Seven Power Bats to Buy Cheap

Yesterday, I discussed five starting pitchers to buy cheap, with the idea that over a smaller sample of games this season, ratio categories are going to be much more volatile than counting stats, and therefore should be discounted on draft/auction day. Instead, perhaps we should just buy strikeouts and cross our fingers the ratios settle into a good range after 10-12 games started. Today, let’s apply the “discount ratios, buy counting stats” concept to hitters. This time, I’m going to ignore batting average and buy power.

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post, but I’m using NFBC’s ADP from the beginning of July, so these ADPs should account for the majority of rule changes, though clearly missing some COVID-19 related player news. I filtered players for those with an ADP greater than 250, and that are projected by our depth charts for a batting average below .250 and at least 10 home runs. Low batting averages are already priced into player values, so the idea here is that over a small sample size, there’s a far greater chance some of these guys end up hitting .300 than if this was a normal 162 game season. Of course, the opposite is true, and you could end up with sub-Mendoza line (.200) clunkers.

Cheap Power
Player ADP Depth Charts Projected Avg Depth Charts Projected HR
Randal Grichuk 272 0.243 11
Hunter Renfroe 277 0.232 11
Renato Nunez 293 0.243 11
Teoscar Hernandez 364 0.234 10
Justin Smoak 381 0.237 10
Tyler O’Neill 595 0.241 10
Jay Bruce 648 0.241 10

Randal Grichuk has been incredibly consistent from a fantasy perspective, with his bump in counting stats last year coming solely from more playing time, rather than a jump in skills. His consistency, combined with a batting average that hasn’t exceeded .245 over the last four seasons, makes him a boring, but perennially cheap source of power for fantasy leaguers, though cheap doesn’t mean undervalued, of course. Nothing indicates things should change this year, but perhaps one of these years, he enjoys a career power year and gets his HR/FB rate over 20% for the first time.

Hunter Renfroe isn’t a whole lot different than Grichuk, as he’s a strikeout prone power hitter with a low batting average. Renfroe has shown a bit more power than Grichuk, though, but has also struck out more often. Given the Rays’ love of mixing and matching, it’s possible fantasy owners are now worried about Renfroe’s playing time, especially if he gets off to a slow start. That’s a valid concern, but if he could prove that his elite right field defense was no fluke, it should give him a much longer leash.

Renato Nunez hasn’t struck out as often as the above two, but also hasn’t shown nearly as much power. It all offsets though as his fantasy production last year was still similar. As the starting DH, there’s always a worry that he could lose his job if he slumps. However, he’s projected to post the highest wOBA on the team, so the Orioles seemingly don’t have any better potential replacements.

Too many strikeouts has been Teoscar Hernandez’s bugaboo and the fact that he has been a negative defensively throughout his short career has cost him playing time. However, he was on pace for over 30 homers over a full season last year, so it’s just a matter of avoiding the bench. That’s quite obvious, but it means it’s not the power in question. Perhaps his dramatically improved SwStk% suggests the potential for his strikeout rate to dip below 30%, which would be a huge boost to his offense.

The addition of the DH in the National League resulted in a huge boost to Justin Smoak’s playing time security, as it alleviated a log jam of first base candidates in Milwaukee. Previously, Ryan Braun figures to play a lot of first base, and then rotating into the outfield. Now, Smoak might only have to contend with Ryon Healy for plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Smoak’s production has declined since his 2017 breakout, but it was mostly a career low BABIP last season that took down his wOBA. Don’t forget that Miller Park is one of the best parks for left-handed home runs in baseball, so the park switch should boost his power.

At the moment, Tyler O’Neill figures to open the season as the starter in left field for the Cardinals, though he’s likely going to have to contend with the looming threat of top prospect Dylan Carlson’s arrival. O’Neill has recorded about a half season worth of plate appearances spread out over two seasons in the Majors so far. Clearly, he has struck out far too often, but he has shown better in the minors. What hasn’t been an issue is power, with a career 19.7% HR/FB rate and .196 ISO, but even those marks seem ripe for improvement given his minor league record. He has posted a HR/FB rate as high as 32.1% and ISO of .382, so there’s massive power potential here. He is the perfect poster boy for the buy power, ignore batting average strategy.

The DH has also resulted in a huge boost to Jay Bruce’s value, as now he’s expected to serve on the strong size of a platoon at the spot. After a brutal 2018, he rebounded somewhat last year, as his power actually reached career high heights, but his .200 BABIP limited the rebound. His plate discipline slipped and he went even more extreme fly ball heavy than previously, so the trends are scary. But hey, if you just care about power and you’re paying almost nothing for it, Bruce is a perfect target.

We hoped you liked reading Seven Power Bats to Buy Cheap by Mike Podhorzer!

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Skin Blues
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Member
Skin Blues

I’ve loved Grich the past few years for cheap power, but he’s competing with about 10 OFs for playing time in Toronto. And unlike NL teams which just added a DH spot, the Jays effectively just lost their DH spot. It was set to be the spot for the 4th OF to cycle through, but now with Vladdy moving to 1B, Rowdy Tellez will be at DH most of the time. There’s no more room there for Teoscar, Gurriel, Panik, McKinney, Fisher, Alford, etc. With 30 man rosters, and then 28 after that, there are a lot of guys that will need time and I just don’t think Grichuk will be able to avoid sitting out at least once per week if not more.

The NL guys who have a new DH spot to use will probably be slight values but I still don’t know if I want a part-time player during the shortened season when PA’s will be at a premium. I could see going for O’Neill or Bruce since the cost is so low.

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

Yeah, Grichuk has always been one of those guys who’s a better hitter in fantasy than he is in reality, so playing time has usually been a concern with him.

montreal
Member
montreal

Naw, I’m confident Grichuk will play everyday. McKinney and Alford are bench bats. Lourdes Gurriel and Grich should play every day. And Teoscar should play most days. Tellez will not play every day. I understand your point about 6 outfielders making it crowded, but I see 3 regulars and 3 bench bats.