Updated: Dec 30, 2021
With the end of 2021 in sight, we turn our eye towards 2022, and the imminent baseball season ahead. Today I'll start to breakdown some of my predictions on boom and bust players from each division. My breakdowns will consist of 3 boom players from that division, followed the next week by 3 bust players from that same division. These are players I see either taking a step forward as potential buy low candidates, or players I see either taking a step back or not turning their struggles around. This week we will be looking into the AL East, and the three players I see having a huge year in 2022.
The first player I want to break down is D.J. LeMahieu. For a career .300 hitter, we saw DJ’s batting average take a big dip this year. Coming off of a huge year in 2020 during the shortened season, DJ’s struggles at the plate were very surprising. His struggles at the plate in 2021 expanded beyond just his batting average, however, as his power, and on-base numbers were greatly impacted as well. Although we don't expect DJ to put up 30 HR’s and a 1.000 OPS, in a smaller ball park in the Bronx, we can expect to see him put up 20+ HR’s in 2022. We saw D.J. walk more in 2021, and his strikeout percentage did not adjust despite his slumping average. Did his sports hernia play a big factor in his decreased stats? If you are looking for a buy low or break out player in 2022, look no further than the AL East. Going into to 2022 healthy, we expect to see DJ’s average exit velocity jump back above 91MPH and for his power to match what he did in 2019 when he hit a career high 26 HR.
For my second player, we don’t even have to leave the Bronx... Joey Gallo. The excitement Yankees fans had when they saw this lefty coming to Yankee stadium with a short porch in right field did not pan out quite as planned late in 2021. Over the last two years, we have seen Joey’s average exit velocity dip by 2-3 MPH but his power has still been there. Most people look at Joey Gallo and see a hitter who only has a batting average of .200, but if you dive further into his stats, we see someone just shy of being a fantasy monster. Joey has a .333 OBP which is 125 points higher than his career batting average. If we saw his average and OBP climb even 20 points, we could see Joey putting up similar points as Pete Alonso. Expect to see Gallo make Yankee fans very happy this season, as I see him finally hitting 50HR’s with a .225 BA and a .360 OBP. His strikeouts will still bring him down in points leagues, but if he can continue to grow with walks, look to see 110 BB/200 SO. In 2022, expect to see Joey’s average exit velocity climb back up around 93MPH, and if this happens with his launch angle, he is in for a big season.
My last boom player from the AL East goes to Baltimore and Ryan Mountcastle. There won’t be many players from the Orioles that will excite me this season, but this young power hitter is one of them. If you take away the month of April in Ryan’s 2021 campaign, he had an OPS of .832 with 32 HR’s and 82 RBI’s from May 1st through the end of the season in 119 games. Mountcastle is known for being one of the league's most aggressive hitters and won’t walk much. This most likely led to his struggles, as his chase rate was one of the worst in the league in 2021. However, he put up a stat line on the first pitch of .444/.438/.944/.1.383 and ranked 3rd in the AL in OPS, 6th in BA, and 4th in both homers (10) and RBIs (26) when swinging on the first pitch. Although it would be nice to see his strikeouts go down, his success comes from his aggressive approach. Now that Mountcastle has had a full season in the bigs with 179 games under him, I expect to see Ryan come out hot in 2022. Over the course of a full season, if we parlay his stats after his April struggles, we could see him putting up 35+ HR’s, a .285 average and 100 RBI’s. This is one player that has stayed under the radar due to COVID, and also one of the reasons why I'm buying him every chance I get. Take advantage if you are able to get this breakout player on your team, and be thankful his April struggles most likely kept him out of the 2021 All-Star game.
Next week I will continue to breakdown the AL East by diving into some bust players. I'll be providing additional context on why I think they will either continue their downward trend, or why I see their advanced analytics showing us that what we saw in 2021 is not sustainable.