Alex Chamberlain’s Five Bold Predictions for 2022

No prologue, just bold predictions. Bold, but not stupidly bold, and actionable in a way that can tangibly affect your fantasy season (for better or worse). Let’s go.

1) Steven Kwan is a top-30 outfielder.

The marquee peripheral prospect hitter for 2021, Kwan comes from a long line of peripheral prospects who boast elite contact skills (José Ramírez, Jeff McNeil, Jake Cronenworth, Josh Rojas) and a smattering of other fantasy-relevant skills, be it a little bit of power, speed, or both. Kwan looked David Fletcheresque, hitting only three home runs in his first 600ish professional plate appearances, but boasting the minor leagues’ best plate skills, bar none.

After last spring, the Guardians retooled his swing ($), and Kwan hit 12 home runs and doubled his isolated power (ISO) in just 341 PA while walking more than he struck out. The result: a 154 wRC+ and about as polished a non-prospect hitter for which one could reasonably ask.

The power won’t translate perfectly—it never does—but, frankly, it doesn’t need to. A dozen homers, a dozen steals, a .300 average? He’s the second coming of Michael Brantley, who was a top-12 outfielder and top-50 player overall in 2018 on the heels of a 17-12-.309 season–something well within Kwan’s capabilities currently. He may not have the highest ceiling, but Kwan has a long, productive career ahead of him.

2) Patrick Sandoval is a top-20 starting pitcher.

Sandoval is, weirdly, a divisive player this offseason. He has haters! Haters who, evidently, think he is injury-prone or he lacks command or he is inefficient or he is simply unskilled. Maybe those people are simply the embodiment of this tweet, but let’s assume they do exist:

  • Injury-prone: he has one recorded Injured List stint–last year, a lumbar spine stress reaction. Admittedly, it’s not the most wonderful-sounding injury. But his low inning totals in 2019 and 2020 are the result of innings management (aka being optioned repeatedly), not injuries, and apparently he’s healthy entering 2022
  • Lacks command: when I worked on my visualized primer on vertical approach angle (VAA), I was helped to a realization, or, perhaps, more of an appreciation: pitchers who rely on sinkers and change-ups–especially those who rely on both–succeed best at not just the fringes of the strike zone but below it as well. The best sinkers and change-ups induce weak contact (the best change-ups induce gaudy whiff rates, too), and to do that they have to flirt with incurring a few extra called balls that allow the extra free pass or two. Lance McCullers Jr., Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Framber Valdez, etc.–they all run higher walk rates than you’d typically prefer. Yet they succeed nonetheless.

    As for Sandoval, his repertoire is a spitting image of a peak Castillo (aka before Castillo cratered a bit last year). Peak Castillo was literally the 27th player–not pitcher, player–off the board last year. There’s breakout material here, and the slightly elevated walk rate is a prerequisite.

  • Inefficient: he averaged 5.7 innings on just 94 pitches last year! He’s not genuinely inefficient, nor was he getting Blake Snelled into 5-inning outings consistently.
  • Unskilled: again, the Castillo comp. For the uninitiated: Sandoval uses his change-up as his primary pitch, and it boasts a nearly 30% swinging strike rate (SwStr%). Even if all he had were that pitch, he could be successful, but he’s more than that, with his excellent slider and heavy fastballs.

To be fair to Sandoval, he has plenty of fans of him as a sleeper, too. I targeted him like crazy this year but tried not to force the issue by leapfrogging ADP (average draft position) too much. The result was a healthy, but not robust, share of Sandoval across my teams. Here’s to hoping he stays healthy and lives up to his potential.

3) Domingo Acevedo records at least 75% of Oakland’s saves.

Lou Trivino is the nominal closer, and some folks like the idea of A.J. Puk’s short-term(?) conversion to high-leverage relief. But Trivino is not particularly good–and Puk may not be either, sorry–whereas Acevedo spent much of the 2021 season in Triple-A serving as Las Vegas’ closer.

It’s interesting enough that Oakland appeared to be grooming Acevedo for high-leverage relief to begin with. That he recorded a 42.1% strikeout rate (K%) underpinned by an absurd 21.3% SwStr against a tidy 4.8% walk rate (BB%) suggests our friend Acevedo may possess massive skills, thanks primarily to what appears to be an elite slider and a solid change-up. His fastball is weak, but his apparently excellent control should shore up his vulnerabilities.

Even if Acevedo doesn’t pan out–and I think he will, thanks to seemingly obvious skills–his competition is exceedingly weak, such that he should inevitably find himself in high-leverage situations at one point or another this year. His National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) ADP falls outside the top-700. I would call him an afterthought if anyone were thinking about him to begin with.

4) Cooper Hummel will generate more value than teammate and fellow C/OF Daulton Varsho.

This… is mildly insane. And I’m OK with that! Sometimes these things steer too bold.

To be clear, this is not a dig at Varsho. His plate skills are superb, and he hits for enough power (and chips in enough speed) to be a decent regular hitter, let alone one who is catcher-eligible. The hype is warranted, especially, if he actually finds himself in the outfield on off-days. That lineup is gutted, after all.

Hummel is a catcher-outfielder as well, although he played left field primarily at Triple-A in 2021. But he spent roughly 20% of his defensive innings behind the dish, and that should make him the Diamondbacks third catcher behind Varsho and Carson Kelly. When he’s not catching, he can play not just left field but right field, first base, and third base as well. There are super-utility capabilities here.

But this is more than just opportunity and versatility. Last year, Hummel walked more than he struck out and slashed .311/.432/.546 (.978 OPS, 151 wRC+). ATC aggregations project Hummel as Arizona’s 5th-best hitter. Steamer projections peg him as its 3rd-best hitter. And he hasn’t played a game above Triple-A yet.

He likely won’t hit for average, but he does possess a line-drive swing that could prove me wrong. Chip in a few steals and decent power, and Hummel could be a decent bench piece in deeper fantasy formats. If he collects enough playing time as a backstop, he could become immediately more important. And, of course, a Varsho (or Kelly) injury changes the complexion completely.

5) Andrés Giménez is a top-15 player… overall.

Inspired by Ryan Bloomfield’s annual tweet, and neck deep in several slow drafts where revealing my late-round targets could compromise my strategy, I quietly messaged Bloomfield and said something to the tune of, “this seems like an exceedingly bad idea, but, Andrés Giménez.”

A better answer is probably something like Seiya Suzuki, Jo Adell, Julio Rodríguez, or any number of high-quality, low-drafted rookies who will debut this year, some as early as Opening Day. But I went with Giménez, an already-forgotten former top prospect. A career .235/.302/.369 slash line doesn’t exactly scream “aptitude.” But it’s only 342 PA, and those 342 PA feature eight homers and 19 steals.

Giménez allegedly had–hopefully still has–“good feel for contact,” “good feel” that has yet to really manifest in his short cups of tea as a major leaguer. But I have to remind myself: he will only be 23 years old this year, and prospect growth is rarely linear.

He’s on the cusp of winning the Guardians’ starting shortstop gig. Meanwhile, he possesses top-shelf speed and enough power to not make him a complete liability for home runs. If that “good feel” comes around, perhaps his power will improve alongside his batting. After just nine home runs in 479 PA at Double-A in 2019, he did hit 10 home runs in just 233 PA at Triple-A last year.

I want to stay true to the insane prediction I made to Bloomfield in private. A 15-25-.260 would not introduce Giménez into the 1st-round conversation, but it would make him quite valuable. A small developmental step forward could work wonders, but it’s the large developmental step forward I need–at the ripe old age of 23, when these types of developments can and do often occur. Let us suspend our disbelief and hope for an absolute banger from this castaway former New York Met.

* * *

Other players for whom I considered making bold predictions: Freddy Peralta (Cy Young), Josiah Gray (breakout), Glenn Otto (breakout), Eli Morgan (fantasy-relevant), Ha-Seong Kim 김하성 (makes the leap), Jake Fraley (Robbie Grossman redux), Art Warren (top-12 closer)… none felt nearly bold enough.

Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 8-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's magazine (2018, 2019), Rotowire magazine (2021), and Baseball Prospectus (2022, 2023). Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.

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NL Rulesmember
2 years ago

Impressive list! And I think the extras at the bottom all qualify as bold as well. These fun predictions are always among my favorite fantasy content on the site.