Fantasy Baseball 2022 Cheatsheet: Pinpointing Top Sleepers and Busts

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2022

Fantasy Baseball 2022 Cheatsheet: Pinpointing Top Sleepers and Busts

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    One of the toughest scenarios any fantasy manager faces is knowing the talent available at any given time in the draft and recognizing the potentially league-winning sleepers and roster-crippling busts. 

    A wrong draft selection could leave a manager facing a season of regret and head-scratching.

    Ahead of your fantasy draft, there are plenty of hidden gems to choose from and recognizable faces to stay away from when assembling your roster.

    These are a couple of each.

Sleeper: Kris Bryant

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    Prior to his signing with the Colorado Rockies Wednesday, for a monstrous seven years and $148 million, Kris Bryant was in the top 10 among third basemen but unable to rank ahead of the likes of Manny Machado, Austin Riley and Nolan Arenado. 

    Arriving in Colorado, and the hitter-friendly Coors Field, makes him an attractive sleeper.

    He has seen his Expert Consensus Ranking skyrocket since the signing, moving 11 spots from 96 to 85, according to Fantasy Pros. It is the first time the experts have placed him better than his Average Draft Position, an indication that they expect his new team and ballpark to have a positive effect on his stats and fantasy value.

    The former Rookie of the Year and MVP still has the power to knock the ball out of the park, as he proved in both Chicago and San Francisco a season ago with 25 home runs. A not-so-spectacular supporting cast will not do him any favors, likely limiting how many RBI he can realistically drive in.

    Based on his own play, though, he is more than worth sneaking into your lineup sooner than pick 85. 

Bust: Fernando Tatis Jr.

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    There were already concerns about Fernando Tatis Jr. and his fantasy draft position. AJ Cassavell of MLB.com reported Monday that the talented shortstop suffered a fractured wrist and, according to Padres president AJ Preller, will face "up to three months of recovery time."

    This latest injury, coupled with a shoulder injury that sidelined him on more than one occasion in 2021, is bound to adversely affect his power hitting and limit his production. Taking him before pick 100, even if you are looking at long-term potential, is all but guaranteed to leave you with regret. 

    According to Fantasy Pros, the current Draft ECR has him hovering around pick 98.

    There is no guarantee even then that he will return to form in 2022. 

    When healthy and at his best, he is a top-five fantasy player. Even fighting the shoulder injury that plagued him a season ago, he delivered 42 home runs and 97 RBI. He also struck out more times than ever before, perhaps indicating that he was hunting for those long runs.

    Despite the strikeouts, he is a fantasy machine when healthy and able to string together long stretches of play.

    Unfortunately, the injury history makes him a considerable risk for fantasy managers, and this latest setback is not going to make it any easier. Wait, pick him up late after everyone else has forgotten he is still hanging around, and you have the greatest likelihood of not being disappointed.

Sleeper: Austin Hays

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Baltimore's Austin Hays is a sleeper based almost exclusively on potential.

    In 2021, he contributed 22 homers, four stolen bases and 71 RBI for a bad Orioles team. The last month of the season was fantastic, with eight home runs giving fans in the Charm City hope that their beloved O's might finally have a young player they can develop before inevitably trading him away for prospects as they seek to continue the vicious cycle.

    A hitter-friendly park, coupled with pure power, means he has the potential to break out this season with gaudy hitting statistics, thus elevating his fantasy value. He will have to avoid striking out to the extent that he did a season ago when he struck out just over 20-percent of his at-bats.

    Of course, there is also always the possibility that the O's find a trade partner willing to woo them with draft picks or prospects to take Hays off their hands. As Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported, though, the O's have listened to offers but do not want to make any moves before gaining a better understanding of their rebuilding efforts. 

    As long as he has the benefit of playing in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, he will have the opportunity to compile stats and potentially help your team to a league championship. He will not be tough to acquire, either. Fantasy Pros has him at a 243 ADP, well below the ECR of 174.

    He would essentially be a bargain in any round, and if he can be this season's Cedric Mullins II for the Orioles, he could easily help win your league.

Bust: Jared Walsh

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The stat line for Los Angeles Angels first baseman Jared Walsh in 2021 is deceiving. 

    Sure, it reads "29 HR," but that stat alone fails to tell you that the 28-year-old only hit seven of those homers in the second half of the season, a steep decline in production. 

    The stat line also fails to tell the story of a guy who struck out to the tune of 152 over the course of the season and had a worse batting average than the year before. That he hits a lot of ground balls does not bode well for his overall home run total, despite playing in the hitter-friendly Angel Stadium.

    Questions about his velocity and a willingness to chase hits despite diminishing returns from a batting average perspective make him a questionable selection. Throw in his struggles against lefties, including a .170 batting average, and you have plenty of reason to be cautious when the opportunity presents itself to potentially overreach for the first baseman.

    No matter how many rave reviews he garners for what he accomplished a year ago, with 28 home runs and 95 RBI. 

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