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We've all heard about the home runs. A total of 6,105 balls left the yard in 2017 - or avoided outfielders sufficiently for an inside-the-park home run. The previous record of 5,693 home runs was set in 2000 during the peak of the steroid era. This time, juiced balls and mechanical changes seem to be driving the spike. Hitters have also adjusted to the league-wide increase in fastball velocity.

What does this mean for fantasy and dynasty owners? When once we talked about a 15-homer guy with decent accompanying stats - think Josh Reddick - as a core performer, we're now forced to seek more power. Anything less than 20 home runs per active roster spot isn't competitive.

In fact, I took a peek under the hood in four of my leagues and found the following: competitive teams averaged 24 home runs per active slot. A couple of those were two-catcher formats and one was a deep 20-team dynasty. To roster Reddick's 13 home runs and healthy .314 batting average, you need to offset him with a 33-HR slugger. Can we go about doing this as easily as it sounds?

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Prioritizing Power

Luckily it's never been easier to find affordable power. In all but the deepest dynasties, players like Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Scott Schebler, Lucas Duda, and Mark Reynolds were free or nearly free. The list goes on if you relax the constraints to "cheap to acquire." In shallower leagues, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and Cody Bellinger supplied 39 or more home runs at a modest cost. More likely than not, new surprises will emerge in 2018. Even Scooter friggin' Gennett hit 27 home runs in only 497 plate appearances.

The power influx, especially from unanticipated sources, has major strategic implications for dynasty owners. It's more important than ever to churn the waiver wire. Even in my deepest league where we roster 900 players, prospects, and amateurs overall, guys like Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong, and Chris Taylor spent time on waivers. Finding these players will not only increase your competitive advantage in 2018, you can often convert them into long term assets. Whether your contending or rebuilding, plan to scour your free and cheap options.

A total of 117 players hit at least 20 home runs with another 70 or so showing the potential to reach that threshold. That's not including prospects set to graduate to the majors. Some of those players will fall under the 20-homer plateau. Others will exceed it. If I had to bet, I'd put money on more than 117 players reaching 20 home runs this coming season. If the World Series is any indication, the rate of balls leaving the yard won't slow down any time soon.

Since power is plentiful, it's never been harder to win the category. In the recent past, an owner could draft Giancarlo Stanton and Nelson Cruz in the early rounds then focus on other categories. While a Stanton and Cruz pair will help you to post a healthy homer total, they're now only a moderate disabled list stint away from looking an awful lot like a waiver wire guy. The real danger is with no-power hitters like DJ LeMahieu or Joe Mauer. You may find yourself tempted by their over-.300 batting average, but it's difficult to overcome a roster spot supplying under 10 home runs. This is less of an issue with counting stats like stolen bases, although it is still an important consideration.

Ultimately, the key to victory is vigilance. That was true before the home run spike, and it's especially true now. Make sure you're getting home runs from all of your roster spots. Try to upgrade those that project to supply 15 or fewer. If you happen to be using a no-power option like Billy Hamilton to stay competitive in another category, make sure you can offset the pain with a Khris Davis type. Even if you're rebuilding, make sure you stick your hand in the waiver wire lottery. You never know when you'll find a free core performer. They'll be out there.

 

More 2018 Dynasty Baseball Strategy

 

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