Collette Calls: 2022 AL East Bold Predictions

Collette Calls: 2022 AL East Bold Predictions

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

I hope the holiday season was everything you hoped and wanted for in some way, shape or form. I enjoyed an extended break from my career to really just unwind, enjoy UCF's bowl win over the University of Florida and enjoy the time with immediate family and some friends. Today is now the day after Christmas, and it is time to get the 2022 writing season into full gear with the eighth installment of my Bold Prediction series. I went back into the archives and found that my first installment was ironically published on April Fools' Day of 2015, and the first prediction that year read as such:

J.J. Hardy fails to hit double-digit home runs for a second straight season. He hit 22 or more from 2011 to 2013, but hit just nine last season despite coming to the plate 569 times. His front shoulder is still not 100 percent and front shoulder issues are bad for hitting with power. I'm running away from him and grabbing shares of Everth Cabrera.

Hardy did indeed struggle in 2015 with eight homers in 437 plate appearances and never again hit double-digit homers, but Cabrera was even worse with a .208/.250/.229 slash line before Baltimore cut him loose and he never saw another plate appearance in the majors. I've continued to persist with these predictions and the self-reflections of them at the end of the season because they are fun. The goal of the series has always been to challenge the market opinions of players, good or bad. I am not always in agreement with the projections we publish here on players, and that is to be expected because you could go look at projections from a variety of sites and find a wide range of projected outcomes for any such player. Last season, I had some sizable misses due to injuries, unrealized playing time or skills regression, but big hits on guys such as Yuli Gurriel, Ty France, Robbie Grossman, Austin Riley, Adam Duvall, Anthony DeSclafani, Triston McKenzie, Scott Barlow, Alex Reyes, Craig Kimbrel and Corey Kluber made it one of my best years yet in helping others better their fantasy baseball outcomes.

That is the beauty of fantasy baseball because it is about managing uncertainty from a foundation of certainty. Projections help get you the foundation of your team so you know what you should be able to comfortably expect from your roster and help guide you to making your picks or buys in the later rounds as you finalize your roster. If everyone thought the same way about every player, there would be no fun in drafts because everything would be by chalk and auto-ranks and we would never see the craziness we experience in auctions or drafts every season. 

To answer some questions about this process, I absolutely practice what I preach. If I predict someone to overperform popular projections, you can bet I am interested in that player. That does not mean I will overdraft or overpay for the player, because there is no value in such a play. There is more value in forcing another owner to make a roster play they were not planning on in driving up a price in an auction or taking someone earlier than projected than there is altering your own plans because you're worried about someone taking "your guy." Conversely, even if I include someone on this list who I do not like, it does not mean I am fully out on the player. I did not like Corey Kluber at his market value last year, but that did not mean I was not bidding on him in auctions because if an entire room hates a player, why let said player go at a great price just because of the risks? Why not roster the player, hope he starts hot, and then move him to a recent convert?

This year, I am including a new table below each player which shows their 2021 ADP, their 2021 final roto value earned, their 2022 ADP from all drafts at NFBC to date and their projected 2022 roto value from our projections based on 15-team standard mixed league formats. It is my hope to get you to take a deeper look at the player or pitcher to formulate your own opinion on the player before draft season really kicks in.

Baltimore Orioles

Rougned Odor has another 30-homer season in 2022

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

R. Odor

466

511

-$3

$0

Odor has hit 30 or more homers in three of the past four full seasons, but those feel like distant memories after watching him struggle over the past two seasons with the Rangers and Yankees. It is ironic that the second base version of Chris Davis is now going to play in the same place which watch Davis fade into obscurity with similar numbers. Odor had the outlier season of 2018 where he had one glorious season in the BABIP sun that allowed him to hit for a respectable batting average, but has otherwise been a miserable drag on fantasy batting averages since the start of the 2016 season. The move to Yankee Stadium gave him a small burst of helium last year very late in draft season, but even the short porch there could not fix all of Odor's ills. The Yankees simply could not afford to keep his offensive liabilities in the lineup as they were contending for a postseason spot. Enter Baltimore. The Orioles are already out of postseason contention as they enter the fourth year of their five-year rebuilding plan and can afford to give Odor everyday playing time in their cozy ballpark. Camden Yards was the best park for lefty home runs in 2021 by single-year park factors and fourth-best when using a three-year rolling average. Simply put, this is an excellent spot for Odor to go out and play every day and try to show the league he is not done at age 28. The risks here come with Odor possibly seeing too much exposure to lefties, or that he truly is done and the Orioles cut bait and move on to one of the kids. Odor's market value puts him safely in the endgame of reserve drafts, so if your foundational roster is light on power and you are speculating for a potential breakout power season on the cheap, Odor has the conditions to resurface a skill he has owned multiple times over the past six seasons. 

Cole Sulser is a top 350 player

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

C. Sulser

ND

511

$3

$3

Lost in all of the awfulness which was the 2021 Orioles was the effective season from Sulser as he won five decisions, saved eight games, and had a solid 2.70 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. John Means had his moments, but it was Sulser who was the one fantasy gem on an otherwise terrible pitching staff. Sulser has done two impressive things – picked up multiple degrees from Dartmouth and is one of the few pitchers to come back and pitch effectively after two Tommy John surgeries. Sulser had his first surgery during his junior year of college and his second one four years later in 2015. He was a starter in college and in the Cleveland system until the second TJ surgery pushed him to a career in relief save the occasional opener appearance. Thus, he has a repertoire of a starting pitcher with a fastball and changeup as his two best pitches followed by lesser breaking balls. His changeup is particularly strong and he will throw it to both righties and lefties with the pitch generating swings and misses 34% of the time over the past two seasons. He pairs that changeup with a riding fastball and allowed just five homers last season while his comrades served them up with regularity throughout the season. 

That Statcast profile has a lot to like in it, and the fact he will have a prominent role in the bullpen all season should once again allow him to pile up decisions throughout the season as he likely shares the late-inning heavy lifting with Tyler Wells, who is going 80 picks ahead of Sulser. 

Boston Red Sox

Bobby Dalbec is a top 10 first baseman

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

B. Dalbec

260

232

$10

$9

I covered Dalbec just before the end of the season, so there is not much else to add that he did over the final two-to-three weeks of the season. The current 10th-ranked first baseman by ADP is Jake Cronenworth with an ADP of 122 while Dalbec ranks 24th at the position:

Hitter

Team

Position(s)

ADP

Min Pick

Max Pick

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

TOR

1B

6

3

12

Freddie Freeman

ATL

1B

19

8

29

Matt Olson

OAK

1B

42

21

89

Paul Goldschmidt

STL

1B

51

33

103

Pete Alonso

NYM

1B

61

32

100

Jose Abreu

CWS

1B

70

32

112

Ryan Mountcastle

BAL

1B, OF

112

74

141

DJ LeMahieu

NYY

1B, 2B, 3B

117

65

175

Jared Walsh

LAA

1B

117

63

145

Jake Cronenworth

SD

1B, 2B, SS

122

80

157

Max Muncy

LAD

1B, 2B

125

52

256

C.J. Cron

COL

1B

135

96

223

Ty France

SEA

1B, 2B

142

92

189

Josh Bell

WAS

1B

144

95

195

Rhys Hoskins

PHI

1B

147

98

209

Tyler Stephenson

CIN

C, 1B

161

98

255

Anthony Rizzo

NYY

1B

164

98

249

Joey Votto

CIN

1B

165

125

211

Alex Kirilloff

MIN

1B, OF

175

121

255

Trey Mancini

BAL

1B

185

141

227

Yuli Gurriel

HOU

1B

199

126

264

Jonathan Schoop

DET

1B, 2B

207

149

257

Brandon Belt

SF

1B

230

169

317

Bobby Dalbec

BOS

1B

231

147

355

As you can see, there is quite a range of value for him compared to the highly sought-after first baseman. The position is deep this year, but the quality tier begins to disappear once we get past Jose Abreu. Should Dalbec continue to build upon his improvements in the second half and continue to make better contact while flattening baseballs, we are going to look back at this early ADP and chuckle. 

Garrett Whitlock is not a top 150 pitcher

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

G. Whitlock

ND

259

$6

$7

Rule 5 picks are not supposed to be this good right away, yet Whitlock was plucked out of the Yankees organization and helped Boston get deep into the postseason. He leaned heavily on his fastball to get the results he achieved and was quite productive as a fantasy reliever with zero saves thanks to eight wins and excellent ratios in his 73 innings of work. There is much to like with his ability to excel out of the 'pen, but there are flaws. He had his issues against lefties as they had a .350 wOBA against him compared to the .228 wOBA when he faced righties. That is a large split for a guy whose secondary pitch is a changeup, but his changeup does not have elite whiffiness and lefties had a fair amount of success against his two-seamer. The larger issue for me with Whitlock is the absolute lack of track record for a workload. There is talk of Whitlock potentially returning to the rotation in 2022, a role in which he served his entire time with the Yankees but never worked more than 120 innings in a season. The issues against lefties would be more exposed as a member of the rotation because opponents could construct their lineups rather than leveraging pinch hitters late in games. So much, if not too much, went Whitlock's way in 2021, making it tough for him to achieve success in 2022 if he is leveraged in the rotation. He is currently the 96th pitcher by ADP, but I see a few reasons to be skeptical regarding how his sophomore season will shape up for him. 

New York Yankees

Gary Sanchez is a top 5 catcher

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

G. Sanchez

154

265

$3

$1

Sanchez was the eighth catcher off the board in NFBC drafts between Christian Vazquez and Sean Murphy, but this winter finds himself going between Mike Zunino and Omar Narvaez. It is ironic he is going just after Zunino as that is the type of season I believe he has in him. Zunino finished the season as the fifth most valuable fantasy catcher mostly thanks to his 33 homers. Sanchez has twice hit 30-plus homers in a season and has suffered from some of the same batting average struggles as Zunino in recent years as Sanchez's batting average has ranged from .147 to .232 over the past four seasons. This year is almost assuredly Sanchez's final year as a Yankee as his contract runs out and the likes of Willson Contreras, Omar Narvaez and Tucker Barnhart are in the 2023 free-agent class. Sanchez still retains some of the better hard contact rates in baseball when he is able to make contact, but so much of it comes to his pull side that many hits get eaten up into the shift. A three-year run of elite max exit velocity and barrel rate ended last year, but that is still in very recent memory. He made some gains later in 2021 with his ability to make contact in the zone while reducing his chases as well as his swings and misses, which gives us a glimmer of hope as well:

Sanchez's market price has historically been too high for most non-Yankee fans, but now that he is going in second-catcher ADP land, it is a very nice buying opportunity. Take it from the guy who purchased Zunino in the fourth round of Tout Wars reserves last year... and then cut him 2 weeks later out of spite.

Jameson Taillon is a top 75 pitcher

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

J. Taillon

191

300

$2

$0

Taillon is currently the 111th pitcher off the board by ADP just in between Zack Greinke and Jesus Luzardo. It is unlikely Taillon will be able to make his first start or two of the season because of an offseason ankle injury, but I believe that presents a strong buying opportunity. He returned to the mound in 2020, 18 months after his second Tommy John surgery in August of 2019. Long-time readers of this column know my stance on rostering any pitcher recovering from TJ surgery before two full calendar years out from the surgery, but Taillon did the exact opposite of most other pitchers:

SPLIT

ERA

WHIP

K-BB%

HR/9

AVG

4/7-8/18

3.89

1.22

16%

1.4

.240

8/19-END

6.15

1.14

14%

2.1

.212

He was punished by the long ball after his surgery anniversary and I do believe that came from him hitting a physical wall given his active pitching ended 37 innings into the 2019 season and he missed the rest of that season and 2020 in recovery. The projections look at a pitcher with just one season of a sub-4.00 ERA over the past four seasons along with the homer issues from last season in his adjustment to the AL East while dealing with realigning his command after such a long layoff. Corbin Young on Twitter split up the numbers a bit differently to make a similar point:

Taillon still possesses an excellent spin rate on his pitches and his strong 2018 season is not that much of a distant memory. It is his only full season of health at the big-league level, which is why the ADP and projections are where they are for him, but the pieces are there for him to far exceed both valuations by season's end.

Tampa Bay Rays

Manuel Margot is a top 60 outfielder

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

M. Margot

191

250

$7

-$3

I had made this prediction, even before Jeff Erickson tweeted this out and prompted my reply:

Margot has a few things going for him in 2023. The biggest factor in his value is the pending departure of Kevin Kiermaier as there is a strong likelihood that KK is dealt once the lockout ends because he is in the final guaranteed year of his contract as the $13 million due in 2023 has a $2.5 million buyout. Given how thin the free-agent class was for center fielders this winter, there will likely be a team that would take on his defensive talents at an $8.9 million luxury tax hit this year and a $14.5 million overall contract value. Margot would be the immediate beneficiary of a Kiermaier deal, but Margot is a free agent after this season, so the odds of him realizing all of this new playing time with Tampa Bay in 2022 are not solid either because Vidal Brujan and Josh Lowe wait in the wings. Margot has what those two do not – a lot of experience playing center. Margot also has a 74% stolen base success rate over the past three seasons which earns him a green light from Kevin Cash. The challenge with extra playing time with Margot are his three below-average seasons offensively against righties as he loses the ability to really drive the baseball against them while faring better against southpaws. The push in value here is with the speed since stolen bases are becoming increasingly more difficult to get on rosters. Margot was one of just 75 players last season to steal at least 10 bases and one of just 41 players with at least 10 homers, 10 steals, 50 RBIs, and 50 runs scored. Only the injured Ronald Acuna and Rule 5 surprise Akil Baddoo accomplished as much in fewer plate appearances. More playing time will likely be a drag on Margot's average, but his solid walk rate, high contact ability and stolen base success rate could lead to a productive volume season as well.

Corey Kluber is a top 100 pitcher

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

C. Kluber

168

392

-$4

$4

Yes, this comes on the heels of me saying he would not even be a top 125 pitcher last year, which turned out to be true. No, this is not just because he left the Evil Empire and is now part of the rebel alliance and my favorite ballclub. It is, in part, due to Tampa Bay's track record of squeezing the most of what's left in a guy and there is a solid foundation in place with Kluber for the type of pitcher the Rays like to rebuild. We do not even have to look too far back as Michael Wacha is a good model to work from. The 5.05 ERA Wacha posted last year hides the improvements in-season once he finally dumped his awful cutter in mid-August as Wacha had a 3.20 ERA the rest of the way while holding opponents to a .192 average with a 25 K-BB%.  Kluber fastballs (2, 4, and cutter) are not what they once were as the league does not have as much trouble with him as they did in the middle part of the last decade:

SEASON

BA

xBA

SLG

xSLG

WHIFF%

PUTAWAY%

MPH

2017

.259

.257

.449

.423

25%

22%

91.3

2018

.268

.245

.424

.392

21%

22%

90.5

2019

.340

.297

.534

.553

25%

25%

90.1

2020

INJ

INJ

INJ

INJ

INJ

INJ

INJ

2021

.303

.271

.477

.432

19%

13%

89.2

Kluber had his traditional poor April, and his 2020 layoff likely did not help matters for a pitcher who is such a creature of habit. He got hot in May highlighted by his no-hitter against Texas before shoulder woes shut him down for two months. He came back in the final stanza of the season, and picked up where he left off in one particular area of success – his pitch mixture:

Note how Kluber tapered off his fastballs while ramping up his breaking ball and changeup usage just before he gave into the shoulder issues and how he ramped that back up upon his return. Also note the outcomes of those pitch groupings:

Pitch Group

BA

xBA

SLG

xSLG

WHIFF%

PUTAWAY%

MPH

Fastballs

.303

.271

.477

.432

19%

13%

89.2

Breaking

.186

.209

.289

.320

39%

26%

81.9

Offspeed

.191

.195

.213

.273

40%

28%

84.7

Kyle Snyder is a wizard at helping pitchers accentuate what they do best, and Kluber can enjoy a contact suppressing approach pitching in a roomier stadium with a better defense and a supporting pitching coach in his corner. Plus, the Rays will not be asking him to get out there and work six-plus innings every time out as Kluber is clearly not that guy any longer. The volume likely will not be there, but he does still strike out nearly a quarter of the hitters he faces and the ratios should be well-supported with better surroundings and a full season recovered from his major shoulder injury. I am back in at his current market value as much as I was out on him this time last year. 

Toronto Blue Jays

Danny Jansen is a top 15 catcher

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

D. Jansen

308

338

-$5

-$11

I really try to avoid using catchers in bold predictions because they are arguably the riskiest of positions to project anything with, but Jansen intrigues me for a few reasons. His ADP has slipped a bit from last year while the attention focuses on Alejandro Kirk. Look below:

Just one of his 2021 homers came while Toronto was playing in minor-league parks, so that concern can be set aside. He does, however, get to enjoy half his games in a great home park with another 18 in friendly pull environments in Fenway and Camden Yards. In Jansen, we have a hitter who has top 25th percentile max exit velocity who is getting more loft to the baseball, and has increased his hard-hit rate quite a bit over the past two seasons. His extreme pull approach does leave him suspectible to shifts when he does not loft the baseball, but he also has the athleticism so that everything on the ground is not an automatic out. He closed out the season with a .322/.385/.763 slash line from Aug. 1 until the end of the season sharing the catching duties with Kirk hitting six homers, driving in 18 while scoring 16 runs in just 65 plate appearances. He is currently the 25th catcher off the board by ADP, making him an excellent C2 target with strong C1 possibilities if this power growth continues to trend as it has so far. 

Tim Mayza is a top 250 pitcher

Player

2021 ADP

2022 ADP

2021 Earned $

2022 Projected $

T. Mayza

ND

738

-$1

None

A bold prediction for a player our site does not yet have a projection for (yet) should certainly get your attention. He is currently the 365th pitcher by ADP, and last year's pick here, Julian Merryweather, is the 250th pitcher by ADP at 629. I did Mayza's 2022 Fantasy Outlook for the site, so I'll quote what I said in it here:

If Mayza were right-handed, he would have a case as a potential closer. He is extremely tough to elevate, tough to barrel up, suppresses overall hard contact and does not hurt himself with walks. He has all the qualities we want in a late-inning reliever, but he is a two-pitch lefty in a Toronto bullpen that has just him and Ryan Borucki throwing from the left side. Still, Mayza has earned his way into late-inning work and grabbed five wins in his role last season. The return of Julian Merryweather and the addition of Yimi Garcia to the picture could in theory cloud Mayza's return to an eighth-inning role, but these skills will not be marginalized into lower-leverage situations. He has some appeal in deeper AL formats as a reserve pick so long as he is in a position to vulture decisions

This Statcast profile is not one of some pitcher that a club is going to let toil in low-leverage relief or situational work just because is left-handed:

Mayza displayed elite contact suppression abilities last season by Barrel% and average exit velocity and does not hurt himself with free passes. The sinker/slider approach does somewhat leave him a bit more exposed to righties as they hit four of the five homers against him, but they hit .221 around those homers, which shows he is not completely exposed against them. This bullpen was in flux nearly all season behind Jordan Romano, and even he needed offseason knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in early November. Romano has a firm hold on the closer role barring an injury setback, but Mayza has the skills to continue to perform well in leverage situations allowing him to help contribute positive ratios, decisions and strikeouts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast on iTunes. An eight-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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