Home Runs Are on the Rise in Fantasy Baseball
Chicks are not the only ones who dig the long ball. That’s right, Fantasy owners are enamored with power; which is a good thing, because power has been on the rise. We have seen an increase in power over the last five or so years, but Fantasy owners may be hard pressed to identify the positions in which power has increased, or how this should impact their strategy.
Before we can identify which positions have seen the largest increase in home runs, we first have to prove that there has in fact been an increase in power. To do so, I used the league average Isolated Power (ISO) and home run totals for every season since 2010.
|Season||League Avg ISO||Total HRs|
As you can see, there clearly has been an increase in power. Not only were there far more home runs in 2016 than in
any other season, but the league average ISO was also higher, increasing for a third straight season in 2016.
The next step was to find these stats by position, to see where they have increased over the past few years. To do so, I found the 2016 numbers by position, and compared them to every season since 2010. The results are listed below.
|Position||Avg ISO||Total HRs||Verdict|
|C||.150||598||Both highest since 2012.|
|1B||.192||1,038||Both highest in this span.|
|2B||.154||691||Both highest in this span.|
|3B||.178||938||Both highest in this span.|
|SS||.145||565||Both highest in this span.|
|OF||.165||2,185||Both highest in this span.|
Even shortstops and catchers, who had the lowest isolated power numbers among all positions, had a higher ISO than the league average in recent seasons. However, I wanted to test and see if power was up at every position, so I found the number of players who hit 20-homers with a minimum of 100-plate appearances at each position (for eligibility purposes) since 2010.
Not only is power up across MLB, it is up at every position. Every position had more 20-plus home run hitters in 2016, except catcher, which was topped by one home run in 2012. The largest increase in power came from the middle infield positions, especially shortstop. Since 2010 no more than five players had hit 20-homers, but 13 players did so in 2016. There were also 15 second baseman, up from less than five in the four previous seasons. In fact, four second baseman hit more than 30 homers, while two shortstops reached that mark.
What does this mean for Fantasy? I have two thoughts on this matter.
Pursue More Well-Rounded Players
With power on the rise, it becomes less important to chase after it in Fantasy, as owners can piece it together easier than in previous seasons. However, there is more of a need for players that can provide both power and other categories, such as steals and average.
In 2016 there were 111 players that hit 20 or more homers, 38 that hit 30 or more and eight that hit 40 or more. Power is no longer a premium provided only by a select few like it was in years past. We continue to see home run totals trending upward at all the positions. There is no longer a need to pay up for Chris Carter, Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis who hit a lot of homers, but hurt your numbers in batting average and other categories.
Instead, Fantasy owners should now target players that contribute in all five categories. We see this occurring early on, as players that provide both power and average go in the first round. However, we see Davis, Adam Duval and Yasmany Tomas going in the middle rounds, while Chris Carter, Jedd Gyorko, Kendrys Morales, and Curtis Granderson, all players that hit over 30-homers last season, go in the later rounds.
There is no longer a need to overpay for homers. Instead, pay up for players that provide power, as well as average, runs, RBIs, and even a handful of stolen bases. Owners can piece together their homers and target players that will hit over 20-homers, but also contribute in the other categories. Owners can then afford the loss of average later in the draft in search of some cheap pop, such as Carter or Victor Martinez (27 homers).
This is the strategy I recommend, but there are other strategies to consider as well.
There is still a need for power…. Just more power
Many owners address Roto formats by targeting a certain number in every category. This is a great strategy, but it needs to be adjusted to keep up with the times. As homers increase, the number needed to win the category increases as well. Owners could be of the mindset that just because there are more homers around baseball, all that means is they need to draft more home run hitters.
Ignore the guys that will hit over 20 homers but won’t help elsewhere
This was one strategy that I am not a huge fan of, but it makes sense. Owners may see value in players that can hit 35-plus homers, since only 17 players did so last year, compared to the 111 that hit 20 or more. Owners could look past the blemishes that some of these players possess, perhaps a lack of steals or a poor average, and instead target those categories elsewhere in the draft.
For instance, they can select Jonathan Villar early on and make up the power loss by grabbing a Davis or Trumbo later on. However, they would not look to take an Adam Jones, Joc Pederson, Curtis Granderson, or Randal Grichuk, as these players tend to provide somewhat empty power, not helping with average, steals, and in some cases even RBIs and runs.
My personal favorite is the first strategy, but it is certainly smart to use this information while prepping and test out some different strategies in mock drafts.
Make sure to follow me on twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.
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