An overlooked yet important component of the Longball Derby game is the one point penalty for every strikeout. And since many home run hitters tend to whiff often, the challenge becomes to find the ones who make consistent contact. But that search will have to wait. For now, let’s take a look at the top-3 strikeout leaders from 2014. The 84 combined home runs were nice. The 559 strikeouts? Not so much.
Ryan Howard (190 strikeouts) – Considering that Howard was coming off two consecutive injury-ravaged seasons that saw him register a combined 25 home runs and 99 RBI, last year's 23 HR, 95 RBI campaign might seem like an encouraging bounce back season. But 2014 marked the second time in the last three years that Howard has batted below .225, and he continues to strike out at an alarming rate. Even in his prime, the Phillies first baseman was a high strikeout hitter, but back in those days, he was routinely launching 40-plus home runs, not 23. Despite the still useful power numbers, Howard simply isn’t worth the trouble, either in standard fantasy leagues or in Longball Derby.
Marlon Byrd (185 strikeouts) – The 37-year-old Byrd has enjoyed an impressive late-career renaissance, having set career highs in home runs in each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately, this power surge has been accompanied by a steady dose of punchouts (144 strikeouts in 2013). On the bright side, after signing with the Reds over the winter, Byrd will be playing his home games at homer-friendly Great American Ball Park. That said, the veteran outfielder will be a year older, and there’s just not enough of a track record here to suggest that he can keep this up.
Mike Trout (184 strikeouts) – Yes, even Mike Trout can find his way onto a negative leaderboard. Although Trout raised his home run total from 27 in 2013 to 36 last year, his strikeout total shot up from 136 to 184. Maybe this was a product of trying to swing for the fences too often? Regardless, the 184 strikeouts is the clear outlier when compared to his previous two full big league seasons, so I’m willing to give him a mulligan for this, especially since he significantly improved in the home run department. Heading into 2015, Trout is still the top overall player in fantasy. And it’s not even close.