This offseason it seems anywhere you turn you will read or hear the phrase “power is the new scarcity”. For so long, it would seem that stolen bases was the one category in 5×5 roto that you really need to plan for and to target. There was plenty of top end power to go around for everyone. Whether it was the steroid era, poor pitching, or any other factor, home runs were believed to be available in your fantasy draft.
This year, many fantasy analysts have pointed to the decrease over recent years in hitters reaching the 50 home run, 40 home run, and 30 home run plateaus. Overall, the number of home runs hit in the major leagues over the past six seasons has ranged between 4552 in 2011 and 5042 in 2009. In 2013, there were 4661 home runs hit (numbers pulled from ESPN’s Hit Tracker). The number of 50-plus home run seasons over the past four years sits at two, with one in 2013 and one in 2010. In 2010, there were 18 sluggers with over 30 home runs. The following three seasons saw 24, 27, and 14 30 home run seasons respectively. That is a very real and obvious dip in the number of players providing high end power for your fantasy baseball team. It would be easy to now draw the conclusion that power is scarce and you need to gobble it early and often.
Take a deep breath. Step away from your rankings for a second and consider this. High end power is down, but that doesn’t mean to double down on taking home runs early. It’s important to look at the other end of the spectrum. Over the past four seasons, Major League Baseball has seen an increase in players producing ten-plus home run seasons. In 2010, 176 hitters had ten or more home runs. Last season, that number bumped up to 194. 22 more players were available to give you a real bump in the home run category over the course of the 2013 season.
So, it is now more important than ever to seek out balance in your draft. Being high end power is down, it’s down for everyone. If you reach to grab someone simply because of their homerun potential, you are going to leave better value on the table to fill multiple categories. Drafting someone like Adam Dunn simply chasing home runs makes as much sense as reaching for Billy Hamilton for steals. They’ll hurt you more than they will help you if you overpay.
Overall, it’s time to accept that 50 home run seasons won’t be the norm. Even 40 home run seasons won’t be as expected. Focus your energy on building a balanced team and not trying to fill single categories with individual players.
Over the next couple of weeks, look for individual positional home run analysis.