Late Round Targets: Home Runs

Let's find some dingers!

Let’s see if we can find some dingers late in drafts. As a loose reference, I’ll be looking mostly at players going past pick 180 in NFBC DC over the past month (1/15-2/15).


Lars Nootbaar

2022 stats (347 PA): .228 AVG, 53 R, 14 HR, 40 RBI, 4 SB

Chances are pretty decent that you’ve already read about Nootbaar so I’ll keep it brief. Dave Swan covered him in his breakdown of hitters that went boom in the second half. The results in the first half of the season weren’t in his favor and the Cardinals sent him down three times. Then in the second half, his K/BB improved noticeably and he made more contact.

And the contact was the type we’re looking for too. Below you’ll see his “power,” one of the new PLV metrics that models a number of extra-base hits (xISO on contact) above a pitch’s expectation for individual batted balls. You can check out the new hitter metrics here. 

So he ended the season with very good results, including a .846 OPS in the second half and an overall xwOBA in the 91st percentile. An eighth-round pick out of USC in 2018, Nootbaar also rehauled his swing at Driveline beginning in early 2020. All told, he picked up 8 mph on his bat speed. That and his disciplined approach (92nd percentile chase rate last year) lends credence to the positive results when you consider that Nootbaar didn’t previously show much power early on in the minors. He seems like a young player who is clearly on the upswing.

It was a very small sample size (69 PA), but another encouraging note was that he held a plenty reasonable 18.8% K rate against LHP last season.


Joc Pederson

2022 stats (433 PA): .274 AVG, 57 R, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 3 SB

Sure, Pederson has been around for a while, but let’s take a second to appreciate last year’s rebound in San Francisco where he posted a career-best .373 wOBA and 144 wRC+. His .274 batting average was a career-best too. His .874 OPS fell just three points shy of his 36 HR season with the Dodgers in 2019.

Among qualifiers, the .373 wOBA would’ve tied Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts for 11th. Yes, that’s a bit misleading considering the disparity in PA and likely regression for Pederson had he played more but it illustrates just how productive he was last year.

I’ll spare you most of the details of his Statcast percentiles. Suffice it to say, they all check the boxes with marks above the 90th percentile. One thing that stuck out was his 95.5 EV against fastballs; his previous best had been 94.6 during the 60-game 2020 season.

To better illustrate his production last year let’s take a look at his power, one of the new PL metrics which you can explore here.

So the dip in the second half doesn’t look great, but it’s a little misleading considering the results in the first half, namely 17 home runs. The more important takeaway, for me at least, is that he ended well above the 90th percentile for the season. He flat-out hit the ball exceedingly well last year.

One fly in the ointment is Oracle Park—last year it ranked 27th in Statcast’s HR park factor. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Giants are still searching for their first 30-HR hitter since Bonds.

The other problem is that he owns a career .276 wOBA against LHP. That pushes him more toward daily leagues where you can take advantage of his career .356 wOBA against RHP.

So the real question is did he do anything inherently differently last year? Probably not. If anything, it just reminded us that he’s been a productive hitter for the majority of his career with a .805 career OPS. But I am a bit intrigued considering just how good his batted-ball metrics were and even better we’ve got a BSOHL.


Ketel Marte

2022 stats (558 PA): .240 AVG, 68 R, 12 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB

He’s the first player I wrote about when I joined PL before 2019, so I’ll always have a soft spot for Marte. But there’s no way to sugarcoat last year. The key with Marte has always been his splits; he’s a natural right-handed hitter who has had trouble consistently producing from the other side.

Last year, he hit .226 with a .696 OPS as a lefty (409 PA). From the right side, he hit .274 with a .812 OPS (149 PA). His max EV’s highlight the discrepancy too. If you look at his batted balls over the past two years, he has hit 21 at 110 MPH or higher from the right side and only five from the left side.

Although his dream 2019 season during which he posted a .320 BA and a .973 OPS as a lefty is long gone, it doesn’t mean he still can’t be a useful fantasy option. If you look at the BAT X projections, Marte is pegged with 17 HR, 11th among second basemen if you include Max Muncy. So selecting Marte, who is currently going off the board as the 20th 2B in NFBC DC, seems like a sound buy-low approach as a career .279 hitter who could reasonably approach 20+ home runs.

Injuries have played a part in the past two years too. In 2021, he hit 14 HR while being limited to 90 games with an injured hamstring. Although he played in 137 games last year, it sounds like injuries might have sapped him again with 37 of his starts coming as the DH as he tried to gut his way through it.

If you want to ignore Marte at this point, I can’t blame you. Two other 2B that could be intriguing in the later rounds are Brendan Rodgers and Gavin Lux, both being post-hype prospects that have a decent chance at finding more power on the eve of what should be their third season of over 100 games.


Rowdy Tellez

2022 stats (599 PA): .219 AVG, 67 R, 35 HR, 89 RBI, 2 SB

Going around pick 170, Tellez falls a little ahead of the cutoff I set at the beginning but I think he’s undervalued right now so I wanted to mention him briefly. Last year the big lefty logged a career-high 599 PA and finished with 35 longballs, tied ninth in baseball with Paul Goldschmidt and Mookie Betts.

The BAT X currently has 22 players projected for 30 or more HR, and, you guessed it, Tellez is one of them. Among 1B, his projection of 30 HR is tied for fifth with Rhys Hoskins. But he’s currently going as the 17th 1B off the board at around pick 170 so there could be some potential value here.

As Scott Chu mentioned in his 1B rankings, the former Blue Jay basically did everything you want from a big slugger, namely pulled fly balls. He finished just outside the 90th percentile in xwOBA, had a max EV of 116.9 (98th percentile), and a surprisingly solid K rate of 20.2%. Add in American Family Field, which finished last year tied 8th with the Rogers Centre in Statcast’s HR factor, and there’s a lot to like.

The only blemish is some platoon risk although his career numbers against LHP aren’t all that bad (.245 avg/.717 OPS/26.6% K rate).


Jorge Soler

2022 stats (306 PA): .207 AVG, 32 R, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 0 SB

Two injuries ended Soler’s 2022 season. He first landed on the IL on July 1st with bilateral pelvis inflammation. On July 12th, he started a rehab assignment, but eleven days later back spasms sent him back on the IL for good. The good news is that he looks ready to go for spring training.

Soler is a little bit of an enigma. A big prospect with the Cubs, he didn’t really do too much until 2o18 with KC where he hinted at a .820 OPS in 61 games before a fractured toe ended his season. The following year, he busted out and led the AL with 48 home runs. During the wonky 2020 season, his K rate spiked to 34.5%, and he hit .228 across 43 games while missing some time with an oblique strain. In 2021, he was dreadful in the first half (.658 OPS in 94 games). But he rebounded with Atlanta (.882 OPS in 52 games) before seizing the WS MVP. And then last year he got hurt again. This is all to say, it’s kind of hard to really figure out what to expect.

LoanDepot Park isn’t a great spot for power and ranked 15th last year in Statcast’s HR factor. Regardless, Soler’s power is exceptional as he owns a career 19.4% HR/FB rate, well above the MLB average of 12.8%. Last year, his max EV of 117.6 was still very much in the upper echelon.

Given how late he’s currently going in drafts (OF #70), he’s a potential late target as one of the few bats available that have a realistic shot at 25+ home runs, with the upside for more. The BAT X has him with 22 HR in 489 PA.


Jesse Winker

2022 stats (547 PA): .219 AVG, 51 R, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB

After posting a career-high 24 home runs and .950 OPS in 2021, Winker cratered badly in Seattle but injuries might have been part of the problem as he had two surgeries in the offseason. Winker’s injury history isn’t in his favor, but he’s an interesting buy-back now that he’s in a more favorable park; American Family Field was tied for eighth in Statcast’s HR factor last year. He gets a big boost in OBP leagues.


Michael Conforto

2022 stats (DNP)

After missing a year with shoulder surgery, he’s now in San Francisco on a two-year deal. When we last saw Conforto in 2021, he posted a .725 OPS in his final season with the Mets. Not great, and neither is his new home at Oracle Park, but, he’s shown excellent power with a career 18.9% HR/FB rate.


Spencer Steer

2022 stats (108 PA): .211 AVG, 12 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB

Time for a deep-league dice roll. As you know, Great American Ball Park is the place to go for dingers; Last year, it tied Coor’s Field for 1st in Statcast’s HR factor. Wil Myers signed a one-year deal with the Reds this offseason and has gained some steam as a late-round target in deep leagues as a recognizable name. But let’s take a look at a new player who should get a chance this upcoming season.

I have not the slightest clue if Spencer Steer is any good. Thankfully, the Reds could be on the verge of relieving us of that riddle as he’s in the mix to start at 3B. Sometimes, the opportunity is all that’s needed. Take a look at Brandon Drury last year. I’m also reminded of Scooter Gennett who had two glorious seasons as a Red back in the halcyon days of yore, i.e. pre-2020.

Anyway, the Reds acquired Steer last year in the swap that sent Tyler Mahle to the Twins. He debuted late last year and didn’t do a whole lot. But it was only 108 PA, hardly enough to get a good idea of what to expect. At the very least, he had a decent K rate of 24.1%. In 48 games with Triple-A St. Paul last year, he posted a .830 OPS and .242 ISO so he’s shown some decent pop. Keep an eye on him in deep leagues should he seize the job.


Matt Carpenter

2022 stats (154 PA): .305 AVG, 28 R, 15 HR, 37 RBI, 0 SB

Last year, PLV charted three hitters with a Hitter Performance ranking of 100: Aaron Judge and Paul Goldschmidt were two of them. The other was Carpenter. OK, sure it was 154 PA. But, still, he put on a show. Before he fouled a ball off his foot on August 8th, Carpenter more or less re-shot The Natural.

Carpenter’s career arc is an interesting one. After posting a modest 10% HR/FB rate from his debut through his first five-plus seasons, he seemingly out of nowhere posted a career-best 19.1% HR/FB rate and 36 home runs in 2018 at 32 years old.

And then, that was it. A career .274 hitter with a .847 OPS through 2018, he then hit .203 with a .674 OPS through the next three seasons before the Cardinals declined his option for 2022.

But he felt like he still had something left. After a long talk with Joey Votto, he engaged in an off-season odyssey to re-discover how to hit a baseball. It involved engaging in a comprehensive analysis of his swing, something that he had previously eschewed; “I just never bought into (analytics) like I should have.” More or less he discovered that his decline wasn’t so much age-related but that his mechanics had just deteriorated.

While staring at his 1.137 OPS, 33% HR/FB rate, and mustache, I’m compelled to believe that his journey might have been enlightening. He also dropped his K rate from 30.9% to 22.7%, so there’s that too. And a 99th-percentile chase rate, proving he can still draw a walk with the best of them.

He’s not an everyday player at this point, with most projections having him playing about 100 games as the likely DH/1B against RHP. Although he did log 14 games in the OF last year so he could be eligible there depending on your platform. Anyway, he’s probably off the radar as far as drafts go. Which I suppose makes his inclusion here somewhat of a misnomer. But I must admit I’m fascinated with the story and the results. There could be something here for daily leagues, especially OBP leagues.


Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Ryan Amore

Writer for PL, artist, DFS enthusiast, and occasional Yankee fan. Once won a GPP with Henderson Alvarez. A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club. Appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

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