In 2015, just 41 players hit 25 homers or more. Lowering the cut line to 20 homers bumps the total of players to reach that threshold up to 64. As one of the standard scoring categories, homers are desired, but there are only so many dingers to go around. Getting top-shelf power is usually attached to a premium draft selection, but the following three players hit 24 or more homers in 2015 and are being selected after pick 265 on average in NFBC drafts as of March 24th.
Alex Rodriguez – NFBC ADP: 268.31
Alex Rodriguez is being selected the earliest of the trio of highlighted hitters, but he’s also my favorite option of the three. The veteran slugger’s comeback campaign in 2015 was nothing short of remarkable. In 710 plate appearances in the 2012 and 2013 seasons combined, he hit just 25 homers. Last year, he swatted 33 taters after a full-year layoff due to suspension. The bombs were tied to a less than desirable .250 batting average, but his 23.4% strikeout rate wasn’t horrific. His strikeout rate did balloon to 26.5% in the second half and destroyed his batting average (.210 in the second half). As Ben Pasinkoff notes in A-Rod’s profile write-up, it’s possible he wore down during the stretch run. That said, August was Rodriguez’s only wretched month (two homers, .153 batting average and 41 wRC+), and he enjoyed a bounce back in September/October (seven homers, .224 batting average and 119 wRC+).
Now playing at the ripe old age — in the world of baseball — of 40-years-old, the Yankees could spell A-Rod more frequently — especially given the addition of Aaron Hicks to the outfield mix and the presence of not-getting-any-younger Carlos Beltran. Less could prove to be more in the batting average department if A-Rod did in fact wear down last season. Rodriguez made it quite clear his power remains among the elite in the game last season, though. He ranked 18th in average home run and fly ball distance (302.85 feet), according to Baseball Heat Maps. A-Rod also ranked 41st in average FB/LD exit velocity among hitters with a minimum of 100 at-bats, per Baseball Savant. From 2008-2013, Rodriguez failed to crack the 140 games played threshold in any year, so injuries are certainly a concern. At his draft cost, though, the potential for decline and games missed due to injury is baked in. Also, while some gamers hate the lack of roster flexibility that results from owning a utility only eligible player, I’d counter by suggesting nabbing some players with multi-position eligibility to offset the limitations presented by rostering A-Rod or other utility only players.
Pedro Alvarez – NFBC ADP: 295.66
Pedro Alvarez has eclipsed 25 homers in three of the last four years. The power comes at the expense of average, however, as he’s a career .236 hitter and his batting average has been between .231 and .244 in each the last four years. Last year, he turned in a 71.4% contact rate (78.9% league average) that represented the second best mark of his career, and for the second year in a row he tallied a sub-30% strikeout rate (26.7% to be exact). The Pirates shielded the slugger from lefties last year, and he received just 65 plate appearances against southpaws. The Orioles will almost certainly do the same. Alvarez owns a career .246 batting average against right-handed pitchers. While that’s still bad, it’s 10 points higher than his overall batting average for his career and a bit more palatable in roto leagues.
Alvarez has some of the best raw power in the game, and it shows up in games, too. He ranked third in average home run and fly ball distance (310.84 feet) last season and third in average FB/LD exit velocity among hitters with a minimum of 100 at-bats. Not that he needs much assistance reaching the seats, but he makes a substantial home ballpark upgrade joining the Orioles for this season. PNC Park in Pittsburgh has a 99 left-handed batter park factor for homers, according to the three-year rolling averages at StatCorner. Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a left-handed power hitter’s dream park with a park factor of 128 for homers. A 29-point uptick in park factor for homers is gigantic, and a few more cheap dingers he wouldn’t otherwise have hit in Pittsburgh could push his average north of .250. Steamer provides the most optimistic batting average projection (.254) while ZiPS is the most pessimistic (.237). The Depth Charts split the difference with a .246 batting average projection. Alvarez’s contact gains last year leave me inclined to lean toward the Steamer and Depth Charts projections for batting average.
Chris Carter – NFBC ADP: 312.15
Chris Carter is the biggest batting average liability of the trio of highlighted hitters, and he’s coming off of the worst season of the the three. Unsurprisingly, he’s being selected the latest of the three. Carter failed to hit above the Mendoza Line last year with a .199 batting average, and the Astros opted to non-tender him. Carter’s power was fine when he wasn’t punching out (24 homers and 32.8% strikeout rate), but his contact issues undermined the thunder in Carter’s stick. The right-handed power hitter is just one year removed from belting 37 homers with a .227 batting average, though.
Carter’s BABIP dropped from .267 in 2014 to .244 in 2015, and some poor luck contributed to a nearly 30-point nosedive in batting average. Be careful about chalking up his sub-.200 batting average to bad luck. Carter also needs to shoulder some blame as his Z-Contact% cratered from 77.8% in 2014 (87.3% league average) to 72.6% (86.7% league average). There are some positives to be drawn from his plate discipline numbers. For starters, his 25.4% O-Swing% was the second lowest of his career and his 16.4% SwStr% was actually lower than his mark in 2014 (16.7%). A slight rebound in zone contact and BABIP should push his batting average to at least .220, and the Depth Charts, Steamer and ZiPS all project that to be the case. ZiPS provided the most pessimistic batting average for Alvarez, but it provides the most optimistic batting average projection for Carter (.237).
A rebound in HR/FB rate would help Carter immensely in reaching the ZiPS batting average projection, and there’s plenty of reason to believe in a rebound. His average home run and fly ball distance in 2014 was 288.98 feet and remained nearly the same in 2015 at 288.70 feet, yet his HR/FB rate dropped three percent from 21.9% to 18.9%. Carter hadn’t posted a HR/FB rate south of 20% in any of the three prior seasons (his only seasons reaching triple-digit plate appearances in The Show). Even in a down year, Carter ranked highly in exit velo checking in seventh in average FB/LD exit velocity among hitters with at least 100 at-bats last season. His new digs should lend him a hand as well. Minute Maid Park has a 118 park factor for right-handed homers while Miller Park has a 125 park factor for righty taters. There’s no way to sugar coat it, you’ll need to account for Carter’s poor batting average even if he has a good year by his standards in that category. If your roster is equipped to carry his poor average, though, you’d be hard pressed to find elite power any cheaper.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.