Last Updated: 2/17
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 8 (continued)
61. Michael Brantley (Houston Astros) – Entering his age-35 season, Brantley has already established himself as one of the more reliable names on these rankings. His 2021 campaign looked awfully similar to those that came before it: a batting average over .300 and… well, not a whole lot else.
It’s difficult to get wildly excited about drafting a guy who could easily miss double digits in home runs or stolen bases, even if that batting average is incredibly reliable. But there’s plenty of value in “reliable,” as Brantley can keep your team average from tanking if you pair him with an Adolis García type. The veteran will still be hitting in the heart of the Houston lineup, which means scoring opportunities will abound, even if the dingers or steals won’t. And even if the batted balls don’t go over the fence too often, they’re often hit hard and into gaps for extra bases.
There’s no reason to expect Brantley to slow down in 2022—he put up a .311 average last year and while his walk rate wasn’t impressive, his strikeout rate was. I’d anticipate somewhere close to .300 and 10 homers feels about right, with the runs and RBI mostly depending on where the Astros decide to place him in the order. It’s also not impossible to get more power from him—it wasn’t long ago he was more in the 15-20 HR range.
62. Andrew Vaughn (Chicago White Sox) – Vaughn’s debut season in the majors wasn’t wildly exciting—he hit .235 and finished with a 94 wRC+—but there’s a lot to be excited about in his profile. Despite not showing off the level of power many expected, he did keep solid discipline at the plate and one would think that the hit tool and slugging will come as he continues to get acclimated to major-league pitching. An average around .250 alongside 20 bombs has a lot of value, and he certainly has the potential to produce more, especially in the power department.
The biggest problem is playing time. The soon-to-be-24-year-old will have an exhausting competition ahead of him as the loaded White Sox lineup has plenty of good bats. He likely wouldn’t have had nearly the opportunities he did last year without injuries to Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert freeing up space in the outfield. Vaughn is more of the “keep an eye on him” type—he’ll probably be decent when he gets PAs, but it’ll take an injury or something equally dramatic to get him into an everyday role in this lineup, which severely limits his floor.
63. Charlie Blackmon (Colorado Rockies) – This time two years ago, imagine someone telling you Charlie Blackmon didn’t even crack the top 60. You’d probably laugh and say something like “as long as he’s got Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story around him, I’m sure he’ll be fine!”
Oof. Sorry, Rockies fans. While the 35-year-old Blackmon is getting up there in age, he should still provide a serviceable bat for your fantasy outfield, even if it’s not the .300/30-HR one it was a few years ago (or the 40+ SB from even earlier). Blackmon’s 2021 plate discipline metrics are largely in line with career norms, and he still hit .270 and exceeded 70 in both runs and RBI. In all honesty, he’s a good hitter, in Coors, who will be the primary focus of the Colorado offense. Even if the power seems to be fading, he’s a solid contributor at his current ADP.
64. Mark Canha (New York Mets) – One of the few pre-lockout signings, Canha is one of the OBP machines of MLB. A .231 batting average isn’t too fun but it’s paired with a .358 OBP, numbers that he’s likely to repeat in his first season in New York. The 33-year-old even stole a career-high 12 bases last season, which makes the relatively low power much more bearable. In a non-OBP league, he’s nowhere near as valuable, though that can help him fly under the radar. For his going price, why not add him on for what should be around 15 home runs and a decent shot at 10 stolen bases?
65. Jo Adell (Los Angeles Angels) – Now into the post-hype phase, Adell is another outfielder likely flying under the radar due to his limited (and largely poor) production in MLB. His first stint in 2020 was downright terrible – Adell hit just .161 with a strikeout rate over 40% (no, that’s not a typo).
After some time adjusting in the minors, Adell returned last year for a similar stretch of time and, well, was still a sub-par bat. But he finished the season just under 100 wRC+, raising his batting average nearly 90 points while cutting his strikeout rate almost in half, down to barely above MLB average. Luke Hooper has a great piece on Fangraphs about the swing adjustments Adell made in the offseason and in the minors before his MLB return in 2021 which not only cut down the strikeout rate but unlocked some of the raw power that contributed to his prospect hype.
To be clear, Adell is not quite there, at least as of the end of the 2021 season. But he’s shown real change in the areas he needed, and it’s important to remember Adell is still only 22 years old! 2022 could easily be the breakout year for the young outfielder, particularly if he’s able to maintain the plate discipline improvements from 2021.
66. Adam Duvall (Atlanta) – Duvall is possibly the most boring 38-HR hitter in baseball right now. It’s easy to wonder how a guy who ranked 10th in baseball in both HR and RBI is so far down this list, but when you dig into the rest of his stats, it all starts to fall into place. A strikeout rate of 30% plus a poor walk rate contributed to Duvall’s sub-.300 OBP last year. It certainly feels like we know exactly what we’ll get from Duvall next season, which is plenty of power (30+ home runs as long as he gets decent playing time) but basically nothing else. With the return of Ozuna and Acuña, he may not have the prime spot in the batting order like he did last year when he hit cleanup more than anywhere else.
Still, 30-40 home runs and the accompanying 100 RBI that can easily come with it are plenty valuable. But if the power falters, even a little bit, you’re left with nothing. There are other power-first sluggers I’d prefer over Duvall, but for a HR-to-ADP value, it’s difficult to do better anywhere.
67. Max Kepler (Minnesota Twins) – Kepler had a tough year in 2021, hitting just .211 and posting his highest strikeout rate since 2017. His career platoon struggles against lefties were even worse, and he didn’t even get satisfying counting stats from the underwhelming Twins’ offense.
However, there’s a bit more going on than that. Kepler still finished with 19 bombs and 10 stolen bases, a respectable number even if it did come with an atrocious batting average. He maintained a high walk rate and showed a similar level of power to most past seasons. Mark Steubinger has a fascinating writeup of Kepler that mentions how the lefty doubled his barrel rate despite declining in overall offensive production. Steubinger predicts a bounceback season from Kepler and his argument is compelling. Playing time will remain an issue in the crowded Twins lineup (as well as Kepler’s struggles against southpaws), but the 29-year-old Kepler should be able to replicate his 2021 HR/SB production alongside an increase in batting average (and hopefully counting stats).
68. Lane Thomas (Washington Nationals) – In the same article, Steubinger also highlights Nats’ youngster Lane Thomas who was traded from St. Louis to Washington midseason. Thomas got his first everyday role and quickly earned a spot at the top of the order, posting a .270/.364/.489 slash line with Washington, an impressive 13.1% walk rate, and seven home runs and four stolen bases over the course of just a month and a half.
The leadoff spot should be Thomas’ to lose on the rebuilding Nats, and as awful as that lineup is, hitting in front of Juan Soto is never a bad thing. I agree with Steubinger’s conclusion that Thomas has real potential that isn’t captured by most projection systems. He’s a great late-round dart throw that carries legitimate 20/20 upside.
69. Mike Yastrzemski (San Francisco Giants) – 2021 was a bit of a return to earth for the now-31-year-old, but even with his average falling to a lowly .224, Yaz still hit 25 bombs and over 145 combined runs/RBI, thanks to the surprisingly stout Giants offense. I would expect a similar showing in 2022, with perhaps a tradeoff of improved contact for slightly lower counting stats. He’s a stable hitter in a strong lineup and that level of reliability can be difficult to find this late into the draft.
70. Robbie Grossman (Detroit Tigers) – Grossman was one of just ten players in MLB to hit the 20/20 mark, finishing with a season slash line of .239/.357/.415. Despite a 2020 breakout, Grossman remained undervalued in 2021 drafts—most likely, he’ll outperform his ADP yet again. Pitcher List’s Sean Roberts discussed last year how Grossman tweaked his approach at the plate, sacrificing some batting average for power, and the change has paid dividends for the 32-year-old.
While he might not reach the 20/20 pinnacle two years in a row, 15/15 is very much within reach for the career journeyman. Paired with a top-10 walk rate, Grossman could provide a lot of value for your fantasy team without having to invest a high draft pick. While the Tigers offense will continue to improve and the lineup will become more crowded as the Tigers potentially bring up top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, Grossman spent almost all of his plate appearances in 2021 batting first or third, leading to a surprisingly healthy number of counting stats despite the overall poor showing from the Detroit offense.
71. Wil Myers (San Diego Padres) – After crushing expectations in the shortened 2020 season (he hit 15 home runs in 55 games, slashing .288/.353/.606 en route to an impressive 155 wRC+), Myers fell back to earth in 2021. He only improved on his HR total by two despite more than doubling his plate appearances, and his power returned to pre-2020 levels.
Still, even pre-2020 Myers held fantasy value. He went 28/28 in 2016 and 30/20 in 2017, the only two years he’s topped 600 plate appearances. The combination of both power and speed is always tough to find, though now entering his age-31 season that’s more likely to settle around 20/10, fairly close to his 2021 production. While the Padres offense can be powerful, Myers is largely stuck in the back half, which limits his value. I think Myers has a decent shot at delivering a better season than last year, but at this point, it’s seeming like 2020 was just a lucky outlier.
72. Jesús Sánchez (Miami Marlins) – In his first real shot at major-league play, the 24-year-old was impressive in 2021, belting 14 home runs in just 251 plate appearances. He’s got some real power in his swing, but it comes paired with a brutal strikeout rate north of 30%. In time, Sánchez should be a solid power hitter, but 2022 will likely see some significant peaks and valleys as the young slugger continues to adjust to major-league pitching.
A 20+ home run season seems likely as long as he continues to get regular playing time, plus there’s a good chance he continues to hit cleanup for the rebuilding Marlins. Sánchez is a nice late-round (currently going 200+) dart throw—he’s easy to drop if he struggles but could provide serious power if and when he gets hot.
73. Josh Rojas (Arizona Diamondbacks) – First, the good: Rojas is likely going to start the season hitting leadoff for the lowly Dbacks, he has double-digit stolen base (and home run) potential, and he has a walk rate over 10%.
The bad? Well, it comes with a 25% K rate, a degree of power that is likely to only barely hit the double digits, and, well, he’s on the Diamondbacks. His hit tool just isn’t quite strong enough to make up for the lack of power.
Most projection systems have him finishing with a sub-100 wRC+, but he should hit 10/10 to go along with it. With what should be a permanent green light on the Diamondbacks, he could potentially push 15-20 stolen bases if all goes well. Plus, Rojas also has middle-infield eligibility at both 2B and SS, which makes him a solid utility bat when injuries inevitably sideline your regular starting lineup.
74. Randal Grichuk (Toronto Blue Jays) – Grichuk struggles to take a walk (ranking near the bottom in baseball in BB%) and paired with an unimpressive batting average, it means his OBP has a pretty good chance at staying under .300. He also has very little speed to speak of.
However, the 30-year-old is also a lock for at least 20 home runs alongside a healthy RBI count thanks to the dynamite Blue Jays offense. Sure, he’s not hitting higher than fifth, but with a lineup as explosive as the Toronto’s, that’s still plenty of scoring potential. Despite almost 90% of his plate appearances coming from fifth or lower in the order, Grichuk finished with 81 RBI in 2021. In addition, over the last two seasons he’s brought his strikeout rate down below MLB average.
Grichuk is solely a source of power for your fantasy team, but given his inclusion in one of the league’s best offenses, he should maintain a decent chunk of value.
75. Raimel Tapia (Colorado Rockies) – Now entering his seventh season in the majors, Tapia has pretty much established his offensive profile. A .270s batting average, speed along the basepaths, and the elite ability to avoid strikeouts. He should remain locked into the leadoff spot on the Rockies, and while that’s one of the main arguments for Josh Rojas two picks ahead, it’s worth remembering that Tapia gets to hit in Coors half of his games.
It’s unlikely Tapia will even hit double digits in home runs, but he has a decent chance of matching his stolen base count (20) from 2021. Tapia will boost your batting average, net you 15+ steals, and score a decent number of runs. That’s not a bad guy to be able to plug into your outfield, even if there’s zero power to go with it.
76. Connor Joe (Colorado Rockies) – Moving down the Rockies lineup, we find
Cotton Eye Connor Joe, who got his first real shot at the big leagues last year and slashed .285/.379/.469 over 211 plate appearances. Even as his production inevitably regresses as he settles into MLB pitching, his elite walk rate should help him to maintain a level of stability. Given a full season of playing time, Joe should probably provide 20 home runs alongside a BB% over 10.
That said, a full season of playing time is far from guaranteed. The Rockies outfield is crowded, with Blackmon and Tapia likely filling two of the three spots. Projection systems give Joe around 400 plate appearances and 100 games in 2022, but if a regular spot opens up, his value will increase significantly.
77. Garrett Hampson (Colorado Rockies) – The last in our trio of Rockies outfielders (I told you that outfield was crowded!), Hampson at least provides the flexibility of playing 2B (and potentially SS in 2022). Hampson doesn’t offer the stability at the plate that Tapia or Joe do, and he could run into similar playing time problems thanks to the uncertainty of what the 2022 Rockies roster will actually look like. What he does offer, however, is a bit more upside: we’re talking 15-20 home runs and 25-30 stolen bases if Hampson both establishes a full-time role and continues to show off his improved (but still poor) strikeout rate.
That’s far from certain, and even though Hampson’s ceiling is higher than many others at this price, the reality will likely settle in around 10 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases. Still valuable, but poor plate discipline and an unimpressive hit tool (not to mention the lack of power) will limit his potential.
78. Tyler Naquin (Cincinnati Reds) – Naquin logged the highest game total of his six-year MLB career, and slashed a solid .270/.333/.477 to go with it. He finished with 19 home runs and a handful of stolen bases and has a pretty good shot at putting together a similar 2022 season. Naquin put together largely sub-100 wRC+ months in 2021 before exploding in August, boasting an OPS of 1.192 (a wRC+ of 207), a walk rate over 10%, and smashing six home runs in under 100 plate appearances in the late summer month.
Naquin isn’t exciting by any stretch, but he’s perfectly solid.
79. Nick Senzel (Cincinnati Reds) – On the other hand, if you do want exciting from a Reds outfielder, look no further than Nick Senzel. Senzel slashed .252/.323/.315 over just 36 games before going down with a knee injury in mid-May. A recurrence of the injury after his rehab assignment meant Senzel didn’t see another major-league pitch in 2021, and puts his 2022 status in jeopardy.
With Jonathan India cementing his spot at second, the Reds’ infield is too crowded for the versatile Senzel, who will likely be stuck vying for the center field spot. 2022 remains a huge unknown for Senzel, as playing time is not guaranteed and his health isn’t either. However, when he’s been on the field, Senzel has been solid hitter with good plate discipline (especially in his limited performance last year) alongside a nice mix of power and speed (albeit low in both). The 26-year-old could flirt with a 15/15 season if all goes well, but he could also end up a complete bust from a fantasy perspective. You said you wanted exciting, right?
80. Manuel Margot (Tampa Bay Rays) – Rounding out our 61-80 tier, we have the (in my opinion) perenially underrated Margot. Over six seasons, Margot has never logged single-digit steals (except his debut 10-game season in 2016), including an impressive 12-steal performance in just 47 games in 2020. He’s settled in with a nice level of consistency and has a reliable if not everyday role in the Tampa Bay outfield—however, the impending arrival of Josh Lowe could certainly complicate things.
Margot offers 10+ home runs, 15+ steals, good plate discipline, and a batting average around .250—not bad, particularly on a relatively strong offense like the Rays. His speed and defensive prowess should keep him at least as a fourth outfielder with regular playing time for Tampa Bay. In daily leagues, he’s a solid bench bat who can offer the coveted stolen base while not killing you in any other category. In weekly leagues, well, remember this is Tampa Bay Roster ManagementTM you’re dealing with.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)