Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)
If you’re a fan of witnessing history, then this fantasy baseball season has been for you. In leagues all across the world, records are shattering. In fact, in my personal league, the single-week home run, run, and RBI records were all just demolished. You can thank Charlie Blackmon and Coors Field for a lot of that, but somehow, it’s become almost normal for guys like Ketel Marte and Hunter Renfroe to hit five home runs in a week. Think about this one: J.D. Martinez hit .310 with four home runs last week, and he wasn’t ranked in the top-50 players overall for the seven-day stretch. What we’re seeing right now throughout the league is nothing short of crazy, and it deserves to be talked about. Which means for this week, we have one gigantic, colossal, massive burning question.
What does MLB’s power surge mean for your fantasy team?
Let’s put this in perspective. Last season, only three major league players hit 40 or more home runs: Khris Davis, Martinez, and Joey Gallo. This season, 19 players are on pace to hit 40 or more. Furthermore, after those 19 players, 31 more guys are within three home runs of that pace. Realistically, that’s at least 50 players who have a real shot at eclipsing the 40-home run plateau. Will all 50 players get there? Of course not. But I’m setting the over/under at 20.
And boy, does this affect fantasy baseball. Going from only three players in the entire league hitting 40 home runs in 2018 to 20+ players doing it a single year later changes the entire landscape. If you don’t pay attention to what’s happening and react accordingly, you’re going to be left in the dust. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you manage your roster the rest of the way.
- The current power surge isn’t just affecting home runs.
We could go on and on in circles about the historical perspective of what players are doing. Josh Bell, for example, is on pace for the most RBIs in a single season since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Gone are the days of station-to-station baseball meaning squat in fantasy. Easily more than ever before, runs and RBIs are being scored strictly from the long ball. That’s exactly what allows a player like Bell to be on pace for 150 RBIs. The Pirates aren’t any good. In fact, they’re in the bottom third of MLB in runs scored. Yet Bell is still on track for the best statistical RBI season in 12 years. The type of player who produces the most fantasy value is quickly changing. Pay attention to that.
- If you don’t have at least two players on pace for 40+ home runs, watch out.
With all the players on pace for 40+ homers, someone in your league probably has three guys poised to do it. If you only have one or no players projected to hit 40, you might have to consider some changes. Even just a few years ago, a 20-20 (home run-steal) season seemed to be a benchmark for major success. While I’m not advocating against those type of players by any means, consider the fact that 10 20-20 players would essentially mean your starting batters would hit 200 home runs for the season. In a standard 25-week season, that would average out to eight home runs per week. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to go too far in head-to-head leagues. As I’ve already established, with only eight home runs in a week, it would be tough to consistently produce high run and RBI totals in today’s game. Five-tool players are still great, but 10 guys who each hit only 20 home runs isn’t going to get you as far as it used to.
- Shoot for at least 300.
If you’re looking for a number, 300 seems close. In a standard league that starts 10 batters, shoot for at least 300 home runs overall for your starting lineup. Over 25 weeks, that amounts to 12 homers per week. Simply put, 12 also won’t get the job done every single week in head-to-head leagues. Yep, that’s where we are in today’s MLB. More times than not, however, a dozen long balls will give your team a realistic chance at success across all offensive categories.
- One-trick pony HR hitters are complicated.
If players who only hit around 20 home runs — even if they steal around 20 bases — just aren’t as valuable anymore, what does that mean for one-trick ponies? Well, it means they have to be really good at the one thing they do. Hitting 23 home runs no longer provides owners with power anymore. So, players who hit 20-25 home runs and do nothing else provide little to no value nowadays. A player who isn’t going to hit for average or provide steals almost has to hit at least 30-35 home runs to return value. One-trick power ponies who can’t tally at least 30 home runs might as well be left on the waiver wire.
- Stars and scrubs might not just be for auction leagues anymore.
If you’re not aware, the stars-and-scrubs strategy is an option for auction leaguers where drafters pay big for elite talent and then fill what’s left of their roster spots with cheap players. Obviously, snake drafts don’t work like that. However, something like that may just be the best strategy for standard leaguers to combat MLB’s changing power landscape. If drafters should shoot for 300 home runs, they can no longer take 20-20 players with many of their first batting picks. Rather, it makes more sense is to ensure grabbing, say, four players who can combine for 150+ home runs. After that, an owner’s other six starters should be able to combine for another 150. In later rounds, they can pay much more attention to average, snag a player or two who will provide steals, and so on and so forth. This may not help you much this year, but it’s something to keep in mind moving forward. In today’s MLB, home runs equal runs and RBIs, and they must be a top priority for drafters.
- The MLB’s power surge isn’t going anywhere.
MLB is on pace to destroy the single-season home run record, set just two years ago, by over 480 home runs. Whether it’s a result of juiced baseballs, stronger players, an increased devotion to launch angle, or whatever else, the home run is here to stay. As a fantasy baseball owner, it’s time to either adjust or suffer the consequences.