Last Updated: 2/23
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 9 (continued)
81. Jarren Duran (Boston Red Sox) – Okay, so maybe Duran’s first stint in the majors wasn’t wildly impressive. In his initial foray against major league pitching, Duran put up a brutal .215/.241/.336 slash line (49 wRC+) over 112 plate appearances, walking just 3.6% of the time and striking out over 35% of the time.
Still, a 33-game sample is not sufficient to finalize judgment, and even after his cup of coffee Duran still ranks in the top tier of Red Sox prospects (by virtue of his proximity to the majors, in part). He could be an extremely frustrating roster for the 2022 season, as consistent playing time is far from guaranteed and his plate discipline will require significant improvement to reach a palatable level for fantasy managers. However, he offers more tangible upside than a lot of your other options around this price, especially in the ever-valuable speed category. He’s more of a “last bench spot dart throw” or “monitor his plate discipline and scoop him off the wire” type of outfielder, but the upside (and potential value) is tempting.
82. Sam Hilliard (Colorado Rockies) – Even with the impending adoption of the DH in the National League, the Rockies outfield is crowded. Regardless of anything else, it means any Colorado outfielders in these rankings not named Charlie Blackmon or Raimel Tapia are likely to experience inconsistent playing time and their fantasy reliability will, obviously, suffer as a result.
As far as Hilliard goes, a .215 average in 2021 alongside a 36.6% strikeout rate isn’t wildly encouraging when competition for a lineup spot is already going to be fierce. However, as Dave Swan noted in a look at potential 2022 OF sleepers, Hilliard’s midseason demotion gives a bit of a hope for his future. In the first month of the season, the now-28-year-old was downright awful, striking out almost 50% of the time and barely cresting a .100 average. He also was mostly getting his chances as a pinch hitter.
After over two months out of the majors, Hilliard returned to the big leagues and while the strikeout issues remained (34.2% over the remaining few months of the season), he looked much more comfortable with a walk rate over 10%, 12 home runs (and five stolen bases) over just under 200 plate appearances, and an acceptable wRC+ of 101.
If Hilliard is able to continue his improvement and establish a regular role in the Rockies’ lineup, he’s got a good chance to hit 20+ home runs while providing a handful of steals as well. Still, without continuing to chip away at his 30+% strikeout rate, he’ll be largely capped as a reliable contributor.
83. Kyle Lewis (Seattle Mariners) – After exploding onto the scene in the COVID-shortened 2020 season and winning AL Rookie of the Year, Lewis had a disappointing sophomore campaign, accumulating just 36 games before missing the rest of the season with a knee injury. Knee injuries are always concerning and it’s been a while since he’s played significant action, so as the Seattle lineup continues to improve, he’ll have to compete for his job more than ever before.
However, there’s plenty to like about the 26-year-old, and even in limited action last year he maintained a double-digit walk rate (10.9%) while whittling down his strikeouts to a rough (but much more palatable) 25.2%. His high walk rate will keep him on base despite the strikeouts and unremarkable batting average, and in what has turned into a decent offense, that carries real value. Considering he’d be more than doubling his career-high in plate appearances if he even flirts with a full season, it’s difficult to comfortable project what Lewis will produce in 2022, but his walk rate and power in the 15-20-HR range provide him with a decent floor for your fantasy team.
84. Garrett Cooper (Miami Marlins) – Over the past two seasons, Cooper hasn’t even accumulated 400 plate appearances (granted, one was the shortened 2020 season, but even then he only appeared in 34 games). However, he’s made his time count, posting a 133 wRC+ in 2020 and a 134 in 2021. He’s got 15+ HR power and a nice walk rate, which puts him in a similar spot to Lewis one spot above. Even if he doesn’t look like the same .280s hitter he’s been the last few seasons, Cooper has a more reliable hit tool than Lewis.
But, as with many at this stage of our outfield rankings, one big issue looms large: playing time. Cooper went down in July with a season-ending elbow injury, but before that was on a nice stretch after returning from a different IL stint, posting a 226 wRC+ (with a walk rate over 20%!) over 66 plate appearances from June 25th to July 18th.
I’ve been a believer ever since reading Matt Wallach’s deep dive back in May 2020, and think if Cooper can settle into consistent playing time (something he’s struggled with in his major-league career), he can provide a solid source of 15-20 home runs, a high OBP, and a .260+ batting average.
85. David Peralta (Arizona Diamondbacks) – I can certainly understand if you’re not champing at the bit to draft a 34-year-old contact specialist who only posted a .259 average last season, but Peralta’s consistency should net him regular playing time. The definition of a player who is much better in “real life” than as a fantasy contributor, Peralta won’t provide power (despite smashing 30 home runs back in 2018, he’ll be lucky to top double digits in 2022), speed (a combined three stolen bases over the last three seasons), or counting stats (he is, after all, on the Diamondbacks). His impressive plate discipline, unfortunately, doesn’t translate to significant fantasy impact in a standard 5×5 format.
What he does offer is stability—what should be regular playing time and an average that at the very least won’t hurt you. Peralta is more of a “desperate waiver wire pickup for your injury-riddled outfield” than anything else, but there’s something to having someone you can grab who has that reliability. Not much, but, you know, something.
86. Pavin Smith (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Fellow Diamondback Pavin Smith isn’t the most thrilling pick in the world either, but he offers more upside than his veteran teammate, if for no other reason than his age. After his first full season in the big leagues, the 26-year-old Smith doesn’t offer a ton in the way of power or speed (10-15 home runs and a negligible number of stolen bases) but he does provide a younger player with a similar sense of stability as Peralta.
His K:BB ratio was nearly even in the minors, and while he wasn’t able to duplicate the same level of success in the majors, his initial forays were still encouraging. Barring a change, he’s unlikely to tap into some new source of power which certainly limits his fantasy ceiling (the underwhelming Arizona offense doesn’t help much, either) but he has positional flexibility with both OF and 1B eligibility and could build on his .267 average from last year as he continues to acclimate to major-league pitching.
87. Andrew McCutchen (Free Agent) – As with all free agents, there’s considerably more variation built in Cutch’s 2022 projections due to the uncertainty of his landing spot. The 35-year-old posted his career-worst batting average last year by far—he’s topped .260 only once in the past six seasons, a tough decline for the former MVP. He also won’t net the 20+ stolen bases he would in his younger days, and is unlikely to even hit double-digits in the speed count.
So what does he offer? A decent amount, actually. The veteran belted 27 home runs (just a few off his career-high) and posted his third-highest career ISO to match. Along with maintaining his power, McCutchen has also maintained elite plate discipline, meaning his rough .222 batting average wasn’t bad enough to bring his wRC+ (or OPS+) below 100. He’s evolved as he’s aged, but the older version of McCutchen still has a lot to offer.
88. Joc Pederson (Free Agent) – Soon to be 30, Joc Pederson has largely established his offensive profile. In his first year outside of L.A., Pederson posted underwhelming plate discipline numbers, a batting average (.238) largely in line with his career numbers, and showcased decent power with 18 home runs (though his .184 ISO was actually the lowest of his career).
Despite a career 68 wRC+ against lefties (compared to 123 against righties), Pederson posted actually posted better numbers against southpaws in 2021. Granted, he only had 112 plate appearances against LHP, but it’s something to monitor as Pederson looks to fight for an everyday spot on whatever team he ends up on.
I’d guess Joc will end up with a better line than last year, with 20-25 home runs and hopefully some improved plate discipline—2020 and 2021 were the first two seasons of his career (not counting his brief debut) to post a sub-100 wRC+.
89. Hunter Dozier (Kansas City Royals) – After his 2021, Dozier’s breakout 2019 season where he posted a .279/.348/.522 slash line while smashing 26 home runs feels like a distant memory. The strikeouts got worse, the walks did too, and overall the now-30-year-old looked lost at the plate at times.
I still think there’s some upside with Dozier, with a good chance of beating his 16 home run total from last year. I also think he can bump up his .216 average, though I highly doubt he’ll hit the .279 he did in 2019. However, as long as he continues striking out over a quarter of his plate appearances, his ceiling will be relatively limited.
One note of optimism: after a brutal 56 wRC+ in the first half, Dozier posted a 109 wRC+ in the second half. A thumb injury at the beginning of the season led to changes in his swing, and it took a while for him to re-adjust. It could mean Dozier is a bit of a bounceback candidate, if not necessarily of league-winning caliber. Increased average and home runs will make him much more valuable, but he’ll remain capped by his strikeout woes.
90. Brandon Nimmo (New York Mets) – The final year before hitting free agency feels like a chance for Nimmo (who has topped 70 games only twice in his career) to prove himself to the Mets and MLB at large.
Nimmo is a fantastic offensive baseball player, but an underwhelming fantasy one. He’s hit double-digit home runs only once and doesn’t offer a ton of speed to go along with it. However, he’s got enough of each that if he can scrape out enough playing time (which is never a given with injuries and a crowded Mets roster), he could put together a 15/10 season with a batting average around .260 or higher. All the while, Nimmo will show off his elite plate discipline and if the Mets are serious he could rack up some considerable counting stats, too.
Not counting his 80-PA debut season, Nimmo has never posted a wRC+ under 115 and has topped 135 in three of the last four seasons. If he’s playing, Nimmo offers a lot of consistency, even if it won’t come with a ton of the power or speed fantasy managers crave.
91. Luis Arraez (Minnesota Twins) – A .300 hitter at this price?! Arraez has one of the best eyes for contact in the game and is able to limit the strikeouts as well as anyone. He also has positional flexibility (2B, 3B, OF) which not only helps your fantasy team but should help get him into the lineup a bunch for the Twins.
The downside, to those who aren’t familiar, is that it comes with nothing else. Power? I’m talking an ISO below .100 (was only .082 last year) and a SLG that’s likely only barely higher than his OBP. In 479 plate appearances, Arraez hit two home runs. Two. He only stole two bags to go with it, so it’s not like he makes up for it with speed, either.
Now, there’s a lot of value in knowing exactly what you’re getting with Arraez—if the Twins offense clicks like we all thought it would last year, he could put up decent run and RBI numbers alongside a .300 average. But it comes with a complete void in the power and speed departments. Depending on the makeup of your roster, he could be the perfect snag at the end of a draft, or he could provide nothing to your lineup.
92. Dylan Moore (Seattle Mariners) – Like Arraez, Moore is a player of extremes. The 2B/OF racked up 21 stolen bases and coming alongside (low) double-digit home runs, that’s pretty valuable. He also showcased an impressive 10.6% walk rate.
The problem? Everything else. Moore is not guaranteed regular playing time, he’s striking out nearly 30% of the time, and he slashed a paltry .181/.276/.334 last season—good for a 74 wRC+. Realistically, he’s somewhere between that and his breakout 2020 numbers, but should at least be able to hit above the Mendoza line. He’s basically the opposite of Luis Arraez and could fit into the end of your roster similarly to Arraez depending on the construction of the rest of it. If we develop the technology to combine Moore and Arraez into a single baseball player, they’d be unstoppable. Until then, both remain a “depends on your lineup” type of option.
93. Jurickson Profar (San Diego Padres) – Profar has been up and down his entire career and now entering his age-29 season it’s tough to know how to project the former top prospect. He could hit 20 home runs, as he did in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019, or he could manage just four like he did last year despite logging over 400 plate appearances. He’s likely to net you close to 10 stolen bases, though that also depends on playing time, which is tricky to guarantee.
His batting average could end up anywhere from .220 to .250, but his plate discipline offers the only real level of stability and is vital to getting him SB opportunities. I think he has a good shot at going 10/10 and at this price that’s not a bad value.
94. Rafael Ortega (Chicago Cubs) – Ortega has played most of his career in the minor leagues, but got the biggest chance of his career at 30 years old last year with the Cubs, logging 330 plate appearances and posting an impressive 120 wRC+ while doing it. By the end of the season, he was fixed into the leadoff spot and unless the Cubs make some significant offseason moves very soon, there’s a good chance he remains there in 2022.
It’s tough to be too excited about a 31-year-old likely to have his first Opening Day start, but in just 330 plate appearances, Ortega provided 11 home runs and 12 stolen bases, and did it with a shiny .291 average. It’s unlikely he can replicate that success in 2022, especially for a whole season, but the rebuilding Cubs lineup shouldn’t provide too much competition for playing time, and if he gets sufficient opportunity he should be able to repeat at least a 10/10 season, if not 15/15. I’m not optimistic about maintaining the same average, but decent plate discipline should help maintain some degree of consistency for the Venezuelan.
95. Jorge Mateo (Baltimore Orioles) – We didn’t get to see too much of the 26-year-old in the big leagues (compiling just over 200 plate appearances between San Diego and Baltimore), but the versatile defender (logging time at 2B, SS, 3B, and all three OF spots) should be able to make a decent case for playing time in 2022 on the rebuilding Orioles.
He’s a gamble: playing time is not guaranteed, his plate discipline did not look good in limited time (and based on his minor-league track record, isn’t likely to improve all that much), and he didn’t show off the level of power in his bat that many had hoped he might. However, Mateo hit 19 home runs in Triple-A in 2019 and did it while stealing 24 bases. The speed is not in doubt, and the upside of potential power in his swing means he has the potential for a 20/20 season, though 10/10 feels like a more realistic hope.
96. Brandon Marsh (Los Angeles Angels) – He’s wasn’t as bad as his fellow Angel teammate Jo Adell in his first taste of the big leagues, but Marsh has plenty to work on in 2022, as evidenced by his 35% strikeout rate in 70 games in 2021.
Now 24 years old, Marsh has a shot at a full season in the big leagues if all breaks well, and has shown off enough upside to make him interesting in fantasy. He has 10-SB speed potential alongside a handful of home runs, and offers decent stability with his hit tool in the AVG department as well. Steve Gesuele has a great article about post-hype players (including Marsh’s teammate Adell) that points out Marsh’s solid ability for solid contact alongside elite sprint speed. Marsh might end up contributing little to your fantasy squad, but he also might end up providing some serious help in the speed department while not killing you in AVG or power.
The strikeout rate was never good, even in the minors, so I have a hard time thinking he’ll ever be above-average there, but if nothing else he should be able to improve on his 35% from 2021.
97. Tyrone Taylor (Milwaukee Brewers) – Taylor got his first real shot at the major leagues in 2021 at 27 years old, and came through with a respectable .247/.321/.457 at the plate. While he’s not guaranteed an everyday role, there’s hope he can maintain a similar level of power and hit 15+ home runs, even without logging 500-600 plate appearances. At this point in the draft, I like to look for upside, and someone like Taylor is an injury away from playing every day which could net a 20/10 season.
Nothing Taylor does is extraordinary, but he also has no huge flaws, either. You could certainly do worse with a last-minute dart throw in your league draft. If nothing else, he’s someone to monitor on the wire in case he gets a chance at an everyday role.
98. Vidal Bruján (Tampa Bay Rays) – Bruján spent only about two weeks with Tampa Bay in his first major league experience last year and did not impress, going 2-for-26 with eight strikeouts, zero walks, and zero extra-base hits. Critically, he did also go 1-for-1 on stolen bases, which might provide a hint of his upside.
Bruján was largely overshadowed by his teammate, top prospect Wander Franco, but for the first stretch of the Triple-A season, Bruján was the real superstar of the Durham Bulls. Primarily known as a speedster with a good eye for contact and plate discipline, Bruján had a surge of power to start the season. The now-24-year-old hit just 19 home runs in his first ~1,800 career plate appearances, then added on 12 last season alone.
While the power evaporated as the season went along, it shows off the upside of Bruján if he’s able to tap into more power as he continues to age and develop. He stole 44 bases in just over 100 games in Triple-A, alongside a strikeout rate of 15.4%, a walk rate of 11.1%, and a .262 average. Playing time will be difficult to come by in a crowded Tampa Bay roster, but he has positional versatility within the infield and outfield to help bolster his chances.
If Bruján gets the call, he’s absolutely worth a speculative pickup. If he gets a shot at real playing time—he could end up a huge boost to your roster. He has little left to prove in the minors, so 2022 should provide him with a real chance to contribute.
99. Jeff McNeil (New York Mets) – 2021 was a bit of a down year for Jeff McNeil. After putting up a minimum of 130 wRC+ in each of his first three seasons, McNeil posted just a 93 wRC+ in 2021. His plate discipline remained in line with career norms, but his power dropped significantly. After crushing 23 home runs in 2019, McNeil managed just seven in 2021 despite logging over 400 plate appearances. Despite never dropping below .300 in previous seasons, McNeil finished the season with a .251 batting average.
So how do we look ahead to 2022? Playing time is always a bit of a tricky subject in the Mets outfield, but if he’s able to lock down an everyday (or close to everyday) role, I’d anticipate his batting average and power to bounce back, at least somewhat closer to the first three seasons of his career. BABIP shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum, but it’s worth noting that his 2021 BABIP was also considerably lower than his typical career numbers, which to me hints at a regression to the mean. Even if we can’t guarantee the .300 hitter we’ve seen before, he should finish with a better batting average and hopefully more power than last season.
100. Riley Greene (Detroit Tigers) – We round out the top-100 with someone who will likely be considerably higher on this list a year from now. While occasionally overshadowed by fellow top Detroit prospect Spencer Torkelson, Greene is looking to get his own first shot at the majors. In 185 plate appearances in Triple-A last season, Greene put up a .308/.400/.553 slash line alongside an 11.9% walk rate, eight home runs, and four stolen bases. Not too shabby.
It’s tough to predict how teams will handle their young stars’ service time, but based on his meteoric rise, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot left for Greene to prove in the minors. Keep your ear to the ground and upon the first rumblings of a call-up, pounce—it could be a league-winning pickup. Of course, it could also be a wash if Greene struggles with his first taste of the big leagues as so many other top prospects do. Greene doesn’t quite have the extreme raw power of his minor league teammate, but he could definitely be a 20+ HR hitter pretty quickly, though he’s unlikely to get enough opportunities to get there this year.
The biggest issue for Greene is strikeouts, which have often hovered over 25% in the minors. A 25-30% strikeout rate upon reaching the bigs would not be at all surprising, and he may prove a frustrating roster for his first moments. Just keep an eye on him if you don’t want to waste a bench spot on a struggling Greene—if he breaks through, he’ll be great.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)