- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
It’s been 18 years since Nike and MLB declared to the world that “chicks dig the long ball.” Though home runs are not as commonplace as they were during that era (teams averaged 190 dingers in 2000 compared to 164 in 2015), finding power across the league is not as difficult as some might assume.
Nine different players hit 40 home runs or more last year, the most in a single season since 2006. From a fantasy perspective, this means power is out there for the taking — you just have to know where to look.
MLB 2015 HR Leaders – Nine 40-HR Players
The guys listed above will be drafted early or fetch a high price in auction formats, so to ensure your roster has home run production throughout, you’ll need to be able to identify the players who have yet to fully realize their power potential.
To that end, PointAfter has picked out five players that seem poised to break out in the home run department in 2016 — one guy looking to finally stay healthy, two trying to build upon strong 2015 seasons, and two still figuring out major-league pitching.
George Springer, Houston Astros OF
Springer isn’t exactly a true under-the-radar power source. Rated the No. 18 prospect in the game by Baseball America in 2014, the former first-round pick clubbed 65 homers in 292 minor league games, including 37 in 2013. Due to a series of nagging injuries, though, he hasn’t been able to put things together so far in his big-league career.
A wrist fracture limited him to just 102 games in 2015, and he ended up with just 16 long balls last season, frustrating owners who used an early-round pick on him.
Springer posted a .304/.373/.464 slash line over the final 27 games of the season after coming off the disabled list, so the wrist shouldn’t be a problem moving forward. After missing virtually all of July and August, his September production was consistent with his numbers from April and May.
Springer splits by month
With better luck, 2016 could finally be the year Springer shows off his elite-level pop. With 140 or more games played, he could find himself among the league leaders in home runs.
Carlos Correa, Houston Astros SS
The other players on this list are better defined as “sleepers” than as potential superstars. Not so for Correa, who blasted 22 home runs last year en route to winning AL Rookie of the Year honors. The youngster’s breakout 2015 has many wondering whether he’s worth a top-five pick in fantasy drafts this season.
Our bet is yes, and the argument is largely twofold. Correa never seemed to hit the proverbial rookie wall at any point last year, despite playing more games (158 counting minor leagues and the postseason) than he’d ever played before. Opposing pitchers also didn’t appear to have him figured out by season’s end, as his production month-over-month was fairly consistent.
Correa splits by month
Correa hit at least five home runs in each full month, and despite playing just 99 regular season games, his 22 big flies were the most among all shortstops.
This leads to the second reason, which is position scarcity. There just aren’t many viable power options at shortstop, which gives Correa’s fantasy value a big boost. Those holding early first-round draft slots would be well within reason to take Correa, who could top 35 bombs in his sophomore campaign.
Rougned Odor, Texas Rangers 2B
In 349 career minor league games, Odor hit just 34 home runs and, at 5-foot-11, never profiled as a power hitter. As a 21-year-old in 2015, Odor’s 16 big flies were tied for fifth-most among all second basemen. Perhaps more interesting is that he did most of his damage away from Arlington, long considered one of the best hitter’s parks in the league.
Odom home-away splits
Odor had a 129 OPS+ on the road compared to 100 at home. If he can start taking advantage of his home environment, expect even bigger numbers for him in 2016.
Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs SS
Another player whose home run contributions are amplified by position scarcity, Russell was thrown into the fire during his first taste of big-league action. Though he displayed elite-level defense, he often looked lost offensively, finishing with a .242/.307/.389 slash line and an alarming 28.5 percent strikeout rate.
Despite the poor results, Russell is not a player who should be ignored in fantasy drafts. He hit 38 home runs in 244 career minor league games, with a .520 slugging percentage. The Cubs had one of the most balanced lineups in the league last season, and the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist should only help. This will give Russell the chance to score plenty of runs hitting in his expected No. 9 spot ahead of the top of the order.
Cubs 2015 lineup production
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates OF
Once heralded as a five-tool budding superstar, Polanco’s ascent into an All-Star caliber player has yet to be realized. His first two big-league seasons have netted just 16 home runs and a .369 slugging percentage.
But Polanco may have run into some bad home run luck in 2015. Out of 29 outfielders with at least 600 plate appearances, he ranked 18th in his percentage of hard-hit balls — not outstanding, but ahead of guys like Jason Heyward, Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun. Among that same group, Polanco ranked 27th in home run to fly ball rate, with just 5.5 percent of his fly balls leaving the yard.
Making as much hard contact as Polanco did should have resulted in more big flies. With some improved luck, the 24-year-old should take a big step toward living up to expectations, and there’s enough upside to warrant a top-100 pick on him, which is right in line with his current ADP.
Nick Selbe is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that's part of the Graphiq network. PointAfter is a platform for shot charts, scatter plots and other data visualizations about NBA players, NFL teams and dozens of other topics.