2022 Fantasy Baseball: Overvalued Middle Infielders

by Mike Schneider
2022 Fantasy Baseball: Overvalued Middle Infielders

Welcome to the 2022 Fantasy Baseball: Overvalued Middle Infielders.

Last week we looked at undervalued middle infielders to target.  Now we will look at overvalued middle infielders to avoid their current average draft position (ADP). For each overvalued player, I also provide an alternative that has a better value this year.

I have found that when drafting for 2022 I am often waiting on middle infielders.  In doing this exercise I realize that the reason for this is because there are a decent number of highly ranked middle infielders that I believe are overrated at their current value.

2022 Fantasy Baseball: Overvalued Middle Infielders

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How High Does he Move Up?

Marcus Semien (2B/SS, Texas Rangers ADP 34.01)

Marcus Semien is one of my favorite players in baseball,  He was a great value in 2021 with an ADP of 121.79 and I had a number of shares. He had a tremendous year in 2021 with 45 homers and 15 steals and signed a seven year contract with Texas worth $175 million.

The question is high how does Semien move up based on his outstanding 2021? With the Rangers playing in a pitcher's park after playing home games in 2021 in friendly hitting environments in Dunedin and Toronto, I think Semien is going a round too early.

In one draft that I was in Semien lasted quite a bit longer than his ADP and I would have taken him if he was available with pick 50 but he went with the 44th selection.

Alternative: Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants ADP 204.09) 

Crawford also had a great year in 2021 and was responsible for a lot of fantasy titles for owners who picked Crawford up for virtually nothing (2021 ADP 484.95). At 34, Crawford set career highs in all five offensive categories.

The innovative Giants organization has made some changes to Crawford's offensive game that appear to make him a better hitter in his mid 30s than he was when he was younger.

Will he Hit for Power and or Steal Bases?

Wander Franco (SS, Tampa Bay Rays ADP 54.5)

Franco turns 21 in a few weeks and his hit tool is as advanced as you will find for his age.  However, the lack of power or speed does not translate well into a standard 5x5 fantasy baseball.

I believe that Franco will eventually hit for power but not in 2022. A 15 homer and ten steal season would be on the higher end of the projection for Franco in 2022 and does not justify this high of a pick even if the batting average and runs are above average.

Franco's high value is partially based on his age and his prospect hype. In a redraft league just for 2022, he is overvalued.

Alternative: J.P. Crawford (SS, Seattle Mariners ADP 332.68)

Crawford had nine homers and just three steals in 2021 but he hit .273 and scored 89 runs.  While Franco is going in the fourth round, Crawford is going in the 22nd round. Franco is better than Crawford but the difference is not this large.

New Situation

Javier Baez (2B/SS Detroit Tigers ADP 63.46)

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It is always extra challenging to project a player's performance when they sign with a new team.  In Báez' case, he has played 862 major league games with National League teams but is now in the American League.

Andecotely it seems that when a player signs with a new team the performance in the first year has a tendency to be more extreme, either good or bad, than a normal year.  Báez' signing with the Tigers also signaled the end of the Tigers' rebuild which began in 2017.  With several young pitchers already in the majors and Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson on the way, the Tiger signed Baez for six years at $140 million dollars.  The Tigers are looking to be competitive in 2022.

Báez had an awful 2020 sprint season. On the surface, he was much better in 2021 in which he split between the Cubs and the Mets.  However, his strikeout percentage of 33.6% was his highest rate since his rookie year in 2014. Free swingers like Báez have a tendency to age poorly.

While Báez statistically was very good to finish the year with the Mets, the team was awful the last two months. A lot of his value in 2021 was tied to stolen bases.  Báez stole 18 bases in 2021 which was the second highest total of his career and he has not reached the teens in any other year.

Overall, I think there is a bit too much uncertainty with Báez to be selected this high.

Alternative: Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros ADP 73.15)

While Baez will be in a new situation in Detroit, Altuve will be where he has been for many years, leading off for the Astros.  Altuve matched Baez with 31 homers in 2021. Altuve does not run nearly as well as he used to and last year Baez stole 13 more bases than Altuve.

What is more overlooked is that Alture scored 117 runs in 2021 which was 37 more than Baez. Since Altuve will likely continue to bat leadoff for a strong Astros lineup, that type of production should continue. I prefer Alture to Baez.

Upside versus Downside

Jazz Chisholm (2B/SS, Miami Marlins ADP 77.38)

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Chisholm is a flashy, fun and charismatic player and there is the potential for a ton of upside with a nice combination of homers and stolen bases here. However, there is also too much downside for a pick this early.

Chisholm struck out 145 times in just 124 games and only hit .228 in the second half. At the point of the draft where Chisholm is going, I want a safer pick.  If Chisholm's strikeouts increase a bit or if continues to play like he did in the second half of 2021, he will not be playing regularly.

Ketel Marte, Jorge Polanco, Jonathan India and Tommy Edman are four players who are being drafted behind Chisholm, who I would prefer.

Alternative: José Barrero (SS, Cincinnati Reds ADP 440.8)

Barrero has the potential to be another player that is an asset in the stolen bases and home run categories. He has not produced in limited major league opportunities.  However, he was great in the minors in 2021.

Barrero is unlikely to open the year with a regular major league role, but that can change quickly. I would much rather take a risk where Barrero is going than where Chisholm is going.

Is There Upside?

Corey Seager (SS, Texas Rangers ADP 78.24)

Seager is another player that signed a big contract in the off season as a free agent with a new team. He is a good solid player but provides no speed and has never hit more than 26 homers in a year which was in 2016.

As long as Seager stays healthy he is not going to hurt you much, but he going higher than where I would consider selecting him.  The four middle infielders (Marte, Polanco, India and Edman) I mentioned liking more than Jazz Chisholm are also preferred over Seager. In addition, a number of quality starting pitchers are going in this same area that I would consider selecting over a middle infielder.

Alternative: Jean Segura (2B, Philadelphia Phillies ADP 204.49)

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If you combine home runs and stolen bases, the only year that Seager has been better than Segura was the 2020 sprint season.  Seager does have a .297 career batting average versus .285 for Segura. Historically Segura has been a better fantasy player than Seager and for 2022, Seager is going in the sixth round while Segura is going in the 13th round.

2021 Value Versus 2022 ADP

Ty France (1B/2B, Seattle Mariners ADP 138.22)

When Ty France was in the minor leagues in the Padres organization, he posted dominant offensive stats but never got an opportunity to play more than sporadically in the majors. France was eventually traded at the 2020 trade deadline to the Mariners where he prospered once given regular playing time.

France was a nice value in 2021 when his ADP was 272.2. He played every day in 2021, hit for a nice average, with some power but no speed.

Rather than draft France at his current ADP, I prefer to look for the next France.  There is not a ton of upside at this price.

Alternative: Josh VanMeter (2B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks ADP  707.86)

In both 2019 and 2021 VanMeter has proven to be too good for minor league pitching.  With both the Red and Diamondbacks VanMeter was called up to the majors, did not play regularly, and had limited success.

With the Diamondbacks rebuilding and the DH coming to the National League, this may be VanMeter's last chance to get regular major league playing time.  It is only necessary to draft VanMeter in a very deep league, but he is someone to keep an eye on, in any size league.

All in the Family

Luis Urias (2B/SS/3B Milwaukee Brewers ADP 158.53)

A year ago the trade that brought Luis Urías and Eric Lauer to the Brewers for Trent Grisham and Zach Davies looked like a terrible trade for the Brewers.  With both Urías and Lauer having strong seasons in 2021, the trade looks much more palatable for Brewer fans now.

Urías played in 150 games, hit 23 homers, and is eligible at three positions.  I question how real the power is and think the position flexibility is baked into the price.  There are a number of pitchers in this range like Lance McCullers, Ranger Suarez, Marcus, Stroman, Sonny Gray and Luis Severino that I prefer over Urías.

Alternative: Ramon Urias (2B, SS Baltimore Orioles ADP 475.08)

Luis' less-heralded brother, Ramón is exactly three years older. Ramón got an extended look for the first time in 2021 and had a 115 wRC+ in 85 games. Urías had a good chance to get a regular role in the Orioles infield and makes a nice last-round pick in The Main Event style contest (15 teams, 30 rounds). He can be dropped if he is not playing regularly in the early season.

Is There More?

Amed Rosario (SS, Cleveland Guardians ADP 162.85)

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Rosario is the third in the trio with France and Urías of players who were nice values in 2021 who I do not think have much upside for where they are going this year.

In 2021 Rosario was solid across the board hitting .282 with 11 homers, 13 steals, 77 runs, and 57 RBIs. He was 13 for 13 on stolen base attempts but in 2018 and 2019 he ran more and had double-digit caught stealing attempts.

In the range where Rosario is going, I think Brendan Rodgers and Andre Gimenez are better values with more upside at middle infield but I am also looking at the pitchers I mentioned in the Luis Urías profile.

Alternative: Nico Hoerner (2B, Chicago Cubs ADP 369.92)

When looking for an alternative here I am looking for the next Rosario.  Hoerner’s biggest issue in his pro career is staying healthy.  He was limited to 44 games in 2021 with assorted nagging injuries that should not impact his preparation for the 2022 season. When he did play, Hoerner showed strong on base skills.

Although he did not hit for much power in college at Stanford, there is a feeling that he has the potential to hit for 15 or so homers with about the same number of stolen bases.  Hoerner is a strong defender and health is the only thing keeping him off the field.

Batting Average Risk

Eugenio Suarez (SS/3B, Cincinnati Reds ADP 197.88)

The Reds got a steal when they acquired Suárez for Alfredo Simón prior to the 2015 season. Suárez came out of nowhere to become one of the best power hitting infielders in baseball for several years. In the last couple of years, while the homers have still been there, the strikeouts have increased and the batting average has declined.

In 2021 in order to get Jonathan India in the lineup at the beginning of the season, the Reds played Suárez at shortstop for the first time for more than a few games since 2015. While it did not go well, it did get Suárez middle infield eligibility for 2022.

While Suárez has had a low BABIP the last few years, the high strikeout rate and low xBA do not make it likely that the batting average will improve. It appears that at age 30, Suárez ' skills have started to decline.

Alternative: Rougned Odor (2B/3B, Baltimore Orioles ADP 446.27)

If you are going to draft a player that provides homers and little else, selecting Odor where he is going makes sense. He is in a good spot in Baltimore where he should play regularly.

Odor is a lefthanded pull hitter so moving back the fences in Camden Yards should not impact him much.

Closing Strong

Oneil Cruz (SS, Pittsburgh Pirates ADP 223.89)

In 2021 the AA minor league season ended on September 18th but the AAA season did not end until a few weeks later. Oneil Cruz finished a good season for AA Altoona.  He missed about a month and half with a forearm strain. In 62 games, Cruz hit .292 / .346 /.536 with 12 homers and 18 steals.

When the AA ended, the Pirates promoted Cruz to AAA Indianapolis.  Cruz went crazy in six AAA games going 11 for 21 with five homers and eight walks.  He was called up to the majors for the last weekend and hit a homer in three games.

A lot of the hype that Cruz is getting is based on those six games at AAA and the three games in the majors.  While Cruz was great, it was just a handful of games and should not impact his outlook. Cruz is listed at 6'7" and for a hitter that tall, it may take a bit longer to adjust to the majors.

Alternative: Ha-Seong Kim (2B/SS/3B San Diego Padres ADP 379.90)

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Kim was a hot name last year when he came over from South Korea and signed a four-year contract with the Padres.  He had a disappointing year as Jake Cronenworth emerged as the Padres regular second basemen.

In South Korea, Kim was a consistent .300 hitter with 20+ homers and steals.

Kim appears to be the Padres' primary backup infielder and there is potential for playing time especially if Fernando Tatis Jr.reinjures his shoulder or if the Padres decide that Tatis would be safer at DH or the outfield.

It is a big adjustment on and off the field coming from Asia and Kim might have needed a year to get his bearings.

Recency Bias

Nicky Lopez (SS, Kansas City Royals ADP 233.65)

Lopez is in the group of middle infielders that were good values in 2021 and as a result are being drafted much higher in 2022.  Going into 2021 Lopez was considered a light-hitting, defense-first player.  In 2021 Lopez hit .300 with no power but stole 22 bases, 14 of which came after August 7th.

The issue with Lopez is that there is a small margin for error.  With Bobby Witt Jr. ready, and Adalberto Mondesi healthy for now, the Royal infield is crowded and there is a chance Lopez does not hold on to his everyday role.

It is obvious and basic but always good to remember, that you are drafting for the coming season, not for the previous season.

Alternative:  David Fletcher (2B, SS  Los Angeles Angels ADP 330.96)

Fletcher had always been an empty batting average hitter who played regularly and was eligible at multiple positions.  In 2021 through August 8th, Fletcher hit .308 with a 98 wRC+. However, he was awful the last 50 games of the year where he managed to have a wRC+ of 9.

Fletcher is a career .281 hitter who is not yet 28 years old and he stole a career-high 15 bases in 18 attempts in 2021. Fletcher seems to be a decent bet to rebound and looks like a good value at this price.

Declining Skills

Jonathan Villar (3B/SS, FA ADP 279.42)

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On the surface, Villar has a solid year in 2021 with 18 homers and 14 steals. However, a closer look shows that Villar's skills appear to be declining.

Villar no longer has elite base-stealing skills.  Before this past year, Villar stole a base about once every four games. In 2021 he stole a base about once every ten games. Prior to 2021, Villar has a 78.7% success rate on stolen base attempts. In 2021, he was successful on 66.7% of his stolen base attempts.  Villar's sprint speed was only in the 57 percentile in 2021.

Villar turns 31 in May.  He is a free agent so it is unclear what type of situation he will be in for 2022.  There is an awful lot of blue on his Statcast page. which means his percentile is below 50%.

Alternative:  Andres Gimenez (2B/SS, Cleveland Guardians ADP 261.72)

Giménez began 2021 as Cleveland's regular shortstop despite having limited success in the upper minors. He struggled and was sent in the minors in May. Giménez played well in AAA hitting for some power for the first time in his pro career and was back in the majors in August.

He finished the year on a positive note and appears to be in line to begin 2022 as the Guardians' regular second basemen. Giménez is 19 for 20 in stolen base attempts in 117 MLB games. He just turned 23 in September.

The Price for Position Flexibility

Luis Arraez (2b/3B/OF Minnesota Twins ADP 304.62)

There are only a handful of players that are eligible at middle infield, corner infield, and outfield based on a 20-game minimum at the beginning of the year. While this adds value for Arráez, I feel like this is part of the cost.

Arráez can hit for a high average but has little power (6 homers) and no speed (4 stolen bases) in 245 major league games. There is very little to suggest that he has a chance to improve in those areas.  Arráez is in the bottom ten percentile is barrel and hard-hit percentage.  He is in the 45 percentile for sprint speed.

While Arráez is a versatile sure-handed defender he has a limited range at all positions.  Overall, I wonder if Arráez's playing time gets reduced.

Alternative Josh Harrison (2B, 3B, OF FA ADP 387.04)

Like Arráez, Harrison will begin the season with eligibility at middle infield, corner infield, and outfield.  Harrison will be 35 in July and is currently a free agent.  However, I am confident he will find a semi-regular for 2022. Harrison is a nice insurance policy for both a real-life and fantasy baseball team.

Harrison has some power and speed. He is a career .274 hitter.

Playing Time

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (SS Texas Rangers ADP 326.57)

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Kiner-Falefa has been a decent enough player the last couple of years.  He has played regularly the last two years hitting .280 in 2020 and .271 in 2021 and he hit eight homers and stole 20 bases in 2021. However, his outlook changed significantly when the Rangers signed Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.

Semien and Seager are obviously going to be the Rangers' regular middle infielders and top prospect Josh Jung is expected to be the Rangers' regular third basemen no later than May 1st.  That leaves no playing time for Kiner-Falefa barring a trade or an injury.  Kiner-Falefa is a long way from free agency, does not make much money and the Rangers did not need to move him.

On November 29th when the Rangers signed Seager, Kiner-Falefa's ADP was 248.83. From November 30th going forward, Kiner-Falefa's ADP is 338.69.  In my opinion, with minimal opportunity for playing time now,  Kiner-Falefa should be going much later.

Alternative: Tony Kemp (2B, OF,  Oakland Athletics ADP 420.80)

The A's appear to have gone into full-scale rebuild mode.  Kemp has always been a utility player but got the most plate appearances of his career in 2021 with 397.  At the end of the year, Kemp was sharing second base with Josh Harrison who is unlikely to return.

Kemp is just 5'6" 160 lbs and has little power.  in 2021 he hit .279 with eight homers and eight steals.  He had a .800 OPS with a wRC+ of 127.  Especially this late in the draft, playing time is important and Kemp has a chance to play regularly and even hit leadoff.

Thanks for reading the 2022 Fantasy Baseball: Overvalued Middle Infielders. Be sure to keep an eye on the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit, where all articles from our lovely writers here at Fantasy Six Pack will be featured for the 2022 Fantasy Baseball season!

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