Below is a compiled list of some of our favorite sleepers heading into the 2022 MLB season. What is the criteria? Players that are being “slept on” as the kids would say and we’re looking at guys taken outside their ADP that might be a little low, taken from January 1st of 2022. That, in your standard 12 team league, is round 16 and beyond. Let’s dive in!
Eduardo Rodríguez, DET SP (ADP - 148.30)
New jersey, new E-Rod, right? That’s the hope amongst many Tigers fans and fantasy baseball players around the world. The Tigers shipped out $77M over five years to bring Rodriguez in despite pitching to a near five ERA last season. Look beyond that ERA, however, and you’ll see Rodriguez was very good in 2021.
He faced some very bad luck as he had a .363 BABIP and to go along with that 4.74 ERA, he notched a 3.43 xFIP and 3.65 SIERA, both over 100 points lower than his aforementioned ERA. Where he excelled was in the strikeout department. He had 185 Ks in 157.2 IP and posted a career best 27.4% K-rate. He matched his 2020 SwStr% at 11.7, which is a VERY solid mark.
He now shifts from Fenway Park, which is the second best offensive rated park over the last three seasons while Comerica Park ranks 20th. A ground ball pitcher with an elevated K-rate, heading to a BETTER park than he’s ever pitched at. Sign us up for the best few seasons of his career, starting with 2022.
Brendan Rodgers, COL 2B/SS (ADP - 162.05)
In 102 games in 2020, the former third overall pick really started showing his potential as he belted 15 homers while hitting .284. Rodgers has a lot going for him entering the ‘22 season, but two things really stand out. First off, it’s his multiple position eligibility. Being able to play BOTH middle infield spots is a great thing to have. Secondly, and what probably is first in a lot of people’s eyes, is his home field is Coors Field!
Here’s the most impressive part of his 2021 season and what could lead to a MONSTER ‘22. Look at his splits below and tell us what you see.
Figure it out yet? He was actually BETTER on the road! How many players call Coors home and can put that on their resume? Not many. But if we see some positive regression at home, mainly in the power department, we could be talking about a guy approaching 30 home runs after hitting 15 in 102 games a year ago. This is a guy who has the upside to finish in the top-12 at each middle infield spot.
Ranger Suárez, PHI SP (ADP - 180.70)
Are we completely overlooking how good Suarez was last year once he entered the Phillies rotation? Sure he was a fantastic reliever too, but he didn’t skip a beat as a starter.
His K-rate, which generally is higher out of the pen, was virtually the same, he walked fewer batters, allowed far fewer home runs and had a better FIP as a starter. Sustainability is obviously the question on everyone’s mind since he started three games prior to 2021 and just 12 during ‘21.
Throughout his entire minor league career, Suarez was a starter. Maybe the strikeout stuff isn’t sustainable since he never really flashed that upside at any level, but if he keeps the ball on the ground 60% of the time he’ll do just fine. It needs to be mentioned that his fastball velocity was an all-time high in 2021, reaching 93.8, which was the first time over 93 for an entire campaign since he entered the big leagues back in 2018.
Matt Chapman, TOR 3B (ADP - 188.90)
At this point in Chapman’s career, it looks like we’re going to have to live with the strikeouts because although he cut his K-rate from 2020, his ‘21 mark was still north of 30% at 32.5%. But in 10-team leagues, this guy is being drafted right before the 20th round of drafts! Something’s fishy here. Sure, he didn’t match his 2019 numbers in which he nearly reached 40 home runs and had 102 RBI.
When you point to where Chapman’s struggles were in 2021 you can point to all his numbers in Statcast. He barreled the ball at a decent 13.7% clip, but he was not making nearly as much hard contact as his hard-hit rate dropped to 41.7 (career mark is 45.5) and his exit velocity was a career low 89.7. The good thing is nothing suggests this is something that’s going to continue to drop considering just the year prior he had a career best 93.6 exit velocity.
Let’s not fail to mention 2021 was a year in which he was recovering from hip surgery. Well, now that he’s had an entire offseason to let it fully heal, the possibility of the 2019 version of Chapman is very likely.
Last think. Third base is baaaaad in fantasy baseball in 2022. There are a lot of potentially solid plays, but a lot of potential busts as well. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say Chapman could be the steal of the position at his current ADP and if he’s traded like some rumors suggest he could be? Things are only looking up.
Marcell Ozuna, ATL OF (ADP - 193.89)
Let us start off by saying this guy does NOT belong in the game and what he did was absolutely dreadful on every level. A month ago, the league retroactively suspended Ozuna on September 10th, which covered the final month of the year. What does that mean? Well, that means when the lockout ends, he’s technically a Brave and is no longer suspended.
He can play from day one IF the Braves keep him or he’s signed elsewhere. He’s been staying busy with baseball as there have been multiple clips of him blasting home runs in the Dominican Winter League and as it stands, through 21 games he’s hit .316 with four home runs and 13 RBI. That’s according to Baseball Reference.
Despite how awful his actions off the field were, there’s no denying what he can do on the field and there’s no reason, at this ADP, if he’s playing, he isn’t one of the best sleepers in all of fantasy baseball. A healthy Ozuna, in a Braves uniform, could replicate his 2017 season that he had with the Marlins and that’s why they shipped him out all that money prior to the domestic abuse case that he’ll always have to live with.
Gregory Soto, DET RP (ADP - 208.65)
With A.J. Hinch naming Soto as the teams closer entering 2022, all systems go on a late-round closing option here. Soto has electric stuff, notching a 27% K-rate or better in two consecutive seasons and over 10 K/9 in each season as well.
Soto has become a two-pitch pitcher with the fastball and slider and his velocity over the past two seasons has risen as well. Look at where the velocity started in 2019 at 95.4 MPH to where it ended up in 2021 at 98.3 MPH.
What the graphic above also shows is that he began throwing his slider at a much higher rate last year than he has throughout the first two years of his career. That pitch, amongst all qualified relievers, ranks as the 11th best slider in baseball. If his 98+ MPH fastball can catch up and be nearly half as effective as the slider, he could be the best steal out of the bullpen during draft season.
Patrick Sandoval, LAA SP (ADP - 215.95)
It’s understood when you hear “stress fracture in his back” it doesn’t sound good, but when Sandoval’s 2021 campaign came to an end due to the aforementioned, it was made clear that his 2022 season would in no way be impacted. In fact, he’d be ready for Spring Training, and we haven’t heard anything that would debunk that either.
When you look at some of the things, he was able to do across his 17 outings – 14 of which were starts – it really pains you to know it was cut short. He upped his fastball velocity pretty significantly while maintaining what he’s good at, inducing ground balls. He notched a 51% ground ball rate while limiting ANY sort of damage and holding opponents to a 29.3% hard hit rate, which was 7.5% better than either of his previous seasons.
Maybe his biggest stride of all, and maybe the most important to us fantasy players is the swinging strike (SwStr) rate. 15.2%! You know who has those types of numbers? The Corbin Burnes’, Max Scherzer’s and Robbie Rays of the world. Only five qualified pitchers had that high of a swinging strike rate in 2021. All we’re asking for is ONE healthy season, Mr. Sandoval. That’s all!
Josh Rojas, AZ 2B/SS/OF (ADP - 221.18)
It’s very hard to see a guy projected to leadoff, in a hitter’s ballpark, that has THREE position eligibility and not be extremely interested in him. 2021 was his first time as a full-time player and he had a moderately good season. He hit 11 home runs and had nine stolen bases while bolstering a .752 OPS and played everyone on the diamond.
If you’re playing on a site like Yahoo! Fantasy, all they require is five starts at a position of 10 total appearances, so if we see Rojas repeat his 2021 defensively, he could have five position eligibility.
His .341 OBP mixed with his speed is definitely what intrigues Arizona as a leadoff hitter and what should intrigue us as fantasy players on top of the positional stuff. He enters this season only 28 years old and will have plenty of room to grow as the DBacks use him atop their order.
Bobby Dalbec, BOS 1B (ADP - 233.30)
If you’re looking for some late-round power look no further. In 133 games in 2021, he belted 25 bombs after belting eight in ‘19 in his first 23 career games. Through his first 139 career games, he’s hit 33 home runs and has a .511 SLG%.
Something else that was impressive was the 78 RBI he drove in mostly hitting at the bottom of the order and while being a platoon player. He’s projected to hit in the middle of the Red Sox order in the six hole, which is a fantastic spot to up that even further as he’s slated to be the everyday 1B.
Look at the improvement on some of Dalbac’s batted ball stats.
He took a massive step up in the exit velocity category and his 92.4 mark – if qualified – would’ve ranked 19th in the league, ahead of teammate J.D. Martinez. Dalbec has a great chance to belt 30 bombs in 2022.
Nicky Lopez, KC SS (ADP - 235.70)
As skeptical as we’re sure EVERYONE was when Lopez got hot in the summer months of last year, he just never cooled off. He was great from the moment the calendar flipped to June and he NEVER looked back.
Above are his numbers from June 1st until the end of the campaign. There are few things to take note of. First off, his .326 AVG is elite. Secondly, he has a lot of speed and is a great base runner, swiping 17 of his 18 bags over that span. Lastly, he hits for absolutely no power, but hey, pretty solid two-category producer, right?
All in all, he finished with a .300 AVG and stole 22 bags. Only 19 players in the entire league stole 20 bags and Lopez was only one of three players that stole at least 20 and hit .300, as Starling Marte and Trae Turner were the other two. Pretty solid company I’d say.
There is a place for guys like Lopez in fantasy baseball, despite the fact everyone’s eyeballs are driven to the guys belting 40+ home runs. Those guys are great too, but a glue guy like Lopez helps your average and stolen base ratios tremendously.
Taylor Rogers, MIN RP (ADP - 236.50)
Injuries plagued Rogers’ season in 2021 and he was only able to pitch in 40 games as he picked up just nine total saves, which equaled his amount from the year prior where he pitched in 19 fewer games.
Rogers hasn’t had the best luck throughout his career when looking at his numbers. In each of the previous two seasons, he had ERA’s of 4.05 and 3.35 in 2020 and ‘21 respectively but in each of those seasons, his BABIP numbers were .400 and .358 while his xFIP’s were 3.28 and 2.11.
We saw his ability to close games in ‘19 when he notched 30 saves and posted a 32.4% K-rate. He actually upped his K-rate last year to 35.5%, which was a career best number for him, so if he’s able to repeat that, he could very well be one of the better bullpen pieces this upcoming season, especially at current ADP.
Brandon Belt, SF 1B (ADP - 238.05)
There has been a massive switch turned on for Belt in the past couple of seasons that has turned him into a destructor of the baseball. He’s always been a very solid hitter, but never like this. For a guy who hadn’t had a slugging percentage above .480 since 2013, what gives the last two seasons in which he’s notched a .591 mark in 2020 and a .597 mark in ‘21?
His barrel rate and HardHit% have NEVER been higher and they’ve been significantly higher at that. He sat around an 87 EV (exit velocity) in both 2018 and ‘19, but that’s increased to 90.7 and 89.2 the last two seasons.
Despite the fact that his home ballpark is not conducive to much hitting, it’s not much of an issue for Belt as he Belt-ed 13 home runs and had a .571 SLG%, .313 ISO and .384 wOBA at home. He’s projected to hit near the top of the Giants lineup and should maximize his plate appearances in doing so.
John Means, BAL SP (ADP - 239.73)
There is really not a lot going on with baseball right now EXCEPT the fact Baltimore drastically altered the dimensions of their ballpark. The left field wall is being pushed back 26.5 feet and is being lifted 7 feet 4 inches as well. BUMP to the pitchers in Camden Yards? Aliens?
Insert John Means who struggled mightily at home last year. He pitched to a 4.62 ERA, allowed a .333 wOBA and allowed 2.1 HR/9 last season. Look at his numbers in better pitcher environments, however. Yeah, the home runs still showed up, but EVERYTHING else was down.
Twice in three seasons as a full-time starter Means has posted an ERA below 3.70 and doing that while pitching in what is considered a top-five offensive park in baseball year in, year out is impressive.
He’s someone who misses bats anywhere from 22-23% of the time and limits hard contact and the last three seasons have been below 30.9% in that department. ALSO, if Means is dealt, which the rumors about that are swirling, then he has tremendous upside with the potential he is moved out of the AL East.
Steven Matz, STL SP (ADP - 252.85)
After moving on from the Mets to the Blue Jays on a one-year “prove yourself” deal, Matz did just that and did so pitching in multiple home ballparks that catered to hitters as they split their time between Florida, Buffalo and Toronto. Not to mention the ballparks within the division were rather hitter friendly as well. All that said, Matz pitched to a 3.82 ERA and went 14-7.
Matz very consistently produces 22-25% K-rate rates year in, year out and heading into his age 31 season, that’s not likely going to change, but at the position he’s being drafted in, that’s more than serviceable as a guy that’s likely filling out your rotation. Matz moves from Toronto to an ideal pitcher’s park in St. Louis. St. Louis was a bottom-five park to hit in, in terms of runs scored and home runs, so insert a guy who has a career 47.1% groundball rate and it’s a recipe for success. The groundball rate matters because of how reliant upon his defense he is. According to Fangraphs, the Cardinals were the third BEST defensive team in baseball last year and retained a lot of their elite defenders for 2022.
I'd be remiss to mention that the division he plays in now, compared to the boppers of the AL East, has to be a relief. Three teams in the NL Central are coming off seasons in which they were 18th or worse in OPS with no real signs of improving on those marks. Matz is a fantastic value moving back to the National League and into a division that doesn’t feature many potent offenses.
Jon Gray, TEX SP (ADP - 256.45)
We’ve always wondered how good Gray could be when he’d call something other than Coors Field his home and now, we’re getting our wish. When you break down his career at Coors Field, it’s incredibly impressive when you factor in that he pitched there for seven seasons. His numbers are impressive, notching a 3.62 xFIP and a .257 BAA, which are BOTH better than his road marks.
Exit stage left and enter Globe Life Field which caters to pitchers far more than it does the hitters. According to Baseball Savant’s ballpark factors, Globe Life was 21st for hitters last year. Gray has been a good source of strikeouts throughout his career as well, notching a 23% K-rate or better in five of his last six seasons. The outlier was the shortened season of 2020.
You don’t have to use too high of a draft pick on Gray as he heads to his new home, and he could be a fantastic value by season's end.
Mark Canha, NYM OF (ADP - 259.41)
When you think of Mark Canha you don’t exactly think about a guy that has sported a .258, .387 and .396 OBP over the last three seasons, but here we are and because of that he got a nice shiny contract from the Mets in the offseason.
He did show flashes of regression in the power department last year, but still belted 17 bombs and where he made up for it was on the base paths as he stole a career high 12 bags. We’ll see if that does continue, however, as Buck Showalter has never been a manager who likes to run much.