Welcome to the second half of the 2017 MLB campaign. With the Midsummer Classic in the rearview mirror, we can now look forward to the home stretch. With power once again becoming a larger part of the game, this week’s Fantasy Lookout will take a peek at a few cheap power hitting options for the second half.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, major league teams have mashed an average of 1.26 home runs per game so far this year, which is on pace for a new all-time record. The current record is 1.17, achieved during the 2000 season.
This obviously plays a role in how we construct our Fantasy teams as we now have a higher bar to jump over with respect to our team’s home run total. Today, we will go around the diamond and identify a hitter who is less than 30-percent owned in ESPN leagues and should provide a material contribution to your teams’ home run total in the second half.
The Fantasy Lookout: Cheap Power
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
Surprisingly, Austin Hedges is only owned in 14.2-percent of leagues, despite being tied for second among catchers with 13 home runs. Yes, his .218 batting average isn’t doing anyone any favors, but when you consider the alternatives at baseball’s weakest hitting position, it is shocking that he is still sitting on so many waiver wires.
The fact that Hedges hit 21 home runs in just 334 plate appearances in Triple-A last year should give you comfort that the power is here to stay. He also ranks 13th in hard hit rate, 16th in pull rate, and second in fly ball rate among catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. Hedges is no doubt the top backstop cheap power option out there.
Mike Napoli, 1B, Texas Rangers
If you can stomach another batting average boat anchor, Mike Napoli looks like a great bet to hit at least 15 home runs in the second half. Currently, Napoli has managed to hit 18 long balls, good for 12th among first basemen, despite only appearing in 72 games.
Among qualified first sackers, Napoli ranks 16th in hard hit rate, fourth in pull rate, and second in fly ball rate. It is safe to say that he checks all of the boxes when it comes to hitting home runs. With an ownership rate of just 16.5-percent, Napoli is a steal for those looking for cheap power.
Paul DeJong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Paul DeJong has managed to hit for power regardless of where he has played. Last year, he hit 22 home runs over 132 games in Double-A and in the early going this year he hit 13 home runs in just 48 games in Triple-A. Since joining the big club, DeJong has recorded nine big flies in a mere 36 games. Impressively, that total places him in a tie for 13th among all second basemen.
With an ownership rate of 28.8-percent, DeJong is still flying under the radar in a majority of leagues. Among second basemen with at least 100 plate appearances, DeJong ranks sixth in hard hit rate, eighth in pull rate and ninth in fly ball rate. Hop on board before it is too late, as the Paul DeJong train and his cheap power are leaving the station.
Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox
Prior to last year, when he only recorded 328 total plate appearances, Matt Davidson had notched at least 20 home runs in every year since 2011. The one caveat is that all but three of those long balls came at the minor league level. The point is that Davidson has some pop and he has proven it consistently.
Among third basemen with at least 250 plate appearances, he owns the fifth best hard hit rate, 10th best pull rate, and second best fly ball rate. Thanks to an ownership rate of 12.6-percent, Davidson and his 18 home runs (tied for seventh among third basemen) can be had for basically nothing.
Tim Beckham, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
With all of the young talent at shortstop across baseball, it is easy to forget that Tim Beckham went first overall in the 2008 draft. This year, armed with an everyday role, Beckham’s coming out party has resulted in him hitting 11 home runs, good for a fifth place tie among all shortstops.
Fantasy owners are still not all in as Beckham’s ownership rate is just 12.7-percent. Among all shortstops, Beckham currently has the second best hard hit rate, the top pull rate, along with the 23rd best fly ball rate. Playing time could be an issue in the second half with the return of Brad Miller and the recent signing of Adeiny Hechavarria; however, at his cost and given his first half, for those looking for cheap power, Beckham is worth a shot.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres
After hitting 30 home runs in Triple-A last year, Hunter Renfroe has shown that his power is legit, as his 16 first half home runs rank 13th among all outfielders. While Renfroe may not win you any batting titles thanks to plenty of swing and misses, there is no question that he is a quality source of cheap power.
Even though Renfroe ranks 33rd in hard hit rate, second in pull rate, and 13th in fly ball rate among outfielders, he still only has an ownership rate of 12.3-percent. The Padres rookie clearly has a promising future and a strong second half would not be surprising.
As the home run becomes a bigger part of the game each year, it is a necessity for Fantasy owners to stay ahead of the curve. Picking up these cheap power options will not cost you much, if anything at all, and they will allow you to add to the home run depth on your Fantasy teams. Until the next Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!
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