Adam Dunn: Don’t Pass Up On the Power

It’s time again to take a peek at Zach Sanders Outfielders End of Season Rankings and continue our exploration of fantasy value. If you scroll all the way down to number 37, a ranking that, personally, I feel is a little low, you’ll find White Sox designated hitter and both the Sporting News’ and MLBPA’s AL Comeback Player of the Year, Adam Dunn. Technically, he is no longer eligible in the outfield as he only played first base (52 games) and DH (93 games), but because he qualified there in 2012, we have him listed as such.

Now before we continue, let’s just get this out of the way — if you’re the type of owner who gets totally hung up on batting average or if your league penalizes for strikeouts, then you’ll probably want to pass on this article altogether. The strikeouts, I can understand your hesitancy, but if you refuse to draft Dunn because of his batting average, we’ll just have to agree to disagree because given his overall production in the counting stats, a low batting average, in my opinion, can be very easily worked around.

I’ve always been a big fan of Dunn and have owned him for nine of his 12 professional seasons in my primary league, one that uses the standard five roto categories for hitters and does not penalize for strikeouts. Given his level of power production, despite his batting average, he has been a no-brainer choice for me, whether you are using him in the outfield or at first base. From 2004 through 2012, Dunn has hit the second most home runs (334) in in the majors and he ranks 13th in runs scored (780), and 11th in RBI (847) all the while providing a .368 OBP in that span. And what makes it even better is that those who fear the batting average help keep his ADP down to a level that he’s always a bargain. Always.

Let’s face it. There are very few 40-home runs hitters left in baseball and for those that are present, the price tag is high. In fact, of the six players who smacked 40 or more dingers in 2012, only Edwin Encarnacion provided a legitimate value based on where he was drafted in most leagues. Dunn’s ADP, according to Yahoo and Mock Draft Central, ranged between 234 and 247. The other four all went within the first three rounds of nearly every draft. Now sure, last year, he was coming off the worst season of his, or anyone else’s who isn’t considered a light-hitting middle infielder, career, but even before the nightmare of 2011, Dunn’s ADP was much lower in comparison to anyone else who exhibited his level of power.

Now obviously, there’s no guarantee that Dunn won’t ever repeat the disaster that was 2011, but I’m hard-pressed to find any evidence that he will. Yes, his strikeout rate is atrocious, but he did drop it from 2011 and if you look at his monthly splits, you’ll see that as he was cruising during July and August, the strikeouts were dropping. He spiked back up during the final month of the season, but I take that more as him pressing to ensure a 40-home run season than just simple failure. Go into his plate discipline numbers and you’ll see that he was not only swinging at fewer pitches, but he was being much more selective, swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone. Even his SwStr% dropped for the second consecutive season, and while 12.1-percent is still high, it’s better than where it was two years ago.

With the nightmare of the 2011 season a distant memory and the anxiety of producing a comeback year gone, Dunn is back to his old self and should produce at levels we’ve grown to appreciate. He’ll likely go a little higher in drafts in 2013, but the hordes of panicky batting average freaks will still help keep his ADP at a place where his 40 HR and his 95-plus RBI will remain a huge bargain.



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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

7 Responses to “Adam Dunn: Don’t Pass Up On the Power”

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  1. TheOneWhoKnocks says:

    “Technically, he is no longer eligible in the outfield as he only played first base (52 games) and DH (93 games), but because he qualified there in 2012, we have him listed as such.”
    He started 5 games in LF in 2012, which qualifies him as an OF in some leagues(Ottoneu for one)

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  2. R M says:

    His HR/FB was 29% last year, and he only had 16 doubles. Doesn’t this seem kind of unsustainable? It would be good to know what his average flyball distance was compared to the rest of his career (I looked but couldn’t find it.)

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    • johnnycuff` says:

      to go with the crazy HR/FB, his FB% has been falling over the last 3 years, which is always a clear sign of decline in a power hitter. fewer FBs and fewer of those FBs going over the fence means his HR total is going to drop. even bill james only has him hitting 33 HRs next year, so howard’s rose-colored glasses are bordering on sanguine.

      i’m not staying away because of his AVG, i’m staying away because on top of that he’s going to underperform his draft position in the category he’s supposedly best at.

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      • Train says:

        from 03 to 05 Dunn’s fb rate declined for 3 straight years. In 6 out of the next 7 years he hit at least 38 home runs. I think the statement that 3 straight years of fb ratio decline is always a sign of a power hitter in decline is an overstatement…

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  3. Howard Bender says:

    It’s not so much that I’m looking at Dunn through rose-colored glasses, it’s that I believe there is more to it with him than just straight-up looking at the numbers. I think his struggles between ’08 and ’11 had more to do with a guy who had issues with being dealt around and living up to big contracts that culminated in his nightmarish 2011. Prior to last season, I wrote this up on him — Last season, to me, was more him getting his swing back. I think he’s settled, mentally, now and should resume his power-hitting ways. That’s my two-cents. Take it or leave it.

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    • kellemonster says:

      It’s fine that this is your opinion, but you still didn’t address the glaring issue with Dunn.

      This isn’t a case of a bad season followed by a return to his history type of production. He did not return to his previous power hitting ways, he forged a new way of power hitting.

      One that saw him with 3% less FB than normal, and an increase of 7% in his HB/FB ratio.

      If done replicates exactly the number of FBs next year as this year, that’s 140. At a 29% HR/FB ratio it’s 41 HR. At a 21% HR/FB ratio (more in line with his recent numbers) that is 29 HR.

      41 HR and a .220 average is palatable. 29 HR and a .220 average is garbage.

      There is serious risk in Dunn. Now, could he hit 41 HR again? Yes. So if you can get his cheap it’s worth the risk. If you’ve got two or three guys in your league eying him (especially in an auction league) there’s probably not a lot of profit to be had given the risk.

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    • Jon L. says:

      I don’t see what struggles you’re referring to between 2008 and 2011. From 2008 to 2010, he was a superior slugger, and very much in line with his career numbers to that date. His walk rate slipped in 2010, but 9 more extra-base hits preserved his value. In 2011, he fell off the map. In 2012, his home run and walk rates rebounded, but his batting average was so poor (in an extraordinary park for hitters) that it was still probably the 2nd-worst offensive season of his career.

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