Hunter Pence is a key cog for the San Francisco Giants and has been one of their key offensive pillars since he came to the club in 2012. But, after a lost season due to injury in 2015, are fantasy owners undervaluing him this season?
Hunter Pence is one of the most interesting characters in MLB, but sometimes his unconventional style of play overshadows just how good he actually his. It may come as a surprise to some, but last season was the first time he posted less than 15 HR and played in less than 108 games over his entire nine year career. He has been been one of the most consistent fantasy producers over his entire career, but why aren’t fantasy owners showing him more love?
The only reason his value is even up for discussion, is because of the Achilles injury he suffered early this spring and the potential residual effects. Achilles tendinitis is without a doubt a tough issue to fully recover from, and we saw early this spring that it could creep up at any time.
The Achilles has scared plenty of owners off, plus recency bias has catapulted flashier options over him in the rankings as well. But, astute owners need to take advantage of the fantasy community being down on him. His consistency, improved supporting class and durability, have all sings pointing to Pence posting his best season yet as a Giant.
Prior to 2015, he played in back to back 162 game seasons and averaged a, .280/24 HR/87 RBI/17 SB/.800 OPS, line over that span. AT & T Park does him no favors power wise, but he is a career .295 hitter at his home ballpark. Twenty HR are clearly in play and it is more than likely going to creep closer to the 25+ mark when all is said and done.
His speed numbers are a wildcard due to his Achilles issue, so fantasy owners should not expect 20 SB, but 10-15 SB are more realistic. One of the biggest boosts to his value this season is simply that, the Giants lineup is flat out better. The addition of Denard Span, the emergence of Joe Panik, Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford and the always steady Buster Posey, have Pence’s RBI opportunities through the roof.
He should also be followed in the lineup by the likes of Brandon Belt or Angel Pagan as well, so it is easy to see why his counting stats are going to receive a nice increase in 2016. Pence does not walk much, he has never drawn more than 58 BB in a season, so his AVG will more than likely not get back into the .300 range. But thanks to his ability to somehow do whatever it takes to make contact, anything from a .270-.285 AVG is on the table, and that is pure fantasy gold.
After missing the first week of the spring, Pence has been on a tear since. His spring line, .500 AVG/6 HR/11 RBI/1.711 OPS, is encouraging with the injury questions. All in all, it should be more of the same with Pence this season and that puts him squarely in OF2 status. However, his current ADP is right around 95th and he is being taken as the 29th OF.
Fantasy owners need to target him over the likes of players such as Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jason Heyward, who are being taken over him. Pence is an outstanding OF3, and a quality OF2, so his value should not he lost of fantasy owners after one lost season. Make it a point to value him correctly and draft him aggressively this season.