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Fantasy Baseball Draft Picks to Reach For: Hitters (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Picks to Reach For: Hitters (2024)

Hitters slotted in the heart of a team’s order, even a lousy offense’s lineup, can be a helpful source of run production. The following two highlighted hitters project to hit in the middle of their lineups in the American League Central. The first is coming off of a 30-plus homer season. The second has been plagued by injuries and had an underwhelming 2023 season. Yet, he’s only 27 years old and just one season removed from a 30-homer full-season pace with a nearly .300 batting average. Both hitters are worth reaching for in fantasy baseball drafts.

Hitters to Reach For

Spencer Torkelson (1B – DET) | 104.0 ADP

Spencer Torkelson had a horrific rookie season in 2022. According to FanGraphs, the first pick in the 2020 MLB Amateur Draft had a 75 wRC+ in 404 plate appearances in his first season for the Tigers. The right-handed-hitting first baseman tallied a 107 wRC+, 31 homers, 88 runs, 94 RBI, three stolen bases, a 9.8 BB%, 25.0 K%, .233 batting average and .313 OBP in 684 plate appearances in his second season after a slow start.

In 575 plate appearances from May 1 through the end of the regular season, Torkelson mashed 29 taters with 79 runs, 83 RBI, two stolen bases, a 10.3 BB%, 25.7 K%, .238 batting average, .322 OBP and 116 wRC+. Furthermore, Torkelson was the hottest at the end of the season, crushing 16 homers with 35 runs, 36 RBI, one stolen base, a 10.0 BB%, 26.8 K%, .261 batting average, .344 OBP and 148 wRC+ in his final 209 plate appearances.

A.J. Hinch said Torkelson “made some adjustments and he continued to make adjustments in his process through the year.“The first baseman also had stellar StatCast data. According to Baseball Savant, among 258 qualified hitters last season, Torkelson was tied for 22nd in barrels rate (9.1 Brls/PA%), tied for 38th in fly ball/line drive exit velocity (95.8 mph), tied for 83rd in maximum exit velocity (112.7), tied for 37th in the average exit velocity of his 50 hardest hit balls (102.7 mph) and 17th in hard-hit rate (50.9%).

He was also unlucky on his batted balls. Torkelson was tied for the 22nd-largest negative differential (-0.020) between his batting average (.233) and expected batting average (.253 xBA), and he was tied for the 24th-largest negative differential (-0.041) between his slugging (.446) and his expected slugging (.487 xSLG) in 2023. Torkelson also had a .269 BABIP, higher than his .255 BABIP in 2022 but lower than the league average of .297. The league average isn’t a reasonable benchmark because he has a high flyball rate (46.8% in 2023) and is only an average runner by StatCast’s sprint speed measurement. However, Torkelson’s .287 BABIP in the minors might be an attainable and improved mark.

The 24-year-old slugger is the 62nd-ranked hitter in average draft position (ADP). He was the 64th-ranked hitter in our value-based-ranking (VBR) metric in 2023, and the Zeile consensus projections project him to be the 62nd-ranked hitter. Torkelson is worth scooping up earlier than his ADP in case last season’s power eruption forbodes a full-season breakout this year, with a floor of the streaky power hitter he was in 2023.

Fantasy Baseball Trade & Waiver Wire Advice

Eloy Jimenez (OF – CWS) | 179.6 ADP

Sadly, Eloy Jimenez has only once had over 500 plate appearances in a season, tallying 504 as a rookie in 2019. He’s since had 226, 231, 327 and 489 plate appearances. Thankfully, Jimenez is only 27 years old and currently healthy.

The right-handed hitter had only 18 homers last season. Still, he had a .272 batting average and a career-low 19.0 K%. Jimenez has improved his strikeout rate every season in the majors. He’s also only one season removed from crushing 16 homers with a .295 batting average in 327 plate appearances in 2022.

Despite Jimenez’s underwhelming homer output in 2023, he was hitting the ball hard. The slugger was tied for 78th in barrel rate (7.0 Brls/PA%), tied for 51st in fly ball/line drive exit velocity (95.3 mph), tied for 63rd in maximum exit velocity (113.5 mph), tied for 25th in average exit velocity for his 50 hardest-hit balls (103.2 mph) and tied for 50th in hard-hit rate (46.8%).

The fly in the ointment is Jimenez’s low launch angle (5.7 degrees in 2023). Jimenez had a 53.2 GB% in 2023. Jimenez adjusted his swing in the offseason, holding his hands higher to attempt to lift the ball more. Even if the swing adjustment doesn’t stick or substantially improve his flyball rate, Jimenez demonstrated a borderline 30-homer pace in 2022. Finally, he’s a rarity as a projected middle-of-the-order hitter selected after pick 175.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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