Boom! We are four days away from Opening Day (yes, it’s capitalized as a holiday should be) of the 2021 MLB season! As the season draws near, the season of drafting our fantasy baseball teams is drawing to a close. After months of player evaluations, roster construction analysis, and finally drafting our teams, the real work begins. Tonight is the first of 27 weekly FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) periods that we will literally agonize over at times throughout the season.
Hopefully, depending on when your drafts took place, this first period will be fairly painless. Of course, the more recently you’ve drafted, the fewer things have changed and more things were known as you chose your initial teams. Hopefully!
As we make our way through the 2021 fantasy baseball season, this article will be released each Sunday afternoon to provide you with as up to date as possible suggestions — how to approach FAAB, how to plan ahead for FAAB, how to budget FAAB, and specific players that may be beneficial to your teams if acquired.
We’ll be looking at players that may be intriguing for multiple reasons — injuries to players on our rosters creating needs or to players on MLB teams creating opportunities, player performances that warrant the replacement of players already on our rosters, the number of games hitters are playing and the ballparks they’ll be played in, and everyone’s favorite — pitchers with nice matchups or even just tolerable matchups in two-start weeks. Oh, and saves guys. For those in roto or head-to-head category leagues, saves guys will always be on the radar.
So, let’s just dive right into some players that can help our teams as we head into the four-day scoring period that is week one.
As briefly alluded to above, team needs due to injury will depend greatly on when our drafts took place. It’s been a couple of weeks since we received the news that Carlos Carrasco will miss six to eight weeks with a hamstring injury. Those drafting on the two busiest draft weekends of the year were aware, but there are plenty of us scrambling a bit to replace a starting pitcher who was being drafted in the fourth or fifth round earlier this month.
Regardless of the reason, the starting pitcher I continue to come back to that is available in 97% of Yahoo leagues and even 80% of TGFBI leagues as a reference for 15-teamers is Randy Dobnak. Dobnak led all of MLB in 2020 with a GB% over 62% in 46 2/3 innings, but only struck out 13.5% of hitters he faced.
Yes, it is spring training, and yes I’m about to use just 14 spring training innings pitched as my justification for adding Dobnak to our teams if we need a starter… But! I am completely buying into the tweak he has made to his slider and the 18 K in those 14 IP over his past four outings since making the change.
The beauty is this shouldn’t cost us much if we buy in before seeing regular-season results. I’m planning on seeing those results with Dobnak on my fantasy rosters for just 1%-2% of my season’s FAAB.
The big blow to fantasy team managers earlier this week was the loss of outfielder Eloy Jimenez for a reported five to six months. We are not going to be able to replace his production with one player; however, in over 85% of 12-team Yahoo and ESPN leagues, we may be able to get a large chunk of that production by adding Justin Upton to our rosters. It’s not that I’m just buying into 35 spring training at-bats hitting .378 with four home runs and two stolen bases, but I am buying into that production in those 35 AB indicating he’s healthy.
I’m looking at 3%-6% for Upton here knowing it may not be enough, but my backup is also my guy in deeper leagues, Yoshi Tsutsugo (available in over 70% of TGFBI leagues). It may surprise some that Tsutsugo played in 51 of 60 games in 2020 and had 185 PA.
He won’t steal bases, and while he was a batting average drain in 2020, most projections have him improving to league average in that department. He may add first base eligibility to his already third base and outfield possibilities, and I really believe the projections systems have him playing far too few games. A bump to just 120 games played will get him to 20+ HR and over 60 R and RBI.
The overblown fear of lack of playing time for Tsutsugo will keep his FAAB price low. I’m looking at a minimum bid here, maybe a couple of dollars more in $1,000 FAAB leagues.
At this point in the fantasy season much of our need for relief pitchers, closers specifically, may be due to injuries and very well could have been included in the section above. However, this will be an ongoing focus each week. Opponents who didn’t lose the likes of Kirby Yates, Jose Leclerc, Jonathon Hernandez, or even Matt Barnes will be on the prowl for any and all save opportunities that may be available. And that’s what makes this difficult; FAAB prices will always be inflated for guys that are believed to be taking over ninth-inning opportunities.
The consensus seems to be that Jordan Romano will now get a bulk of the opportunities in Toronto. In fact, he’s already owned in 68% of Yahoo leagues and 100% of TGFBI leagues. The guy more likely to be available (89% of Yahoo leagues and 95% of TGFBI leagues) that may transition to the closer role at some point is Rafael Dolis.
Dolis spent five years in Japan after a couple of disappointing minor league seasons and returned to make his first MLB appearance in seven years for Toronto. He was impressive, with a 31% K% in 24 IP, but that was unfortunately accompanied by a 14% BB%. This is more of a speculative move, so we’re looking at a minimum bid here, a couple of bucks more in $1,000 FAAB leagues.
The Texas Rangers situation is a complete mess, so there may be a great opportunity here if I’m correct in really thinking that Ian Kennedy will be the first to be given a majority of the ninth inning chances.
Kennedy’s 2020 scares people, the Rangers aren’t believed to be a very good baseball team, and many don’t believe he’ll be the guy. However, he saved 30 games for the KC Royals in 2019 with 73 K in 63 1/3 IP, closers on bad teams can rack up a nice total of saves in the close games they do win, and the 2019 stint in KC gives him experience in the role. This is a job he could take and run with, so I’m willing to go up to 2.5% – 3% here for what could turn out to be a long-term role.
Adam Ottavino is the logical closer in Boston as Barnes will miss some time due to Covid-19. This is really only for 12-team and fewer leagues, as he’s 98% rostered in the 15-team TGFBI leagues. I’d take a shot in the close to 80% of Yahoo leagues he’s available, but I wouldn’t go overboard.
It looks as if the Red Sox prefer him as an all-round, late-inning, high leverage guy that they won’t necessarily save for the ninth inning. Otherwise, he would already have been slotted as the closer, so just 1%-2% for me with my backup minimum bid, and speculative play in deeper leagues if I have a spot, on Darwinzon Hernandez. I know, I know; he has an 18.2% BB% in 38 2/3 MLB innings, but he also has a 37.4% K% and 30.8% CSW in those innings, so IF…
I did not dive deep into as many specific players this week as we’ll take a look at most weeks throughout the season. This is because a large majority of leagues were drafted last weekend or later, so other than those affected by the injuries that have taken place, teams should mostly be in a good spot as we approach Opening Day. Even if we’ve lost a major contributor such as Eloy, I don’t recommend overspending before the season even beginning. Also, most teams play just three games in the first scoring period, so there’s not a lot to gain this first week.
I will add a couple of names here with just a small nugget of information. These types of players will be joined by others in favorable schedule sections for both hitters and pitchers as we get a couple of weeks into the season. Raimel Tapia is the probable leadoff hitter for a Colorado team that is one of the few playing four games in the opening scoring period, all at Coors. He’s available in 70% of Yahoo leagues.
The rostered percentages of this next guy are really causing me to question my sanity. How can I really be in on a guy that is currently 1% rostered in Yahoo leagues and was not drafted in a single TGFBI 15-team league!?
In leagues where I have the room, I will be placing a minimum bid on Brett Anderson tonight with the intent of starting him in the first full week of the season with projected starts at Wrigley and St Louis. Two pitcher-friendly parks this time of year for a guy that won’t strike many out, but in six of his final seven 2020 appearances he went at least five innings and racked up four wins.
Hopefully, this gives you an idea of what to expect throughout the season as we will really dig into churning our rosters, dropping the dead weight, and speculating two, three, even four weeks out. Adam Howe (@EightyGrade) and I will be discussing some of these names and others each week on the On the Wire podcast (@OnTheWirePod) on the still new PitcherList Podcast Network (@PitcherListPods), so check us out if you haven’t all ready. Happy first FAAB Sunday everyone!
Photos by Bryan Singer/Icon Sportswire, Eric Drost | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)
For what it’s worth, Dobnak is starting the season in the bullpen.
Hey, Mike! Thank you for checking out the article! Indeed, so I probably should not have referred to him as a starter. I am still optimistic about the possibility of more strikeouts, and I did add him in leagues where I hadn’t already had him rostered. His new contract over the weekend bodes well for what the Twins have planned for him going forward, so hopefully he’s in the rotation soon. Thank you again and good luck this season!