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Staff Post: Outfielders to avoid in 2022 fantasy baseball

The Fake Teams writers give you a few names to consider avoiding in 2022 fantasy baseball.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Yesterday we gave you our outfielders to target for 2022 fantasy baseball, an infinitely easier exercise than giving you names to avoid. By nature, any “avoids” chatter is going to involve some high-profile names. No one cares about avoiding a player being drafted in the 300s, right?

So buckle up, because this exercise always feels icky. What follows are a few big swings, so you (maybe) don’t have as many swings and misses in your fake leagues in 2022. Yikes...

Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 31.29
Draft rank: OF10

He is a beast at the plate—it’s almost like Joey Gallo, but with nowhere near the strikeout and batting average risk. Alvarez gave a strong return to those who invested in a comeback story last year, with 33 home runs, 104 RBIs, and a robust .531 SLG. My concerns lie nowhere in his capabilities, but rather in his health. When he went down in 2020 I made a conscious decision to avoid him for years until he can prove a longstanding string of health. There are some injuries you can return from quite easily, and as far as I’m concerned, double knee injuries is right up there with back injuries in terms of making me quite cautious. I need AT LEAST one more healthy season before I believe the injury is completely behind him.

Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals (Andrés Chávez)

NFBC ADP: 33.00
Draft rank: OF11, 2B3

I realize that stolen bases are hard to find, but I don’t know if we should be banking on an aging player (33 years old) to keep stealing 35-40 bases forever, especially if he’s showing signs of decline at the plate. Merrifield’s wRC+ decreased for the third consecutive season: it was at 119 in 2018, and it was all the way down to 91 in 2021. He hardly ever gets on base (.277/.317/.395 line last year), and asking him to play every game for a fourth consecutive campaign is asking a lot. The Royals may also have a surplus of players in Whit’s preferred positions. Instead of a big red flag, there are several details and concerns driving me away from Merrifield.

Division Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox - Game Three Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 60.24
Draft rank: OF17

I want to believe. I honestly think Arozarena has the upside to be a future face of baseball. But the underlying stats in 2021 all lead to the assumption he’s due for major regression in 2022. His actual stats last season were a .274 BA, .459 SLG, and a .350 wOBA. His xStats were a .222 xBA, a .369 xSLG, and .304 xwOBA. Those rates are among the worst in baseball in terms of the difference between xStats and actual stats. Arozarena also had a 28.1% strikeout rate. This was 14th highest in baseball. He has upside, but also plenty of downside. The ADP inside the top 60 is too rich for me.

Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles (Skyler Carlin)

NFBC ADP: 120.62
Draft rank: OF32, 1B8

The more I think about it, the more I believe I’ve been too high on Ryan Mountcastle. Everyone knows the Baltimore Orioles altered the left field wall at Camden Yards, which could affect right-handed hitters the most. While I wasn’t too concerned with the changes at first, especially with Mountcastle not hitting all of his homers to left field, there’s a multitude of reasons to be concerned with Mountcastle besides the changes to Camden Yards. Mountcastle had a spectacular year in the power department in 2021, launching 33 homers and recording 89 RBIs in his second year in the majors. However, he saw his strikeout rate balloon to 27.5%, and outside of his homers he didn’t have much success getting on base. Also, the supporting cast on the Orioles isn’t great, so if he can’t launch 30+ HRs and approach 90-100 RBIs in 2022, he’s someone I’d rather let someone else take in drafts rather than me hoping for a repeat of last season.

Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 188.57
Draft rank: OF49

The 49th outfielder off the board doesn’t seem like a steep price, but if you bake in the multi-eligibility of guys drafted ahead of him like Merrifield, Mountcastle, Tommy Edman, Ketel Marte, Daulton Varsho, Kris Bryant, Chris Taylor, and a couple of others, he’s essentially going to serve as an OF3 or OF4 in your five-outfielder leagues. Me, I’m not looking to take on his strikeout rate that is in excess of 30% to both handedness of pitcher, not when there are safer values on the board in his vicinity.

I can bump up a bit to Alex Verdugo or Andrew Benintendi, or grab a guy like Michael Conforto (a known power commodity) afterwards. There are also darts like Marcell Ozuna (an elite OF if he plays) or Jorge Soler (more of a known commodity than Garcia). There’s also Harrison Bader around pick 215, if it’s a risky power/speed combination that I’m after. Bader also doesn’t seem to have the same playing time concerns of Garcia, at least from where I’m sitting. If he’s healthy I expect him to play every day, and last season’s 21.2% strikeout rate reads as far less volatile than Garcia. Both guys are plus defenders with power and speed—except Bader is faster and he’ll strikeout much less (51st percentile in K-rate last year, compared to 5th percentile for Garcia). Sure, Garcia has more power, but if he’s striking out at a 31.2% rate, it ain’t gonna matter.