As fantasy baseball continues to evolve an increasing number of leagues are ditching some of the traditional 5 x 5 categories used to measure a player’s performance and replacing them with alternate stats that some fantasy players feel are a better indicator of a player’s overall production. For instance, there is a growing number of fantasy leagues that have replaced the batting average category with on-base percentage (OBP). The Tout Wars leagues, made up of some of the world’s best fantasy baseball industry experts, no longer feature batting average as an offensive category and have replaced it with OBP.
For the 2021 season, the MLB league average OBP was .317 and the average BA was .244. That’s a difference of .073. The following is a breakdown of seven players whose fantasy value is especially higher in OBP leagues as compared to leagues that use batting average as an offensive category.
Joey Gallo is one of only five hitters that Steamer Projections predicts will hit at least 40 home runs this season. However, with Gallo’s great power comes a career .206 batting average (BA) across seven big league seasons. Using him in a league that tracks BA as a category means that you’ll likely have to load up the rest of your fantasy lineup with several high average hitters in order offset Gallo’s own putrid BA. He recently created a LinkedIn profile that amusingly listed his skills as “striking out,” “hitting into the shift,” and “getting dressed weird.” He also should have mentioned his career 15% walk rate and knack for getting on base. Gallo batted .199 in 616 plate appearances last season but posted an above average .351 OBP. That’s a difference of .152 points. His power and above average defense will keep his bat in the lineup, but think twice before rostering Gallo in a league that still uses BA as a category.
A core injury that eventually required surgery ended Rhys Hoskins’ 2021 season prematurely, but he still managed to hit 27 home runs in just 107 games. He has always possessed elite power as demonstrated by last season’s career best hard hit (46.3) and barrel rates (17.0). However, his .190 career batting average against (BAA) breaking balls has contributed to a lackluster .241 career batting average. He was slightly more aggressive at the plate last season and while he posted the lowest OBP of his career (.334), it was still .087 points higher than his BA and .017 points higher than the league average. Hoskins’ 10.6 walk rate was also still well above the league average.
There’s no denying Jorge Soler’s power. He hit 48 home runs in 2019 and has a 30 home run average per 162 games in his career. Unfortunately, his batting average has taken a nosedive recently. Through the 2019 season, Soler compiled a .255 career batting average, but since the beginning of the 2020 season he’s batting just .224 with a .185 BAA breaking balls and off-speed stuff. Despite his BA woes, Soler’s walk rate has remained consistent. He has posted an 11.1% walk rate over the past two seasons along with a .319 OBP, which is .095 points higher than his BA for that period. Soler has a career .331 OBP.
Kyle Schwarber’s OBP skills are so good that the Cubs experimented with using the lefty slugger as their leadoff hitter back in 2019. Schwarber is a free swinger with an above average career strikeout rate and yet he possesses enough plate discipline to consistently post double digit walk rates. Just about every projection model has him hitting more than 30 home runs this season and while most agree that he won’t hit too much higher than his below average .237 career BA, they all project that his OBP will be at least .344 this season.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Christian Yelich was considered one of the premier hitters in baseball, but injuries to his back seemed to have sapped him of much of his power over the past two seasons. Most projection models still have Yelich hitting 20 or more home runs this season while also stealing double-digit bases. Unfortunately, those same projection models predict that the career .292 hitter’s 2022 batting average will be between the high .250’s to the mid .270’s range. The one thing that the projection models do agree upon is that Yelich will continue to get on base at an above-average clip. Even though his batting average and power numbers have declined over the past two seasons, Yelich has still managed to maintain a 16.1% walk rate and .360 OBP. Steamer predicts that Yelich will hit 26 home runs and steal 13 bases, and while they project that he’ll bat a pedestrian .257, they anticipate that his OBP will be a well above average .369.
Based on Josh Donaldson’s recent injury history if you plan to roster him on your fantasy baseball team, you should proceed with caution and have a backup plan. Many projection models agree that the veteran slugger will play less than 140 games, but they also agree that he will hit close to 30 home runs. His batting average has taken a hit over the past few seasons. From 2010 to 2017, Donaldson batted .277. In the four seasons since then, Donaldson has batted a manageable but more modest .250. Despite his decline in batting average his OBP has remained consistently above average. From 2010 to 2017, Donaldson’s OBP was .368. It has remained virtually unchanged at .365 since the beginning of the 2018 season.
Injuries limited Brandon Nimmo to just 92 games last season, but he posted a very good batting average (.292) and an outstanding OBP (.401). With 162 game averages of a .266 BA, 17 home runs, and seven stolen bases for his career, Nimmo’s will likely be a fixture in fantasy leagues in which you start five outfielders. However, his fantasy value skyrockets in OBP leagues. He’s had an OBP of over .400 in three of his last four seasons and has a career .393 OBP.
Fantasy Baseball 2022
- Draft Guide: Catchers: Values Boosted by Universal DH
- Draft Guide: Shortstop: Sleepers to Target
- Draft Guide: Third Basemen: Sleepers to Target
- Draft Guide: Second Basemen: Sleepers to Target
- Draft Guide: First Basemen: Sleepers to Target
- Draft Guide: Front Office Insights on all MLB Teams