The Great MLB Fantasy Debate: Power Mad vs. Speed Freaks

Fantasy Knuckleheads@_knuckleheadsCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2010

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 05:  Ian Kinsler #5 of the Texas Rangers bats against the Kansas City Royals during the MLB spring training game at Surprise Stadium on March 5, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona. The Royals defeated the Rangers 4-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Certain debates rage every season in fantasy baseball. Who belongs in the first round, who doesn’t, and why. When to draft a Catcher, Closer, etc. One argument that seems to rage every season is Power vs. Speed. Since it takes more than one opinion to form a viable debate, Ray Tannock will join me this week as we argue power vs. speed in the early rounds of your 2010 draft.

First it’s important to note that every league is different, and you should take into account league settings, and size. For the purposes of this debate we are looking at standard 5 roto and head to head leagues with 10 to 12 teams.

Power = Home Runs and RBIs

Speed = Stolen Bases and Runs

In 2009, both Home Run totals and Stolen Base totals were up around the league. Dingers jumped up 3.3%, eclipsing the 5000 mark (5,042) for the first time since 2006, while bag thefts went up 6.1% over 2008 totals, for 2,970 swipes. The second highest total of the decade.

So the question remains, do you draft power or speed in the early rounds?

Rustyn Rose ~ POWER

Over the last decade the MLB is averaging 5,215 home runs each season, while averaging 2,796 stolen bases. So despite the rise in stolen bases, on average, there are still 46% more home runs hit each year over bags swiped. This means stolen bases are more scarce, and therefore more valuable, correct?

Not so fast. First the argument that stolen bases equals more runs is not accurate. In fact more Home Runs equal more RBIs AND more runs. So power gives you three of your four stats.

Some statistics:

Number of players who hit 30 or more home runs in 2009: 30

Number of players who had 100 or more RBI’s in 2009: 27

Number of players who hit 30 or more steals in 2009: 17

Number of players who had 100 or more runs in 2009: 22

The natural assumption would be that of those 17, 30+ base stealers, most if not all of them would hit the 100 run mark as well. Not true. In fact, only five of the 17 managed that feat; Ian Kinsler, Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter, Chone Figgins and Brian Roberts. The first two are also known for their power, and none of them are deserving of first round consideration. Even Carl Crawford, who is considered a first round pick by many, didn’t hit 100 runs (96) despite stealing 60 bases.

For the power guys, 19 of the 30 big home run hitters, had 100 RBIs or more. Nine of those guys also had 100 or more runs. Names like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Evan Longoria, Mark Teixeira… Are you seeing a pattern? These are all guys being taken in the first or second round in most drafts.

There are a lot of guys who get mainly speed and not much else; guys like Michael Bourn, Rajai Davis, Nyjer Morgan and Juan Pierre. Why pay high-end prices, for mid-round pick-ups?

Notable Exceptions

Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida MarlinsMatt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
If I had the number one pick in the draft I would have to give serious consideration to Ramirez over Pujols. Sure Pujols will get more HRs, RBIs and Runs, but Ramirez does very well in all three of those areas, plus he has double the stolen bases and a better average, and he plays at a very thin position, with less injury concern.Last season he had more than 100 RBI’s and Runs, 24 HRs, 27 stolen bases, and a .342 BA.Kemp hit the radar in late 2008 and just exploded in 2009 with 101 RBIs, 34 SBs, 26 HRs, and missed the 100 run mark by three, all with a .297 BA. He is a definite five tool stud who should be a long term first round pick. However, massive breakout years are often followed by major slump years, so buyer beware. Still, this combination of speed and power is hard to pass up despite a small resume.


In the end it seems more prudent to grab your power bats early and find your speed later. There is a ton of speed in the outfield this season. There were 46 players with 20 or more stolen bases in 2009, 58 with 15+ and 99 total players with 10 or more. Spread the spread around and consolidate that power. Do not be the guy who snags Carl Crawford in the first round, or Jacoby Ellsbury or Ian Kinsler in the second or third. These guys will not help you win your league taking them that early. Especially Ellsbury and Kinsler. Ellsbury is highly over-inflated for his numbers, and Kinsler is Brian Roberts 2-3 rounds earlier.

One final thought; speedsters are more prone to injury than power bats. More ligaments involved, more athleticism on display, more chance of pulling a hamstring or worse sliding into a base.

Ray Tannock ~ SPEED

Paying for a mid-round pick-up at a high-end price seems to be a useless endeavor until you come to terms with two facts:

1. Paying a hefty price tag in scarcity, leaves all other options flat; a breeding ground for a one dimensional team. All power, no substance.
2. Sacrificing big name/big bat guys early, opens up the availability to grab other high-end guys while drafting for speed.

The best thing about this debate is the battlefield implications akin to Rommel vs. Patton.

Pick your poison

Stats are a great piece of the puzzle, but they are just that: a piece of the puzzle. And without an actual strategy built on numerous variables, you run the risk of leaving your team vulnerable.

Guys such as Michael Bourne, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Jimmy Rollins are obviously not known for their sheer power, but together these guys also provide settlement in multiple categories very similar to power hitters.

Power hitters can knock in RBIs, but they are just as prone to hitting single home runs as well, but what about those guys who are considered a mid-rounder or even a late–rounder; are you going to be that guy who passes on a player due to a stigma?

Never judge a book by its cover.

Bobby Abreu is a guy who has consistently hit—for 7 years might I add—100+ RBIs with considerable numbers in runs scored, BA, and respectable homerun totals. Will he be a first round consideration? Heck no. Will he be there later on? More than likely yes.

Ah, but there is a trick to every strategy, isn’t there?

While guys who draft for power are busy plucking the board dry of the home run producers early and coming around the back end for speed later, guys who draft for speed are pulling out there secret complimentary weapon; a sometimes devastating blow:


Sure, Albert Pujols might be gone, but Tim Lincecum may not. Jonathan Papelbon may not. Drafting for speed does require that you supplement your strategy with quality heat hurlers that can erase the teams that are built on power, so it wouldn’t be uncustomary to draft a quality closer somewhere between the 10th and 13th rounds, for instance.

Plus, adding both speed and quality pitching early gives you a one two punch that is more valuable than just power alone, since you are now adding in ERA, WHIP, Saves,and strikes to the mix.

In essence, you win the battle of category just slightly if you do things right.

In the end, remember one other tiny tidbit about baseball in general. In the early months (April and May) the ball doesn’t take flight as well as the summer months thanks to the weather. This keeps power numbers from blooming until at least the early to mid summer months, but speed and quality pitching is a year round aspect you can rely on.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box from traditional cookie cutter fantasy philosophies, and don’t be afraid to be that guy who does, in fact, take Carl Crawford in the first round.

After all, in fantasy baseball, consistency is always best.

There will always be power hitters out there, just not a lot of guys who hit 40+ home runs. But two guys who hit 20+ home runs with 100+ RBI and 25 to 30+SB with a set of excellent pitchers is—in this writer’s opinion and experience—far more valuable than early flashy power.

So, where do you the fan and owner stand in one of the all-time greatest fantasy debates? Let us know below.

These “versus� pieces are brought to you by Ray and Rustyn; two guys who make it a living bringing you the best in The Gentleman’s Argument while sipping Mai Tais in drag!

Closer Rankings, Sholty’s Drafting Tips, 1B Rankings, 2B Rankings, Catcher Rankings, OF Rankings, Assume the Position, 5 Guys To Avoid Like The Plague, The Grady Sizemore Debate

Want to join a highly competitive fantasy baseball league? Compete against the fantasy knuckleheads staff by joining our league: League ID: 432046 League Password: knuckleheads When you join post a message on the message board letting us know you're serious. Draft is 11:15 PST / 2:15 EST on Sunday March 21.

We have it set up as an auction draft. You are set up with $260 and you need to bid accordingly on players. Free agents are handled with FAAB. You have $100 to spend the entire season. Your team will have 2 Catchers, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 1 Corner Infielder, 1 Middle Infielder, 5 OF, 2 DH, 9 Pitchers and 5 bench players.

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