No, these are not the one-hit wonders that you may be expecting. Typical “one-hit wonder” articles cover players that were great for a season or two, only to fade to irrelevance. This version of one-hit wonders will be a four-part series that covers a different set of one-category contributors each week. This does not mean that these players are strictly one category players with no other value. These are players that can all provide a boost without paying a premium in fantasy drafts.
Today, we will look at players who can give you a boost in home runs in a shortened season. Home runs are less valuable than ever in fantasy baseball with 58 players hitting 30 or more home runs in 2019. When examining ADP, you will find that speed is at a premium. Drafting stolen bases early means you may need to catch up on home runs later. Good news for you, you can find guys later in drafts that give you a boost in home runs.
There is no need to cover high-end home run hitters like Pete Alonso, Cody Bellinger, or Mike Trout. We want to focus on players who are undervalued and can provide you a boost in home runs without paying a premium on that player’s ADP. With that understanding, let’s dive in on the players.
Khris Davis, DH, Oakland Athletics (NFBC ADP: 175.8)
“Mr. Consistent,” Khris Davis hit .247 four consecutive seasons between 2015 to 2018. While being consistent in the batting average department, Davis also developed into a major power threat in 2016. He hit 42 home runs and followed that up with 43 and 48 in 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately, 2019 was not a kind season for Davis or the fantasy owners who invested a third or fourth-round pick in him. Davis hit .220 with only 23 home runs for the season. The good news is that during the first month of the season, he looked like his normal self. He hit 10 home runs through March and April.
So, what happened?
During an interleague game on May 5th, Davis was playing left field rather than his normal spot at designated hitter. He made a terrific catch in foul territory but collided with the wall. Davis sustained a hip injury that bothered him throughout the season.
The injury affected the way he swung the bat and affected his ability to lift the ball. You can see in the chart below how his launch angle dropped severely from 2018 to 2019.
This also factored into his exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrel rate. The poor 2019 performance had a ton to do with his injury. I do not think he just forgot how to crush a baseball.
Also, It is important to note that Davis’ correlation between exit velocity and launch angle. According to a study that Fangraphs did, the most home runs are hit between the launch angle of 25 and 30 degrees. In 2018, Davis had 48 batted balls between 25 and 30 degrees that had an average exit velocity of 93.3 mph. 23 of those 48 batted balls turned into home runs. Of Davis’ 34 batted balls between 20 and 25 degrees of launch only four of those turned into home runs, despite averaging 95.4 mph of exit velocity on those hits.
Jump forward to 2019 and Davis had an exit velocity of 89.8 mph on balls that were hit between 25 and 30 degrees. This clearly hurt his home run power. I still attribute a lot of that to injuries. 2019 was a major disappointment, but what should we expect from Davis in 2020?
Davis is one of my favorite players to take in drafts. The injury affected him in a big way in 2019. We are not far removed from when he hit a league-leading 48 home runs in 2018. This was five more than any other player in baseball. You should expect Davis to return to form this season and hit 40 home runs over a full season pace, which at his current ADP is a great value!
The batting average should rise closer to the .247 that he traditionally posts. Davis should be a great contributor for RBIs. Drafters should have no fear of taking “Krush” Davis at his ADP.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (NFBC ADP: 212)
The Dodgers are masters of platooning players to get the most out of each lineup. Joc Pederson is one of those players that has historically been in a platoon. Last season, he saw only 50 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. The 464 plate appearances against right-handers showed a pretty true platoon.
Despite the split, Pederson was highly effective in the power department, hitting 36. He hit a home run every 12.6 at-bats, putting him eighth in baseball. Pederson also contributed to other hitting categories with 83 runs and 74 RBIs, to go with a lack luster .249 batting average.
Pederson also showed off his power during the home run derby. He hit 21 home runs in the first round to beat Alex Bregman. Pederson proceeded to face Valdimir Guerrero Jr. in an epic showdown. Both players hit 29 home runs and ultimately after three playoff rounds, Vlad was victorious 40-39.
Looking at Pederson’s Statcast page is quite encouraging and backed up why he hit 36 home runs. His exit velocity was 83rd percentile at 90.9 mph. He also had an exit velocity of 96 mph on fly balls and line drives which was 30th best in baseball. Pederson also barreled the ball more consistently than 71 percent of hitters. A good hard-hit percentage and consistent launch angle helped lead to the 36 home runs.
With the introduction of the universal designated hitter for this season, Pederson is a huge beneficiary. It is hard to imagine he loses any playing time and it is likely he gets more at-bats. Pederson will be a great source of power again, especially in a shortened season.
Every game is more valuable and teams have to put their best players in the lineup. Pederson is deserving of being an everyday player, even if that means in the designated hitter role. Expect 30-35 home runs over a full season pace, with around a .250 average. Pederson should also be a good contributor in runs and RBIs. There is good value here at his his ADP knowing he can provide a big boost in home runs.
CJ Cron, 1B, Detroit Tigers (NFBC ADP: 233)
Before 2018, C.J. Cron’s season-high was 16 home runs before hitting 30 with Tampa Bay. It was also the first season he had more than 450 plate appearances. After moving to Minnesota in 2019, Cron hit 25 home runs while having a .253 batting average for the second straight season. He started the season hot, hitting 17 home runs during the first half to go with a .266 average.
Cron fell off in the second half after a thumb injury hampered him for months. He landed on the injured list twice but played through the pain for the rest of the year. This led to only eight home runs and a .229 batting average in the second half.
Cron’s Statcast numbers are quite appealing. A 15% Barrel rate last season placed him in the 95th percentile among all hitters. Cron’s xSLG of .548 was in the top nine percent of hitters. His exit velocity of 91 mph and hard-hit percentage were both 80th percent or higher. As you can see below, it looks like Cron has another level.
Why will Cron be a great source of power in 2020? First, Cron moves to Detroit, which is a slight park upgrade from Target Field. I know Comerica Park gets the reputation of a pitchers park, but it is better based on home run factors than Target Field. Check out Cron’s 2019 spray chart overlaid in Comerica Park below.
Based on the Statcast data and Cron’s actual production, he is capable of hitting more than 30 home runs over a full season. With a healthy thumb and a slight park upgrade moving to Detroit, Cron is one of my favorite breakout candidates for 2020.
First base is a pretty shallow position. So if you do not get one of the top-end players, do not be afraid to wait for Cron. Given the ADP, Cron is a great late-round targets in drafts. My bold prediction is that C.J. Cron finishes as a top-five first baseman for 2020.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (NFBC ADP: 248)
Last season, Renfroe started hot, hitting 27 home runs in the first half of the season to go along with a respectable .252 batting average. The 27 home runs were good for fifth-most in baseball at the time of the All-Star break.
Sadly, a massive downturn in power hurt his second-half production. A strong .361 ISO fell to an abysmal .138 in the second half with only six home runs. The average was horrid at .161 which dropped his season-long average to .216.
Padres manager Andy Green mentioned in early September that Renfroe was playing through some injuries. A sore elbow and a bad ankle could have factored into Renfroe’s poor second half. Pitchers also adjusted when facing Renfroe and began to throw him more breaking pitches in the second half.
Statcast data showed how bad he was against breaking balls. His xwOBA was .225 and his batting average was .151 against breaking balls. Pitchers learned this and began to adapt in the second half.
Renfroe has a lot of power to offer fantasy owners, especially at his draft price. He is not going to offer much other than power and he may even hurt you in batting average. Regardless, Renfroe is worth a dart throw. If he can get back to the power production he had in the first half of 2019, I see no reason he should not hit 35 home runs over a full season pace.
Renfroe is leaving PETCO Park and will be heading to Tampa Bay where he will play his home games in Tropicana Field. While it is not much of a park upgrade, it does not hurt him. PETCO ranked fifth-worst in home run factor for hitters while Tropicana found itself tenth on the list. Check out the spray chart below to see how his 2019 would play in Tropicana Park.
If Renfroe did play some of the second half injured, that should not be an issue given the amount of time he has had to get healthy. The biggest concern for Renfroe could be playing time. Roster Resource says that Renfroe will bat fifth and be the everyday right fielder. But, the Rays have lots of depth on offense and a lot of guys who can play in the outfield. If Renfroe plays the majority of games, he should provide a great source of power.
Randal Grichuk, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (NFBC ADP: 265)
Grichuk is another player like Renfroe who has a lot of pop but does not provide much else to fantasy owners. He hit 31 home runs last season but had a pretty poor slash line of .232/.280/.457. His SLG was at least semi-respectable.
One reason for the decline was his struggle to hit breaking balls and offspeed pitches. Grichuk improved his hard-hit percentage on fastballs by about five percent from 2018 to 2019 (up to 50 percent). On offspeed pitches, that number fell from 46.6% to 30.8%. while falling by nearly ten percent on breaking pitches (to 27.5%).
Grichuk’s xwOBA also declined severely in 2019, especially on the breaking and offspeed pitches as I stated above. His xwOBA on fastballs was respectable at .375. But on offspeed pitches, his xwOBA fell to .217 from .320 in 2018. That number on breaking pitches also fell to .229.
The good news is that Grichuk finished the season strong in the power department. He hit 14 home runs over the final two months, giving him a home run every 13.8 at-bats. Those power numbers are very respectable. Grichuk was also off to a hot start in 2020 spring training, hitting three home runs in 25 at-bats to go along with a .320 average.
We can only hope that Grichuk can improve his plate discipline against offspeed pitches. If he can and he trends closer to what he did in 2018, his stats should improve. Regardless, we should expect Grichuk to be a liability in batting average.
According to Roster Resource, he will be the everyday centerfielder and hit sixth in a solid Blue Jays lineup. There’s likely another 30 home run season with around a .240ish average over a full season pace. Buy in if you need power late and can absorb the damage he may cause in batting average.
Renato Nunez, 1B, Baltimore Orioles (NFBC ADP: 274)
In Renato Nunez’s first full season in the majors in 2019, he showed off his power ability. He hit 31 home runs in 599 plate appearances to go along with 90 RBIs and 71 runs scored and a .244 batting average. Some may think that Nunez benefited from playing his home games in Camden Yards, which ranked the third-best for home runs in park factors. Camden did give a boost to Nunez in batting average, based on the home and away splits. But, the home runs numbers were pretty even, with 16 at home and 15 on the road.
The Statcast data shows nothing that stands out, but the numbers are good. The average exit velocity of 89.9 mph only put him in the 67th percentile. But, on line drives and fly balls, Nunez averaged 96 mph which is an impressive number. His max exit velocity of 114.8 mph placed him as the 28th hardest in baseball. He also produced 7.2 barrels/plate appearance percent which is an encouraging number.
Nunez was the Oriole’s regular designated hitter in 2019 but played enough games at first base to earn eligibility for fantasy purposes. He was also working at third base during spring training, so he may eventually gain eligibility there. At either position, Nunez can provide late-round power to fantasy owners.
The Statcast data backs up his 30 home run power. The average could improve given his low BABIP of .272 in 2019. His expected batting average was .252 for the 2019 season. Nunez is also a sneaky source for RBI, having 90 last season. At his current ADP, it would be really hard for him not to return positive value, especially if you need home runs late in drafts.