Three members of the Texas Rangers infield look set to finish the 2022 season among ESPN Player Rater’s top 50 hitters, and perhaps a fourth infielder will join them as a key fantasy player next season. The Rangers haven’t sniffed the postseason, but 1B Nathaniel Lowe has found his power, and rookies 2B Marcus Semien and SS Corey Seager, despite neither contending for a title, have certainly helped fantasy managers.
The Rangers have spent significant dollars to improve their middle infield with Semien and Seager, and they’ve had offensive blocks in place for years. Semien took over the leadership role and after six seasons of stealing double-digit bases, he had a career-best 17 by the All-Star break and kept the run going. This was a big deal for fantasy. Seager hit 30 home runs for the first time. Semien and Seager were top-50 draft picks, but Lowe went undrafted in most leagues and was a top-10 fantasy first baseman.
Then there’s 3B Josh Jung, one of the best prospects in the sport. Jung hasn’t had much success in his brief major league appearances after missing most of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, but he projects as a power hitter who hits for average. Maybe he puts up numbers like Lowe, who hit .300 with power. Regardless, this is certainly an exciting field for the Rangers and fantasy managers. (Now the Rangers just have to get the other side of things!)
As for other top fantasy infields, the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Guardians and New York Mets. Braves 1B Matt Olson hasn’t had the best season, but 3B Austin Riley has turned into an MVP candidate. Dodgers 1B Freddie Freeman could win his first title, while 2B/SS Trea Turner could be the first pick in the 2023 roto drafts. Cleveland’s middle infield has been surprisingly great, with 3B Jose Ramirez always delivering.
We’ve already discussed the starting pitchers and relievers season previews, now it’s time to recap the infielders for the 2022 season.
Fantasy infield/catcher MVP
Many of the best infielders from preseason drafts are among the best stat providers, so they were expected to help fantasy managers. Even Cardinals 1B Paul Goldschmidt, arguably the NL MVP, was a fifth-round ADP pick. Braves SS Dansby Swanson and Cardinals 2B/SS/OF Tommy Edman, however, came through in the middle rounds and returned significant value, enough to be top 10 hitters on Rater. Swanson has become a five-category roto provider who scores and hits for average at the top of his lineup, while Edman could lead the majors in stolen bases. Let’s call it a tie here.
One could easily argue for Guardians 2B/SS Andres Gimenez, ignored in most draft picks after such a disappointing season in 2021. Gimenez has won the second base job and could finish with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases while hitting .300, albeit with relatively low total runs and RBI. It’s quite a turnaround for the aggressive Gimenez, the former New York Mets prospect who returned in the Francisco Lindor trade. In fact, Lindor and Gimenez are ranked pretty closely on Rater, but only one of them was a fantasy free agent at the end of April. Kudos also to Kansas City Royals SS/3B Bobby Witt Jr., San Diego Padres 1B/2B/3B/OF Brandon Drury and Arizona Diamondbacks 1B Christian Walker.
At catch, there have certainly been some unexpected surprises that fantasy managers have loved, from surprising Brave William Contreras to Rangers starter Jonah Heim and Baltimore Orioles rookie Adley Rutschman, but it’s hard to overlook Philadelphia Phillies star JT Realmut. Yes, he should have been a star as a 10th-round ADP pick (No. 3 among catchers behind Will Smith of the Dodgers and Salvador Perez of the Royals), but the lofty stolen base total really made the difference in roto formats. Realmuto is pretty much the best catcher on Rater and a five-category option for roto formats.
Fantasy infield/catcher LVP
We have AL and NL prospects that stand out based on ADP. Everyone fell in love with Tampa Bay Rays SS Wander Franco, enough to get him in the fifth round, and he’s not in Rater’s top 75 middle infielders. Franco, 21, missed time this season with a quad injury and then required wrist surgery, and while he has shown discipline at the plate, he hasn’t hit for power. Frank’s future remains bright, especially for OBP formats, but we may have overrated him for roto formats. We wonder if durability is also a factor.
Meanwhile, Colorado Rockies 1B/3B/OF Kris Bryant slightly edged Franco in ADP, and injuries have derailed his season as well. Bryant hit five home runs. Fantasy managers expected more than 30 offense with Coors Field as his home field. That might happen in 2023. Other players who didn’t return draft value are Braves 2B Ozzie Albies, Diamondbacks 2B/OF Ketel Marte and Los Angeles Angels 3B Anthony Rendon, who has played in 103 games the past two seasons and will certainly not be in the top 100 in 2023
At catchers, Chicago White Sox on-base machine Yasmani Grandal hasn’t exactly been an on-base machine in 2022. Grandal, the No. 4 catcher in ADP and just outside the top 100 overall, isn’t a top 50 backstop on Rater . He entered the same round as Realmuto.
St. Louis Cardinals 3B Jordan Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks SS Jordan Lawlar and Cincinnati Reds SS Elly De La Cruz represent three of the best infield prospects yet to make their major league debuts, and while each is currently at the Double-A level, we should see them in the majors in 2023. Walker could be a corner outfielder by then, as the Cardinals are set at third base with Nolan Arenado. Each should intrigue fantasy managers quite a bit. Walker, as of this writing, has 19 home runs and 22 stolen bases in his age 20 season. Lawlar struggled in Double-A, but the No. 6 pick in the 2021 draft will hit. De La Cruz has 27 home runs and 47 stolen bases this season. Wow.
Sophomores to watch
Witt Jr. and Baltimore Orioles SS Gunnar Henderson are already stars, but don’t underestimate Houston Astros SS Jeremy Pena, Pittsburgh Pirates SS Oneil Cruz, Minnesota Twins 1B/3B Jose Miranda and Royals C MJ Melendez. Pena struggled to make contact in the second half, but 19 home runs and 11 stolen bases are just the beginning of his statistical progress. Cruz hits nearly 40% of the time, but few can hit the baseball harder. He could hit 40 home runs soon. Miranda looks like a 30-homer option in the future, as does Melendez, who will be eligible behind the plate and outfield in 2023.
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