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Examining the Braves top five fantasy players for 2022

Examining the Braves top five fantasy players for 2022
Mar 16, 2022; North Port, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson (28) takes infield during spring training work outs at Cool Today Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, March 26, 2022

-Clint Manry

I just had my fantasy baseball draft today as I’m currently part of a 12-team, H2H points-based league at Fantrax. I have to say, I really like my team (named the “Huntsville Stars”), which is headlined by two-way player Shohei Ohtani…

Keeping with Fantrax‘s system, the Braves have two players ranked within the top 20 among the top players in baseball – first baseman Matt Olson (#10 overall) and second baseman Ozzie Albies (#13). As you can see, I wasn’t able to draft either Atlanta hitter on Saturday, although I was able to select Ronald Acuna Jr. (#27 overall / #9 among OFs) and Travis d’Arnaud (#265 overall / #20 among C), while also picking up the Braves as my pitching team (which is the second-best pitching group among all MLB teams).

But enough about my fantasy team. Here’s a look at the five most notable Braves players for this fantasy MLB season, and, if you’re interested in any, which rounds you should probably look to snatch them up…

Matt Olson (1B)

Overall rank: 10th

Position rank: 3rd

ADP: 34.29

Regardless of how many offensive categories your league scores, Olson is expected to be one of the top fantasy producers in the sport in 2022. He’s not trending as a first-round talent over at Fantrax, but I don’t see any problem with taking the 28-year-old as a top pick, especially if you’re drafting in the latter-portion of the opening round, when guys like Ohtani, Soto, Trout and Ramirez are off the board. At a projection of 3.02 FP/G (fantasy points per game) this coming season, Olson ranks third among first baseman, only trailing Freddie Freeman (3.26) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3.44). It’s pretty simple: if you need power (whether it be home runs or doubles), Olson is your man.

Ozzie Albies (2B)

Overall rank: 13th

Position rank: 3rd

ADP: 21.23

Albies is finally getting the love he deserves, following back-to-back 4-WAR seasons (not counting the shortened 2020 campaign). He has now solidified himself as one of the best-three in the game at the keystone position, paced by only Jose Altuve and Trea Turner on the Fantrax second baseman leaderboard. FanGraphs’ ZiPS and the projections at Fantrax are nearly identical, at least in terms of counting stats as each expects a tad bit of regression on the stolen base and homer front, compared to his 2021 performance. However, for an up-the-middle player, it doesn’t get much better than a guy who can realistically tally 25-30 HR, 80-100 RBI, 15-20 SB AND hit somewhere around .260. If you want to get the jump on a rather shallow second base position in the draft, take Albies first overall.

Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF)

Overall rank: 27th

Position rank: 9th

ADP: 11.34

Obviously there should be a little bit of concern regarding Acuna, given he’s coming off a pretty major knee injury. But with him expected to return in late April as a designated-hitter, and some time in May as an outfielder, I’m still looking at Acuna as a top-tier fantasy player. Missing a month or so isn’t enough to scare me, and even with a 2022 projection featuring nearly 100 less ABs than someone like a 100% healthy Mookie Betts, the Braves homegrown star is still expected to slug 30+ home runs and 25 doubles to go with 70-ish RBI this coming season. And at points per game basis, Acuna ranks fourth at 3.5 P/G, only trailing Betts, Mike Trout and Juan Soto. Given I had the top pick in my league (taking Ohtani), followed by the first and second pick of each round thereafter, I grabbed Acuna at the start of the second round. You may be able to follow the same pattern, especially if other team owners are too caught up on the fact that he won’t be in the lineup on Opening Day.

Eddie Rosario (OF)

Overall rank: 44th

Position rank: 16th

ADP: 209.63

I’m actually surprised how high Rosario is on Fantrax overall leaderboard. I didn’t expect him to be the next Braves player, after RAJ, but I suppose that postseason performance last October has paid off for Rosario in the fantasy world. The thing is, the difference between Rosario’s 2022 ZiPS projections and his fantasy projections at Fantrax are pretty stark, perhaps bigger than any of the other players I looked into when preparing for the draft.

Rosario 2022 (ZiPS): 125 G / .273 AVG / 22 HR / 81 RBI / 8 SB

Rosario 2022 (Fantrax): 151 G / .249 AVG / 28 HR / 100 RBI / 9 SB

Whichever one you believe, or even if you think Rosario will finish somewhere in between the two, he should still be a productive fantasy player this season. Me personally, I drafted him as a reserve outfielder in the 12th round (144th overall) as I want to see if he’s more of the Braves player he was in 2021… or if he’s the guy he was in Cleveland to start the campaign. I wouldn’t take Rosario too early, but if you’re in the latter-rounds of the draft and in need of a solid bench player, he’s a viable option that could turn into a real producer given he’ll play a ton in Atlanta this coming season.

Austin Riley (3B)

Overall rank: 62nd

Position rank: 9th

ADP: 47.34

This is what I’m talking about. How is Rosario ranked higher than Riley? It can’t be just because the former is able to provide some value in stolen bases. Hell, 8-10 SB over the course of a season shouldn’t be more valuable than Riley’s ability to potentially slug 30-35 homers and hit .280 to .300. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but one thing’s for sure, both ZiPS and Fantrax expect the Braves third baseman to once again be a star in 2022. It’s awesome that the time has finally come, but Riley is very capable of being a key power-hitter in anyone’s fantasy lineup. In my league, he was taken in the third round (36th overall), and though I would’ve thought that was crazy a year ago, I’m not so surprised now.

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