Fantasy baseball is very similar to Major League Baseball when it comes to an owner's desire to possess hitters who can not only hit for average, but also slug the ball over the fences.
The satisfaction of picking up a top slugger off the waiver wire cannot be matched. Yes, I am referring to those of you who took the risk on Adam Dunn in 2012 and reaped the benefits of his 41 home runs and 96 RBI. Those are very strong power numbers that many fantasy teams do not get out of their most highly touted picks, let alone a waiver-wire pickup.
The following five players are all relatively unowned in most Yahoo! fantasy leagues, but they have been slugging to this point in the season and have shown a potential to continue hitting home runs and driving in runs throughout 2013. Some athletes may never help out a team's average, but if long balls are No. 1 on your managerial wish list, then look no further.
This piece is for those fantasy owners whose strengths do not include the HR and RBI categories and for those who need a boost in order to stay afloat in these early weeks of the fantasy season. I will analyze all five of these players and determine the ins and outs of their fantasy value, including their value in August and not just April and May.
2013 Stats: .296/.367/.563, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 10 R, 1 SB
Vernon Wells' two-year stint with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim seemed like it would be his last in the majors. However, the New York Yankees traded for Wells in the offseason and despite many looming injuries, this move has paid off thus far.
Wells has managed to hit nearly half the HRs and XBHs that he hit in 2012 already this season in one-third of the ABs. Last season in Los Angeles, Wells managed to hit nine HRs and 20 XBHs. Since being in New York, in 71 ABs Wells has hit five HRs and nine XBHs in 2013 compared to the previously mentioned 2012 stats, which were attained in 243 ABs.
Well's current pace for the 2013 season is encouraging for fantasy owners in AL-only or mixed leagues. However, he does not rank higher due to his age and his previous decline in Los Angeles.
Wells is swinging a hot bat and if power is what you need, Wells can provide that for the time being. The Yankees have capable players batting in front of Wells, so even if his HR production slows down, Wells should remain a qualified option to provide RBI for the Bronx Bombers.
2013 Stats: ( .320/.393/.573, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 15 R)
Brandon Crawford's fantasy value comes from his potential ability to hit for average and power while filling a roster spot at the shortstop position. As baseball-reference.com shows us, Crawford has already matched his HR total from 2012 in the first three weeks of the 2013 campaign.
Bottom line: Crawford is off to a great start to the season and is showing improvement in all major categories. He is drawing walks, getting on base and overall just seeing the ball better, which leads to hitting and slugging the ball better. Based on the production Crawford has shown through these first three weeks, it is safe to say that he has the ability to be a season-long impact player for any fantasy team, whether it be an NL-only league or a mixed-league team with shortstop deficiency.
Crawford is especially valuable when considering the injury to Jose Reyes that will now keep him out until the All-Star break. That injury news devastated fantasy owners across the country, including myself. However, Crawford has provided an ounce of hope for these ailing Reyes owners. Crawford is hitting for power at shortstop, which is easily the roster spot where power is most hard to come by, so his value is immense and cannot be understated.
Those weak at the shortstop position, or those simply seeking an upgrade at the position, should seek out Crawford and pick him up before it is too late.
2013 Stats: ( .221/.299/.442, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 11 R)
Former 15th-round pick and 2008-09 Minor League Player of the Year Chris Carter has found his home with the Houston Astros organization. Formerly with the Oakland Athletics, Carter earned a starting job as an outfielder for the Astros and has relished the opportunity.
The 6'4", 245-pound Carter has found his stroke in Houston and has managed to put up intriguing numbers, slugging .442 and blasting five HRs while driving in 11 RBI. Carter is proving to be an impact player for the perennially struggling Astros by hitting for impressive power numbers through the first three weeks of the season. Lee White of Rantsports.com wrote about how Carter is going to be an impact player for Houston as his quick start has shown.
Carter's size, strength and impressive start to the season are all reasons to pick him up off the waiver wire and utilize his power potential. Carter's value in April and May is very high and his value does not stop there, as Carter will remain a starting outfielder for Houston through the summer and into fantasy crunch time. Pick him up and reap the benefits of his bat.
2013 Stats: (.275/.471/.627, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 12 R)
The New York Mets' Lucas Duda made many fantasy blacklists after his 2012 season failed to be the breakout campaign that many, including myself, had hoped for. Instead, in 2012 Duda only managed to slug 15 home runs with a .239 AVG. Many would be inclined to think that Duda will simply have a repeat performance of 2012 and continue to disappoint fantasy owners.
However, there is something different about Duda that can be observed through the first three weeks of the 2013 season: his approach. Duda has developed patience and vision at the plate as he currently boats a .471 OBP that demonstrates the fact that he is seeing the ball better than in 2012, when he posted just a .329 OBP.
With good patience and vision at the plate comes power, especially for the 6'4", 225-pound Duda. He has the stature and skill necessary to shock the fantasy world like Adam Dunn did in 2012 and be a very productive power hitter throughout the season. Duda may not hit 41 HRs in 2013, or be an All-Star like Dunn was, but Duda has the power potential to hit over 30 HRs. That kind of power off the waiver wire can be the difference-maker for any fantasy team.
If power is what you seek, keep an eye on Duda's production and pick him up, because he will be producing all season for the Mets and for fantasy teams in NL-only and mixed leagues.
2013 stats: (.327/.426/.582, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 10 R)
Daniel Nava has been one of the main reasons for Boston's current success on its way to a 14-7 start to the season. The 30-year-old Nava is in his prime and slugging with the best of the AL through three weeks. As baseball-reference.com shows, Nava has improved in every year since his 2010 debut with Boston and he is currently on a tear as his stat line above demonstrates.
In the wake of a tragic series of events in the city of Boston, Nava has demonstrated his calm and clutch demeanor. Mark Towensend writes in his Yahoo! Sports blog that Nava demonstrated his ability and how clutch he is by hitting a two-out, three-run, go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth to give Boston a 4-2 lead over the Kansas City Royals, which led to an emotional 4-3 victory at home.
Nava has been on a tear to start the season, hitting for average and power while showing promise to maintain this output for the rest of the season. Sparked by the emotion and energy in the city of Boston, Nava will continue to mash for the Red Sox and will be a valuable power hitter for fantasy owners in both AL-only and mixed leagues. Nava has the ability to be a big-time difference-maker in the 2013 fantasy season, not just April and May.
Nava is the most valuable power hitter to pick up off of the waiver wire due to his great start, the emotion and energy in Boston, and the fact that he is 30 years old and reaching his prime ability.