Akil Baddoo
Detroit Tigers left fielder Akil Baddoo fields a ball in the second inning of a spring baseball exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

FANTASY BASEBALL 2022 – FIVE PLAYERS WORTH REACHING FOR

Mike Shara

My last fantasy baseball article was to warn you about overbidding for players that I didn’t think were worthy of the draft spots they were being taken in. Today we’re going to talk about players I think you actually should reach for before they’ve been going off the board. It’s basically a way of inferring that in the drafts I’ve done so far this year, these players are being undervalued and you can afford to go get them before someone else reaps the benefit of their currently undervalued skills. Remember, reaching doesn’t mean these guys should all be taken in the first three rounds – it just means you can take them sooner than others might.

CARLOS CORREA, SS, Minnesota
I realize people don’t like Correa because of his association with the whole garbage can/sign stealing ‘scandal’ with the Astros from a few years back. He seemed to be the guy in Houston’s clubhouse who was most willing to wear the black hat, basically daring other teams to beat him and not really being as sheepish and apologetic as folks thought he should have been. Well, this is the 2022 fantasy baseball season – who gives a shit? He has a team now – he just signed a ‘prove it’ 3 year deal with Minnesota (where he has a career batting average of .413 and a 1.205 OPS, by the way) and he can even opt out after this season if he wants. He’s going to be motivated by the relative paucity of offers and out to prove he’s the best at his position. He’s going anywhere between the 8th to 11th round in most drafts I’m in. That’s bananas. Shortstop is deep this year, yes – but there aren’t many that you can be sure are better than him, especially when he’s motivated. 

JUSTIN VERLANDER, SP, Houston
The future Hall of Famer is returning to the mound this spring after missing the last two seasons due to Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. It happened over 18 months ago – long past the standard recovery period – and he has looked free and easy so far in Spring Training, saying that he feels great. There’s no way to guarantee he’ll return to his former self, but even if he’s only 80% of what he was, he’s still better than almost everyone else. It’s not like he’s been crippled by injuries in his career or even in his late 30’s. Just remember that from 2017-2019 he won 57 games and struck out 809 batters and now he has a new UCL ligament! For people to be taking pitchers like Eduardo Perez, Jake McGee and Chris Bassitt ahead of him is just crazy, in my opinion. Don’t be that guy. Go get him. 

MATT CHAPMAN, 3B, Toronto
We know defense doesn’t matter in fantasy baseball otherwise Chapman might be the first player taken overall in your draft. Last season was unquestionably a disappointment for him, as he hit just .210/.314/.403 in his first season recovering from hip surgery. His second half slugging numbers steadily improved as he regained strength and mobility in the hip and though he struck out too much, he did walk 80 times. He’ll now be hitting in a better, deeper lineup and in a much better park for right-handed power hitters (Oakland decreases RH power by a whopping 17% while Toronto’s park is neutral) and Chapman’s road OPS was over 150 points higher last year than it was at home. Third base is a shallow position this year and yet I’ve still seen Chapman going as late as round 13 or 14. Don’t be afraid to get on him three or four rounds earlier than that. Remember what happened when Oakland traded a 29 year-old third baseman to Toronto for four players before the 2015 season. Hint: his name rhymes with Gosh Ronaldson and he was named AL MVP later that year. 

AKIL BADDOO, OF, Detroit
Man, the Twins are going to regret this one for a while. They somehow allowed Baddoo to be taken from them in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, meaning that he had to spend the entire season in the majors if Detroit wanted to keep him. Uh, that wasn’t a problem. Granted the 2021 Tigers roster had room for some added talent, but for a 21 year-old to do the things he did despite having just 131 at-bats in A ball is bonkers. He has advanced patience, has set a strong foundation for big power and has already shown himself to possess excellent baserunning and speed (no, they’re not the same thing) and he can play all three outfield spots. I’ve been in drafts where he wasn’t even taken or was left into the 25th round. He should never go undrafted and you’d be very happy with him as your fourth outfielder, whenever that pick comes. Every time someone drafts Randall Grichuk or Adam Frasier or Gio Urshela over this guy, God kills a baby Panda. You don’t want to be responsible for that, do you?

MIKE MOUSTAKAS, 1B/3B, Cincinnati 
Okay, technically speaking, you probably won’t have to reach for him after the season he had last year. I’m not suggesting you take him in the fourth round as an offensive backbone for your team. I am saying that his struggles last year were almost certainly the result of an early season illness and then a heel injury. When he played he still maintained a good eye at the plate and was still hitting the ball hard. He has been an above average hitter in each of the previous six seasons (he’s still deadly on MLB The Show ‘20) and if he’s healthy, he’s going to hit in the heart of his lineup because the Reds need him after shedding several other key hitters this offseason. In Yahoo! leagues he qualifies at both corner infield spots, so he’s an ideal bench piece and both of those positions leave slim pickings late in drafts. In my mind he’s a smart late dart throw who could potentially not hurt you if he had to replace an injured player on your team for a while. 

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