Veteran Players Struggling in 2022 Fantasy Baseball

The first month plus of the season hasn’t been particularly kind for some of baseball’s oldest hitters. This includes players who, despite their already advanced age, managed to pull off monster years in 2021.

This article takes a look at a group of four old-bats to recalibrate expectations for their performance for the remainder of the season.

When evaluating fantasy baseball’s biggest risers and losers, it’s important to know which ones will bounce back and which ones will bust before it’s too late. Let’s take a look.

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Recalibrating Fantasy Baseball Expectations for 2022

Nelson Cruz, Joey Votto, Yuli Gurriel, and Justin Turner are the senior fantasy baseball executives most interested in. Each had an offseason ADP in the top 250. There are a few others, like Jed Lowrie, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Robinson Cano, but managers have only paid attention to this group in super-deep formats anyway.

During the first month plus games, Yuli Gurriel has the highest wRC+ in this bunch, a whopping 66. The other three racquets have a wRC+ below 50. This group has been among the worst players in the game so far.

The FanGraphs Auction Calculator allows for a comparison of how much the forecasts have deteriorated for this group, including their struggles earlier in the season. This article pertains to the FanGraphs auction calculator, which uses the depth graphs’ predictions for preseason and the rest of the season with default settings for 12 teams to keep the apples-to-apples comparison.

Remainder of the Season Fantasy Baseball Outlooks

According to preseason depth charts, Nelson Cruz was expected to be the 62nd best hitter that year. His freshman month has dropped him to the 92nd best projected hitter for the remainder of the season. His wRC+ forecast has dropped from 120 to 104. Joey Votto has fallen from 62nd with the best projections to 92nd with his predicted wRC+ down from 117 to 101. The drops for Yuli Gurriel and Justin Turner were smaller, from 112th to 128th for Gurriel and 113th to 121st for Turner. Gurriel has seen his projected wRC+ drop from 114 to 105 while Turner’s has dropped from 117 to 105.

However, predictions for the rest of the season are usually stripped down versions of pre-season predictions. It’s worth taking a closer look at their performance to see if there are hidden reasons for optimism.

First, all of these batters are still playing every day. That fact, coupled with their long-standing track record, still makes them worthwhile as an unspectacular option in mid-level (15-team leagues). You could do worse when you need a safe, boring, useful, or corner infielder stick. Notably, at the time of writing (May 8th), fantasy execs weren’t mad enough at this group to dump them – all are still 100% owned by The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational.

Dig deeper into predictions for the rest of the season

Digging deeper, Nelson Cruz’s contact metric quality, barrel rate, hard hit rate, and average exit velocity are all well below career norms, but his contact rate is stronger than usual. Given his stellar track record leading into 2022 and the small sample size of his fights in 2022, I’d bet on a partial recovery, maybe a little more than Depth Charts’ projects – he’s the least worrying bat of this group.

Justin Turner has also noticed a drop in his contact metrics coupled with a drop in his contact rate. I think he’s also recovering to some extent and could still end up as a backend top 100 hitter, but the Dodgers have little patience for struggling hitters and a platoon, or at least more frequent days off, could severely limit his value.

Joey Votto has experienced more power reduction on contact than either Cruz or Turner, and he’s swinging and missing more than ever. There’s little reason for optimism when you look at his 2022 stats – other than the fact that it was just 90 record appearances. The regression to career norms should help him, and you can use him as a backend first base option as long as he starts every day, but I wouldn’t count on a full rebound.

Finally, Yuli Gurriel continues to make a lot of contact, but he has yet to win baseball this year. His advantage for the rest of the season is also limited to a low-end first base option, and he needs to top it up at least every now and then to avoid losing game time.

Conclusion

Votto, Cruz, Gurriel and Turner have been among the best players in baseball for years. They’ve allowed us to collectively forget about Father Time…at least for a while. Her early struggles are a reminder that aging affects even the very best of us. Still, prior to 2022, this group was doing well enough to survive some age-related decline.

As long as their teams keep running them out there every day, so can you—as long as you keep expectations in check.

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