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Staff Post: Outfielders to target in 2022 fantasy baseball

The Fake Teams writers each share one of their favorite outfield targets for 2022.

Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Our fantasy baseball coverage for Outfield Week carries on, this time with our staff post of our favorite targets. The word “favorite” hits at different levels. Maybe it’s your favorite building block. Maybe it’s your favorite glue guy in the middle rounds. Maybe it’s an outfielder you keep landing to round out your final outfield spot (that’s my case today).

Anyway, ADP data is derived from the NFBC, from the last 21 Draft Champions drafts. It’s not a format for everyone, but it is one of the most popular. As always, we welcome you to haggle with us in the comment or on Twitter at @faketeams. Hit us up.

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (Andrés Chávez)

NFBC ADP: 52.29
Draft rank: 16th

Yes, I’m aware of the fact that Buxton is injury-prone. But what, does that mean that you shouldn’t take him when he’s fully healthy and knowing he was a god in 2021 when healthy? Buxton slashed .306/.358/.647 with a 1.005 OPS and 19 home runs in just 254 plate appearances. Let’s remember that the injury that took most of his year last season was fluky: a left hand fracture after being hit by a pitch. Few players have Buxton’s power/speed combination, and if he stays healthy for at least 450 or 500 plate appearances, he should have a monster year and could be a top-10 outfielder with ease.

J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 96.14
Draft rank: 24th

Currently sitting well outside the top 10 outfielders, Martinez has proven for years that he is reliable. He had a down year during the first Covid-affected season when he couldn’t see mid-game videos of his previous at-bats, but he returned to form in 2021. He returned just shy of 100 RBIs and Runs, and posted a .286 batting average with a .349 OBP and a .498 SLG. He had 28 homers and he currently sits in the top 15% in hard hit rate, exit velocity, xwOBA, xBA and xSLG. If he’s available past pick 60, I’m targeting him given the reliability and power that he possesses.

MLB: AUG 15 Reds at Phillies Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 112.52
Draft rank: 30th

Winker is an interesting player in that he kind of already broke out, yet his draft price is criminally underrating him. Among hitters with at least 450 plate appearances, Winker was sixth in all of baseball with a .949 OPS. The top 5 were Bryce Harper, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Shohei Ohtani. Not a bad list, especially when everyone but Winker is going in the first round of fantasy drafts this season. Winker was also a Statcast stud. He posted an 81st percentile hard hit rate, a 74th percentile average exit velocity, and a 92nd percentile xwOBA. If healthy, Winker should net 30+ home runs and around 200 combined RBI and runs. I’m all for that at around pick 100.

Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays (Skyler Carlin)

NFBC ADP: 163.33
Draft rank: 42nd

Despite posting a below-average batting average of .234 in 2021, Meadows finished with 27 homers, a career-best 106 RBIs, and four stolen bases. While you would like his average to improve, Meadows showed signs of the power he showed in 2019 with the Tampa Bay Rays when he hit 33 homers. The former first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates was in the 73rd percentile in max EV last season despite posting a career-worst 37.6% hard hit rate. Given Meadows’ xBA of .239 in 2021, it suggests that he was slightly unlucky last season, especially with 53% of his batted balls being fly balls. Meadows is more than capable of hitting 25-30 HRs, 90-100 RBIs, and getting 5 to 10 stolen bases in 2022—making him a nice value at his ADP (42nd among OFs) in the NFBC. Even amid the struggles in certain categories in recent years, I’m expecting a bounce-back campaign from Meadows across the board in 2022.

Austin Hays, Baltimore Orioles (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 238.05
Draft rank: 63rd

Hays keeps finding his way onto my fake teams in 2022. Digging a bit deep for your redraft leagues here, but I still think he’ll be relevant in shallow formats. Outfield is thinner than you think. Hays has a guaranteed role as a young up-and-comer for a better-than-you-think Baltimore offense—a team that ranked 17th in homers in 2021. Hays will be one of the top 5 for this unit, a team that I view as top-heavy. Your top 5—Mullins, Mountcastle, Santander, Mancini, Hays—is followed by guys like Ramon Urias, Rougned Odor, Kelvin Gutierrez, and Jacob Nottingham (eventually Adley?!?). He also plays in a home park that we know is conducive for offensive output.

Next, Hays managed 22 homers and five steals in just 131 games last year. His slash line was a hair above average, at .256/.308/.461 with a 106 wRC+ and .328 wOBA. But I don’t need a massive stat line for Hays to pay off his ADP. He’s got a shot at 25 homers and 10 steals if he can stay healthy, with last year’s 73rd percentile max EV, 58th percentile barrel rate, and 58th percentile sprint speed offering the promise of solid stats across the board. He’s also just 26 years old and we probably haven’t seen his best season yet. I’m all aboard the Hays train to round out my five-man outfields in 2022.