Power should be your top priority on draft dayIn fantasy baseball nothing is better offensively than a home run. A home run contributes to 4 of the typical categories in fantasy: runs, runs batted in, on base percentage, and slugging. It is the single most impactful stat in fantasy baseball. In recent years home runs are on a huge decline. This makes it all the more crucial to focus on power on draft day.
On further examination of the past 20 years of home run leaders (see table below), the number that really jumps out at me is 34. In 1993, the 13th highest home run hitter hit 34. In 1998, the 12th highest home run hitter had 34. Of course, this was the year that McGwire had 70, and Sosa had 66, as well. So, the total was off the charts. In 2003, the 20th highest home run total by a player was 34. Then came the introduction of PED testing – in 2008, the 10th highest was – you guessed it – 34. In 2013, as pitchers really regained their rightful ground, the 6th highest home run total was 34. So, what does all this mean for us caveballers?
It means that power should be your top priority on draft day. Fill at least 5 of your top 8 picks with power. Speed is plentiful in the middle to late rounds, and the same goes for pitching. And if you’re not yet convinced here’s a comparison of home run leaders over the last 25 years in 5-year increments:
Although I expect home run trends have finally plateaued, last year there were even slightly fewer big home run hitters:
So, let’s take a look at 10 players I expect will have an increased home run total in 2015. Remember, this is not a list of projected home run leaders. It is a list of players who should have an increased home run total over their 2014 output.
1. Giancarlo Stanton - An obvious pick here, but for more reasons than you might imagine. It’s easy to forget he is only 25, which suggests the best is yet to come. In addition, he missed more than half of September after taking a pitch in the face. Stanton’s batting practice alone is worth the price of admission. Projected HRs: 47 (increase of 10)
2. Chris Davis - Okay, so the “drug” for which he was suspended is now accepted by the league, yet he still has one game left on his suspension. So, he will miss opening day. Davis hit the stratosphere with 53 HRs in 2013, and then came back down to earth with 27 HR last year. Keep in mind he did only play 127 games. So let’s split the difference. Projected HRs: 40 (increase of 13)
3. Edwin Encarnacion - Our magic number appears yet again: 34 HRs, despite appearing in just 128 games. 46 of those games were as a DH. Now, with Adam Lind gone, it’s a good bet we’ll see more DHing from Encarnacion. Which means he will likely play more games. Which means… Projected HRs: 40 (increase of 6)
4. Corey Dickerson - One of 2015’s hottest picks. Dickerson’s minor league stats are off the charts good. Although he was relatively unknown before last year, Dickerson is already entering his prime years. He will be 26 in May. The sky’s the limit at Coor’s Field, not to mention the light air. Projected HRs: 33 (increase of 9)
5. J.D. Martinez – When Martinez showed signs of his Minor League pedigree with the Astros in 2012 he knew he still had a lot to learn. The belated graduation for the 27 yr. old has come. His OPS is back over .900., and he hit his 23 homers in just 123 games. Projected HRs: 32 (increase of 9)
6. George Springer – One of those special talents that will mythify (c’mon, I’m allowed to invent words. Just pretend you’re Porky the Pig) the Sophomore Jinx. He could have twice as many at bats as he did last year when he hit 20 HRs. You do the math. Oh, and BTW, he turns 26 this year. Like Dickerson, it could be the perfect storm. Projected HRs: 32 (increase of 12)
7. Adrian Beltre – One of the few bright spots in an injury-riddled season for the Rangers. Even though he turns 36 in April, Beltre continues to shine with ability and enthusiasm. Imagine the numbers he can put up with a healthy squad surrounding him in the line-up. Projected HRs: 30 (increase of 11)
8. Jay Bruce – Snakebitten fantasy owners may never take Bruce again after last year, but with on-base machine Joey Votto healthy once again, Bruce will be seeing more plate-crossing fastballs. Projected HRs: 30 (increase of 12)
9. Oswaldo Arcia – Lost in the hype surrounding Kennys Vargas’ incredible debut, Arcia quietly hit 13 of his 20 HRs in August and September. In a minor league comparison, Arcia’s numbers suggest he’s the Twin to target come draft day. His 20 HRs came in just 103 GP. Projected HRs: 28 (increase of 8)
10. Jedd Gyorko – The Sophomore Slump and Plantar Fasciitis are done. With the Padre’s vastly improved lineup, his healthy feet should be crossing the plate as often as they did during his rookie year when he had 23 HR in 125 GP. Projected HRs: 25 (increase of 15)
10. Kole Calhoun – Not really a pure lead-off type speedster, and will eventually be slotted somewhere else in the line-up. However, he does hit in front of Trout, which means he gets to see plenty of good pitches. Calhoun’s a good bet for part two of his breakout. Projected HRs: 25 (increase of 8)