Fantasy Baseball: These are 2022's first-half award winners — did your star win hardware?

·5-min read

With a pause in the fantasy schedule for All-Star festivities, this is a perfect time to catch our breath and assess the best and worst performances to this point in the 2022 season. The real hardware won’t be handed out until early October, but here are the players who are on pace to pick up the major fantasy awards.

Best Player

American League – Aaron Judge (New York Yankees)

Judge has finally delivered on his massive potential and is turning in a season for the ages. By shaking the injury-prone label that plagued him earlier in his career, the hulking outfielder leads the Majors in homers and runs scored, while also ranking near the top in RBIs and contributing eight steals. With continued health in the second half, Judge could take a run at an elusive 60-homer campaign.

National League – Paul Goldschmidt (St. Louis Cardinals)

Goldschmidt continues to defy the effects of aging, building on an outstanding second half of 2021 by posting the second-best OPS in the Majors (1.004) to this point in the 2022 season. The 34-year-old has thus far been the perfect blend of power (20 HR, 70 RBI) and average (.330), and he even has the potential to contribute more in the steals category down the stretch.

Best Pitcher

American League – Shane McClanahan (Tampa Bay Rays)

McClanahan has been the No. 1 fantasy starter to this point in the season, leading the Majors in ERA and WHIP while sitting in a tie for second in strikeouts. On a per-inning basis, the Rays ace should be as valuable as any pitcher in the second half. The only variable that is somewhat concerning with McClanahan will be his second-half innings total, as he is on pace to blow dangerously far past his previous career high.

National League – Sandy Alcantara (Miami Marlins)

Alcantara has earned this award by being a workhorse on a level that is unmatched by his 2022 competitors. The right-hander has thrown 11.2 more innings than any other starter and could finish the campaign with an innings total we have not seen in more than half a decade. And beyond pitching deep into games, Alcantara and been one of the most effective starters in baseball (1.76 ERA, 0.90 WHIP).

Sandy Alcantara #22 of the Miami Marlins is a fantasy star
Few pitchers have been as valuable in 2022 fantasy as Sandy Alcantara. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Best Reliever

American League – Clay Holmes (New York Yankees)

Holmes is the most surprising name in this article, as he was a complete mixed-league afterthought at the beginning of the season. The right-hander has terrific ratios (1.31 ERA, 0.87 WHIP), four wins and 16 saves despite having a low strikeout rate (9.6 K/9) for a high-leverage reliever. Having wrestled the closer’s role from Aroldis Chapman, Holmes is now in control of his own destiny for second-half success.

National League – Ryan Helsley (St. Louis Cardinals)

It may be a sign of the times in terms of how bullpens are handled that someone with fewer than 10 saves has been the No. 1 overall reliever thus far. Such is the case with Helsley, who has thus far posted eye-popping ratios (0.69 ERA, 0.67 WHIP) that are well-supported by a ridiculous 31.9 percent K-BB ratio. The Cardinals are unlikely to make Helsley a full-time closer down the stretch, preferring to use him in the highest-leverage role during each of his appearances. Helsley getting 3-4 more wins and 8-10 more saves feels like a fair expectation.

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Best Rookie

American League – Julio Rodriguez (Seattle Mariners)

Rodriguez is putting together an all-time rookie season, arriving at the All-Star break with 16 homers and 21 steals. And there is little to worry about in terms of sustainability, as the 21-year-old has posted an .886 OPS since the beginning of May. With a strong finish to the season, Rodriguez will receive consideration as the No. 1 overall pick in some 2023 roto drafts.

National League – Spencer Strider (Atlanta Braves)

Strider began turning heads during his initial 2022 appearance when he struck out five batters across two perfect relief innings. And after regularly flashing his dominance during 11 appearances as a reliever, the right-hander has successfully transferred his skills to the rotation. Strider has struck out 77 batters across his 10 starts and could be among the Major League strikeout leaders from this point forward.

Best Waiver Wire Addition

American League – Luis Arraez (Minnesota Twins)

Finding the Major League batting champ on waivers feels like a major coup, but in the case of Arraez, it wasn’t too surprising. After all, the multi-position asset is among the best contact hitters in baseball. Arraez continues to contribute little in the areas of power and speed, which means that he will need to maintain his eye-popping batting mark in order to keep this title until the end of the campaign.

National League – Tony Gonsolin (Los Angeles Dodgers)

I find it somewhat surprising that Gonsolin is the only member of a star-studded Dodgers roster to find his way into this article. The right-hander has thus stabilized a rotation that has dealt with multiple injuries by going 11-0 with a 2.02 ERA. Gonsolin has enjoyed terrific batted-ball luck (.197 BABIP) so a second-half ERA in the mid-3.00s feels like a reasonable expectation.