Julie Jacobson/Associated Press
It’s next to impossible to win a fantasy baseball title these days without major power.
With balls flying out of the park at record rates last year, big bats are a must to help anchor your fantasy team. There’s only one problem: Every owner in your league is chasing lofty home run totals, too.
So, where can you find power for (relatively) cheap? Answer: More places than you might think, starting with the following three undervalued boppers.
Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees
To address that pinstriped elephant in the room, yes, injury risks are unavoidable with Giancarlo Stanton. He’s played 10 seasons in the big leagues and made fewer than 130 appearances in six of them.
But you know what else is undeniable? The fact that the 30-year-old has as much power potential as anyone in baseball.
Stanton has two home run titles under his belt (including an absurd 59-homer, 132-RBI effort in 2017) and an MVP on his resume. His first season in New York, 2018, he hit 38 homers, scored 102 runs, drove in 100 and had the third-highest average exit velocity in baseball (93.7 miles per hour).
He has best-hitter-in-fantasy potential at the plate, and somehow his average draft position is only 71st, per FantasyPros. That’s a reflection of the injury risk, obviously, but it’s as if everyone decided to focus much more on his floor than his ceiling.
Don’t make that same mistake, especially if you’re anything other than ecstatic about your power situation after the opening few rounds of your draft.
Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins
There’s an obsession in sports—particularly fantasy sports—with youth and what comes next. That makes sense, since new stars rise every season, but an unfortunate extension of that is a fear of age. People would rather dump a player a year early than roster them a year too long.
The flaw with that kind of thinking, though, is the idea that we understand exactly where each player is on the aging curve. It’s how the number everyone focuses on with Nelson Cruz is 40 (as in years old) and not 41 (as in the amount of homers he hit just last season).
Granted, he missed 42 games in 2019, but that just makes the power output look even more absurd. There’s zero evidence of any skills decline. He drove in 108 runs. He posted a .392 on-base percentage and a career-high .639 slugging percentage. He paced the entire league in average exit velocity (93.7) and barrel percentage (19.9).
Cruz is an elite power hitter, and he’s being taken with just the 80th pick overall on average. There’s a non-zero chance he outslugs all 79 players selected ahead of him.
Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves
What if we told you a player who’s still on the right side of 30 had previously engineered a season of .312/.376/.548 hitting with 37 homers, 124 RBI and 93 runs? Oh, and that same player paired 29 homers with 12 stolen bases in only 30 games just last season? Oh, oh, and he joined a more potent offense over the offseason and has the proverbial carrot-on-the-stick of being in a contract year?
Surely, his price tag would be through the roof, right? Nope. Marcell Ozuna, who checks all of those boxes, only costs the 100th overall pick on average. That’s ridiculous.
“With more protection in a stacked Braves lineup, I love the value Ozuna provides if he stays healthy,” SI.com’s Ben Heisler wrote. “With…Ronald Acuna leading off, followed by Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman, Ozuna should immediately be forced into seeing plenty of fastballs with runners on base, and those fantasy numbers should rise into Top-20 OF status quickly.”
At his best, Ozuna, 29, is one of the best power hitters in MLB. That ceiling is far too tempting to pass up anywhere near his current price point.