Welcome to F6P’s 2022 Fantasy Baseball Opening Day Prospect Impact Report!
Opening Day is finally (mercifully) here, and there’s a unique buzz already surrounding some of the game’s top prospects, given that the most exciting of them have secured opening day roster spots.
Let’s dive into a few of the biggest names, with a sprinkling of high-upside risers, and how to assess their value at the beginning of the season.
I’ve divided the column into two categories: Immediate Impact (obvious), and Brace for Impact, by which I mean it might be in your best interest to watchlist or even stash these players, but don’t be surprised if it takes them a bit longer to round into form.
2022 Fantasy Baseball Opening Day Prospect Impact Report
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Bobby Witt, Jr. SS/3B, Kansas City Royals
No brainer here. It really shouldn’t be of any surprise that Witt, Jr. made the opening day roster, considering he posted a .936 OPS across 124 games in the minors last year, and broke camp this Spring like it was a wet paper bag, blistering a 1.223 OPS across 34 plate appearances. We know success in Spring does not necessarily a king make, but he simply left the Royals no choice.
He started at the hot corner all Spring, and will be the Royals’ everyday third baseman going forward. Given that he already has shortstop eligibility, his value on the left side of your lineup’s infield is already at set-it-and-forget-it status. Not to mention: 3B is unusually shallow this year, so if Witt, Jr. can come anywhere close to his projected value (we’re talking 25/25 potential rookie season here), we could be in for some real fireworks at a position that needs all the pyrotechnics it can get.
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners
Baseball’s #1 prospect Julio Rodriguez hits an inside the park home run
— Notable MLB Home Runs (@nicehomeruns) April 1, 2022
After the Mariners traded for Jesse Winker and bloated their outfield in March, all arrows pointed down to Tacoma for J-Rod. But, like Witt, Jr., Rodriguez’s Spring was another showcase of prospects strong-arming front offices into keeping them in the bigs; he posted an OPS (1.310) somehow even better than the future Royals superstar.
Sure, he made a few defensive and base-running miscues, but he also barreled that inside-the-park home run at a 105-mph exit velo. He’s got some issues with offspeed stuff and doesn’t walk much. He’ll swing and miss for sure. He played mostly centerfield during camp, but he might shuffle around the outfield depending on the defensive performances of Jarred Kelenic and Winker.
What I’m saying is: there’s a good amount of uncertainty and risk with J-Rod, but if you had the opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle day-in and day-out in your lineup’s outfield, wouldn’t you go for the gamble? The Mariners did, and you should too.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers officially selected Torkelson’s contract on Wednesday, April 6, which means he’s officially going to be Detroit’s starting first baseman for the 2022 season. It’s clear the Tigers want to make a postseason push this year in what’s going to be one of MLB’s most interesting divisions, and they see Torkelson’s bat as one of the best assets they have in that endeavor.
While his Spring wasn’t as flashy as Witt, Jr.’s or Rodriguez’s (.258/.385/.484), what we like are his five extra-base hits, including a home run, and the fact that he recorded a steal. What we like even more is that he only struck out six times across 39 PAs.
There’s easily 30-homer potential here, and if you can get even 5-8 steals out of him, you’ll have both surprise value *and* the guy with the coolest last name in baseball in your first base slot.
Seiya Suzuki, OF, Chicago Cubs
Let’s be clear: I think Suzuki tips *just* over the fence into the category of Immediate Impact, but there’s a significant gap between him and the above three youngsters.
Suzuki slashed .317/.433/.636 in Nippon Professional Baseball last season, so we know he can get the bat to the ball and drive it over the wall. But, it’s true, we’ve seen this movie before: the first act may play out as an adjustment period. He sure didn’t see the ball as well as he’d have liked in the Spring, struck out a lot, but did show his ability to go yard.
I like my chances that the adjustment period won’t be too drawn out. He’s 27 years old, right at that sweet-spot for breakouts. It’s not crazy to assume that something like a .275/.350/.550 season is in store for the international phenom.
Brace for Impact
Hunter Greene, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Last week, David Bell announced that Hunter Greene officially secured a spot in the Reds’ starting rotation, and will be starting the fourth game of the season versus Atlanta. This is great news for anyone who loves flames on the radar gun.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on a pitch count here early in the season, as he did lose two full years of development to both Tommy John surgery and the COVID-19 pandemic. But his fastball flies pure and, man, does his offspeed stuff dive. We could be looking at some silly K/9 numbers here, even if he doesn’t get you the QS/W totals you’d want just yet.
I’m going to stash him and start him on April 10 when he faces the Braves. At the very least, keep an eye on this guy, and try to get in on him before the rest of your league does.
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