After a topsy-turvy offseason featuring a lockout, surprising contract signings, and teams bottoming out to less than individual player salaries, along with a significant amount of player movement, the MLB season is finally set to get underway on Thursday. There are two versions of this column, the same overview content below is posted with the National League cut of the rosters and players update in a separate post. As we approach 10,000 words for each draft, the need to come back to this space and write an introduction mostly evaporated. The following represents a few best guesses at lineup situations, statistics presented in graphics are 2021 stats unless otherwise noted. Details are included for MLB DFS on FanDuel and DraftKings, as well as for late season-long drafts, and all injury and roster information is as up to date as possible.
MLB DFS: Overview & Strategy
MLB Notes — Universal DH, Double-Headers and Other Changes
The newly agreed upon Collective Bargaining Agreement brings some hard-struck changes to the sport, primarily the codification of the Universal Designated Hitter, bringing the laughable situation of pitchers having to hit in the National League to a long-overdue end. While there is certainly an additional layer of strategy in the former version of the Senior Circuit, the nature of the modern game and the complete ineptitude of most pitchers at the plate rendered the change necessary. Unifying the rules between the two leagues in the same sport makes sense, and it creates jobs to extend the careers of fan-favorite aging sluggers, leading to fun things such as Albert Pujols getting to finish his Hall of Fame career back in St. Louis where it began. This should also extend the available scoring for National League lineups, leveling the playing field for MLB DFS purposes.
Another excellent change enacted in the new labor agreement is the return to nine-inning double-headers. The absurd seven-inning concession to people who do not enjoy the sport in the first place that was implemented in the name of improving game speed is no more and double-headers will once again be properly projectable this season. Unfortunately, the league decided to continue the ludicrous automatic runner at second base in extra innings idea for one more year, despite acknowledging the absurdity in agreeing to scrap it after the season. Why it was left in place to ruin the fun tension of long extra-inning games this year is anyone’s guess, but the impact on MLB DFS scoring is ultimately minimal.
New roster rules were implemented for the start of the season, expanding the size of active rosters from the normal 26 players to 28 until the beginning of May. After May 2nd, teams will return to 26-man rosters and will be required to adhere to the 13-pitcher roster limitation. The expanded rosters will not be as unpredictable as they can be after September roster expansions in the past, but extra bats on the bench always means an additional pinch-hit risk for players later in a lineup or those with platoon concerns.
The final change is an interesting one that is primarily about one of the game’s biggest stars. Since coming over from Japan, superstar Shohei Ohtani of the Angels has dazzled both with the bat and on the mound. MLB has responded to Ohtani’s massive talent by implementing a new rule that will allow him to remain in a game as a hitter, acting as the team’s DH, even after a new pitcher comes in for him on the mound. This wrinkle allows the team to fully deploy their weapon, Ohtani will not be a one-or-the-other option on the field anymore, though MLB DFS rules will still require gamers to use him as either a hitter or a pitcher, he will not accrue points for both roles.
MLB DFS Weather
Unlike most other sports, weather plays a critical role in MLB DFS. The Boys of Summer typically take the day off at the slightest hint of a downpour, leaving it to amateur meteorologists of all stripes to pontificate and prognosticate on the potential precipitation around the nation any time it gets cloudy. The Awesemo team will be providing ongoing coverage, news updates, and weather information in the form of our postponement probability metrics throughout the season to provide an authoritative source for all things MLB DFS weather.
Lineup Construction — Hitter Stacking
The critical thing to understand about MLB DFS is how the event-based correlation-driven nature of the game’s scoring relates to lineup construction. Unlike in a rate-based sport like basketball, where a player like Nikola Jokic will never turn in a 0 fantasy score without an outlier incident such as an injury. If Jokic is on the court for a given amount of time, he will produce fantasy points within a standard deviation or two of a mean projection based on his per-minute average fantasy point-scoring. In baseball, a player like Mike Trout will frequently deliver a zero, despite being one of the best plays on any given slate. It is always important to remember that a hitter who does his job right just a third of the time is likely on his way to the Hall of Fame. With that, the variance in baseball is extreme, making it critical to maximize a lineup’s fantasy scoring from any given on-field scoring event, which is achieved through hitter stacking.
Baseball scoring is highly correlated. If the leadoff hitter walks, he receives MLB DFS points for that event and he is on base as a potential run-scorer for the upcoming hitters to drive in. If the two-hitter singles, he receives fantasy points for that event and the team’s third hitter comes to the plate with men on first and third. If that hitter then doubles, he accrues points for his double, as well RBI points for the two runners he will drive in, and both baserunners score points for their runs. Having any of those players as an individual only scores a portion of the points created from the scoring event, while a lineup stack of the 1-3 hitters would include all of the involved fantasy points. More than in any other daily fantasy sport, lineup stacking is absolutely critical in MLB DFS.
The configuration of a stack can vary depending on site and from gamer to gamer, but it is always advisable to include several correlated hitters in a lineup at a minimum. Lineup maximums vary from site to site, FanDuel caps the hitters from the same team at four, leading to many constructions landing as a 4-4 or 4-3-1 build, while DraftKings allows five hitters, so 5-3, 5-2-1, and other similar constructions are highly popular. The sites offer different approaches to lineups as well, with DraftKings requiring a catcher where FanDuel does not, creating different potential approaches to player combinations from site to site. Focusing on combining tightly correlated hitters — those who hit sequentially in a lineup — is the goal of stacking hitters, at times this will mean using several low-cost players from the same lineup. It is important to remember that, while still advisable in most situations, it is not always critical to spend all of a salary cap in MLB DFS, player costs function completely differently in baseball than in other sports.
Lineup Construction — Pitching
There are different approaches to rostering pitching in MLB DFS, partly depending on the requirements of the site on which the lineup is being built, but also partly based on value and risk tolerance. Virtually every slate will feature a disparity of pitching talent, there will be obvious premium arms that are both expensive and popular for good reason. These make for fine choices, rostering a chalky ace and getting different by using the less popular hitters used in a popular team stack, or stacking hitters from a less popular team entirely, is a strong approach to building an MLB DFS lineup. The alternative is to identify pitchers who are underpriced, under-owned, or preferably both. This can also be done on virtually every slate, the situational nature of the sport leads to opportunities for those who are willing to hunt for them, finding inexpensive pitchers who can post scores comparable to those from several salary tiers up the board creates major purchasing power at the plate. Stacking popular premium hitters from popular teams with low-owned upside pitching is another sound approach to MLB DFS tournament lineups on DraftKings, where gamers have to choose two pitchers and can combine these concepts, as well as on FanDuel, where only one starter is required.
MLB DFS: Team Previews and Roster Changes — American League
American League East
Staff Summary: The Orioles are fielding a team with a total payroll of $24.5 million, which is 56% of what the Mets will pay Max Scherzer this season. While it is laughable to expect the club to compete at this level of investment from ownership, there are a few reasonable pieces for fantasy purposes. Lefty hurler John Means continues to find his way to the occasional quality outing, posting a 22.7% strikeout rate with a 1.03 WHIP last season. Means has been a lucky pitcher throughout his career, he had a .240 batting average on balls in play against last season and a .216 mark the year before, helping to suppress offensive production. The lefty had a 4.36 xFIP to his 3.62 ERA last season and he allowed 30 home runs at a 5.1% rate. The remaining Orioles starters are barely relevant for MLB DFS purposes, the low-strikeout high-ratio mediocrity in this rotation should only be considered as extreme value options in an emergency.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Cedric Mullins II, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, Rougned Odor, Jorge Mateo, Robinson Chirinos, Kelvin Gutierrez
vs LHP: Cedric Mullins II, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, Ramon Urias, Jorge Mateo, Robinson Chirinos, Kelvin Gutierrez
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .176 (11th), 25.1% K% (29th), 97 WRC+ (20th), 3.53% HR% (11th), 107 HR (23rd)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .193 (5th), 24.3% K% (27th), 109 WRC+ (11th), 4.03% HR% (5th), 66 HR (6th)
Lineup Summary: The Baltimore lineup is better than the team’s pitching staff. Despite the ridiculous salary total for the club, the team does have some quality hitters, thanks to baseball’s extended team contract controls. The Orioles lineup features multi-category stud Cedric Mullins II who had a huge 30-30 season in a breakout 2021. Mullins will lead off in most situations, a repeat of last year is a tall order, but Mullins should provide a fair balance of power and speed while correlating well with hitters behind him in the lineup for cheap stacking purposes. Ryan Mountcastle had an 11.8% barrel rate and hit 33 home runs in his second season, and Trey Mancini was a high-quality bat that delivered 21 home runs and a 10.4% barrel rate with a 41.5% hard-hit rate. Outfielders Anthony Santander and Austin Hays bookend Mancini with power in the middle of the lineup, creating a quality one through five that can be stacked for MLB DFS purposes in the right situation before the backend of the lineup falls off a quality cliff.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Jorge Mateo: Former Yankees farmhand Jorge Mateo has been around for a long time without catching on fully in the majors. Mateo’s primary asset has always been his blazing speed. The infielder stole 10 bases in his 209 plate appearances in the Majors in 2021, despite just a .293 on-base percentage. He stole 24 bases in 566 plate appearances in Triple-A in 2019 after putting up 25 in 510 opportunities at the same level the year before. Mateo also hit 19 home runs in a rare power outburst in that 2019 season, but that seems like an outlier, his previous high was just eight. Mateo does not seem like a source of power, but he still has the speed to provide stolen base upside if he can find his way to first base more often. While he may never be the player who made fantasy owners drool with a 71 stolen base season in A ball in 2015, Mateo still has upside at just 26-year-old, with a full season of opportunities he could steal 25 to 30 bases.
Boston Red Sox
Staff Summary: The Red Sox are starting the season with two veteran lefties on the shelf, as Chris Sale and James Paxton gradually find their way back to the lineup. The season will begin with Nathan Eovaldi as Boston’s nominal ace. Eovaldi is coming off a 32-start season that saw him post a 25.5% strikeout rate with a 1.19 WHIP while limiting walks to a terrific 4.6%. The righty threw more innings last season than he has since hitting 199.2 in 2014, for a pitcher who has had numerous injury issues throughout his career there has to be at least a little concern. Eovaldi is followed by a capable but unimpressive list of veterans, including Nick Pivetta, Michael Wacha, and Rich Hill, any of whom is fine as a value play or a cheap second starter on an MLB DFS slate. 25-year-old Tanner Houck threw 69 innings over 18 games last year and maintained a tremendous 30.5% strikeout rate for the season, with a matching rate in his 13 starts. Houck is an interesting option in the right situation in a variety of fantasy formats with his high strikeout upside.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Enrique Hernandez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Trevor Story, Alex Verdugo, Bobby Dalbec, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr.
vs LHP: Enrique Hernandez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Trevor Story, Alex Verdugo, Bobby Dalbec, Christian Vazquez, Jarren Duran
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .196 ISO (5th), 23.1% K% (17th), 106 WRC+ (11th), 3.67% HR% (9th), 133 HR (13th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .170 ISO (17th), 20.5% K% (7th), 103 WRC+ (16th), 3.25% HR% (18th), 62 HR (10th)
Lineup Summary: The Red Sox powerful lineup added quality in shortstop turned second baseman Trevor Story, who signed in Boston after a long tenure with the Rockies. Story will look to jumpstart his career with the high-quality Red Sox lineup, he posted a .251/.329/.471 triple-slash last season with 24 home runs and 20 stolen bases in what is regarded as a disappointing year. Story still made plenty of premium contact, he had a 42.6% hard-hit percentage and a 9.9% barrel rate last year, there is plenty left in the infielder’s bat. Story will follow a ridiculous list of hitters atop the Red Sox lineup, including Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez. Devers continued his dominance of the third base position last year, posting 38 home runs with a 15% barrel rate and a 51.5% hard-hit percentage while creating runs 34% ahead of the average last season. The quality continues through the backend of the Red Sox lineup, where both young players and veterans should provide upside, discounted pricing, and popularity relief to MLB DFS stacks that start with the premium Red Sox hitters.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Bobby Dalbec: One of the game’s major unknown mashers, first baseman Bobby Dalbec is a slugger on the verge of a breakout. Dalbec hit 25 home runs in 453 plate appearances with a .254 ISO last year, but his triple-slash was just .240/.298/.494. There is far more quality coming from this hitter. Dalbec has a well-regarded eye at the plate, but he managed to walk just 6.2% of the time last season which did not help offset his massive 34.4% strikeout rate. As a true-three-outcomes hitter, Dalbec needs to reach base via the free base to fulfill his potential. Throughout his minor league career, Dalbec drew walks in a significant number of plate appearances. In 419 High-A plate appearances in 2018, Dalbec walked at a 14.3% rate. A year later, the slugger drew a 15.5% walk rate over 439 Double-A plate appearances. His eye abandoned him in a short 123 plate appearance call up to Triple-A at the end of that season, Dalbec walked just 4.1% of the time after that promotion, but he vaulted to a 10.9% walk rate over his first 92 plate appearances in the majors in 2020, giving hope to the theory that there is a patient deadly power hitter lurking in the Boston lineup. Do not skip an inexpensive Dalbec at the back of Boston stacks early in the season, play him before the price rises.
New York Yankees
Staff Summary: Among a number of disappointments from the offseason, the Yankees declined to bolster their middling rotation in any noteworthy way. The group is still topped by apex predator Gerrit Cole, who plowed through opposing hitters with a 33.5% strikeout rate last year. Cole pitched to a 2.93 xFIP and a 1.06 WHIP with a 14.5% swinging-strike rate and a 32.1% CSW% in 2021, leading the Yankees staff in every possible way. There is not a lot behind the ace. Lefty Jordan Montgomery is a mid-range starter who can provide some value at the right price. He struck out 24.5% of hitters last season, but he has never been a true standout. Luis Severino is trying to make it back from a two-year absence. When he has not been dealing with lingering soreness, he has been erratic through the spring. The Yankees rotation is likely to look different by the end of the season. At the outset only Cole is truly worthwhile, but others are acceptable second starters.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Anthony Rizzo, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, Kyle Higashioka
vs LHP: Josh Donaldson, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, Kyle Higashioka
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .164 ISO (22nd), 21.9% K% (9th), 103 WRC+ (12th), 3.44% HR% (12th), 139 HR (8th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .182 ISO (9th), 20.3% K% (6th), 112 WRC+ (7th), 4.23% HR% (4th), 78 HR (1st)
Lineup Summary: The Yankees front office had a busy offseason remaking the lineup, just not in the way that fans and prognosticators were expecting. The team traded longtime organizational piece Gary Sanchez, in a fresh start for both the team and the catcher. Overrated infielder Gio Urshela joined Sanchez on the plane to Minnesota, with veteran slugger Josh Donaldson and shortstop Isaiah Kiner-Falefa coming to New York. The team brought back veteran first baseman Anthony Rizzo and bade farewell to Luke Voit, squeezing a quality pitching prospect out of the Padres in exchange. The team’s core is still built around sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Gallo, with Donaldson also in the mix, a healthy Aaron Hicks, and not enough room to find regular plate appearances for a hitter as good as DJ LeMahieu, the offense should not be a problem in New York. Four of the regulars in the Yankees lineup have seasons of 40 home runs or more in their ledger, Donaldson has not been at that level in recent seasons, but he did hit 26 home runs in 543 plate appearances last year and he hit 37 in 659 plate appearances in 2019. Judge and Stanton have both eclipsed the 50-home-run mark, while Gallo has cracked 40 twice in his career. Anthony Rizzo adds four seasons of more than 30 home runs from 2014 to 2017, but he hit 27 in 2019 and just 22 last season. The underappreciated Gallo is a phenomenal pure hitter, regardless of his strikeout rate or batting average. While he strikes out nearly 35% of the time every season, Gallo also draws a walk with regularity, he had an 18% walk rate last year leading to a .351 on-base percentage that shines alongside his 38 home runs. Strikeouts and batting average do not matter, home runs and on-base percentage do. Gallo is a star who has a chance to hit approximately 17,000 home runs as a lefty in Yankee Stadium this season, sleep on his power at your own risk.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Gleyber Torres: In two short seasons, Torres went from the darling prospect and the future of the team to a major question mark in the Yankees lineup. Getting Torres in exchange for a brief Aroldis Chapman loan — a rental that delivered the Cubs their first World Series title in 108 years — in 2016 was a major coup for the club’s rebuild and a feather in the cap of General Manager Brian Cashman. Torres joined the big club in 2018 and promptly fulfilled his promise, hitting 24 home runs in 484 plate appearances while walking 8.7% of the time and striking out at a 25.2% clip. Torres improved the following season, he destroyed the AL East, beating up on Orioles pitching in particular on his way to 38 home runs in 604 plate appearances with a 7.9% walk rate and an improved 21.4% strikeout rate. Torres barrel rate and hard-hit percentage were consistent, going from 9.2 to 9.4% and 36.5 to 36.1% respectively. In the pandemic shortened 2020, those numbers collapsed like everything else in the world. Torres turned in just a 3.7% barrel rate and a 38% hard-hit percentage, which he turned into just three home runs in 160 plate appearances. Over 516 opportunities last season, Torres managed nine home runs, posting an improved 7.8% barrel rate but just a 35.7% hard-hit percentage. In his miserable 2020, Torres did boost his walk rate all the way to 13.8% with just a 17.5% strikeout rate, those numbers peeled back some last season, but Torres was still ahead of his former pace at 9.7% walks and 20.2% strikeouts. The legitimate growth in those departments is encouraging to see while the player struggles with his power and contact. Torres seemed to find something in the second half of the season, over his first 317 plate appearances Torres had an 11.4% walk rate and 19.9% strikeout rate, in 199 plate appearances in the second half he was at a 7.0% walk rate and a 20.6% strikeout rate while improving his home run rate from 0.9% (3 for 317) to 3.01% (6 for 199). Torres had a triple slash of .289/.338/.456 with a .167 ISO and a WRC+ 15% above average across the 199 plate appearances in the second half, showing signs of life that could herald a major return to form.
Tampa Bay Rays
Staff Summary: The rebuilding Rays have a patchwork rotation made from quality options including Shane McClanahan, Ryan Yarbrough, and newly imported veteran Corey Kluber. The team has several up-and-coming arms, and they are adept at shifting pieces from the bullpen to the rotation, inventing the concept of the opener several years ago in the process. Young Luis Patino threw 77.1 innings for Tampa Bay last season, striking out 22.2% of hitters with an 8.7% walk rate and a 5.03 xFIP. While he struggled with command overall, Patino demonstrated the raw stuff to improve at the major league level this season, but McClanahan is the premium option in the Rays rotation. Rookie Shane Baz should add some additional upside to this rotation when he returns from arthroscopic elbow surgery in May.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Mike Zunino, Josh Lowe
vs LHP: Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Mike Zunino, Josh Lowe
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .196 ISO (5th), 23.6% K% (19th), 112 WRC+ (2nd), 3.84% HR% (7th), 134 HR (12th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .172 ISO (14th), 23.4% K% (23rd), 113 WRC+ (6th), 3.12% HR% (24th), 59 HR (12th)
Lineup Summary: In a move that broke late Monday evening, the Rays have continued moving pieces, trading outfielder Austin Meadows to the Tigers for infielder Isaac Paredes and a competitive balance draft pick. The absence of Meadows will have an impact on the Tampa Bay lineup, but it will also create an opportunity for prospect outfielder Josh Lowe, who is expected to join the major league roster for the start of the season. The rebuilding Rays offer superstar in the making Wander Franco as well as the tantalizing power and speed combination of Randy Arozarena, who had a 20-20 campaign last year to follow his playoff outburst from 2020. The lineup still features several all-or-nothing hitters including Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino, the latter of whom had a 24.3% barrel rate and hit 33 home runs in 375 plate appearances last season. Zunino fell slightly short of qualifying for most hitting stats last season, but he outpaced superstar Shohei Ohtani and the rest of the league with that barrel rate. Zunino is a deadly home run hitter who is always inexpensive for MLB DFS.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Josh Lowe: the rookie was sent to Triple-A ball, but he will be recalled to join the big team in the wake of Meadows’ departure. Lowe is a highly regarded 24-year-old outfielder who will have to prove his worth on the fly for the Rays. He hit 22 home runs in 470 Triple-A plate appearances last year while stealing 26 bases, he should be an immediate 15-20 threat who is on the waiver wire in most drafted fantasy leagues right now. Lowe will be inexpensive and easy to roster in DFS lineups to start the season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Staff Summary: The Blue Jays are making an earnest effort to bolster their rotation to match the quality of their fantastic young lineup. The team brought in right-hander Kevin Gausman who will return to the AL East after a highly successful year in San Francisco that saw him post a 29.3% strikeout rate. Gausman joins Jose Berrios, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Alex Manoah in a rotation of good but not great options. With that group and newly signed lefty Yusei Kikuchi, the Blue Jays have a solid collection of B-level starters, but they lack a true A or an ace. Kikuchi had a strong year over 157 innings, posting an improved 24.5% strikeout rate and a 3.85 xFIP, but he had a 1.32 WHIP that provided too much opportunity with his 11% barrel rate and 47% hard-hit percentage allowed. Kikuchi will need to continue his improvement and cut down the quality contact or he could suffer in homer-happy Toronto.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Matt Chapman, Alejandro Kirk, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen
vs LHP: George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Matt Chapman, Alejandro Kirk, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .192 ISO (8th), 21.4% K% (5th), 111 WRC+ (4th), 4.04% HR% (6th), 154 HR (3rd)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .196 ISO (3rd), 21.6% K% (13th), 122 WRC+ (2nd), 4.34% HR% (3rd), 63 HR (9th)
Lineup Summary: The Blue Jays are loaded from top to bottom. The team added excellent third baseman Matt Chapman to their bounty in the offseason. Chapman is coming off a down year that saw him post just a .210/.314/.403 slash with 27 home runs. Still just 28-year-old, Chapman hit 36 home runs in 2019, he is a significant candidate to turn things around with his new team. Chapman joins a lineup that already boasts George Springer, Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. , and, of course, one of the league’s most exciting young hitters who continues to grow season after season and is featured below. The Blue Jays will be one of the premium stacks in MLB DFS throughout the season, they will be expensive but well worth the effort.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: Already one of the best hitters in the game, Guerrero jumped to a .311/.401/.601 triple-slash last season, hitting 48 home runs with a .290 ISO and truly arriving on the scene while creating runs 66% better than the average. Guerrero will be a force in the league for years to come, his ridiculous numbers are bolstered by otherworldly contact and eye metrics. Guerrero barreled the ball in 15.1% of his batted ball events and he had a 55.2% hard-hit percentage while walking 12.3% of the time and striking out at just a 15.8% rate. Guerrero is a legitimate MVP candidate; he should be one of the very best players in fantasy baseball this season and it is not entirely crazy to suggest that a Triple Crown is within reach for the 23-year-old.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
Staff Summary: The contending White Sox took a hit to the rotation with the loss of Lance Lynn for the early part of the season. The bulldog workhorse of the staff will be missed, as well departed lefty Carlos Rodon. Chicago’s depth will be pushed in the early part of the year, the team just signed veteran Johnny Cueto to a minor league deal in the wake of Lynn’s injury and Cueto could realistically be their fifth starter to open the year. At the top of the rotation, another solid season should be in the sights for Lucas Giolito, who posted a 27.9% strikeout rate with a 3.75 xFIP and a 1.10 WHIP last season, and Dylan Cease stands a strong chance to continue his breakout and improve upon the 31.9% strikeout rate and 9.6% walk rate that he posted last year. Cease has ungodly stuff, with additional improvements in command and control he can compete for a Cy Young Award. Dallas Keuchel is not fantasy viable, the contact-based pitcher had a 13.2% strikeout rate last season. Converted reliever Michael Kopech is an interesting piece of this rotation who could go overlooked to start the year. Kopech struck out 36.1% of hitters in 44 appearances last season, he has dominant stuff but will have to reign things in as a starter. In many ways, the early-season success of the White Sox could rely on Kopech’s talented arm.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Yasmani Grandal, Gavin Sheets, Josh Harrison, Leury Garcia
vs LHP: Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Yasmani Grandal, Andrew Vaughn, Josh Harrison, Adam Engel
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .168 ISO (15th), 21% K% (4th), 112 WRC+ (2nd), 3.14% HR% (21st), 133 HR (13th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .182 ISO (9th), 22.3% K% (17th), 120 WRC+ (3rd), 3.61% HR% (11th), 56 HR (13th)
Lineup Summary: The White Sox are another team absolutely stuffed to the gills with premium young talent. The team includes Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, who would be an embarrassment of riches in the outfield on their own. That pair is joined by star shortstop Tim Anderson, a 20-20 threat with an excellent bat atop the lineup, veteran first baseman Jose Abreu, third baseman Yoan Moncada, and a host of quality options. The White Sox are built for the modern game, they focus on power and on-base skills up and down the lineup and they have a number of players capable of swapping into several positions and providing a sturdy bat and a bit of speed. Newly imported veteran Josh Harrison should provide a sturdy uplift at second base, either as a starter or in rotation with several options. The top end of the White Sox lineup will be a highly popular and expensive stack, but there are usable parts from one through nine in this lineup on most slates, mixing and matching correlated hitters for workable price combinations is a strong approach to rostering the White Sox’ quality for MLB DFS lineups.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Yasmani Grandal: The veteran catcher had a ridiculous year last season when he was healthy and in the lineup. Grandal saw 375 plate appearances and bumped his already very strong walk rate to absurd levels. Grandal walked in 23.2% of his plate appearances last season while striking out 21.9% of the time and hitting 23 home runs in the limited opportunities. The catcher had a .280 ISO and managed a massive .420 on-base percentage despite a .246 batting average on balls in play. Grandal’s triple-slash was .240/.420/.520 last season. He is a prime target for OPS leagues, and he is an underappreciated MLB DFS asset on most slates. Grandal is typically inexpensive, and he produces fantasy points in a number of ways from the valuable catcher position, where it is required.
Staff Summary: The Guardians have a rotation that is bookended by ace Shane Bieber and post-hype prospect Triston McKenzie. In between are three starters who had an average strikeout rate below 20% last season. All of Cal Quantrill, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale are fine for real baseball but they are not viable fantasy options given the near-total lack of strikeout upside. Bieber brings the swing and miss quality and then some. In his 96.2 innings last season, the righty ace had a 33.1% strikeout rate and a 2.91 xFIP. Bieber is an excellent option who will return to justifiably high prices, the public may sleep on him early in the MLB DFS season, which would be a mistake. At the bottom of the rotation, McKenzie comes in after posting a very good 27.5% strikeout rate and a very bad 11.7% walk rate over 120 innings last season. The 6-foot-5, 165-pound McKenzie is nicknamed Dr. Sticks and looks like a skeleton on the mound, but he has excellent wipeout stuff if he can put it all together. McKenzie will have to reign in his command and control to take the next step at this level. For MLB DFS lineups, he should enter the season as a cheap and sneaky option that could easily ignite a lineup, in both the good and bad sense.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Myles Straw, Amed Rosario, Jose Ramirez, Franmil Reyes, Bobby Bradley, Andres Gimenez, Yu Chang, Bradley Zimmer, Austin Hedges
vs LHP: Myles Straw, Amed Rosario, Jose Ramirez, Franmil Reyes, Bobby Bradley, Oscar Mercado, Yu Chang, Austin Hedges, Owen Miller
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .168 ISO (15th), 23.9% K% (22nd), 96 WRC+ (22nd), 3.25% HR% (17th), 101 HR (25th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .156 ISO (24th), 22.8% K% (20th), 95 WRC+ (25th), 3.20% HR% (19th), 48 HR (21st)
Lineup Summary: The Cleveland lineup does not have much to get excited about. They still employ star third baseman Jose Ramirez, who will be surrounded by unproven and limited bats. Ramirez had a category-stuffing season last year, posting 36 home runs, 111 runs, 103 RBIs, and 27 stolen bases, roaring back to first-round quality for fantasy owners. The counting stats were bolstered by an 11.1% barrel rate with a 42.3% hard-hit percentage and Ramirez had an excellent 13.7% strikeout rate with an 11.3% walk rate, he is a terrific source of premium contact. Ramirez is joined by sluggers Franmil Reyes and Bobby Bradley in the heart of the Guardians’ lineup. Reyes barreled the ball in 16.8% of his batted ball events and had a 48.5% hard-hit rate with a .268 ISO last year, while Bradley posted a 16.8% barrel rate and a 40.3% hard-hit with a .237 ISO. That powerful trio makes for a premium MLB DFS stack, but they need production from speedy leadoff man Myles Straw and disappointing infielder/outfielder Amed Rosario. Rosario posted a .282/.321/.409 triple slash with just a .127 ISO and 11 home runs with 13 stolen bases in 2021. While those are not atrocious numbers, more was expected from the former top prospect. Rosario will move to the outfield full-time this season, allowing him to focus on his work at the plate. If his bat comes around to expected levels, he could be a force atop the lineup for Cleveland.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Bradley Zimmer: The post-hype prospect theme continues. These players are almost always a source of upside late in fantasy drafts and at cheap MLB DFS prices early in the season. Zimmer is a former first-round pick and top organizational prospect who has yet to find his footing at the MLB level. At 29-years-old, the clock has officially stopped on Zimmer becoming a star, but a pop-out campaign is always a possibility with his toolkit. Zimmer made 348 plate appearances last season, hitting eight home runs and stealing 15 bases, quality production from a player who was once regarded as a true 20-20 threat. Zimmer should see a similar role this season, but if he is productive, he has a clear path to playing time, he could be an interesting source of limited power and surprising speed in Cleveland stacks, depending on his price and where he is hitting relative to the core trio in the lineup, Zimmer could have significant utility in MLB DFS lineup construction on DraftKings and FanDuel this season.
Staff Summary: The Tigers have a new ace, but fans may be disappointed to learn that his name is Eduardo Rodriguez. The lefty was brought to Detroit after a season that most casual fans did not appreciate last year. Rodriguez threw 157.2 innings for Boston last year, posting a 4.74 ERA but a sparkling 3.43 xFIP and a career-high 27.4% strikeout rate. Rodriguez walked hitters at a 7% clip another career-low mark. The southpaw’s strong production and growth were masked by the ugly earned run stat that includes a significant amount of noise from things that are out of his control, focusing on the statistics that relate the true nature of the pitcher reveals the quality of the underappreciated southpaw, Rodriguez is a strong option who will surprise in MLB DFS lineups to start the year. Tarik Skubal is a name to watch in the rotation, the high-strikeout lefty needs to build on a good 2021 and improve on his 25.9% strikeout rate while learning to limit premium contact. In his 149.1 innings last year, Skubal allowed a 13.9% barrel rate and a 45.1% hard-hit percentage, both of which are unsustainable. The remaining options in the Detroit rotation are not viable for MLB DFS and would be major question marks for any fantasy baseball format.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Akil Baddoo, Robbie Grossman, Javier Baez, Jeimer Candelario, Austin Meadows, Miguel Cabrera, Spencer Torkelson, Tucker Barnhart, Victor Reyes
vs LHP: Akil Baddoo, Robbie Grossman, Javier Baez, Jeimer Candelario, Austin Meadows, Miguel Cabrera, Spencer Torkelson, Eric Haase, Victor Reyes
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .163 ISO (23rd), 25.6% K% (30th), 95 WRC+ (23rd), 3.13% HR% (23rd), 128 HR (17th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .174 ISO (12th), 23.8% K% (25th), 114 WRC+ (5th), 3.41% HR% (15th), 53 HR (15th)
Lineup Summary: With Austin Meadows joining the squad, the improving Tigers lineup should be poised to make some noise this season, at least for MLB DFS owners. No longer is Detroit going to be the bastion for the masochistic lineup builders, the team has actual premium talent this season. Meadows hit 27 home runs and had a sturdy 10% walk rate with a .234/.315/.458 triple-slash last year, he will be joined in the heart of the order by fellow newcomer Javier Baez, who sported a 45% hard-hit rate and a 13.4% barrel rate on his way to 31 home runs last season. Baez produced a .265/.319/.494 triple slash with a .229 ISO last year between Chicago and New York, he should be a candidate for another 30-home-run season in Detroit. The pair will have Akil Baddoo and Robbie Grossman providing quality at bats, getting on base, and running ahead of them, the lineup tends to trail off toward the backend, but they should be bolstered by a rookie star at first base this season, and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is still collecting a paycheck.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Spencer Torkelson: The Tigers’ prized rookie is expected to make his debut with the big club at the start of the season. Torkelson was Detroit’s first overall draft pick in 2020, he rocketed his way to the majors with a 30-home-run season between high-A and Triple-A last year. Torkelson is a prime candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, and he should be a factor in MLB DFS lineups all season. The upstart Tigers will be better than they have in recent years, though they may not be the bargain-basement darlings of MLB DFS any longer with players like Torkelson in the mix.
Kansas City Royals
Staff Summary: As aging players seem to do, Zack Greinke has found his way back to Kansas City for his age-38 season. The veteran righty has lost most of the juice on all of his pitches, at last check there was essentially zero separation between his fastball and changeup, both of which sit in the 87-mph range. Greinke still managed to strike out 17.2% of opposing hitters while pitching to a 4.21 xFIP and 1.17 WHIP last season, getting by mostly on guile, experience, and desire. The veteran joins a weak staff that lacks a dominant strikeout option, the team leader last season was Brady Singer at 22.4%. Singer is a developing righty who has a chance to be quite good, he needs to learn to pitch in the Majors on the fly, however, Singer was fast-tracked to the big club after just two minor league seasons. The righty will likely be the top option for MLB DFS lineups from this staff, but he will be a price and opportunity-driven play unless he makes a major leap that would probably be a year early at 25-years-old.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Whit Merrifield, Nicky Lopez, Salvador Perez, Andrew Benintendi, Carlos Santana, Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi, Bobby Witt Jr., Michael A. Taylor
vs LHP: Whit Merrifield, Nicky Lopez, Salvador Perez, Andrew Benintendi, Carlos Santana, Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi, Bobby Witt Jr., Michael A. Taylor
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .153 ISO (27th), 21.5% K% (7th), 91 WRC+ (26th), 2.93% HR% (27th), 107 HR (23rd)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .144 ISO (28th), 19.2% K% (2nd), 100 WRC+ (22nd), 2.88% HR% (25th), 40 HR (26th)
Lineup Summary: Catcher Salvador Perez took the baseball world by storm last season, blasting a league-leading 48 home runs with a ridiculous 16.3% barrel rate and a 55.9% hard-hit percentage. Perez struck out just 18% of the time and walked in 6.7% of his plate appearances, he had a .271 ISO and created runs 27% better than average. The backstop will be joined by productive Whit Merrifield, who swiped 40 bases in 720 plate appearances as a leadoff man last year, as well as Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi, who will be looking to reestablish toeholds on their careers after middling seasons. Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi is always a source of offense, particularly stolen bases when he is healthy enough to play. Mondesi saw just 136 plate appearances last season but managed to steal 15 bases in spite of a .271 on-base percentage in the small sample. The Royals will be promoting one of their premium prospects to start the season, but they are still several pieces away from contending, the backend of the lineup is weak for MLB DFS, any Royals stacks belong primarily at the top of the lineup.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Bobby Witt Jr.: Kansas City’s prized shortstop prospect was selected second overall in the 2019 draft, and he has been on a fast train to Kansas City ever since. Witt is a second-generation MLB talent who has 60-grade game power in traditional scouting which he combines with plus speed and a dynamic glove. Witt should be an immediate producer in the majors, he has all the tools to hit 15 home runs and steal 20 bases as a rookie, his ceiling beyond this year is obscured by the clouds, Witt is one of the prime targets for dynasty formats and he should be an under-owned asset early in the season for MLB DFS lineups. Combining Witt with Merrifield, Perez, and one of the other mid-lineup bats should be a cheap source of fantasy scoring.
Staff Summary: Minnesota imported right-handed pitching to start the season, adding Sonny Gray and Dylan Bundy to the top of the rotation. Gray is a roller coaster pitcher who is capable of true dominance but struggles with consistency and injury. In 135.1 innings last season, Gray struck out 27% of opposing hitters while pitching to a 3.66 xFIP and a 1.22 WHIP. Gray generated a 10.6% swinging-strike rate and limited opposing hitters to just a 4.7% barrel rate and a 32% hard-hit percentage, he can be elite in the right matchup, and he is typically underpriced for MLB DFS. Bundy has failed to reach the lofty heights once promised for the former superstar high schooler. A series of injuries and disappointments through the early part of his career in Baltimore led Bundy to the Angels, where he had one good year, the COVID-shortened 2020. Bundy crashed back to Earth last season with an ugly 4.66 xFIP and 6.06 ERA combined with just a 21.2% strikeout rate, he has a lot of work to do to reclaim his career in Minnesota at age 29. The duo will be joined by Joe Ryan, Chris Archer, and Bailey Ober in the rotation. Ober is an interesting option who excels with his command and generates strikeouts, despite pedestrian stuff. In 92.1 innings last year, the righty had a 25.3% strikeout rate with just a 5% walk rate, pitching to a 4.01 xFIP and a 1.20 WHIP. Ober was betrayed by the home run ball; he yielded a 9.5% barrel rate with a 41.8% hard-hit percentage and a 19.7-degree average launch angle that resulted in a 5.0% home run rate against. As one of the most volatile statistics, it should not necessarily expect that Ober will be dinged by the long ball again this year, making him an interesting breakout candidate and a sleeper option in drafts and MLB DFS lineup construction.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Gary Sanchez, Alex Kirilloff, Gio Urshela
vs LHP: Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, Ryan Jeffers, Gio Urshela
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .205 ISO (4th), 24% K% (24th), 107 WRC+ (10th), 4.44% HR% (2nd), 153 HR (4th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .169 ISO (18th), 22.6% K% (19th), 105 WRC+ (14th), 3.16% HR% (21st), 48 HR (21st)
Lineup Summary: The Twins somehow scored the offensive free agent of the year in shortstop Carlos Correa. The team also traded their veteran third baseman and a movable piece for defensive specialist Gio Urshela and hard-hitting question mark catcher Gary Sanchez. The pair of former Yankees and the former Astros star join a lineup on the rise. The Twins have both veteran quality and young talent, with a lineup including Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, and Max Kepler. Power will not be a difficulty for Minnesota this season, the team should be a good source of home runs and they will make for a quality mid-range stack throughout the MLB DFS season. Multiple hitters in the Twins lineup are capable of posting a 30-home-run season this year, finding the right combinations on the right night can be a tournament-winning proposition.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Gary Sanchez: After finally parting ways with his longtime team, the catcher will look to turn things around for the Twins, where less expectation will be placed on his catching tools, and more focus will be on his still-talented bat. Sanchez hit 20 home runs as a rookie in 2016 and 33 in 2017, posting a .299/.376/.657 and a .278/.345/.531 triple slash, respectively. Sanchez was on the fast track to stardom, but the bottom fell out in 2018, he hit just 18 home runs in 374 plate appearances, cratering to a .186/.291/.406 abyss from which he never returned. Sanchez did smash 34 home runs in 2019, posting a 232/.316/.525 triple slash with a .244 ISO while creating runs 16% better than average. He fell to a .147/.253/.365 line in 2020, hitting 10 home runs in 178 plate appearances and sealed his fate with a .204/.307/.423 with 23 home runs in 2021. Sanchez still has the premium contact and power ability that almost made him a star in New York, at age 29 it is not out of the question that he has standout power seasons left in his bat.
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American League West
Staff Summary: The
cheaters Astros will see Justin Verlander return to the mound in 2022 after not pitching the last two seasons. Verlander will be an interesting experiment, if he has anything left in the tank the Astros will remain frisky in the AL West. The former ace joins a staff anchored by ground ball specialist Framber Valdez, who induced grounders at better than a 70% rate last season. Valdez is a low-end fantasy option however, he had just a 21.9% strikeout rate and a 1.25 WHIP last season. Luis Garcia is the better bet for MLB DFS value, he had a 26.4% strikeout rate in his breakout 155.1 innings in 2021, posting a 3.93 xFIP with a 1.17 WHIP and a 13.4% swinging-strike rate. Garcia has a strong chance to build on that performance. Between the rotation and the bullpen, Cristian Javier is a likely source of strikeouts and significant upside, the prospect had a 30.7% strikeout rate but a 12.5% walk rate in his 101.1 hybrid innings last year before dominating in a multi-inning role in the playoffs. Javier will start the season in the bullpen but could join the back of the rotation in short order.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Kyle Tucker, Chas McCormick, Jeremy Pena, Martin Maldonado
vs LHP: Jose Altuve, Aledmys Diaz, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Kyle Tucker, Chas McCormick, Jeremy Pena, Martin Maldonado
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .177 ISO (10th), 20.7% K% (3rd), 116 WRC+ (1st), 3.55% HR% (10th), 124 HR (19th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .194 ISO (4th), 19.1% K% (1st), 120 WRC+ (3rd), 3.84% HR% (8th), 68 HR (5th)
Lineup Summary: While their past titles may not be entirely legitimate, it is difficult to argue with the obvious talent in the Astros lineup. Houston boasts one of the league’s top young power hitters in Yordan Alvarez, who hit 33 home runs in 598 plate appearances last year, as well as up-and-coming star Kyle Tucker, who ascended from prospect status to hit 30 home runs and steal 14 bases in a .294/.359/.557 campaign last year. The pair are expected to hit on either side of defending AL Batting Champ Yuli Gurriel, one of the best pure hitters in the game. Gurriel was a fixture in the daily Tournament Strategy article last season, the 37-year-old spent his best playing days in his native Cuba before defecting with much younger brother Lourdes, now of the Blue Jays. The Gurriel brothers are third-generation ballplayers coming from a line of Cuban excellence. The elder brother still has plenty left to prove on the MLB stage, he posted a .319/.383/.462 triple slash with a microscopic 11.2% strikeout rate and a 9.8% walk rate last season. Gurriel hit 15 home runs and created runs 34% better than average in the heart of the lineup last year, he should produce similar numbers this season after coming into camp with a highly toned physique and “best shape of his life” momentum.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Chas McCormick: McCormick is an underappreciated option in the formidable Astros lineup. He is always inexpensive in MLB DFS despite an excellent 48.7% hard-hit rate and a 10.2% barrel rate that should translate into true game power. McCormick turned that premium contact into 14 home runs over his 320 plate appearances last year, he has more to give if he can sustain that success, but he will need to either reduce his 32.5% strikeout rate or improve his 7.8% walk rate to truly shine at a star level. For now, McCormick makes for a sneaky mix-in option for MLB DFS lineups.
Los Angeles Angels
Staff Summary: The Angels are anchored by staff ace and top bat Shohei Ohtani, who threw 130.1 premium innings in 2021. Ohtani needs to stay on the mound for a full season, but he is a force when he is pitching. He struck out 29.3% of opposing hitters while walking 8.3% last season, pitching to a crisp 1.09 WHIP. Ohtani adds the benefit of not having to depart the lineup on the offensive side of the game when he is removed as a pitcher this season, thanks to the aptly named “Ohtani Rule.” The star needs to stay on the field, the production will take care of itself. From a similar perspective, former Mets ace Noah Syndergaard is a reclamation project for the Angels. Syndergaard has barely pitched since posting a career-high 197.2 innings in 2019, but he should be expected to throw around 130 this year with projections ranging in all directions. A reasonable bet would be around a 23% strikeout rate and a mid-fours xFIP. Syndergaard will be a wait-and-see option for MLB DFS purposes, with his value being largely salary and matchup driven in the right spots until he proves otherwise. Lefty Patrick Sandoval is a source of cheap upside, he struck out 25.9% of opposing hitters and put up a 3.79 xFIP in his 87 innings last year, the southpaw could surprise at low cost in MLB DFS lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel in the early part of the season.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Jared Walsh, Anthony Rendon, Max Stassi, Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, Matt Duffy, David Fletcher
vs LHP: Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Jared Walsh, Anthony Rendon, Max Stassi, Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, Matt Duffy, David Fletcher
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .172 ISO (13th), 23.9% K% (22nd), 108 WRC+ (8th), 3.13% HR% (22nd), 94 HR (27th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .171 ISO (15th), 21.9% (15th), 101 WRC+ (18th), 3.54% HR% (12th), 51 HR (16th)
Lineup Summary: After seeing just 146 plate appearances in 2021, superstar Mike Trout will be looking to get back on his all-time great track with a full season this year. Trout hit eight home runs in his limited action last season, posting a .333/.466/.624 triple-slash with a .291 ISO and a WRC+ 90% better than average in the small sample. These numbers are not outliers for the superstar outfielder, he is a career .305/.419/.583 hitter who has created runs 72% better than average year in, year out. Trout is still the best player in the game until proven otherwise, he should be drafted and rostered accordingly. Young Jo Adell will have the opportunity to deliver on his tantalizing power upside this season, the team said goodbye to outfielder Justin Upton toward the end of spring, Adell will have a long leash for the Angels this season.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Anthony Rendon: The veteran third baseman was a major part of Washington’s 2019 title run prior to leaving for Los Angeles in free agency. Rendon is a star-caliber bat who hit 34 home runs at age 29 that season, but he may be forgotten in the early going in 2021. The former anchor of the hot corner made just 249 plate appearances in an injury-shortened season last year, managing just a .240/.329/.382 triple slash with six home runs and a .143 ISO, he has far more left in the tank than that, a return to form should be expected as most of the supporting metrics did not fall off in notable ways. Rendon should see a full season of plate appearances; expectations of a 25-home-run season are well within reason.
Staff Summary: Oakland cleaned house in the offseason, dealing several bats and their top starter, righty Chris Bassitt. The team is left with a rotation that features the always intriguing Frankie Montas, who posted a bounce-back 26.6% strikeout rate with a 1.18 WHIP and a 3.64 xFIP over 187 innings last year. Montas is an inexpensive MLB DFS option when he appears on the same slate as higher-caliber starters, giving him a bit of sneakiness. The remaining options in the rotation were all well below a 20% strikeout rate last year, they are serviceable contact pitchers, but they do not stand out for fantasy purposes. If former top prospect A.J. Puk makes his way into the rotation after a disappointing spring, he could be a source of upside, despite the many kinks still requiring ironing.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Tony Kemp, Elvis Andrus, Seth Brown, Stephen Piscotty, Sean Murphy, Chad Pinder, Kevin Smith, Billy McKinney, Cristian Pache
vs LHP: Tony Kemp, Elvis Andrus, Chad Pinder, Stephen Piscotty, Sean Murphy, Sheldon Neuse, Kevin Smith, Austin Allen, Cristian Pache
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .165 ISO (19th), 22.1% K% (11th), 91 WRC+ (26th), 3.07% HR% (26th), 65 HR (29th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .115 ISO (30th), 22.9% K% (21st), 77 WRC+ (30th), 2.21% HR% (30th), 22 HR (30th)
Lineup Summary: The Athletics said goodbye to star power-hitting first baseman Matt Olson, third base foundation Matt Chapman, and outfielder Starling Marte, their three best players. The remaining hitters are a true rebuild, the lineup includes Tony Kemp who had eight home runs and eight stolen bases in 397 plate appearances in 2021, as well as power-packed Seth Brown and Sean Murphy. This lineup is not a major target for fantasy purposes however, they lack the on-base acumen required to generate a significant number of runs, and there are no true stars available.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Seth Brown: The lefty thumper hit 20 home runs in just 307 plate appearances last season, posting a 13.9% barrel rate and a 40.2% hard-hit percentage while striking out 29% of the time. Brown is an all-or-nothing power bat who needs to learn to walk more frequently, his 7.5% rate of drawing the free pass will not sustain his heavy strikeout low average approach. Brown has power for days, he needs to add quality to be a viable MLB DFS option, but with limited stacking opportunities, he is relegated to a cheap one-off in limited shares.
Staff Summary: The Mariners are rolling up a stake this season and going all-in on their talented young lineup. The team added lefty ace Robbie Ray to boost their middling rotation, and they have a number of compelling pieces on the offensive side of the game. Ray will head a group that struggles to strike out opposing hitters with any regularity, a talent in which he happens to specialize. The lefty had a career year in 2021, posting a 32.1% strikeout rate with a 3.36 xFIP and a 1.05 WHIP. Ray impressively cut his walks in half, ignoring the ludicrous 17.9% walk rate from 2020, Ray dropped from the 11.2% rate he posted in 2019 and the 13.3% he put up in 2018 to a career-low 6.7% which made all the difference for the pitcher who was seemingly on a career-long search for consistency. If Ray can manage to retain that improvement in Seattle he should dominate again, all the stuff is there for the lefty to maintain his elite status from last year. The rest of the rotation is comprised of question marks, with Yusei Kikuchi departing and filler pieces like Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen providing limited strikeout ability. Second-year man Logan Gilbert has a chance to be a breakout piece for the Mariners, he posted a 25.4% strikeout rate over 119.1 innings as a rookie last year, putting up a quality 4.19 xFIP and a 1.17 WHIP while limiting barrels to 8.8% but yielding a 44.6% hard-hit percentage. Gilbert should make strides, he had a strong 12.5% swinging-strike rate but was not in the zone consistently enough, slipping to just a 25.9% CSW%. The wildcard in the rotation is rookie Matt Brash, who won the job with a strong spring. Brash is making the leap directly from Double-A ball, where he posted a 36% strikeout rate over 55 innings in 10 starts last season.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: J.P. Crawford, Mitch Haniger, Jesse Winker, Ty France, Jarred Kelenic, Eugenio Suarez, Abraham Toro, Adam Frazier, Tom Murphy
vs LHP: J.P. Crawford, Mitch Haniger, Jesse Winker, Ty France, Dylan France, Eugenio Suarez, Abraham Toro, Adam Frazier, Luis Torrens
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .167 ISO (17th), 21.4% K% (5th), 103 WRC+ (12th), 3.28% HR% (15th), 131 HR (15th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .164 ISO (22nd), 22.4% K% (18th), 101 WRC+ (18th), 3.38% HR% (17th), 69 HR (3rd)
Lineup Summary: The Mariners spent money on offense this year, bringing in outfielder Jesse Winker and infielder Eugenio Suarez, former Reds standouts, to bolster a team that already had a few interesting parts. Seattle will be without oft-injured former top prospect Kyle Lewis to start the season after he underwent knee surgery from another season-ending knee injury last year. Lewis is a dynamic performer, but he will be a question mark when he returns to the team. In the meantime, the lineup will be supported by Mitch Haniger who hit 39 home runs and posted a .253/.318/.485 slash with 110 runs and 100 RBIs last year, creating runs 20% better than average. Adding Winker and Suarez should create additional runs for Seattle, Winker produced runs 48% better than average last year, and Suarez still has titanic power potential, despite a down year that saw him hit 31 home runs but slip to an ugly .198/.286/.428 slash. With pieces like Abraham Toro and Adam Frazier in the lineup, the Mariners will stack well from top to bottom, power-packed catchers Tommy Murphy and Luis Torrens should not be forgotten where the position is required. Seattle also announced that top organizational prospect and number three prospect in baseball Julio Rodriguez will start the season with the big club, adding another intriguing bat to this lineup and helping to fill the void left by Lewis. Rodriguez hit 13 home runs and stole 21 bases across 340 plate appearances in High-A and AA last season, he has immediate 15-25 upside if he sees a full season of opportunities.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Jarred Kelenic — The outfielder was buried under the weight of tremendous expectations in 2021. Coming in as an apex prospect, Kelenic debuted to great fanfare and heavy MLB DFS ownership and almost immediately cratered before getting sent back to the minors. For the year, Kelenic posted a .181/.265/.350 triple slash in 377 plate appearances, managing just 14 home runs with a .169 ISO while creating runs 27% below average. The prized former prospect did not suddenly lose all of his talents and it is not likely that he will completely fail to translate those skills to the big-league level. In year two it is reasonable to expect major growth from a post-hype prospect who has consistently been graded for a plus hit-tool, plus power, and plus speed. Kelenic is too good to be written off so early in his career, he is very likely to surprise and quickly rise in price early in the MLB DFS season, get in early.
Staff Summary: When planning to write 20,000 words about next MLB season, please remind this author to not handle things alphabetically so that the Texas Rangers are the last team on the list. Texas is a big-money club that makes splashy acquisitions and tends to go nowhere with them. This offseason they added former Rockies righty Jon Gray to the top of their rotation, giving Gray the long-awaited opportunity to pitch away from Coors Field for a full season. While his new home is not a pitcher’s park, Gray should benefit from the change of scenery, the capable righty had a 24.4% strikeout rate with a 4.04 xFIP but a 1.33 WHIP last year. Gray limited barrels to just 6.9% and hard hits to a mere 37.8%, if he continue to limit quality contact the other marks should come around without the Coors influence. Gray joins a rotation in which 27-year-old Dane Dunning is the second-most interesting piece. Dunning threw 117.2 innings in his first real major league season last year, putting up a respectable 22.3% strikeout rate with a 3.87 xFIP but an ugly 1.44 WHIP. Dunning works in the low-90s, mixing in a dynamic changeup and an effective cutter, he will need to make major strides to be a truly interesting MLB DFS option, but he will at least be in play from low salary tiers when matched against the right competition. Former early draft pick Spencer Howard was sent to Texas by the Phillies last season, he posted a 22.7% strikeout rate in 49.2 innings in the show and has much to prove after an 11.8% walk rate and a 4.98 xFIP. Howard and the rest of the starting rotation are unlikely to contribute in a major way for fantasy gamers this season.
Projected Lineups & Key Hitter Statistics:
vs RHP: Willie Calhoun, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Nate Lowe, Adolis Garcia, Mitch Garver, Brad Miller, Kole Calhoun, Andy Ibanez
vs LHP: Nick Solak, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Nate Lowe, Adolis Garcia, Mitch Garver, Charlie Culberson, Jake Marisnick, Andy Ibanez
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs RHP: .195 ISO (7th), 22.8% K% (15th), 108 WRC+ (8th), 4.05% (5th), 137 HR (9th)
2022 Active Roster: 2021 Splits vs LHP: .168 ISO (20th), 24.9% K% (28th), 95 WRC+ (25th), 3.49% HR (13th), 51 HR (16th)
Lineup Summary: Texas made several major splashes on the offensive side of the diamond, bringing in star infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Seager saw an injury-riddled year but made 409 plate appearances and hit 16 home runs while posting a terrific .306/.394/.521 triple-slash. Semien roared back into prominence while with the Blue Jays, blasting 45 home runs and putting up a .265/.334/.538 slash with a .273 ISO while creating runs 31% ahead of average. They join breakout Rangers star Adolis Garcia, who powered his way to 31 home runs and 16 stolen bases as a rookie and has big things in his sights for 2022. Power-hitting catcher Mitch Garver, outfielder Kole Calhoun, and quality utility man Brad Miller are all interesting options in the backend of a Rangers lineup that should play well for power and speed, as well as fantasy points this season.
Lineup Sleeper/Player to Watch — Willie Calhoun: As a former top prospect who has been there and back again in the process of moving from the minors to the majors, the now 27-year-old Calhoun still has a lot to prove if he is going to stick at this level. Calhoun was a highly regarded hitting prospect on his way through the minors, reaching Texas’ lineup for 108 plate appearances in 2018 and a more robust 337 opportunities in 2019. Calhoun was seemingly on his way, hitting 21 home runs in the 337 tries that season, while posting a .269/.323/.524 slash with a .256 ISO and 110 WRC+. He made hard contact 40.7% of the time with a 5.4% barrel rate that year but crashed to just a 1.2% barrel rate and a 38.8% hard-hit percentage in 108 plate appearances in 2020. Calhoun was again limited in 2021, seeing just 284 opportunities at the major league level and turning in a pedestrian .250/.310/.381 slash but striking out just 12% of the time. The hit-tool and discerning eye at the plate have not changed. Calhoun has an excellent 15.4% strikeout rate over his 874 plate appearances in the majors. He needs to put the patience together with the power he has flashed in the past. If he manages it from atop the lineup in front of the improved group of Rangers hitters, he could have a very strong and surprising season across all fantasy formats.
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