Who will bounce back in 2022?

Fantasy managers are a fickle bunch. We like our players to be trending up, and we sleep much better at night knowing that we drafted those who were recently productive. But sometimes the best value picks belong to those who go out on a limb and project a bounce-back campaign for someone who let everyone down a year ago.

Here is a long list of options who fell out of favor in 2021 but have the skills to come roaring back this year.

One of the few catchers who can help a fantasy batting average, Nola was limited to 56 games last year by three unrelated injuries that all required IL stints. If fully recovered from those ailments, the LSU alumni should ride a high batting mark and respectable power skills to a top-10 spot at the catcher position.

After two spectacular years in the Big Apple, LeMahieu was underwhelming during a 2021 season in which he gutted out 150 games while playing with a sports hernia that eventually required offseason surgery. With improved health this year, the career .300 hitter could lead the AL in batting average while producing 20 homers and 100 runs scored.

Lingering back issues limited Biggio for nearly all of 2021, leading to a year-over-year OPS drop of more than 100 points. There are currently plenty of opportunities in Toronto’s infield for this versatile fielder, and a healthy Biggio has an intriguing power-speed combination while also being among baseball’s best at drawing walks.

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For four straight years, Mondesi has tantalized fantasy managers over brief stretches while also leaving them frustrated with a lack of durability. Baseball’s best base stealer could literally swipe twice as many bags as any other player if he can find a way to play in 140 games.

2022 could be a bounce-back fantasy season for Adalberto Mondesi. (Photo by Mark Cunningham / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Trevor Story (SS, FA)

An elbow injury and frequent trade rumors seemed to slow Story for much of 2021, but he looked more like himself (.899 OPS) once the trade deadline had passed. From 2018-20, the shortstop was a first-round caliber player, who provided significant help in all five standard categories. His free-agent landing spot will matter greatly when determining Story’s final 2022 draft value.

Lindor flopped in his first season with the Mets but owns a solid lifetime .821 OPS and was one of fantasy baseball’s best power-speed threats from 2017-19. Still, the shortstop tallied 20 homers and 10 steals in 125 games, meaning that he will only need a slight performance uptick in order to be an impact player once again.

Trout has missed plenty of time in recent seasons and took his injury concerns to a new level when he appeared in just 36 games last year. The 30-year-old continues to possess elite plate skills (1,090 OPS in 2021), although his running game has completely disappeared.

There is no in-between with Trout this year – he will either be awesome or injured.

Bellinger may have been the biggest fantasy disappointment of 2021, posting a .542 OPS across 95 games after being selected among the top-20 picks of many drafts. The slugger has been an inconsistent producer during his five-year career but has an MVP season to his credit (2019) and another campaign with 39 homers (2017). I’m not ready to draft Bellinger this year, but I also can not argue that his current ADP (86) makes him a reasonable gamble.

[Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP]

Michael Conforto (OF, FA)

Conforto’s power skills disappeared last year as he dealt with a nagging hamstring injury. The veteran slugger will likely be helped by getting away from Citi Field and could produce 30 long balls by finding a team with a hitter-friendly home park.

Shane Bieber (SP, CLE)

Bieber rode 12 spectacular starts in the shortened 2020 season to the No. 1 SP spot on many 2021 draft boards before a right shoulder strain limited him to just 16 outings last year. The right-hander may have been slightly overrated in this industry a year ago, but his career numbers remain excellent (3.29 ERA, 1.12 WHIP), and he should be an ace-level starter if healthy this season.

Aaron Nola (SP, PHI)

Nola could be the poster child for how much smarter fantasy managers have become over the years. The Phillies ace logged an unsightly 4.63 ERA last season, but his WHIP remained excellent (1.13) and his FIP was a stellar 3.33 mark. The 28-year-old was largely felled by a 66.8 percent strand rate and enters 2022 regarded as a top-10 starter by wise fantasy managers.

Stephen Strasburg (SP, WSH)

The up-and-down career of Strasburg took another downturn last year when he was limited to just 21.2 innings before needing thoracic outlet surgery. Strasburg has thrown just 26.2 innings across the past two years, but his career ratios are outstanding (3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP), and he is basically free in drafts.

Kyle Hendricks (SP, CHC)

Hendricks made a career out of defying the odds, turning minimal swing-and-miss abilities into a 3.12 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP from 2014-20. His K-rate, BB-rate, HR / FB rate and BABIP all trended in the wrong direction last season, but Hendricks has a long enough track record to warrant a late-round pick.

Trevor Rosenthal (RP, FA)

Rosenthal was drafted as a top-five closer in many 2021 leagues but failed to throw a single pitch due to a torn labrum that eventually required surgery. The free agent has 132 career saves and could sign with a team that gives him opportunities to close out narrow wins.

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