The ability to find home runs later in the draft is a common misconception. Yes, you can draft players who hit .250 with 23 home runs in round 20, but they won’t help push the needle much in any of your overall totals. Counting on those late guys for power while focusing more on pitching and speed early is very likely to leave you near the bottom of the standings in homers and RBI.
Balance is the key to drafting, and to obtain difference-making power you’re going to have to invest early. The key is to target a few top sluggers near their ADP, then grab the lesser appreciated ones later. It’s easier said than done of course, but if you can target a few of these undervalued sluggers, you’ll be well on your way to taking home the crown.
Average Draft Position (ADP) references using FantasyPros consensus ADP.
Matt Olson (1B – OAK): ADP 31
Matt Olson was a sensation last year in Oakland, finishing with a 5.2 offensive WAR, tied for 15th-best in all of baseball. The 6’5″ lefty produced a .911 OPS, 305 total bases, and 212 total RBIs+runs, all while being surrounded by teammates who failed to surpassed a .800 OPS. He also played 107 of his 156 games in Oakland, Seattle, and Texas, which are home to three of the least hitter-friendly stadiums. If Olson can assemble these kinds of lofty numbers in such unfavorable conditions, then there’s no telling what he can accomplish playing elsewhere.
The 27-year-old masher has been at the forefront of trade rumors all off-season and there’s a strong chance he’s moved before Opening Day. It’s no secret the A’s are looking to rebuild and sell off their stars to the highest bidder. I could take a crack at where he might end up, but anywhere is better than Oakland (or Seattle) for a home run hitter. And even if he stays put, those numbers are repeatable judging by his underlying metrics.
Not only did he mash 38 home runs, but his K-rate dropped to a career-low 16.8 percent. He also earned a free pass better than 13% of the time and his contact and barrel rates are terrific.
Olson’s been one of the best home run hitters over the past three seasons and let’s not forget his rookie campaign, where he ridiculously crushed a dinger (24 of them) every 7.8 at-bats. He is worth every penny at his current draft slot and is one of the best home run hitters to target in the early rounds.
Pete Alonso (1B – NYM): ADP 47
If you whiff on Olson, then grab Alonso in the next round. The “Polar Bear” could easily lead the league in home runs again while outperforming the A’s current first baseman. Some of my colleagues even have him pegged as a possible MVP candidate.
Similar to Olson, Alonso cut his K-rate nearly six percent while increasing his barrel rate. He continues to hit the ball with authority and if he’s not striking out, good things tend to happen. Plus, the slugging first baseman is a strong candidate to play 160 games (if we have that many) switching between first and DH. The Mets lineup is vastly improved from top to bottom and should offer more protection and RBI chances. 40 homers and 100+ RBIs feel like a shoo-in. Don’t hesitate to reach for Alonso at the beginning of round four.
George Springer (OF – TOR): ADP 55
Springer’s been downgraded a bit due to his injury-plagued 2021 season (and other ones as well). He dealt with a lingering quad issue throughout the season (not to mention his early oblique injury) and is now available in round six. Health is always something to consider when drafting Springer, but IF he can put together a 145-game season in Toronto, you have to like his chances of finishing with close to 40 home runs. He’ll also easily score over 100 runs and drive in nearly 100 as well. Additionally, unlike many other sluggers, his batting average won’t drag you down.
The problem is, Springer hasn’t played a full season since 2016. When he does play, however, few can match his HR/AB rate. Over the last three seasons, the Blue Jays outfielder has averaged better than a home run every 13 at-bats. His barrel rate reached the 90th percentile last year and his max exit velo ranked in the 97th percentile. And remember he did it all while playing through an injury.
Entering the year fully healthy surrounded by some of the best hitters in baseball, Springer could be in for a career year. Staying healthy will be his biggest hurdle, but as an early sixth-round pick, he’s more than worthy of the investment. Target the 32-year-old center fielder in all leagues and cross your fingers for good health!
Kyle Schwarber (OF/1B – FA): ADP 117
If home runs are what you’re after, look no further than Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber was an absolute beast last year after Washington moved him into the leadoff spot. The mighty Schwarber crushed 17 long balls in a matter of 27 games while batting first. He then suffered a hamstring injury which set him back nearly seven weeks until he finally returned in August as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
His power stroke was so impressive it cost the Bo Sox a highly touted 20-year-old pitching prospect plus the remainder of Schwarber’s contract, including a three million dollar buyout for 2022. All that just to rent Schwarber’s services for a few weeks despite him still dealing with an injury shows just how effective he can be.
The mashing outfielder also figured out how to hit lefties last year and should be in very little danger of playing in a platoon. With the DH coming to the NL, Schwarber has more than a few potential suitors looking his way, but regardless of where he ends up, the seven-year-vet could battle for the home run crown. At 119th overall, Schwarber is an absolute steal, target him as early as the 10th round.
Matt Chapman (3B – OAK): ADP 156
Chapman’s availability in drafts this year is later than it’s ever been. After producing back-to-back seasons with a miserable batting average, mediocre run totals, and nearly no stolen bases, his fallout among the fantasy community makes sense. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t be helpful.
Chapman’s 2021 season (and 2020 for that matter) was plagued with a myriad of strikeouts. While he still recorded his fair share of home runs and walks, Chapman appears to have been hooked to death. Opposing pitchers constantly threw the old Uncle Charlie at Chapman, resulting in a steady dose of flails and misses. He’s always been a decent fastball/slider hitter, but his approach of selling out and swinging for the fences has cost him when the ball is in the dirt. He wasn’t always this way though, and if he can make the shift back to his earlier days, something he is said to be focusing on in the offseason, then he (and we) could be in for a nice turnaround.
Additionally, if Chapman is traded out of Oakland, his power numbers could potentially reach top-twenty status. Working with a new coaching staff, while being surrounded by better hitters and in a more hitter-friendly environment, the former first-rounder could even make his way back into the top-100 overall. Plus, you never have to worry about him being benched because of his super-human abilities playing third base.
Chapman’s massive amount of strikeouts is an issue, but if he can dial them back to earlier career ratios then a passable batting average could come to fruition. He’s going near round 18, which is eight rounds later than you could snag him in 2020 or 2021. The late-round selection makes the slugger an excellent value-pick when seeking home runs.
Mitch Garver (C – MIN): ADP 206
If you’re looking for a catcher who hits dingers and you missed out on the early bombers, Mitch Garver is someone to target in the late rounds. The Twins backstop does have trouble staying on the field, but with Nelson Cruz (DH – FA) out of the picture, look for Garver to earn a fair share of DH starts to help lighten the load.
He launched 13 long balls in just 207 at-bats last year, and while Garver barely played in 2020, he hit 31 in 311 ABs in 2019. There’s a good chance he bats either fourth, fifth, or sixth in the Twins’ lineup, and if the Minnesota catcher can somehow stay relatively healthy, a 25 home run, 70 RBI season is not out of the question.
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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.