Kyle Schwarber is the Most Misunderstood Value in Fantasy Drafts

Many are writing off one of the game's top power hitters in fantasy baseball for all the wrong reasons. Overlooking him is a big mistake.

Kyle Schwarber
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 03: Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates after hitting a solo homerun in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on October 03, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Consistency & Power exceed Hype & Average

Imagine a player who has career averages of 41 home runs and a near .500 slugging percentage, who is always near the top of the league in plate appearances each season.

Such a player should be one of the most sought-after targets when it comes to fantasy drafts each year, yet for this one polarizing player, many are split on exactly how valuable he truly is.

If you blindly guessed who had similar career numbers, taking a stab in the dark at guys like Matt Olson, Austin Riley, and Rafael Devers wouldn’t be far off. Take one look at Kyle Schwarber’s Statcast percentiles and no more shall you be surprised. His average exit velocity, barrel, and hard-hit percentages are all blood red.

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All three previously mentioned players have an average draft position inside the Top 20. Schwarber on the other hand has an ADP well outside the top 50 at No. 64. So why such a difference?

None of them steal, none are outfielders-in fact the positions they play are much deeper than the outfield position in general. So what am I missing? 

Oh I see, that average category. Yes indeed Schwarber’s typically low average is what fools so many people into not seeing the great value that he brings to your fantasy lineups year in and year out.

So let’s dive a little deeper on that subject, and why Schwarber can help you win your fantasy league this season.  

Where People Are Wrong About Schwarber

While many people hear his name and run for the hills, I want to address Schwarber’s main weakness first, in hopes that people realize the truth isn’t as bad as they may think.

He saw the second-most pitches (3068) out of every player in MLB last season. But he led the league in strikeouts! He chases too much! He won’t have outfield eligibility much longer!

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Relax and take a breath. If you look at what he does while up at the plate, you’ll see he actually swings out of the zone at a minimal rate. All of his misses come from swinging and missing IN the zone, much better news than a high chase rate.

He knows a good pitch when he sees it and even if he’s swinging and missing from within the zone, you can be sure he will keep running into homers at a consistent clip.

We should only be worried if his chase rate increases out of the zone, something that hasn’t happened so far in his career. It’s also vital to remember he just hit a career-low .197 and all xBA indicators point to him getting right back around his typical .230 norm.

These types of stats are typically seen in a DH who produces with his bat and nothing more.

Say what you will about Schwarber’s fielding but the fact that he is eligible as an outfielder helps tremendously, especially in leagues where fantasy managers are filling a roster with five of them. The position dries up quick. And when I say quick, I mean fast. 

Tell me, which outfielder are you choosing from ADP 50-70?

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In other words, once all of the elite hitters and pitchers have been taken who are you counting on for solid production? Some guys falling into this category include Cody Bellinger, Nolan Jones, Jazz Chisholm, Mike Trout and Bryan Reynolds. Yikes, can we trust anybody here?

Bellinger is the guy nobody trusts after sandwiching two awful seasons within two MVP-like performances. Jones still has a lot to prove with modest support from underlying numbers. I don’t like categorizing Jazz into the injury-prone group but at some point you have to submit.

Even when not injured, Chisholm’s career average is .245 compared to Schwarber’s .227. The only benefit I see in Jazz is his running, which could still go down if the Marlins don’t want to test his body. Jazz also comes with the attractive hype still surrounding him, often a trap time and time again for a guy who has shown us the same type of production year in and year out. 

I’d be crazy to say Mike Trout is a less talented pure hitter but can we see him playing a full 162?

He hasn’t been close to that mark since 2016. Plus he doesn’t run anymore, similar to Schwarber. As a matter of fact I don’t see any of these guys running to a point where they reach over 20 steals. Besides, steals are strong on the waiver wire in this day and age. 

Finally, Bryan Reynolds is the least deserving out of these guys to be drafted over the Schwarbomb. Reynolds rarely steals and a mediocre average is literally the only category where he has an obvious advantage. I often think people simply talking about him getting traded raises his ADP for some reason.

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This hype on the trade block has been going on since 2021 and hasn’t stopped since. Contrary to many in the fantasy community, he is one guy who I’ve valued less and less each year. It’s always a shock to see him going before many others. Schwarber is such a titan in every other statistic that it’s hard to justify taking a guy like Reynolds over him. 

It’s as if before last year, nobody bought Schwarber’s 2022 or any other year for that matter.

And now that we’ve seen 45+ home runs two years in a row, people are still not giving him credit where credit is due. He has roughly increased from overall pick 100 to pick 70 in the span of one year. That’s simply not enough as I myself have moved him up to an ADP around 40th overall, right around where Adolis Garcia is being drafted.

Those two guys are much more comparable than you may think, more so than any of the five outfielders previously mentioned who are grouped around Schwarber’s 2024 ADP.

Where Schwarber’s ADP Should Be

Last year Garcia put up 108 runs, 39 homers, and 107 RBI’s with an average lower than you’d expect at .245. That’s an eerily similar stat line to Schwarber. Along with his 47 home runs, Schwarber added 108 runs scored and 104 RBIs.

Even with the low average, Schwarber is the only consistent performer out of anyone in that pack whose performance is also backed up by the numbers. Going back to his rookie year in 2015, there is no year included in which you raise your eyebrow and wonder what happened.

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Consistency pays and over the six month span of a fantasy season, consistency wins championships.

There is a reason two of my first three picks in last year’s dynasty draft were Freddie Freeman and Marcus Semien, two guys aged 34 and 33. They are without fail consistent and ready to produce numbers. As you may have guessed my team is in the win-now stage, just as you are in every redraft league.

It seems as if the idea of trustworthy batters goes unnoticed and common sense is thrown out when so many are blindsided by upside.

So many of these great performers fly under the radar time and time again. While Freeman is talked about as the image of consistency and known as the guy you can count on, players like Semien and Schwarber fly under the radar when it comes to being in that same arena.

On top of the trust in consistency, there is one theme I’d like to illustrate. Schwarber is not misunderstood because he looks funny playing the field or has trouble with breaking balls. It’s because too many people are focusing on average.

Keep in mind this is one singular category which doesn’t contribute to three categories quite like hitting a home run does. The sentiment of players who hit for average only being available early in drafts is completely false.

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Guys like Masataka Yoshida and Steven Kwan are going around picks 140 and 180, respectively. If it makes you more comfortable choosing a guy like this to make up for a low average, by all means do it. I’m not stopping you, especially in points leagues where Schwarber’s strikeouts may hurt you more so than in a categories league. 

Think about it. How many times does one of your players hit a single with no outs, yet doesn’t score, much less get off first base?

Drafting home runs is the best way to control runs and RBI’s. Many people claim counting stats can’t be controlled but how can anyone say that when the home run exists?

Sure strong lineups can help with counting stats but the only sure way to be confident in such categories is the all mighty dinger.

Yoshida nearly played a full season last year. He’s a contact-first hitter, who will occasionally lay into a ball, of which he did only 15 times last season over 140 games. Even though Boston finished in the top half of the league when it came to run differential, Yoshida only produced 71 runs and 72 RBI’s.

He’s a victim of little power, which led to very little counting stats even in a lineup which provided ample opportunity. If he had the ability to hit just 10 more over the fence, his values would’ve been around 80 runs, 25 homers, and 90 RBI’s. Now that line seems much more acceptable to me.

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If you would like to talk about sturdy lineups or a healthy supporting cast, Schwarber is in fantastic shape while acting as the league’s oddest leadoff hitter.

Batting Leadoff is Oddly Perfect for Schwarber

Batting first followed by Trea Turner and Bryce Harper is an interesting, yet perfect, spot for him. Though most leagues do not count OBP as a stat, I’ve found it beneficial to pay attention to the stat even in AVG leagues.

Yes he strikes out with the best of them but that negative is a much easier price to pay if we look deeper at his patience. He shows both fine selection and a magnificent eye, giving Turner and Harper opportunities.

The Phillies would not put him at leadoff if they did not feel confident in his skill to get on base.

Just like pitches seen last year, he was also second in the league in walks. Seven more and he would’ve beat out the almighty OBP machine Juan Soto.

This led to Philadelphia posting a +111 run differential, good for 8th in the league. The seven teams in front of them? All postseason squads. So for all those claiming Schwarber should be taken out of the one hole, you may want to rethink. He not only produces but excels in the leadoff setting.

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One thing is for sure when it comes to Kyle Schwarber. He will get plenty of opportunity. And with opportunity comes production. It’s no surprise finding out he was third in the league when it came to plate appearances in 2023.

He received 130 more chances at the plate than Christian Yelich in 2023. Yelich typically bats leadoff for the Brew Crew! Boy do I love turning simple chance into solid production.

It’s been heard that Johan Rojas may take Schwarber off his feet and thrust him into the DH slot. I can’t see this impacting his outfield eligibility too much in the future knowing Schwarber will be used in the outfield way more than just 10 times each season.

In fact, a split between playing the field and resting his legs now and then would be fantastic. It’s been noted by Phillies manager Rob Thomson that this split of time may just be the best option moving forward. With the recent departure of Rhys Hoskins it’s very possible Schwarber even gets some reps at first base when Harper wants to get off of his feet, hello extra eligibility!

Then comes the question of WAR. This doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning within the fantasy landscape, I just thought it was another useful method of showing how he is overlooked.

Schwarber produced a 1.4 fWAR in 2023, while previously mentioned Bryan Reynolds put up 2.3.

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Does Schwarber’s fielding really account for that much of a difference? Is this why the stigma around him is often negative? I’ll tell you one thing, I’d much rather have 108 runs, 47 homers, and 104 RBI’s with a lower average, than 85 runs, 24 homers, and 84 RBI’s.

It seems as if Schwarber’s weak defensive metrics are impacting the overall belief in his output at the plate. Even though people understand WAR also accounts for defensive data, I believe the psychology of seeing 0.6 next to Schwarber’s name makes fantasy managers frightened.

This is astounding news for fantasy managers who realize his true value. As a result we can execute on his draft day price by cashing in on a discount which shouldn’t exist in my eyes.

Additionally a hitter like Schwarbs (Rare-Essentially Bigfoot) usually presents a massive pull rate. But if you look at his spray chart it’s surprisingly balanced while many of his homers even land in left-center field, something I always love seeing out of hitters.

It tells me they aren’t pressing, rather just accepting the pitch given to them. Take what the defense gives you! Just watching him hit gives me confidence in his ability and the common sense part of my brain totally buys in to his process. 

One unique and fun stat I found came back in the 2022 season. How did this guy steal 10 bags without the new rules being integrated yet?

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He showed none of that ability last season, which is surprising given the change. I’m still holding out hope he taps back into that sneaky sense of grabbing a bag here or there. Steals, especially in today’s environment, are kind of like rebounding in basketball.

If you study the game, pitcher tendencies, and put in the right amount of effort you’ll end up with 10-15 even if you have average sprint speed. Freddie Freeman would never light up the competition in a 100-meter dash, yet he just thieved 23 bags. By no means am I saying this will become a part of Schwarber’s regular toolbox but hope is an important thing in life. 

Even after these last two seasons, an overall trustworthy profile and consistent career, Schwarber’s market price is far too cheap.

Fine by me, I’ll be buying wherever I can. It goes without saying that you will always see more power hitters in my lineup rather than the Luis Arraez’s of the world. There is nothing wrong with true base-hit guys like Arraez, I just prefer touching four bags over standing at one. 

Many people would argue that a balance is needed. And to that I say nonsense!

Better yet, how about a percentage split? For example if you need to fill five positions in your outfield, I’d prefer 80% of them have 25+ homer potential. The other 20% can be designated to a steals guy who hits for quality average.

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To which you may say that’s not really a healthy split-it’s not and that’s the beauty of it. If my ship sinks, it won’t be because I was outperformed in one singular category most weeks.

No, I prefer another strategy. I’m going to make you beat all of my combined sluggers. Try to catch up with my counting stats with all of these home runs. And if you do catch me, then and only then is when I will proudly fall.

Everyone has a significant strategy when it comes to constructing your lineups come springtime. Whether you take my advice or not, let me provide a quick ending to the dynasty league story referenced earlier.

For background, it’s a head-to-head most categories league. When looking back at the data for season totals, it occurred to me that I had finished 9th out of 10 teams in the average category. My finish in the league? Let’s just say my first place trophy doesn’t care too much about that one singular category.