Players who were lucky in 2021 (Baseball Fantasy 2022)

Luck is a concept that seems more prevalent in baseball than in other major sports, at least over a seasonal period. We rarely talk about how lucky an NBA player was to hit all those threes, or how lucky an NFL wide receiver was to carry all those catches. I blame the math. Advanced analytics have taken over the game and, therefore, fantasy baseball. We now have a ton of data beyond the traditional stats at our fingertips, giving us a fuller picture of a player’s ability. The “numbers behind the numbers” can help us understand if the baseball player’s recent performance is a matter of skill or just a bit of luck.

I did a little digging on this topic and found eight players — four hitters and four pitchers — who have underlying data from their 2021 seasons that is concerning. These players are all talented and should be registered in most leagues. However, they may not meet the expectations fantastic managers will have of them.

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BATTERS

Randy Arozarena (OF – TB)
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021 VBR (batters): 35 | ADP 2022 (hitters): 41 | ADP 2022 (All): 62

Arozarena made the list of hitters with the highest BABIPs in 2021, as detailed here. But that wasn’t the only warning sign for him. His Statcast data on “expected results” (xBA, xSLG, xwOBA) all tracked his actual results by some meaningful measure. If you’re unfamiliar with Statcast data, it predicts the outcome of a hit ball based on exit velocity, launch angle, and sprint velocity. For more details, click on the links above.

Going back to Arozarena, his gaps in 2021 were as follows:

BA: .274 | xBA: .220 SLG: 459 | xSLG: 366 wOBA: 350 | xwOBA: 302

Those spreads were among the league leaders for players with at least 500 plate appearances in all three categories. While the reigning rookie of the year should still be a decent power/speed combo player in 2022, devoting a fifth- or sixth-round draft pick to him could spell disappointment.

Jared Walsh (1B/OF – LAA)
2021 VBR (hitters): 54 | ADP 2022 (hitters): 71 | ADP 2022 (all): 113

Walsh’s “expected results” also described a lucky 2021:

BA: .277 | xBA: .255 SLG: 509 | xSLG: 433 wOBA: 357 | xwOBA: 325

His slugging gap is of most concern, as his Home Run/Fly Ball (HR/FB) percentage of 25.4% was also high. So there’s a chance his HR totals will drop next season, although, for the record, Zeile’s consensus projections don’t think they will. Based on his ADP, it seems fantasy managers are already a little wary that Walsh could repeat his success in 2022. Don’t reach for it.

Javier Baez (2B/SS – DET)
2021 VBR (hitters): 28 | ADP 2022 (hitters): 48 | ADP 2022 (All): 74

Like Arozarena, Baez made the list of high BABIP players as of 2021. As stated in the article, however, that’s not too much of a concern as high BABIPs are a trend for him. Of more concern is his HR to FB ratio of 28.2% as of 2021. His previous high was 24.4% in 2019 and his career average is 21% (including last season). On top of that, his new home ballpark in Detroit is one of the worst for allowing home runs. Buyers beware, as much of Baez’s fantasy value is tied to the long ball.

Yuli Gurriel (1B – HOU)
2021 VBR (hitters): 46 | ADP 2022 (hitters): 122 | ADP 2022 (All): 198

Gurriel is a good hitter, but he never hit .300 until last season when his .319 average led the American League. A .336 BABIP helped him, as his xBA was only .271. His ADP reflects the doubts of fantasy managers, so follow their lead. Don’t be fooled into thinking it can pace your BA category in 2022.

PITCHERS

Walker Buehler (SP-LAD)
2021 VBR (Pitchers): 2 | ADP 2022 (Launchers): 3 | ADP 2022 (all): 12

First let me say that Buehler is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. That said, he’s probably not worth the 12th overall pick, as he probably won’t put up the kind of numbers he did in 2021. In addition to the ERA, there are several other ‘ERA estimators’ for launchers to measure overall effectiveness. . Some of the most popular include FIP, xFIP, xERA and SIERA (click on the links for detailed explanations). Buehler was good last season all round, but not as good as his 2.47 ERA. The other estimators ranged between 3.10 and 3.73. He was also high on a few other data points, including the low BABIP of 0.247 against him and a high strand rate (LOB%) of 81%. He’s still a great thrower, but let someone else catch him late in the first round or early in the second round.

Adam Wainwright (ES-STL)
2021 VBR (Pitchers): 9 | ADP 2022 (Pitchers): 64 | ADP 2022 (all): 162

Wainwright turned back the clock last season with an incredible effort. However, early writers don’t buy it because its ERA estimators ranged between 3.66 and 4.13 against its ERA of 3.05. He also had a .256 BABIP against him and a pretty high 78.4% strand rate. He will also turn 41 during the season. Draft it as a disposable spin-starter backend and you’ll be fine, but don’t expect it to repeat its 2021.

Mark Melançon (PR – ARI)
2021 VBR (Pitchers): 47 | ADP 2022 (Pitchers): 62 | ADP 2022 (all): 153

Most were surprised by Melancon’s effectiveness as the Padres came closer last year. No one predicted he would lead the league in saves. But he did, and he took with him a low 2.23 ERA. However, there seems to have been some luck involved, as the estimators ranged from 3.36 to 4.24. Throwing within the friendly confines of Petco Park surely helped, a luxury he won’t have in 2022 at Chase Field in Arizona.

Kenley Jansen (RP–FA)
2021 VBR (Pitchers): 31 | ADP 2022 (Pitchers): 41 | ADP 2022 (all): 106

In some ways, Jansen was underrated last season due to a couple of explosive high-profile outings. A deeper dive, however, causes some consternation. In particular, the BABIP against him was an extraordinarily low .213. He was also lucky with the long ball, as his FC/FB ratio was only 6%. If he left the Dodgers in free agency, his fantasy value could drop anyway depending on where he lands. But even if he is back, he will continue to make his fantasy managers nervous.

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