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2022 Fantasy Baseball: Ranking Utility Only Hitters

Garrett shares his thought on the often overlooked group of utility only hitters for fantasy baseball in 2022.

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Here at Fake Teams we devote a full week (sometimes more) to each position in fantasy baseball. However, one position is technically overlooked. Designated hitters or utility-only players are those who did not play enough games at a defensive position to qualify for a position. This can be full time DHs like Nelson Cruz or David Ortiz in years past, or minor leaguers who only had a handful of games played in the majors to begin with—such as Gavin Sheets this season. With the DH now coming to the National League, we might see more UTIL-only players in fantasy baseball next season. But there is still plenty of value in this year's crop.

**Disclaimer** Depending on your host site, the players listed below might have actual positions. For instance, Franmil Reyes is actually OF-eligible on Yahoo!. I am using NFBC rules, which is on the stricter side of granting position eligibility.

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

My Rank: 1
NFBC ADP: 8.83

ATC projection: .259, 38 HR, 94 RBI, 99 R, 22 SB, 143 games

Dubbed "The Most Interesting Man in Fantasy Baseball" by me (and potentially others) prior to him making a splash in the States, Shohei Ohtani has lived up to that title. He was hands down the MVP of both real and fake baseball in 2021. That's why he has a first round price tag heading into 2022. He is by far the highest drafted player with a DH only designation, not just this season, but ever. Even if you take away his pitching numbers, peep the ATC projection above. Ohtani can hit 40+ bombs and steal 20+ bags. That skill set alone is a rarity. Not much more needs to be said. Ohtani is legit. For what it's worth, on sites where Ohtani is a hitter only, I'd still have him as a first round pick.

Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Guardians

My Rank: 2
NFBC ADP: 127.60

ATC projection: .254, 36 HR, 97 RBI, 77 R, 3 SB, 144 games

When ranking a DH only player, I like to compare them to outfielders. Coincidentally, Franmil Reyes has OF eligibility in Yahoo! leagues this coming season. For me, Reyes would rank somewhere between OF25 and OF30. That's the Cody Bellinger/Christian Yelich range in my rankings. Reyes is one of the game’s premier power hitters. He has the upside to lead the league in home runs. In 2021, Reyes was 89th percentile in average exit velocity, 94th percentile in max exit velocity, and 87th percentile in hard hit rate. His xwOBACON of .498 would have been top 10 in baseball had he qualified. Don't let the UTIL only tag keep you from drafting him in 2022.

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Nelson Cruz, Free Agent

My Rank: 3
NFBC ADP: 181.56

Steamer projection: .261, 28 HR, 82 RBI, 71 R, 1 SB, 121 games

The premium DH of the past half decade, Nelson Cruz needs no introduction. Every year he gets pushed down in drafts because of his UTIL-only status and every year he outperforms his draft day ADP. Well, he's 41 now and played poorly following the trade to Tampa Bay last season. As the Rays DH, Cruz hit just .226 with a .725 OPS. I'm giving him a pass on it. Prior to the trade, Cruz was hitting .294 with a .907 OPS as the Twins DH. The Statcast numbers were as elite as ever too. He was 93rd percentile in average exit velocity and 94th percentile in hard hit rate. Expect Cruz to outperform his ADP, per usual, in 2022.

Gavin Sheets, Chicago White Sox

My Rank: 4
NFBC ADP: 465.83

Steamer projection: .254, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 51 R, 1 SB, 110 games

When most people think of the DH or UTIL only players in 2022 the list is only 3 players long. Well, I'd argue Gavin Sheets deserves some love. Over 54 games in the majors, Sheets hit .250 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI. That's a 30-homer and 100 RBI pace. Prior to that, he was hitting .295 with an .869 OPS over 60 games at Triple-A. Sheets was 87th percentile in max exit velocity and his average exit velocity of 90.4 MPH would have been around 70th percentile among qualifiers. He offers a lot of potential return on investment at his current ADP. Either draft him late or be sure to keep him on your radar this season.