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2022 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield sleepers to target

The Fake Teams writers tell you which outfielders to take shots on in your 2022 fantasy baseball leagues.

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Outfield Week draws to an end just as The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational begins. And everybody said “amen.”

Anyway, we’re here for the outfielders! The studs. The place you can frequently find fantasy glory. These guys can pop off at any moment, allowing you to rake in the fantasy baseball riches.

Here are some of our favorite darts to take late in your 2022 fantasy baseball drafts.

Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 143.00
Draft rank: OF38

He had a rough start in his MLB debut last year, and that is fantastic news for this year. I’ve seen too many touted prospects come in hot, but as pitchers learn their weaknesses and adapt their approach, the prospect in turn struggles to make corresponding changes. We watched Kelenic come in and have to make some adjustments at the plate, and things started to click across his last 30 games, as he got his batting average to around .250 with seven home runs, 19 runs, and 20 RBI. I can easily see him returning top 100 value and you can get him outside the top 130 currently.

Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners (Andrés Chávez)

NFBC ADP: 265.11
Draft rank: OF70

J-Rod is a bit of a roll of the dice. He likely won’t start the season in the majors, and may not make the bigs at all. But this is the “sleeper” section, right? If you are a bit patient, he may force the Mariners’ hand at some point in May or June, because he is extremely good. Last year, he slashed .362/.461/.546 with seven homers, 16 stolen bases, and a 173 wRC+ in 206 Double-A plate appearances as a 20-year-old. He is a truly special offensive player, one who projects to hit for both average and power for years to come and anchor the M’s lineup together with Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, and others.

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Connor Joe, Colorado Rockies (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 321.16
Draft rank: OF84

Connor Joe performed quite well in 2021 and it flew under many people’s radars. After bouncing back and forth from Triple-A to the majors, Joe finally got some consistent playing time starting in late July. Over his final 37 games, Joe hit .304 with a .944 OPS, eight home runs, and 29 RBI. Pretty great pace numbers. A hamstring injury cut his season short, but I believe he’s done enough to begin this year as a starter for the Rockies. His current ADP makes him a late round flier or a waiver wire add. Keep close tabs on him as he could provide great return on investment.

Yoshi Tsutsugo, Pittsburgh Pirates (Skyler Carlin)

NFBC ADP: 345.32
Draft rank: OF88

It was a rough start for Yoshi Tsutsugo in his first two years in the majors with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers. But last season, Tsutsugo landed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and even though it’s a limited sample size, we saw positive signs from him with the Pittsburgh. Tsutsugo joined the Pirates last August, where he totaled eight HRs and 25 RBIs from August through October. After posting a dismal 33.1% strikeout rate in the first half of the season, Tsutsugo notched a much more palatable 22.9% strikeout rate in the second half of the 2021 campaign. Given Pittsburgh’s current state, Tsutsugo should hit near the top of the team’s batting order and should have a semi-consistent role on the team. With Tsutsugo having an ADP of 340+ at the NFBC, there isn’t much risk in taking him in the later rounds.

Tyrone Taylor, Milwaukee Brewers (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 427.05
Draft rank: OF111

This qualifies as digging deep, right? I tried to get away from names like Lane Thomas, Michael Brantley, Mike Yastrzemski, Mark Canha, Tyler Naquin, Manny Margot...all guys I like in the later vicinity, and that’s only a handful of options available. Outfield is deep in the sense that there are plenty of shots to take—though I do believe the dropoff of “safe” options comes sooner than most realize. Anyway, Taylor is currently slated to DH for the Brewers, and he’s got the power/speed combination that we covet—he accounted for 12 homers and six steals in only 93 games last year. The .247/.321/.457 slash, .210 ISO, .313 xwOBA, and 106 wRC+ all tell me he could be a steady enough performer if given anything approaching a full-time role.

He’s a bit of a free-swinger out of the zone (35.2% chase rate) but he’s above average in swinging strike rate (10.5%) and all his contact rates, and above average with regard to swing rate inside the zone—and it helps that his zone contact rate of 90.2% is well above average. His hard hit rate of 37.3% last year wasn’t stellar, but I’ll take that for the solid plate discipline and contact that he showed. He doesn’t strike out much, he walks a fair amount, and he has 87th percentile sprint speed and was in the 76th percentile for max EV last year. And his home games are in Milwaukee...what else are you looking for in a “sleeper?”