectation heading into the 2022 season—over a full season, I think 20+ home runs is a pretty likely floor alongside a batting average not far from .300. While he’s unlikely to provide a ton of speed (and he’s not exactly surrounded by a ton of heavy-hitters in that Diamondback lineup), he provides a fairly safe option with decent upside if he regains his 2019 form.
24. Christian Yelich (Milwaukee Brewers) – The NL MVP in 2018, runner-up in 2019, followed by a steep drop-off. It’s been a roller coaster couple years for Yelich.
Yelich’s 2020 wasn’t as bad as Cody Bellinger’s, in large part due to an impressive 18.6% walk rate (leading to an OBP over 150 points higher than his batting average), but he looked lost every time he swung the bat. 2021 was even worse—his bat fell to a replacement-level 101 wRC+ and while his batting average rose from .205 to .248, his power dropped completely off the map, hitting just nine home runs over 117 games and slugging a paltry .373.
A recurring back injury could be to blame (or even the season-ending knee injury in 2019), but what we know is that prime Yelich is as good as it gets. I mean, he hit 44 home runs and stole 30 bases in 2019, in just 130 games! And while I suspect the stolen bases will never return to those peaks, Yelich is a much better hitter than we’ve seen the last two seasons. The 30-year-old has potential to be an absolute steal at his current ADP if he looks like the Yelich of old, but there’s real concern that we may not see that Yelich.
25. Giancarlo Stanton (New York Yankees) – Stanton is, without a doubt, a power monster. No but, like, seriously:
Long time coming, but I have finally updated the 90th Percentile Exit Velocity tables for 2021! Unsurprisingly, Giancarlo Stanton leads for the 7th consecutive year. https://t.co/Uz5jmScl3T
— Jeremy Siegel (@JerSiegs) January 5, 2022
Health has been the recurring concern for the Bronx slugger, as he missed over half of the 2020 season and almost the entirety of the 2019 campaign. However, the other three years within the past five (2017, 2018, and 2021) average over 650 plate appearances, 44 home runs, and a .273 batting average.
He’s never even come close to a replacement-level bat, and as long as you’re okay with strikeouts, he’s a sure bet when healthy. Let’s not forget he’s still essentially the same hitter as the 2017 MVP was, and with a better lineup around him. He’s a lock for 30 home runs and a solid chance at 40+ (remember: he finished with 59 dingers in 2017). It’s not easy to find someone with this much power who won’t kill you in the average department. Entering his age-32 season, I think Stanton has somehow become an underrated hitter.
26. Jesse Winker (Cincinnati Reds) – Still under team control, Winker set out to prove last year that his 2020 breakout was no fluke and largely succeeded. The Reds outfielder is the epitome of the adjective ‘solid,’ finishing in the top 20 in the league in AVG, OBP, and SLG (including 6th in OBP). He isn’t a power monster, but hit a respectable 24 home runs last season (along with 32 doubles) with a batting average over .300. He doesn’t strike out a ton and has a high walk rate.
If there’s a complaint about Winker (aside from his defense), it’s a weakness against left-handed pitching. As PL’s John Foley writes, Winker’s breakout against LHP in 2020 did not last against the larger sample size of 2021. Still, impressive plate discipline has helped him retain his improved power stroke despite the platoon struggles. As Foley notes, Winker is one of just seven players with an OBP over .375 and a SLG over .550 over the past two seasons: an elite list with Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Brandon Belt, Ronald Acuña Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Trea Turner. Not bad company.
27. Mitch Haniger (Seattle Mariners) – One of the most “oof”-inducing injuries in baseball ended Haniger’s 2019 season in early June and the Mariners outfielder sat out the 2020 season to recover. It was a lot of time to not be playing baseball, which raised a lot of questions coming into the 2021 season. The 30-year-old delivered with aplomb, logging nearly 700 plate appearances, reaching triple-digit runs and RBI, and falling just one shy of 40 homers. That’s a top-10 finish in three of the five categories in a 5×5 for a guy who went after pick 100 in most drafts.
A decreased walk rate alongside his unremarkable batting average leads to a fairly low OBP but hey, if he’s hitting 40 bombs who cares? There was definitely a bit of magic in the Mariners’ offense last season but they’re only going to improve so we can likely expect a similar amount of lineup protection this year. I wouldn’t anticipate a top-12 finish among all outfielders like 2021, but he’s a reliable bat who should net you around 30 dingers in an offense that’s on the way up.
28. Ryan Mountcastle (Baltimore Orioles) – In his first full big-league season, Mountcastle established himself as a focal point of the young Orioles offense. The 24-year-old smashed 33 home runs to finish the 25th-best OF per Fangraphs. His profile ended up remarkably similar to Haniger—a lot of pop, ~.250 average, and some areas for improvement in the plate discipline. Unfortunately, the Baltimore offense didn’t have a breakout season in the way Seattle’s did, and next year doesn’t figure to be too much better.
He’s Mitch Haniger without as talented of a lineup around him (and therefore fewer runs/RBI) but he’s still young and has more room to develop than the 30-year-old Haniger.
29. Kyle Schwarber (Free Agent) – The impending adoption of the universal DH opens up many more possibilities for the free-agent Schwarber, who enters his age-29 season with a career .237/.343/.493 slash line. Schwarber showcased his power ceiling when he smashed 16 home runs over an 18-game stretch with the Nationals last season before an injury took him out for over a month. The slugger was traded to the Red Sox where he was quietly impressive, rebounding to a .291/.435/.522 slash line (.957 OPS) over 168 plate appearances with Boston.
At this point, Schwarber’s profile is pretty well established. Mediocre-to-poor batting average, lots of strikeouts (but lots of walks as well), and a lock for 30 homers. He’s the classic archetype of the Three True Outcomes player, and there’s definitely some value in knowing exactly who you’re drafting. He’ll have torrid stretches like last June where he put up a 261 wRC+ and a slugging over 1.000 (yes, slugging) over three weeks but he’ll also have slumps where he finishes every game 0-3 with two strikeouts and a walk for weeks at a time, too. His value will certainly fluctuate depending on where he ends up, but in general, he can be a relatively cheap source of power and in head-to-head leagues has the potential to win you a week if he goes off.
30. Kris Bryant (Free Agent) – Maybe it’s Cub fan bias, but I am unapologetically a Kris Bryant homer and think he’s settled into being viewed as a perennially underrated hitter. Aside from 2020 (when he only played in 34 games), Bryant has never had a season with a wRC+ below 120 (or OPS+, if that’s more your thing). He’s dealt with recurring injuries that have clearly bothered him during stretches, like in 2018 when he only played in 102 games and finished with just 13 home runs.
If you take out those two injury-shortened seasons, however, Bryant has five MLB seasons under his belt, all with 25+ home runs, a batting average over .260, and an OBP over .350. Sure, he strikes out, but he walks plenty to make up for it. He’s actually one of the more consistent hitters out there, and last season even threw in 10 stolen bases for good measure. Whether he’ll be able to reach the heights of his first few seasons is unclear, but, health permitting, he offers a solid floor and could end up a steal at his going ADP.
31. Cody Bellinger (Los Angeles Dodgers) – There’s no sugar-coating it: Cody Bellinger was awful last year by just about every metric. After setting a career-worst of 112 OPS+ in 2020, Bellinger put up a 45 in 2021. It was the worst strikeout rate and worst walk rate of his career. He finished with a .165/.240/.302 slash line, 10 homers, and three stolen bases over just 350 plate appearances.
However: injuries caused Bellinger to miss a ton of time and he never looked quite right at the plate. But in the postseason, Bellinger came alive, slashing .353/.436/.471, swiping five bases (yes, that’s more than he did all season), and compiling a 147 wRC+ across 39 plate appearances. Sure, he struck out a bunch, but in this day and age, that’s forgivable.
Bellinger’s postseason performance provides hope that his in-season struggles were injury-related and a full offseason to recuperate will bring back the Cody Bellinger of old as we enter 2022. He’s shown he’s got a ceiling among the elites of the league (just look at his 2019 MVP stats if you need a refresher) and he could finish the year as one of the best values thanks to a diminished ADP.
32. Tommy Edman (St. Louis Cardinals) – I’m not saying you have to get excited about Tommy Edman. But 30 stolen bases in 2021 is nothing to sneeze at, even if it does come with a wRC+ below 100. If he’s able to bump up his OBP, it’ll make him that much more valuable by offering more opportunities for steals. Other than that, though, he’s underwhelming. Despite playing in nearly every game last season, he barely hit double figures in home runs and a .262/.308/.387 slash line doesn’t inspire confidence.
But you’re not drafting him for his offensive profile. You’re drafting him because there aren’t a lot of guys out there that are a lock for 20+ steals and an everyday role.
33. Austin Meadows (Tampa Bay Rays) – On the other hand, you are drafting Meadows for his overall offensive profile. In many ways, he feels like a slightly younger Kris Bryant who hasn’t exhibited quite the same power ceiling. In fact, a lot of projections put Meadows in a very similar spot to KB—25+ homers, 5-10 steals, a batting average around .250, and a pretty good walk rate.
While Meadows improved his plate discipline in 2021 compared to his breakout 2019 season, it came at a loss of power and contact. Entering his age-27 season, Meadows definitely still has room to keep developing after logging just 36 games in 2020. He offers consistency and stability with the possibility of tapping into a high ceiling as he continues to mature at the plate.
34. Avisaíl García (Miami Marlins) – It’s tough to get a read on Avisaíl García. The 30-year-old signed with the fifth team of his career during the offseason and making sense of his career numbers can be tricky. On one hand, he smashed his career high in home runs last season, belting 29 over 135 games with Milwaukee. On the other hand, he slashed just .238/.333/.326 the season prior, finishing with just two homers and a woeful .088 ISO in 53 games.
His career is scattered with similar highs and lows, peaking in 2017 with the White Sox when he slashed .330/.380/506 with a strikeout rate under 20% in 136 games, but with plenty of sub-par offensive seasons mixed in. Overall, I think the typical projections are a good median expectation to hold—a close-to-everyday role with Miami, 20+ home runs, a handful of stolen bases, and relatively mediocre stats everywhere else.
35. Trent Grisham (San Diego Padres) – A 10/10 finish in the short 2020 season generated a lot of buzz around Grisham during the 2021 draft season. In his age-24 season, with the first chance of seeing a full season’s worth of production on a young and surging offense, many had high hopes for Grisham and his power/speed combo.
Unfortunately, they never quite materialized. His power dropped and despite logging over twice as many plate appearances as 2020, his home run total only reached 15. Similarly, his stolen base count rose only slightly to 13, and those drafting Grisham for his 20/20 potential were disappointed. His final run/RBI total didn’t impress, and his slash line dropped in all categories.
However, it’s important to remember that Grisham is young. He was able to slightly chip away at his strikeout rate, and with a full season now under his belt, he could be primed to improve in several categories, particularly since the Padres lineup should continue to thrive. I think replicating his 15/10 production is a pretty safe bet, with the potential for more of a 20/15 finish—even with a lukewarm batting average, that’s not bad value for a mid-to-late-round outfielder.
36. Joey Gallo (New York Yankees) – In 2021, between Texas and New York, Joey Gallo led all of MLB with 213 strikeouts and finished the season with a batting average below the Mendoza line in 153 total games. Sounds pretty terrible, right?
Not so fast. As brutal as striking out in more than a third of all plate appearances and batting .199 to boot is (and to be clear, it definitely is), Gallo finished with a wRC+ of 123, 38 bombs, and even a few stolen bases for good measure. The Gold Glover had an OBP over 150 points higher than his batting average, thanks to his AL-leading 111 walks. I know I previously referred to Schwarber as the archetype of the Three True Outcomes player, but Gallo crushes the competition in that regard, ending a plate appearance with a home run, walk, or strikeout a whopping 58.8% of the time in 2021. The next highest on that list is Shohei Ohtani at 51.8%.
If you’re in an OBP league, you already know the value of Gallo, but in the standard AVG league, a sub-.200 batting average is brutal to stomach. Even if it comes with 40 home runs, Gallo would likely be further down this list if it weren’t for that Yankee lineup around him that should elevate his run and RBI totals. Gallo is a good (albeit polarizing) baseball player, but whether he actually fits into your fantasy team’s composition and strategy will vary.
37. Michael Conforto (Free Agent) – Conforto will be 29 years old by Opening Day, but what jersey he’ll be wearing remains to be seen. With seven seasons in MLB, all with at least 50 games played, we’ve gotten a decent sense of who Conforto is—a better-than-average bat that doesn’t “wow” you in any one area.
Conforto should hit 20 home runs and has the power to hit 30 if he can play a full season, something that’s only happened twice (three if you count playing 54 of the 60 games in 2020). He’ll probably top .250 but it’s hard to hope he goes too much higher than that, and he’s unlikely to rack up more than a couple stolen bases. While he’s a career 124 wRC+ bat, a lot of his value will depend on where he ends up and what type of opportunities he’ll get for scoring opportunities. Though last year’s total numbers weren’t his best, he did post the lowest strikeout rate since his debut season in 2015, and I think a change of scenery could end up doing wonders for Conforto.
38. Jarred Kelenic (Seattle Mariners) – 22 years old as we head into 2022, Kelenic’s debut season was rocky, to say the least. The rookie finished just shy of 100 games/400 plate appearances and chipped in 14 bombs and six stolen bases to go along with a less-than-ideal .181/.265/.350 slash line. Striking out nearly 30% of the time, he ended his rookie season with a wRC+ of just 73.
On the other hand, plenty of folks struggle with the transition to the majors, and it’s hard to put too much stock into a young rookie having trouble hitting major-league pitching for the first time. And indeed, from September 1st through the end of the season, Kelenic looked to be turning the corner, slashing .248/.331/.524, contributing half of his season’s home runs and looking much more like the prized prospect he was tagged as going into the season.
Kelenic represents the ultimate gamble. If you buy into his late-season resurgence and attribute the first part of the season to typical rookie struggles, Kelenic could end up as league-winning value thanks to his power/speed potential. On the other hand, even in the best-case scenario, he’s likely to experience significant cold slumps, and when he was bad last season he was bad, like “unstartable” bad.
If you can afford to keep him on your bench when things go south, he’s a fantastic late-round lottery ticket with enormous upside. If you’re drafting him as a key component of your starting outfield, you might end up regretting it.
39. Chris Taylor (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Before the lockout, the Dodgers locked up utility man Chris Taylor on a four-year deal. Taylor ended up logging 582 plate appearances in 2021 in six different positions (all three outfield spots as well as 2B, SS, and 3B) and compiled a very respectable 20 home runs and 13 stolen bases. He strikes out a lot but he walks a lot too, and offers enough pop and speed to make up for a mid-.200s batting average.
Taylor offers a ton of positional flexibility alongside a low draft price and can contribute in both power and speed. In addition, he’s going to have plenty of scoring opportunities on the high-powered Dodgers offense, even if he continues to hit in the bottom half of the order.
40. Hunter Renfroe (Milwaukee Brewers) – Renfroe logged the most plate appearances of any time in his six-year MLB career and delivered with arguably the best offensive season of his career. He smashed 31 home runs for the Red Sox, posted a career-best strikeout rate, and finished with a solid .259/.315/.501 slash line.
Now in Milwaukee, Renfroe looks to build on his 2021 success which saw top-50 finishes in runs, home runs, and RBI. He doesn’t offer a whole lot beyond power, but with an everyday role with the Brewers he should be a lock for another 30-HR season and he likely won’t kill you in average the way some of the other power-first bats might.
Photos by Icon Sportswire and John W. Iwanski (https://www.flickr.com/photos/usachicago/) | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)