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Fantasy Baseball 2022 First-Half Awards

Shane McClanahan - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News, Starting Pitchers

As we close out the first half of the MLB season, we are temporarily going into reflection mode. I'm Jon Anderson and I'm here to hand out some first-half awards for fantasy baseball.

I will mostly have standard-scoring rotisserie leagues in mind here, and I will try to not make injury a big part of it. By that, I mean that I'm not going to call a player a bust just because they got hurt. I'm also going to have ADP in mind for most of the process here. You can't really get a fantasy MVP from the first couple rounds of your draft since you gave up so much to acquire them.

With no more to do, let's get into the awards.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Most Valuable Hitter: Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners

I wanted to give this to someone that went very late in drafts, and J-Rod is that guy. After being very bad at the plate for the first few weeks, Rodriguez has turned it on in a major way and lands at the All-Star break with a .275/.337/.477 slash line with 17 homers and, most importantly, 21 stolen bases.

This could be a guy that is flirting with a 40-40 season, which makes him an easy first-round pick next year, and you likely drafted him after pick 200 this season.


Best Hitter: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

33 homers at the break! A .284 batting average, a .364 OBP, and even eight steals. Eight steals!? He has done everything for fantasy teams and there are no real signs of slowing down.

He leads the league in barrels by a long way and has continued to drive down his strikeout rate, as it sits at 25.7% – three full points below his career mark. He's the leading MVP candidate, and you likely drafted him in the third or fourth round.


Most Valuable Pitcher: Carlos Rodon, San Francisco Giants

I gave the nod to Rodon here just because his ADP was behind McClanahan's. The average ADP of the two wasn't that much different, but Rodon was a guy that fell a long way in plenty of drafts as managers avoided the injury risk.

Well, Rodon has stayed healthy and has kept on dominating, posting a 2.66 ERA with a 1.11 WHIP for the Giants while winning eight games in his 105 innings. He made it through a short rough patch, and has come out with one of the better K-BB% ratios in the league with a K% above 30% and a walk rate right at 8%. He hasn't been the best fantasy pitcher in the league, but he's been close – and you probably got a good price on him.

Also considered:


Best Pitcher: Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays

We all knew McClanahan had a high ceiling for 2022, but I don't think anybody envisioned he would make 18 starts and post a 1.71 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP at the break. All of the underlying metrics back these numbers up with an elite 35.7% K% and a 4.6% BB% to go with his 50.6% GB%. He had refined his arsenal, throwing four different pitches this season with significant usage and putting up sparkling marks on all of them.

The best part was the cost, as McClanahan slid past pick 75 a ton in drafts. He is the front runner for the Cy Young Award right now, and fantasy managers that drafted him have been reaping major benefits.

Also considered:


Rookie of the Year: Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners

I've already given this man the MVP so that by default gives him the Rookie of the Year award. Them's the rules!

Also considered:

Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals

Bounce Back Hitter of the Year: Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros

The first half ended on a low note for Alvarez, who currently resides on the IL. He was firmly in the league MVP conversation before that stint, and we hope he gets back soon.

It's strange to call him a bounce-back hitter since he went for a really nice line of .277/.346/.531 with 33 homers and 104 RBI in 2021, but if you know about Alvarez, you know that's a down year for this guy. So far in 2022, he has hit .306/.405/.653 with 26 homers and 60 RBI in just 316 plate appearances.

Everything under the hood made him look like one of the best hitters we have seen in recent years, and it's a real shame we're not going to get a full season out of him. He legitimately could have flirted with 50 homers, 125 RBI, and a batting average above .300. He still has the time and the talent to put up first-round worthy stats, and fantasy managers got a pretty nice price on him in 2022 – that's not going to happen again.

Also considered:


Bounce Back Pitcher of the Year: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

A 39-year-old that hadn't pitched in more than a year and a half coming out and throwing up a 1.89 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP over 109.1 innings is truly incredible. Verlander has been defying the aging process for a while now, but even so – this has been wildly surprising.

The strikeout rate has come down to 25.6% (he was in the mid-thirties with the Astros from 2018-2020), but he has managed just fine as he's reduced the walk rate to 4.5% and has just been in charge the whole season.

The Astros have given him plenty of run support, and he takes a 12-3 record into the All-Star Break. If this were anybody but Verlander (or Max Scherzer), I would say I have my doubts about what a guy in this situation can do in the second half, but I don't think there's much reason for doubting this guy anymore.

Also considered:


Reliever of the Year: Taylor Rogers, San Diego Padres

The reliever of the year to me will always be a guy that is near the league lead in saves that you got for cheap or for free. So far this year, that has been Rogers. He was drafted in most leagues, but drafted late as he was appealing to be in a bit of a committee with Minnesota. Right before the season began, Rogers was moved to the Padres and he has gone on to save 26 games in the first half, trailing the league leader (Josh Hader) by one save.

For relievers, I really don't care much about ratios because they post their ratios in such small samples of innings that it really doesn't affect your overall fantasy team that much. Rogers' 3.82 ERA is far from sparkling, but again – I really don't care that much – it's all about the raw numbers of saves, and he's been near the top of the league all season long.

Also considered:


Hitter Bust of the Year: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

I told you I'm not calling a player a bust just because they were hurt, and that's not why Perez is here. This guy was drafted in the top-35 picks in NFBC leagues, and there were very few leagues where he was going outside of the top 50 or 60. Fantasy managers intentionally passed up very good hitters and pitchers to get him, chasing the allure of power production from the catcher position.

His trips to the IL have been the best part of his seasons for fantasy managers, as they forced those managers to get his .211/.254/.426 slash-line out of their lineup and head towards greener pastures. Never trust a catcher.

Also considered:

Pitcher Bust of the Year: Trevor Rogers, Miami Marlins

He wasn't drafted as an ace with an ADP near 100, but he has really not returned anything for those who drafted him. His 5.46 ERA and 1.55 WHIP have been a wrecking ball to the average fantasy pitching staff, and the strikeout rate of just 20.5% is a far cry from what was expected of him.

The other issue is that he's stayed healthy and in the rotation all season long while every once in a while flashing some good signs, which probably meant he was started most or all weeks in fantasy leagues this year. Just a total disaster.

Also considered:

Best Waiver Wire Hitter of the Year: Brandon Drury, Cincinnati Reds

Drury had an ADP above 750 this season, which is to say that he was not drafted. The 29-year-old has slashed .253/.302/.434 in his career, but in 2022, he has a beautiful line of .278/.336/.528 with 18 dingers at the break.

He showed some glimpses of improvement a year ago with a 46.8% hard-hit rate over a short season, but he wasn't getting the right launch angles there with his 6.5% barrel rate. In 2022, everything has come together and he has nearly doubled his career barrel rate up to 11.8%.

Very little of his success has been attributable to luck (or even the friendly home ballpark) with an expected slugging percentage above .495. Drury is very likely to get traded at the deadline, and that might dismay fantasy managers given that he'll be leaving Great American Ballpark, but he's hit the ball so often and so hard this year that I think this power will play nearly anywhere.

Also considered:


Best Waiver Wire Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves

Things started incredibly well for Wright as he put up a 2.49 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in April with a huge 37% K% that put him fourth-best in the league in that category. That came along with a much-improved 6.5% BB% as well. At that point, Wright was looking like a Cy Young contender. Things have been a bit worse since April went away, as he's gone for a 21.0%-8.2% K%-BB% since then in his 17 starts.

All said and done (for the first half), it's a 2.95 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with a 23.9% K% and a 7.6% BB%, which you will certainly take with a smile on your face from a guy you got for free off of waivers, most likely.

Also considered:

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