Early 2022 Mock Draft: Rounds 5-6

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The postseason might be in full swing, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2022 MLB season. With the fantasy baseball season still fresh in our minds, we thought this was a good time to take stock of what we learned and begin to forecast what drafts might look like next spring. Of course, with a deep and talented free agent class, opinions will evolve over time. But we wanted to give it a whirl anyway.

What you’ll see here are the results of a slow mock draft with staff members from NBC Sports EDGE. Full results will be posted over the course of the next several days. You can find recaps for Rounds 1-2 here and Rounds 3-4 here.

1) Jorge Montanez (@Roto_Nino)
2) Seth Trachtman (@sethroto)
3) Colin Henderson (@ColDontLie)
4) Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)
5) Matt Williams (@MattWi77iams)
6) Drew Silva (@drewsilv)
7) Dave Shovein (@DaveShovein)
8) George Bissell (@GeorgeBissell)
9) Chris Crawford (@Crawford_MILB)
10) D.J. Short (@djshort)
11) Micah Henry (@FantasyCentral1)
12) Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)

We’re drafting based on 5x5 roto scoring. The mock draft consists of 23 rounds, with 14 position players and nine pitcher spots. The position player breakdown is: 2 C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, 5 OF, UTIL. There’s 20-game eligibility for a player to qualify at a particular position.

ROUND 5

5.49 – Freddy Peralta, SP

5.50 – Ketel Marte, 2B/OF

5.51 – Austin Riley, 3B

5.52 – Nick Castellanos, OF

5.53 – Robbie Ray, SP

5.54 – Joe Musgrove, SP

5.55 – Tyler O’Neill, OF

5.56 – Wander Franco, SS

5.57 – Salvador Perez, C

5.58 – Lance Lynn, SP

5.59 – Javier Baez, 2B/SS

5.60 – Adalberto Mondesi, 3B

The order that the four starting pitchers were taken in this round I found interesting. You could probably make a case for any of them being selected first, but in this instance Jorge popped Peralta to kick off the round. The 25-year-old experienced a breakthrough in 2021 and was surprisingly consistent after previously having some command and control issues (he could still stand to get his walk rate down). Peralta could take another step forward in 2022 if the Brewers use their starters on regular rest.

Speaking of previous control issues, Ray put those behind him in a stunning way in 2021 and might capture the AL Cy Young award. Of course, the question is how much those gains will stick moving forward. Which team Ray pitches for in 2022 is also an unknown. The lefty falling to the fifth round here meant some hedging.

Riley was a breakout star this season and has carried it over so far into the postseason, as well. The Statcast data suggests that he’s probably not a .300 hitter, but his plate discipline is better and he hits the ball hard. He feels like a guy who is going to be selected in the early rounds of fantasy drafts for years to come.

I went with Castellanos as my fifth-round selection, feeling that it was time to get an outfielder since this is a five-outfielder format and the position isn’t as deep as it used to be. I suppose there is a little bit of risk in taking him since the conventional wisdom is that he will opt out. Staying in Cincinnati and at Great American Ball Park – where he OPS’d 1.109 this season – would be ideal for his fantasy prospects, but I think he’ll be fine in just about any ballpark and lineup he lands in.

O’Neill is another guy who broke out in 2021. He strikes out a lot and has dealt with some injuries during his career, but his blend of power and speed is rare. This feels like a fair spot for him even if his average falls back a bit in 2022.

I must admit that I considered Franco in the previous round before ultimately going with Francisco Lindor. Using a top-five round pick on the 20-year-old requires a little bit of a leap of faith since the track record is so limited, but the skills he shows at his age are Juan Soto-like. The fifth round might be the latest you’ll be able to get him for a long time.

Trying to figure out how to value Mondesi going into next season is going to be incredibly difficult. He has been injury-prone to the degree that Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore has indicated that the team will have to do some load management with him moving forward. Mondesi also has lost shortstop eligibility for the requirements that we have for this mock. The upside, of course, remains tantalizing.

ROUND 6

6.61 – Christian Yelich, OF

6.62 – Kevin Gausman, SP

6.63 – Jose Altuve, 2B

6.64 – Nolan Arenado, 3B

6.65 – Logan Webb, SP

6.66 – Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

6.67 – Alex Bregman, 3B

6.68 – Lucas Giolito, SP

6.69 – Luis Castillo, SP

6.70 – Jose Berrios, SP

6.71 – Randy Arozarena, OF

6.72 – J.T. Realmuto, C

Pouliot took not one, but two gambles at the turn here, following up his Mondesi pick with Yelich. Yelich still hit the ball hard in 2021, but it wasn’t as hard as he hit it at his peak from 2018-19 and his groundball rate has started to balloon again. The Brewers insist that he’s healthy, but he has dealt with nagging back issues. Yelich turns 30 this winter.

Gausman was much more hittable in the second half than he was in the first and there’s the question of where he will pitch next season as he enters free agency. Still, the sixth round feels like a pretty good value. The next pitcher off the board after Gausman was his teammate, Webb. Webb took off in 2021 once he put his shoulder problems behind him and he continued it with two excellent postseason starts against the Dodgers. Guys with elite groundball rates who still miss bats are few and far between.

Sandwiched around Webb were teammates Arenado and Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt was, objectively, the better hitter of the two this season and quite a bit better in fantasy terms given the huge gaps in average and stolen bases. Arenado was still plenty good himself, though, and is three and a half years younger. In a vacuum, I think I’d lean Goldy.

Castillo was so bad in the first two months of this season that he was even dropped in some leagues. He was basically himself for the final four months, although his strikeout rate never quite got back to what we saw from 2019-20. Berrios put together probably his best season in 2021 and is still just 27. He will have to go through a full season of the meat grinder that is the AL East in 2022, though, which he could find more unforgiving than the AL Central.

Arozarena qualified more as “steady” in 2021 than the “otherworldly” he was during the 2020 postseason. There’s nothing wrong with that, as he collected a 20-20 season and also scored nearly 100 runs. Salvador Perez figures to be the first catcher off the board in most every fantasy draft next spring after his monster power showing this season. Realmuto still offers the more well-rounded skill set, though, and won’t be far behind.

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