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This is the fourth piece in our series about fantasy players we feel PECOTA has underrated. Be sure to read the rules of this exercise in our first post before commenting!


Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Basically, take a high-contact hitter who also makes hard contact, add in Coors Field, and I think there's a chance for him to lead the league in average. It's not an ideal match, as I'd like to take a guy with high-end speed, who benefits from lots of infield hits (think Yasiel Puig), but I think the other external factors outweigh that one minus. —Craig Goldstein

Mookie Betts, Red Sox
This would be fun, right? Betts hit .355 with Double-A last year before moving to Triple-A where he only hit .335. He hit .291 with the Red Sox last year and has a .487 AVG in spring training this year. While I know spring stats aren’t worth much and I don’t really believe Betts will lead the league in AVG, it sure is fun to think about the possibility. He’s a very good hitter with good speed and not enough time at the big-league level to really know where his AVG baseline lies. There’s at least a chance that he goes crazy this year. —Nick Shlain

Adam Eaton, White Sox
It’s no secret that Eaton is one of my man crushes. He missed a handful of games a year ago, but still hit .300 and got on base at a .362 clip. His 4.8 percent swinging-strike rate ranked 13th in baseball. The power is unimpressive, but he uses the whole field and takes walks. Pitchers must respect him at the plate—at least, in terms of throwing strikes. Finally, a full year recovered from his elbow injury in 2013, I think Eaton will be recognized as one of the top leadoff hitters in the league. He’ll hit for average and steal 20-plus bases, and with a much-improved offense behind him, the 26-year-old should be a great source of runs. He’s an undervalued fantasy play; however, I don’t think that will be the case a year from now. —J.P. Breen

James Loney, Rays
As someone who adopted the Dodgers as his NL team just in time for the James Loney Experience I don't like writing this, but he's an oddly logical choice for a seemingly out-of-nowhere batting title. Over the past three seasons, his 27.2 percent line-drive rate is the third-best in baseball, and his combined 70.5 percent LD+GB rate is similarly elite. His BABIP has not been elite, however, as most of his groundballs have been to the pull side and into the teeth of frequent shifts. That's not going to stop, but he did show a better ability to stay up the middle on off-speed pitches last year. He also continues to post excellent contact rates and low strikeout numbers, and with a little BABIP luck (think .335 instead of his nominally above-average .308 mark over the past three seasons) he's more than capable of making a darkhorse run. —Wilson Karaman

Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox
Ramirez' career batting average is an even .300. He hit .345 in 2013, .283 last year and is entering his age-31 season in a hitter-friendly ballpark. So why does PECOTA project Boston’s new left fielder to hit just .275 in 2015? I don’t know, but I don’t agree. Sure, there might be a bit of an adjustment period for Ramirez as he heads back to the AL, but given the contextual factors in his favor, it’s a bit tough for me to believe that adjustment will cost Ramirez 25 points off his career average. Is he a great bet to repeat his 2013 mark? Of course not, especially since he benefited from a .363 BABIP. But I think he’s still got a good shot to hit .300-plus, and given that PECOTA’s batting champ, Miguel Cabrera, is only supposed to hit .317, that would but Hanley well within striking distance. —Ben Carsley

Ben Revere, Phillies
He was in contention for a batting title for most of the 2014 season, but Revere’s soft skill set has most people writing him off as a legitimate contender for a 2015 batting title. The Phillies poor team could work to Revere’s advantage; it’s likely that as the Phillies fall out of the race that Revere will simply get pitched to rather than pitched around. His BABIP was fairly neutral for a speed guy. Revere could pop up to a .330 BA with some BABIP luck, which any hitter who is going to win a batting title will need. —Mike Gianella

Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox
For starters, I picked Jose Altuve last year as my AVG darkhorse (as well as Dustin Pedroia, but who can even remember that far back); thus, I will probably pick the AL batting average champion again this year. This year, I am going with Sandoval. He is going from a home park with a terrible park factor for hits to one of the best. Add in the possibility that he might not feel the need to muscle up for homers as much in his new home, and this is looking more and more like a sure (read: 100 percent certainty) thing. —Jeff Quinton

Joey Votto, Reds
Although he is known more for being an on-base machine, Joey Votto has consistently been near the top of the batting average leaderboard as well. Prior to last year, he hit better than .300 for five consecutive seasons. That dropped all the way down to .255 in 2014, but it came in an injury-shortened year. His strikeout rate didn’t rise, and he continued to hit line drives at a ridiculous rate. Look for his BABIP to rise back towards his career mark of .355 as he heads towards another .320-plus season in 2015. —Matt Collins

Christian Yelich, Marlins
The young outfielder completed his first full year in the majors in his age-22 season and continued to impress, putting up a .284 AVG and .362 OBP last year. He looked overmatched at times against southpaws in his rookie season (.165/.245/.231) but showed vast improvement against lefties in 2014, posting a .317/.376/.444 line over 158 PA. He experienced a dip in production against right-handers, but hit eight of nine homers against them in 2014. I am going way over the PECOTA forecast of a .272 AVG for Yelich in 2015. Yelich owns one of the sweetest left-handed swings in the game right now, and a batting title could come as early as this season if he continues his success against LHP. —Keith Cromer

The projections on Yelich's hit tool from a scouting perspective make this a believable dark horse here, but if you're a stats guy, you're probably wondering why a hitter who needed a .356 BABIP just to hit .284 last year could possibly win a batting title. That said, Yelich has a few statistical things in his corner. He's a very low fly-ball-rate guy (16.7 percent for his career), and with his above-average speed, he could sustain a higher BABIP than you'd expect. And in fact, with .373 and .397 marks in his two full minor-league seasons, he kind of has. The step forward will need to be in that strikeout rate, but he has the approach, recognition and bat speed to reduce it into the 15 percent range as he gets more experience against major-league pitching. —Bret Sayre


Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
Alvarez struggled out of the gate last year, but slowly began to turn it around and put up a strong June (.299/.396/.483 slash line). However, a knee injury in July and foot injury in August ruined any shot of him defending his NL HR crown, as Alvarez started just 39 games from July 1st on. Prior to the injuries, Alvarez was putting up very similar lines to the previous two seasons, and his slugging percentage was climbing. After leading the league with 24 throwing errors from 3B last season, Alvarez is moving to first, with the Pirates hoping the shift can alleviate the possibility of his defensive struggles carrying over to his offense. PECOTA is projecting 22 bombs for Alvarez this year, but another 30-plus-homer season and HR title are not out of the question. —Keith Cromer

Oswaldo Arcia, Twins
The park doesn’t help, but Arcia’s raw power could certainly put him in contention for a home run title if he can get the average into even the .250 range. PECOTA pegs him for a .258 mark. While this seems a tad optimistic, it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Even if Arcia only hits .230, a home title could happen. A low batting average home run champion is not without precedent. Just ask Chris Carter, who missed tying last year’s AL champion Nelson Cruz by a mere three home runs. —Mike Gianella

Ryan Braun, Brewers
I pass some of the responsibility of this pick to collaboration and former fantasy baseball contributor Craig Goldstein as it was Craigory that pointed out to me that I was underrating Braun while we worked on our three-year outfielder rankings. “But PEDs” you ask? To that I answer, “ahh, but Nelson Cruz. And more importantly, Braun swatted (this is me quoting myself so I will use whatever clichés I want) 19 home runs last season while often being able to grip the bat through contact.” Additionally, Braun plays in a great park, the thumb seems to be back to full strength, and he is a really good hitter. —Jeff Quinton

Jay Bruce, Reds
Everyone knows that Bruce is coming off a down year, and some are understandably wary of drafting him for this season. I’m hoping the injuries played a big role in his relative power outage, as he was one of the premiere power bats in the game prior to 2014. The reports out of spring training haven’t been alarming, and he still plays in one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball. I’m expecting him to get back up to the 30-plus-home-run plateau with a chance of reaching 40. —Matt Collins

Corey Dickerson, Rockies
Dickerson has all the makings of a darkhorse home-run champion. His batted ball distance checked in 20th in the majors, and it supported a HR/PA mark last season that was good for 11th in the land. At home—Coors Field, that is—his HR/PA rate would've been good for fourth-best. He's a soon-to-be 26 year old power hitter, and he plays at Coors Field. Also, it's worth mentioning that he plays at Coors Field. Did I mention he hit .363/.415/.684 at Coors Field last year? That's his home park, incidentally. Coors Field. —Wilson Karaman

Prince Fielder, Rangers
Fielder is about to turn 31 and is coming off a season in which he missed 120 games with a serious neck injury, so this is hardly a safe pick. But if Fielder stays on the diamond and in the batters box in 2015, it’s hard not to like his upside in Texas. Fielder averaged 31 homers per season from 2010-2013, and while he was down at 25 in his last healthy season in 2013, his home park was the cavernous Comercia. PECOTA has Fielder hitting 22 dingers (bring it, Associated Press) this year, which isn’t totally unreasonable, but I think it sells Fielder’s abilities a bit short. Other than Jose Bautista, our favorite projection system doesn’t see anyone in the majors hitting 35-plus bombs this year. That’s a total Fielder can challenge. —Ben Carsley

Brandon Moss, Indians
Moss hit 21 home runs in the first half last year with Oakland before he really slowed down, finished with 25 home runs, and had offseason hip surgery. All the reports about his recovery so far inspire optimism and Moss even went yard in his first game action this spring. The move to Cleveland will also help Moss’ home-run total, as he now has a more homer-friendly home ballpark. —Nick Shlain

I don't think it's going out on a limb to say that a guy who posted a 30-homer season in Oakland could pull out a league-leading home run total in the much friendlier confines of Jacobs Field (yes, I'm still calling it that). Moss came out of the gates hot last season, before playing with a hip injury killed his power output. He's been healthy thus far, and while one viewing of a BP session won't tell you everything, his hip wasn't causing him any problems in my viewing. I suppose it's also worth noting I selected Nelson Cruz in this exercise last year, and that couldn't possibly have been luck. —Craig Goldstein

David Ortiz, Red Sox
Perhaps it’s strange to bank on a 39-year-old to lead the league in home runs, but David Ortiz isn’t a normal baseball player. His body is largely protected due to his position at DH and he’s still pounding out the homers. In fact, over the last two years, Ortiz has the third-highest ISO (.255) among qualified players and has continued to rank in the top 30 in average batted-ball distance. He’s accumulated 600+ plate appearances in five of the past six years. Ultimately, he has the sixth-most homers in Major League Baseball since 2013. Just because he’s ranked outside the top-10 players according to PECOTA, don’t overlook the perennial All-Star. Ortiz can still lead the league in homers. —J.P. Breen

Sure, the conventional wisdom is that he'll stop hitting at some point, but so many things about Ortiz defy conventional wisdom. His 35 homers in his age-38 season was the sixth-most of all time, and if he can pull off this feat, he'd likely become one of three players with a 40-homer season at 39 years old. Those other two hitters? Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Ortiz still flashes the quick bat, and visibly looks like his 2004 self out there–which is both frightening and should make us all hopeful that we can continue whatever useful skills we all have far greater than their supposed useful lives. —Bret Sayre

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Vote for Pedro! He's got a perfect swing for PNC Park and if the move to 1B helps him focus more on hitting, I can definitely see 35 homers.
That's what Pirates fans are hoping for, jfranco77. If he can stay healthy this year that HR total is certainly a possibility.
Nearly all national analysis of Rockies hitters is so lazy. They play more road games in pitchers parks than anyone in baseball, and if hitting at Coors is so different from hitting elsewhere as they also must have to make adjustments that no other hitters deal with.

On those rare occasions when O'Dowd didn't hold on to a player until he was absolutely finished that player usually wound up putting up fairly similar numbers elsewhere with smaller splits. (See Holliday, Fowler, Seth Smith, Juan Uribe etc.)
I'll give you a real darkhorse for HRs: Ike Davis
totally innocent question....for the batting average, other than the size of foul territory, why does park factor matters?
Outfielders do have.a tendency to play deeper at Coors which leads to more balls falling in front of them.
The opposite happens at some of the more humid pitchers parks.