In what feels like a blink of an eye, the fantasy baseball season is over. It feels like just yesterday that each team was playing their season opener, game 1 of a long, grueling season, but in what felt like one week, 162 games have passed, and members of the #FAmily are hoisting their league trophies and collecting payouts! I’ll fight tooth and nail if someone says that a fantasy baseball championship isn’t the most satisfying and rewarding of any fantasy sport, especially if you play in a league that sets daily lineups. Hey, just because we aren’t out on the field doesn’t mean it isn’t grueling for us, too!
To put a bow on the fantasy baseball season, we are just going to call out a few of this season’s most surprising or big time overperformers, as well as some of those who drastically underperformed expectations. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but more so just a couple of players that deserve some extra attention as we head into the postseason and offseason.
Cedric Mullins, BAL - When I first thought about an overperformer for the year, Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins came to mind immediately. Back in 2019, Mullins hit .094 in 24 games with the Orioles. He fared better in 2020, hitting three home runs and swiping seven bases in 25 games. However, 2021 rolled around, and Mullins hits 30 home runs, steals 30 bases and scores 91 runs. It’s a shame that his 30 home runs and .291 batting average resulted in just 59 RBI, but I doubt many had Mullins pegged as a 30/30 guy this season. If you did, you likely did well this season, and I want to be your friend.
Marcus Semien, TOR - Honestly, a lot of Blue Jays could have made it here, but others were going far higher in drafts leading up to the season. Semien pummeled 45 home runs, scored 115 runs, drove in 102 runners and went 15-for-16 on the bases. Semien was one of just three players in all of baseball to hit at least 40 home runs with 15 stolen bases this season. The other two were Shohei Ohtani and Fernando Tatis Jr. Phenomenal year for Semien, led by a career best .538 slugging percentage.
Robbie Ray, TOR - The second Toronto Blue Jay to make this list. Wow. Crazy this team didn’t make the playoffs, but I digress. In recent years, Ray was a big time strikeout arm that would drive fantasy owners mad because he would accompany 11 strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work with seven earned runs. Well, he was the same old Ray in the strikeout department, posting a 32.1 percent strikeout rate, but he rode a 2.84 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over a career-high 193.1 innings of work. Cutting your walk rate to 6.9 percent will certainly lead to better results, as will posting an insane 90.1 percent strand rate. I’m skeptical about a repeat performance in 2022, but enjoy 2021 while we’re in the moment.
Tyler O’Neill, STL - From 2018-2020, O’Neill hit 21 home runs and drove in 58 runners while stealing six bases and slashing .229/.291/.422. In 33 less games, O’Neill bested all those numbers in 2021, hitting 34 home runs, driving in 89 runners, swiping 15 bags and slashing .286/.352/.560. Many are going to think he could be a one-year wonder and popular bust candidate in 2022, as he was far better against righties (27 HR, 14 SB) compared to lefties (7 HR, 1 SB), and this year was a significant outlier from years past.
Cody Bellinger, LAD - Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. Bellinger was exceptional in 2019, and that might be an understatement. He stunk in 2020, but at least was respectable in some categories to help out fantasy managers. However, 2021 was an absolute nightmare. If you’re like me and invested first round draft capital in Mr. Bellinger, you were left behind the eight ball and incredibly disappointed. He turned in a .165 batting average, .196 BABIP and a 34.4 percent hard hit rate. All of that led to Bellinger working his way into a platoon! High velocity stuff and pitches up in the zone wreaked havoc on Bellinger this season, and that should be the focal point of his offseason training.
Christian Yelich, MIL - And here’s another first rounder that didn’t return the level of production one would have expected. He dealt with some ailments throughout the year, which limited him to 117 games. However, even when he was on the field, it was nowhere near the same Yelich we saw in 2018 and 2019 with the Brewers. Across 475 plate appearances in 2021, Yelich hit nine home runs, stole nine bases, scored 70 runs and notched 51 RBI. Some of the more notable numbers from his 2021 campaign are 2.8, 7.6 and .325.
- His 2.8 degree launch angle in 2021 rivals his career mark in Miami (2.7) and not Milwaukee (7.8 prior to 2021).
- His 7.6 percent barrel rate is the third-lowest mark of his entire career and first time in the single digits since joining the Brewers
- His .325 wOBA was the lowest mark of his career.
Eugenio Suárez, CIN - Suarez wasn’t as big of an underperformer as the two guys above, given that he hit 31 home runs and drove in 79 runners. However, his batting average dropped for the third straight season, down to a career-low .198. His .286 on-base percentage didn’t help those in OBP leagues, and his strikeout rate jumped to a career-high 29.8 percent. His Statcast metrics aren’t overly impressive and as he enters his age 30 season next year, the arrow of his expected performance isn’t exactly on the up and up. If the power numbers drop at all, his fantasy value plummets even further, so the level of concern for 2022 is rather high.
It was truly a season unlike any other. We saw the next generation of Major League Baseball continue to progress and take over the game, while some of the “old heads” of baseball had productive seasons. We saw our generation’s Babe Ruth in the flesh! What a time to be alive. From me and mine, to you and yours, I cannot wait until the 2022 baseball season. Enjoy the postseason and I can’t wait to see you all early next year for the 2022 Fantasy Alarm MLB Draft Guide!