4 Fantasy Baseball rebound hitters for 2022
Did you draft a hitter in 2021 who failed to return value? We’ve probably all done it, and it can be frustrating. The good thing is that players who struggled could lead to some good buying opportunities for the 2022 Overhaul and Dynasty Leagues. Who are the rebound hitters to target in your 2022 Fantasy Baseball Leagues? We will take a look.
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The rebound hitters for 2022
Mookie Betts, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mookie Betts as a rebound candidate? It definitely does the trick. Before overreacting and saying he’s following Andrew McCutchen’s aging path, think about Betts’ performance leading up to 2021. Even though 2020 has been a season cut short, Betts have hit 16 home runs and steal 10 goals in 55 games. Just so you can see how good it was, his 600 plate appearances were 39 homers and 25 stolen goals. Between 2016 and 2020, the average bets per 600 home plate appearances were 27 home runs and 22 stolen goals. Add a batting average of 0.303 and a base percentage of 0.381 over that time frame, and you have an elite player.
So what happened in 2021? I think it starts with the fact that Betts weren’t in good health for most of the season. He suffered injuries most of the season, starting with a back injury that started in early April and has persisted. He suffered a forearm injury, shoulder injury, allergic reaction and illness, all before the hip injury that put him on the injured list. So as you can see Betts had a lot of problems last year. This does not in any way mean that he is prone to injury.
Another specific point of what went wrong with Betts in 2021 is his traction and ground ball percentages. Betts posted a career-high 48.3% attraction rate. Usually that’s not a bad thing, as it often results in more circuits. But, in the case of Betts, many of those bullets fired ended up on the ground. Betts are also a great hitter across all courts, giving him an average batting boost. It has been lost this season. It seems quite likely that the injuries suffered by Betts affected his ability to lift the ball, and he was trying to overcompensate by shooting the ball more. It just didn’t work in his favor.
Betts’ hip has been feeling great so far this offseason, and he doesn’t expect to have surgery. That should be a good sign for him, and having an entire offseason to heal should lead to a normal Mookie Betts season in 2022. I expect a 30 home run / 15 steal type season and close batting average. of 0.290 for Mookie Betts. .
Michael Conforto, OF, free agent
After experiencing an incredibly shortened 2020 season, Michael Conforto laid an egg in 2021. Over 233 home plate appearances in 2020, Conforto posted a slash line of 0.322 / 0.412 / 0.515 with nine home runs. This season Conforto has posted a .232 / .344 / .384 slash with just 14 home runs in 479 home plate appearances. What prompted him to have such a drastic drop?
Conforto was hit in the wrist by a throw at the start of the season. It didn’t make her miss a moment, but I have to wonder if there has been any lingering pain throughout the year? He also had a hamstring injury that caused him to miss more than a month between May and June.
However, there seems to be a watershed moment when Conforto turned things around. His numbers were drastically different before and after August 1. Prior to August 1, Conforto was just 0.196 with six home runs in 267 home plate appearances. After Aug. 1, he hit .272 with eight home runs in just 215 home plate appearances. Conforto’s strikeout rate plummeted and his hard hit rate increased after August 1.
Another notable thing is Conforto’s run-to-fly home ball rate. His career HR / FB percentage is 18.9%, but from 2017 to 2020 Conforto posted a 22 percent home run-to-fly ball rate. In 2021, that number fell to 13.5% for the season. From August 1 to the end of the season, Conforto saw its HR / FB rate climb to 16%. Still below its average, but encouraging all the same.
Michael Conforto is one of my favorite rebound hitters for 2022. He’ll probably never hit .322 again like he did in 2020, but he could be a .260-type hitter hitting 25-30 home runs. Conforto’s first NFBC ADP stands at 191. This makes him an easy buy at this price point and a great candidate for low buy in the dynasty leagues.
Francisco Lindor, SS, New York Mets
Francisco Lindor’s first season in the Big Apple wasn’t what Mets fans imagined and I’m sure Lindor himself had imagined it. Despite the low season, Lindor still managed to hit 20 home runs and steal 10 goals, despite having a .230 batting average. Having also struggled in 2020, it’s easy to wonder if Lindor just regressed?
Lindor suffered an oblique injury in the middle of June that caused him to miss more than a month. Oblique injuries often persist and force a player to struggle to get back in shape, but Lindor was better after injury.
Before suffering the oblique injury, Lindor had reduced just 0.226 / 0.325 / 0.373 with 11 homers and eight goals stolen in 369 appearances at home plate. In his last 155 home plate appearances on his return, Lindor has hit nine home runs and slashed 0.239 / 0.316 / 0.500. Still not ideal, but the power returned, which was a bit surprising considering the nature of an oblique injury.
Additionally, after returning from injury, Lindor posted an average exit speed of 91.3 mph and a hard hit rate of 46%. While his batting average was just 0.239, he posted an expected batting average of 0.267. That average exit speed and hard hit rate would both have been career highs for Lindor.
Lindor recorded a career low BABIP of 0.248 in 2021. Although he is a player who performs below average BABIP, last season was an outlier for Lindor. There will likely be less pressure on Lindor in his second season with the Mets, and he is hoping he has a better batting chance.
I’m a little surprised Lindor goes for an average pick of 53 in the early drafts as I thought there might be a bigger discount. Either way, Lindor is a great pick among rebounding hitters for 2022.
Austin Meadows, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Austin Meadows had an incredible first season in 2018 and a solid first full season in 2019. But after the 33-HR / 12-SB season, Meadows flopped in 2020 but faced various issues. Before the start of the season, Meadows was diagnosed with COVID-19 and returned about two weeks later. He also suffered an oblique injury at the end of August which he tried to get through but ended up on the injured list.
One of the biggest changes in Meadows’ profile was that he started to lift the ball. Now in some cases this can be a good thing. But Meadows saw their average launch angle drop from 16.7 degrees in 2019 to 24.4 degrees in 2020. Very few baseball players have the power to get away with a 24.4-degree launch angle. This year, Meadows’ average launch angle has dropped to 21.7 degrees, which remains high.
Meadows saw an increase in the exclusion rate in 2020, reaching 32.9% after only a 22.2% exclusion rate in 2019. The good news is that that number has fallen back to 20.6% this season.
For the most part, Meadows’ underlying metrics are 2019, which is encouraging. The most significant difference is that his flyball rate is just too high. If Meadows can start hitting more linemen again, you can expect the batting average to tend up without sacrificing his home run power. Meadows is a great candidate for a strong rebounding season, even though he still had 27 home runs and led 106 points last season.
Thanks for taking the time to read my article on rebound hitters. Be sure to follow up with Eric Cross Dynasty Breakdowns by Team and his latest with the Boston Red Sox.
Statistical and media references: Fangraphs, Baseball Savant
Also check out these 5 under-the-radar hitters who could hit 30 hours.
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