With a little over half of the 2022 regular season in the books, we now have a pretty good idea of how the biggest fantasy stories of this year will be written. That being said, there will undoubtedly be some twists and turns during the 2.5 months that separate the fantasy standings at the All-Star break from those at the end of the campaign.
Here are some changes that I expect to happen in the second half, and their potential impact on fantasy leagues.
Robbie Ray will be a league-winner for many teams
After initially struggling with the Mariners, Ray has been red-hot of late, posting a 1.36 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP across seven starts since July 12. The left-hander’s walk rate this year is much closer to his mark in his 2021 Cy Young season than in previous campaigns, and his outstanding ability to rack up whiffs makes him a major fantasy factor when he is limiting free passes well enough to work deep into games. I expect Ray to have a furious finish, lead Seattle to a Wildcard berth and help many managers win their leagues.
Taylor Ward will fall to waivers in most leagues
At the end of May, Ward owned a 1.145 OPS and appeared to be one of this year’s best waiver-wire gems. He has tailed off dramatically since that time (.605 OPS), looking more like the marginal Major Leaguer that he was projected to be at the start of the season. With the Angels lineup lacking depth, Ward will need to earn his counting stats in the second half. Managers who are paying close attention to their teams will soon notice Ward’s lack of recent production and swap him for another option.
Corbin Burnes will lead the Majors in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts
I have gone on record repeatedly this season, predicting that Burnes will be the No. 1 overall fantasy player this year. And I’m not giving up now! The right-hander is within striking distance of the top spot in three major fantasy categories and will surpass the likes of Shane McClanahan, Justin Verlander and Tony Gonsolin to ascend to the No. 1 ranking.
Taylor Rogers will bounce back in a big way
Rogers has been a mess of late, posting a 6.89 ERA since June 1 and allowing at least one run in five straight outings from June 28 to July 11. But he threw scoreless frames while collecting saves in two recent outings, and during his rough stretch since June 1 he has posted an 18:1 K:BB ratio in 15.2 innings while allowing zero homers but dealing with a .422 BABIP. I like Rogers as a buy-low option on the fantasy trade market right now.
Ronald Acuña Jr. will win the steals title
Just stop and think for a second about how remarkable it would be for Acuña to win the stolen base crown. After all, the speedster suffered a torn ACL just over a year ago and didn’t begin his 2022 season until April 28. Acuña currently sits fourth in swipes, with an injured Jon Berti as the only player who is more than two steals ahead of him. My prediction is that Acuña races his way to the steals title and ranks among the top-five overall players during the second half.
Esteury Ruiz will be rostered in all roto leagues
There are two pathways for Ruiz’s season to go from this point forward. The first is that he doesn’t get enough playing time (which could include time in the Minors) to be a fantasy factor, and the second is that he is among the MLB steals leaders from this point forward. I’m going with the latter and recommending that steals-needy managers add Ruiz wherever possible. Having swiped 60 bases in 77 Minor League games this year, Ruiz has shown that he is too fast to be held at first base for more than a few moments.
Brandon Drury will lose relevancy
Drury has been a waiver-wire gem to this point of the season, hitting .278 with 18 homers, 52 RBIs and 56 runs scored. But this ride is about to come to an end, as the 29-year-old should be traded to a contending team in a couple of weeks. Once in his new home, Drury will likely be a utilityman who bats lower in the lineup and lacks the role needed for mixed-league consideration.
Felix Bautista will be widely rostered in roto leagues
Will the surprisingly successful Orioles stick with their rebuilding plan and trade some of their veterans at the trade deadline? I believe that they will. And one of those trade candidates is Jorge Lopez, who has had a successful season as the team’s closer. He has faltered of late (6.14 ERA in July) however, and Baltimore may want to get something for him while he still has plenty of trade value. A Lopez trade could thrust Bautista (1.72 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) into their closer’s role, at which point the rookie would become very valuable.