Players to Target for Home Runs (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
Those that targeted Aaron Judge as an early pick for home runs were rewarded handsomely in 2022 as the Yankees superstar belted an AL-record 62 dingers. The home run explosion also helped Judge pace all of baseball in runs (133) while his 131 RBI tied for first alongside cross-town foe Pete Alonso of the New York Mets.
In other words, home runs have a notable dropdown effect on other areas as well, making them the most pivotal fantasy category for a hitter. It’s not just chicks that dig the long ball, but fantasy managers too.
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MLB Players to Target for Home Runs in Fantasy Baseball
With further ado, let’s look at some names to hone in on when it comes to targeting the long ball in fantasy baseball.
Aaron Judge (OF – NYY)
Of course, Judge is the freshest home run target on the minds of fantasy managers following a historic 2022 campaign. It also wasn’t the first time he set a significant record as his 52 homers from his 2017 rookie season was the most all-time by a first-year player at the time.
From 2017-2022, Judge’s 216 home runs are the most in baseball and it’s not even close with Nolan Arenado‘s 188 coming in next. It’s worth noting that Arenado also had the benefit of playing his home games at the hitter-friendly Coors Field for four of those seasons in that span, making Judge’s work all the more impressive.
With Steamer projecting 44 home runs for Judge in 2023, he could compete for the most in baseball yet again this season.
Yordan Alvarez (OF – HOU)
It’s been a short journey to superstardom for Yordan Alvarez and he should compete for a home-run crown, among other accolades, in the 2023 season.
Alvarez exploded onto the scene with 27 homers in just 87 games as a 22-year-old in 2019, taking home AL Rookie of the Year honors in the process. Knee injuries cost him all but two games of the shortened 2020 season, but Alvarez has pounded 70 home runs in two seasons since, ranking 10th in the big leagues in that time. He slugged 37 homers despite missing 27 games a season ago.
Since his 2019 debut season, Alvarez’s .294 isolated power ranks fifth in baseball. Only Mike Trout, Judge, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Byron Buxton own superior marks among qualified hitters.
Alvarez is shaping up to be a fantasy monster in the 2023 season and should connect for plenty of home runs along the way.
Pete Alonso (1B – NYM)
The aforementioned Alonso is certainly among the top power-hitters in baseball and he got after it out of the gate. It was indeed Alonso that broke Judge’s rookie home run record with 53 of his own in the 2019 season. Many don’t realize that Alonso’s 146 home runs since debuting are the most in baseball and nine more than Judge. He’s played 95 more games, but still.
Durability is clearly essential, and Alonso has plenty of it. He’s only missed 16 games since entering the season, playing at least 160 games twice in four seasons. He’s played in 97.1% of the Mets games so far in his career. Along with a .274 ISO that ranks seventh since he entered the league, that will play.
Given his track record, he might be the safest bet in baseball to approach 40 home runs. Steamer has him finishing with 39 but that appears to be a mere baseline for a guy that’s homered more than anybody since entering the league.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B – TOR)
This list would simply be incomplete with a mention of a player who launched 48 homers and finished second in AL MVP voting as a 22-year-old. If it wasn’t for the insane season put together by Shohei Ohtani in 2021, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was a sure-fire bet to win the most prestigious award possible. You’d be hard-pressed to find another season when he was only the second-most valuable player in his league.
Like Alonso, Guerrero is an elite combination of durability and prodigious power. Over the last two seasons, he’s played in 321 of a possible 324 games while hitting 80 home runs, good for a share of second place alongside… Ohtani. How fitting.
Forty-eight homers is a lot to overcome, but Guerrero has a nice opportunity to break his 2021 career high in 2023 with the Blue Jays announcing hitter-friendly changes to the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
By our estimates, the new dimensions at Rogers Centre would have made it the No. 1 home run park in baseball last year surpassing Great American Ball Park. Is Rogers now the Great Canadian Ballpark? 🤔🚀https://t.co/SobgqLnPHC pic.twitter.com/cgJCo65az5
— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) February 9, 2023
Time will tell whether the shallower dimensions (albeit with increased wall heights) will create a launching pad in Toronto but Guerrero is a prime home-run candidate given his ability to hit to all fields. He’s also entering just his age-25 season and theoretically approaching his prime seasons. Yikes.
Austin Riley (3B – ATL)
Another young power hitter, Austin Riley probably doesn’t get the national attention he deserves.
After all, he just blasted 38 home runs in his age-25 season while appearing in all but three Braves contests. Over the last two seasons, Riley’s 71 home runs are tied with Marcus Semien and Salvador Perez — two veterans — for seventh in home runs. Like with Guerrero, the best should be yet to come for Riley.
His all-around production with his bat has skyrocketed after posting wRC+ marks of 85 and 88 across his first two seasons. However, the power was evident off the hop as he clubbed 18 home runs in just 80 games as a 22-year-old rookie in 2019.
Steamer projects 34 home runs for Riley in 2023, but given his meteoric rise as one of the best power hitters in baseball at a young age, I like the upside of exceeding that figure — perhaps greatly — this season.
Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF – ATL)
Ronald Acuna Jr. is a fantasy baseball favorite due to his power and speed combination, but he could be primed for a career-best power output in 2023.
By his lofty standard, the 2022 season was a struggle as Acuna hit 15 home runs with a career-worst 114 wRC+. Still well above league average, but far from the MVP-type production we’ve gotten used to. He did miss 43 games due to injury, but this is a guy that hit 41 long balls at just 21 years of age and ranked third in baseball with a .331 ISO the following year during the shortened 2020 campaign.
If you’ll recall, Acuna went down with a torn ACL just prior to the 2021 All-Star break. Rather than focusing his offseason on baseball, his focus was on his knee and gaining his stretch back. With a full offseason of regular activity under his belt, Acuna could get back closer to his 40/40 upside in 2023.
He’s apparently feeling healthy and confident to kick off spring training.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, OF – SD)
A lot of eyes will be on Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2023. That is, at least from April 20 and out as he serves the remainder of his suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test.
His maturity is the biggest question mark after also suffering a broken wrist in a motorcycle accident that cost him roughly the first half of the 2022 season. Once suspended, he decided to undergo shoulder surgery to cure an ailment that he says has bothered him for the last two years.
Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack here.
Despite the ailments coupled with the fact he hasn’t played an MLB game since Oct. 3, 2021, Tatis is clearly a gifted individual with massive power. His .303 ISO since entering the league in 2019 ranks third in baseball behind just Trout and Judge. He already as a 42-homer season under his belt despite missing 32 games in that 2021 campaign.
Despite missing time early on, Tatis’ home run potential remains elite while he too feels confident entering camp.
“I got all the power, I got all the strength, I can hit the ball wherever I want.” -Fernando Tatis Jr. #padres pic.twitter.com/5SQbR3YxVg
— Allison Edmonds (@aedmondstv) February 14, 2023
Kyle Schwarber (OF – PHI)
Kyle Schwarber delivered in a big way for fantasy managers in 2022.
He’s always had plenty of raw power, however, his runs and RBI production never matched others who hit for as much power as he did. Prior to last season, his career-high in runs was 82 with 92 RBI also coming in the 2019 season.
However, a healthy 2022 season included a career-high 46 home runs, 100 runs, and 94 RBI. He did all of this while hitting just .218, but in OPS leagues his .827 mark was certainly acceptable along with the massive home run total.
He’s hit at least 30 home runs in four of his last five seasons unaffected by COVID. Steamer projects 39 more from the slugger in 2023 and given the fact his ISO of .287 over the last two seasons — fourth-best in baseball — and it’s easy to see the lofty home run projection.
Shohei Ohtani (DH – LAA)
It still amazes me a two-way player can make this list but here we are with the unrivaled Shohei Ohtani.
After dealing with injuries earlier in his big-league tenure, Ohtani has been both healthy and powerful of late. He’s homered 80 times — tied for second in the bigs — while appearing in all but nine of his team’s games over the last two seasons. Of course, he’s hitting on days in which he pitches and that doesn’t appear to be changing in 2023.
Only Tatis and Judge have a superior ISO to Ohtani’s .289 mark over the last two seasons while Judge is the lone hitter to do so while playing games in both seasons.
If he remains healthy another season with at least 35 home runs should be well within reach.
Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU)
Minute Maid Park in Houston is much friendlier to right-handed home run hitters than lefties such as Kyle Tucker, but here’s a player who could surprise his way to a home run crown nonetheless.
There’s immense fantasy value with Tucker as he steals bases and will be featured as part of a strong Astros offense, but at 26 years of age, he’s entering his prime coming off back-to-back 30-homer seasons.
If we’re looking at true power Tucker needs to be a strong home run target as his .241 ISO is tied with that of the aforementioned Austin Riley for 16th in the league over the last two seasons. That’s notably superior to Manny Machado (.222) and just below Guerrero (.246), for context.
Like his teammate Alvarez, Tucker should be a fantasy beast in the 2023 campaign.
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