Late in drafts, I often find myself looking for contributions to specific categories. The odds of finding a five-category contributor late in drafts are low making it all the more important to target players that will at least provide value in one category. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article looking at players that can provide stolen bases late in drafts. This article focuses on power. If you are looking for home runs production late in drafts, you should be making these five players a target of yours in fantasy drafts.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
Cheap Home Runs for 2023
Juan Yepez- 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals
With the implementation of the National League DH, Juan Yepez was a popular breakout pick late in the 2022 draft season. He made his debut on May 4th and through July 7th was batting .274/.314/.500. He seemed like a budding star before suffering a forearm strain that derailed his season. While he was injured, other players stepped up into valuable roles with the Cardinals and upon activation, Yepez was optioned to Triple-A. He returned for the final two weeks of the regular season, but it appeared his forearm was still bothering him. He only slugged .395 across his final 13 games. Injuries derailed a promising rookie season for Yepez, but his discounted draft price provides tremendous opportunity.
Before the forearm injury, Juan Yepez smashed 11 home runs with a .226 ISO across his first 207 plate appearances. This is a player that hit 27 home runs in 2021 and who quietly hit 28 home runs combined between Triple-A and the Major Leagues last year. Post-pandemic, Yepez has consistently posted HR/FB% in the mid-20s. This might be an unrealistic expectation in St. Louis, but it feels like we should see some positive regression from the 13% he posted in 2022. During the early part of the season when Yepez was healthy and playing every day he posted a rate north of 15%. He hits the ball in the air plenty with tons of pull-side power. His max exit velocity of 114.4 ranks in the 95th percentile in all of baseball. There is massive power upside to Yepez’s profile.
Deciphering and predicting the Cardinals’ 2023 roster decisions is nearly impossible. There are so many different ways they could go, but without Albert Pujols around anymore it seems likely that Juan Yepez will be given the everyday DH role. Yepez also appeared at 1B, 3B, and LF in 2022 which increases the likelihood of finding his name on the lineup card. The lack of clarity is pushing down Yepez’s draft price making now the perfect time to buy. He is going as OF77 with 25-home-run potential. Thinking back to the first two months of his debut, it’s shocking you can get Yepez this late. Draft Yepez now and if cash in on the cheap power he will provide in 2023.
Marcell Ozuna- OF, Atlanta Braves
Marcell Ozuna’s time in Atlanta has been a roller coaster. In 2020, Ozuna finished 6th in MVP voting while leading the National League in home runs. In 2021 he suffered a finger injury followed by a domestic violence dispute resulting in only 48 games played. Early season struggles and a mid-season DUI further limited Ozuna’s playing time in 2022. The silver lining? In 124 games, Ozuna still managed to hit 23 home runs. Since 2016, Ozuna has the 12th most home runs amongst all outfielders and is just two seasons removed from a 178 wRC+. Removing personal opinions about this player from the equation, it is hard to not view Ozuna as a cheap and reliable source of power in 2023 drafts.
When you pull up Ozuna’s Baseball Savant page, his profile becomes even more intriguing.
Although the exit velocity is down from his 2017-2020 stretch, it is still above average. In 2022, his barrel rate rebounded back up to 13.1% which helped to fuel a 90th percentile xSLG. Over the course of his career, Ozuna has an average BABIP of .309. While declining sprint speed and increased flyball tendencies have caused this number to drop over the past several seasons, there is still a bit of misfortune here. With good exit velocities and near-average line drive percentages, Ozuna should be seeing his BABIP land above the .250 mark he has averaged over the past two seasons. An interesting note is last year his BABIP without the shift was .278. Ozuna seems like a prime candidate to benefit from the rule change and should see his average increase in 2022.
Many expected the Braves to be aggressive in upgrading their LF or DH situation. While Travis ‘Arnaud may factor into the DH role with Sean Murphy in town, both lineup spots remain wide open. Eddie Rosario and Jordan Luplow figure to be the biggest source of competition for Ozuna in the OF. Rosario offers a slight upgrade defensively and figures to see the majority of his playing time against right-handed pitching. His 61 wRC+ will make it difficult for the Braves to give him everyday at-bats. Meanwhile, Jordan Luplow only holds value defensively and maybe as a platoon bat against lefties, and there is a chance he does not even make the roster.
There is a realistic path for Ozuna to receive 500+ at-bats with Atlanta’s current roster construction. He will likely bat toward the bottom of the lineup, but is a legitimate threat to hit 20-25 home runs. Over the final month of the season, Ozuna did hit .321/.368/.585 providing a glimmer of hope for a 2023 rebound. He is performing well in Spring Training and is currently going as OF81 in drafts around guys like Oswaldo Cabrera and Avisail Garcia. If you are looking for a cheap source of home runs late in drafts grab Ozuna and see how much run the Braves are willing to give him.
Nick Pratto- 1B, Kansas City Royals
Talk about being swallowed up in somebody else’s shadow. Entering the 2022 season, Nick Pratto was one of the hottest first base prospects in baseball. In 2021, he posted a 155 wRC+ at Double-A and was universally ranked inside top-50 prospect lists. Then came Vinnie Pasquantino who adjusted seamlessly to the Major Leagues. All of the love previously found for Pratto shifted to the “Italian nightmare” and became more dramatic as Pratto struggled in his first taste of Major League action. He hit just .184 with a strikeout rate over 35%. Now the forgotten man, Pratto still has a chance to be a cheap source of power for your fantasy teams in 2023.
What seems to be going unnoticed is the fact that Pratto hit seven home runs in just 182 plate appearances. This is good enough for a 23/600 pace. He showed an innate ability to barrel up the baseball and get an excellent launch on the ball. His 12.5% barrel rate is nearly double the league average and he has an exceptional ability to pull the baseball. His flyball rates will always hurt his average, but for the purpose of this article that is irrelevant. Over the last two seasons between the minors and majors, Pratto has mashed 60 home runs and is a clear threat to go deep.
The biggest issue with Pratto’s 2023 outlook is how the playing time is going to shake out in Kansas City. Pasquantino has first base locked down and Perez figures to get lots of time at DH. Pratto however profiles as a plus fielder and has already shown an ability to play the outfield. With Kyle Isbel, Drew Waters, and Edward Olivares projected to be the outfield starters, there is plenty of opportunity for Pratto to work his bat into the lineup. One injury or a strong spring could open the door for a 25-home-run season.
Buying low on former top prospects is one of the best things you can do in fantasy baseball. The shine wears off and people give up on prospects too quickly without giving them time to adjust. There are clear hit tool concerns with Pratto, but the power is legit. Currently going as 1B55 in drafts outside the top 630 picks, Pratto’s price cannot get much cheaper. Buy in now and reap the reward of cheap 20+ home run power late in drafts.
Nick Ahmed- SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
This is the one pick in this article that could easily make me look silly. I wanted to branch out away from the outfielders or corner infielders that we know can hit home runs. Instead, I wanted to focus on a middle infielder that has a chance to provide sneaky pop late in drafts. 2022 was mostly a lost season for Nick Ahmed. He appeared in only 17 games for Arizona before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. During those 17 games, Ahmed hit three home runs with a .442 slugging percentage. This is good enough for a 33/600 pace. Do not mistake his inclusion in this article as a genuine belief that Ahmed is going to hit 30 home runs in 2023, but maybe there is more power upside in his profile than people give him credit for.
Ahmed has a quiet history of providing solid home run production. In 2018, Ahmed hit 16 home runs and followed that up with 19 in 2022. Not the most eye-popping home run totals, but not nothing. In 2021, he only hit five, but that came with a 4.5 HR/FB%. This is an incredibly unlucky rate especially since he had an average of 12.4% from 2017-2020. Ahmed has always demonstrated a strong ability to pull the baseball but has had issues consistently getting the ball in the air. His inclusion is banking on a full offseason working with a healthy shoulder resulting in more fly balls and the upside for more power.
While Arizona has made upgrades to other positions, shortstop has remained wide open. There is really no competition for Ahmed, and he should receive the majority of playing time. Jordan Lawlar is too far away and Geraldo Perdomo is not a true threat. Ahmed should be the guy in Arizona barring a trade and is fully healthy heading into 2023.
Being able to draft a starting shortstop as SS48 in drafts seems like it should be impossible. The fall-off at the position is steep and Ahmed provides a nice opportunity whether you are looking for power or not. He is the guy at SS in Arizona, a lineup should be improved for 2023. He has 15-20 home run upside if he can stay healthy and is a nice source of cheap power that does not have many late options. This pick is far from a guarantee but at his draft price there is some power upside here.
Joey Gallo- OF, Minnesota Twins
This would not be a power article if it did not include Joey Gallo. Gallo’s 2022 was filled with disappointment in both New York and Los Angeles. Gallo saw slight improvements with LA as his wRC+ improved from 82 to 91, but overall it was not the level of production many were expecting from Gallo. Entering 2023, Gallo is now on his fourth team in two years trying to resurrect his career. Minnesota signed Gallo to a one-year prove-it deal where he will compete for playing time with Max Kepler, Michael Taylor, Trevor Larnach, and Nick Gordon. Even without certain playing time, this is a player with the fifth most home runs amongst outfielders since 2017 and somebody with massive power upside.
Pulling the ball and hitting more fly balls should lead to more home runs, but this was not the case in 2022. Gallo still posted an elite barrel rate and is clearly still one of the best pure power hitters in baseball. He hit 19 home runs in 410 plate appearances last year and should be a safe bet for 25 home runs if he can reach 500 plate appearances this year. He has 40 home run upside if things break his way and should benefit from the shift ban. There are enough outfielders in Minnesota that Gallo will likely sit against lefties, but that should not be viewed as an issue. The Giants did the same thing with Joc Pederson last year. You can get Gallo in your fantasy lineup when he plays and remove him when a lefty is on the mound.
Getting 40 home run potential outside the top 400 picks is rare. That is exactly the kind of cheap power upside that Gallo provides. He will drain your average and might lose playing time, but his draft price heavily factors that in. Go get Gallo if you are searching for home runs late in drafts.
Which players are you turning to for power late in drafts? Drop some names in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!