2022 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores

by Dennis Sosic
2022 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores

Welcome Fantasy friends and foes to the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores.

These are challenging times for Fantasy players. The Super Bowl is over, and we have to wait until the NBA returns from their All-Star Break for the second half to tip-off.

With an MLB lockout impending, I am going a little crazy here. I hope the billionaires and millionaires can get together, kiss, and make up, so we know that we will see baseball this season.

Meanwhile, I am still digging into my Fantasy Baseball analysis. I have to dream, don't I?

I took a look at 12 of the top rookies from last season and projected their 2022 Fantasy outlook. Are they the real deal, or will they slump? Find out that and much more in the 2022 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores.

2022 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores

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Jonathan India, 2B, Cincinnati Reds

Jonathan India started making noise during spring training last season. The No.5 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft was so impressive that he forced Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell to shift the infield around to accommodate India in the lineup. Bell shifted Mike Moustakas from second base to third base. Eugenio Suarez took over as the team's starting shortstop, with India winning the second base job.

It's safe to say that Bell made the right decision. India finished with a .269/.376/.459 slash line with 21 homers, 69 RBI with a .835 OPS, and 113 OPS+. India also stole 12 bases and scored 98 runs on his way to winning the National League Rookie of the Year,  finishing one vote shy of being a unanimous selection.

The rookie took off after being moved to the leadoff spot, slashing .275/.383/.482, and the power came with it. He slugged 15 of his 21 home runs after the All-Star Break. H s continued improvement over the second half bodes well for his success as we look forward to the 2022 season.

2022 Projections have India producing comparable to his 2021 season. It's hard to argue with that if you are a fantasy manager.

Fantasy Verdict:  The Real Deal

Randy Arozarena, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Randy Arozarena made his first big splash when he was named the 2020 American League Championship Series MVP. Arzarena was projected to impact the Rays in 2021 significantly, and he didn't disappoint.

Arozarena finished the 2021 season with a .274/.356/.459 slash line with 20 homers, 69 RBI, 94 runs, and 20 stolen bases. He became just the third rookie to post a 20-20 season in the last ten years.

He has established himself as a postseason hero and a very desirable Fantasy commodity.

Fantasy Verdict: The Real Deal

Trevor Rogers, SP, Miami Marlins

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Trevor Rogers had a terrific rookie campaign for the Miami Marlins. Last season, the former first-round pick as an All-Star and the National League's Rookie of the Year runner-up.

The southpaw was fantastic through the first half of the 2021 season. He made 18 starts and produced a 2.31 ERA with 122 strikeouts over 101.3 innings. In addition, he held opposing hitters to a .204 batting average.

Injuries and family issues marred his second half, but he returned to start five games for the Marlins in September. He was not as sharp in those five starts, throwing 23 innings and producing a 3.52 ERA while striking out 28 batters.

Rogers is a top-of-the-rotation starter who pitches in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the league. I  look forward to seeing what Rogers will do over a full season.

Fantasy Verdict: The Real Deal

Dylan Carlson, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

We first saw Dylan Carlson in 2020 when he played 35 games for the St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, his performance was underwhelming, from his 29.4 percent strikeout to a meager .364 slugging percentage and a 68 OPS+.

The switch-hitting Carlson showed promise in his first full season in the big leagues. He slashed .266/.343/.437 with 18 home runs and 65 RBI along with a 117 OPS+ and a 113 wRC+. The reduction in his strikeout rate to 24.6% and increase in his slugging percentage demonstrates that Carlson continues developing and redefining his skills.

Look for Carlson to build upon his strong finish last season. He slashed .277/.343/.505 with a .847 OPS and 11 dingers. Carlson is only 22 years old and is one-third of an impressive Cardinals outfield that will continue to grow.

Fantasy Verdict: The Real Deal

David Bednar, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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Right-hander David Bednar made the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day roster by striking out 18 hitters in 8.2 scoreless innings in Spring Training. After Richard Rodriguez was traded to the Atlanta Braves in late July, Bednar stepped into the closer role and has the inside track to the closer job this season.

Bednar pitched 60.2 innings last season, posting a minute 2.23 ERA with a 2.69 FIP and an impressive 32.5% strikeout rate. He yielded only five home runs all season while limiting opposing hitters to a .184 batting average.

I selected Bednar as one of my Fantasy Baseball Breakouts in 2022 as he looks the part of the Pirates closer with his 97 mph heater and a curveball that produces a 46.8 whiff rate.

Fantasy Verdict: The Real Deal

Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

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The much anticipated big league of Wander Franco did not disappoint. Franco made his MLB debut for the Tampa Bay Rays on June 22nd and played 70 games last season. The 20-year-old Franco slashed .288/.347/.463/.810 with seven homers, 18 doubles, 53 runs scored, and 39 RBI. His OPS+ was 129, and he finished with a 127 wRC+.

His debut season was highlighted by a 43-game on-base streak which tied Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson for the longest in MLB history by a player 20 years old or younger. The Rays inked Franco to a monster deal that will keep the uber-talented shortstop in Tampa for more than a decade.

Franco is the whole package. He possesses an incredible hit tool matched by his power and speed. Steamer predicts a much bigger season for Franco in 2022, and I am all-in for a Super Sophomore season.

Fantasy Verdict: The Real Deal

Emmanuel Clase, RP, Cleveland Guardians

Emmanuel Clase had a breakthrough season in 2021 and has taken over as the Cleveland Guardians closer. He was basically unhittable last season, posting a 1.29 ERA  and a 0.962 WHIP while striking out 74 hitters over 69.2 innings of work. In addition, Clase posted 24 saves, including finishing 13-of-15 in save opportunities in the second half of the season.

His pitch arsenal is elite, recording the hardest-throwing cutter ever to go with his triple-digit four-seamers. He also generates an outrageous 40.5% whiff rate on his slider.

Clase production and metrics indicate that he is the real deal. So it was not too difficult to make him a no-brainer add to a reliever on the rise in my Relief Pitcher Preview.

Fantasy Verdict: The Real Deal

Alek Manoah, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

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Alek Manoah started last season in Triple-A Buffalo, where he dominated hitters across his three starts. He al owed just one run over 18 innings while punching out 27 batters.

The 23-year-old was a pivotal component to the late-season surge from the Toronto Blue Jays. In his final four starts last season, he struck out seven batters in each outing and posted a 1.69 ERA and .148 opponent batting average.

Overall, in his 20 starts on the season, he allowed three runs or fewer 16 times. He finished with a  9-2 record, a 3.22 ERA, and 1.05 WHIP while striking out 127 hitters over 111 innings of work.

Manoah was an elite rookie last season but will need to work on control issues. He has a 3.2 BB/9  and hit 16 batters which will need to improve if he wants to remain an upper-echelon starter.

Fantasy Verdict: The Real Deal

Luis Garcia, SP, Houston Astros

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Luis Garcia went from an unknown pitcher to the All-Rookie First Team and pitched two games in the 2021 World Series.

Garcia started the 2021 season in the Astros bullpen, but he became a part of the Astros starting rotation in late April. He finished the season with an 11-8 record with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Opposing hitters only hit .230 against the right-hander as he struck out 9.64 and walked 2.95 per nine innings pitched. In addition, he threw the most innings of any rookie hurler (155.1) and led all rookies in strikeouts (167).

Garcia exhibited some warning signs toward the end of the season. First, he didn't go far into games, averaging only 5.1 innings in each start. Second, he only completed seven innings twice in his starts and none after June 18th. Third, inconsistency was an issue, and both were evident in his two World Series starts.

The right-hander lost both of his World Series starts and didn't reach past the third inning in either start. He produced a 5.68 ERA while walking five and finished with a 7.13 postseason ERA.

Garica outperformed expectations, and there are glaring concerns about his fastball, which was his most thrown pitch (44.7%). His 9 .3 fastball hit a .301 average and produced a measly 19.1 % whiff rate.

The inconsistency issues and the league adjusting to his other pitches avoided Luis Garcia in my upcoming drafts.

Fantasy Verdict: Slump

Ryan Mountcastle, OF, Baltimore Orioles

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Fantasy managers witnessed Ryan Mountcastle briefly during the 2020 campaign when he slashed .333/.386/.492 with five homers. A promising beginning for one of the team's top prospects.

Last season, Mountcastle appeared in 144 games, slashing .255/.309/.487, and smacked 33 dingers, setting the Orioles' rookie record for home runs. He al o finished the year with .796 OPS and 112 OPS+.

His power numbers are pretty impressive, but there are concerns as we dive more into his numbers. He reached a base at the below-average .309 mark. Only  .0 percent of his plate appearances ended in a walk.

Mountcastle is a one-dimensional offensive player who is not much of a difference-maker. His 0 9 WAR suggests he might be just another guy. A guy that the Orioles saw enough in left field to move him to first base. He did little at first base to provide confidence that Mountcastle is now better served as the team's designated hitter.

I don't believe that Mountcastle will adjust as teams adjusted to his power breakthrough last season.

Fantasy Verdict: Slump

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