Waiver Watcher: Week 1

Learning from the past to make smart moves in the future

The young 2021 season is officially under way. You know how I know? It’s less about actually seeing games on TV and more about seeing the overreaching payouts on the Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) results boards. Ok, that’s a little hyperbole, but it’s the driving force behind this article series.

Moving forward I’ll be looking over weekly trends in waiver pick ups and FAAB spends across a series of leagues, with a focus on  National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) 15- and 12-team leagues, including the Main Event (ME), Online Championship (OC), and The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI). If you don’t play in these leagues, don’t worry, there’s useful info coming your way here as well. The trends from these leagues give all fantasy managers insight into the value being put on both long term and short term production, while bringing light to some of the tough decisions that have to be made to get the most out of your roster, whether it be a 40-man roster or 20-man roster.

To put things in perspective, all NFBC rosters have 30 spots with no Injured List (IL) spots, so in a 12-team league like the OC or Online Championship Qualifiers (OCQ), the “best” 360 players are rostered at any given time while in a 15 team league like the ME or TGFBI you could assume the “best” 450 players are rostered, making scraping the free agent barrel a bit more difficult. Of course I put the word best in quotations, as the players rostered will fluctuate based on not only the managers that play in the league and their own evaluations, but also the roster construction and needs of the teams involved. With no spots to stash injured players, NFBC leagues force managers to make tough decisions when it comes to when to cut players not performing and how long to stash both prospects and injured players, giving everyone else watching an eye into the potential production of players on the edge of your watch list. You don’t have to play in an NFBC league to make use of the information provided from those who do.

Ok, not that formalities are out of the way let’s get to work pointing out some of the most interesting trends, pick ups, and drops I noticed in the first two FAAB periods, which concluded on March 28 and April 4 respectively. Since all 29 leagues involved in TGFBI concluded before the first FAAB period, I’ll focus on that league for now.

 

No Relief In Sight

The closer carousel operator was not wasting any time starting the worst ride at the fair. With 24 different relievers being picked up across the 29 TGFBI league in the first FAAB period and another 26 in the second period, it’s fair to say there were plenty of managers who either tanked saves in their drafts or felt nervous after losing their foundation for the category to injury (Kirby Yates and Trevor Rosenthal come to mind).

Nick Wittgren, CLE
Wittgren was the third most dropped player in TGFBI during this most recent FAAB period, being sent out to pasture by 12 of the 29 leagues. Yes, he didn’t fair well in his first appearance, but through the team’s first first four games no one has even been put into a save opportunity yet. James Karinchak has had two mop up duty-type outings while Emmanuel Clase did have a scoreless ninth inning appearance with Cleveland up by four runs. I think Wittgren is worth a second look in leagues where he was let go prematurely.

Julian Merryweather, TOR
High man up in TGFBI bidding, going for as high as $591, Merryweather was picked up in all but two TGFBI leagues (one of which he was already rostered via the draft). Fifteen of those 27 pickups crossed the $200 mark. If this is a true committee, there is little chance he will earn that high price tag across the whole season.

Tanner Scott/César Valdez, BAL
The Baltimore bullpen cost TGFBI teams a good chunk of change across the fiorst two FAAB periods. Who saw that coming? Scott took home high bid honors with a max winning bid of $400, which perhaps drove the price up on Merryweather the week after. Valdez, who was undrafted (obviously) across all 29 drafts, was picked up in all but 1 league, while Scott was mostly held. This is not a situation I’d recommend diving into, regardless of your bullpen situation.

Jake Diekman
Picked up in 13 leagues and is now rostered in all but two across TGFBI, even with his less than stellar outing prior to the April 4 FAAB period. Though the A’s have yet to win a game this season, never mind have a save opportunity, there’s still faith that Diekman will be the one called upon when the opportunity arises. I tend to agree with that camp.

 

The Replacements

Jay Bruce, NYY
A lefty hitting in Yankee Stadium. Sign me up! What’s the catch? Oh. It’s Jay Bruce. I see. Still, with Bruce being the primary fill in for Luke Voit at first base for the Yankees he provided a bit of appeal, especially for fantasy managers who may have just lost Eloy Jiménez. Everyone knew this was a temporary gig for Bruce anyway, but with Rougned Odor being traded to New York Bruce may see his time cut sooner than expected.

Cedric Mullins, BAL
After being picked up by 13 teams in TGFBI across the two FAAB periods, Mullins is now rostered in all but one league. With his hot start Mullins may be paying off more than any other FAAB acquisition and with a max winning bid of less than $100, the return on investment may have already arrived for a few savvy bidders. Leading off most days, Mullins seems to have a strong hold on the centerfield job in Baltimore and should be a solid contributor across categories, with extra emphasis on the base paths, making him a nice replacement for those who were pushing Oscar Mercado up their draft boards hoping he would take back the centerfield job in Cleveland (Spoiler warning: he did not).

Kevin Newman, PIT
Newman was a popular value addition across TGFBI leagues, being added by 17 teams across the two FAAB periods. There’s something to be said about consistency and dependability, especially early on in the season when injuries run amuck. Newman provides depth on most rosters, being plugged in when the Pirates have a full week of games and favorable pitching match ups. He fills the holes left by Nick Ahmed and Nico Hoerner for many fantasy managers.

Evan Longoria, SF
Drafted in 7 of the 29 TGFBI leagues, Longoria was feared to be platooned in San Francisco. That has been disproven in the early going and he is mashing. After being picked up with some modest bids in 15 leagues, Longoria is still available in 7 leagues and it will be interesting to see who drives up the price the third time around, especially if anyone is still hurting from losing Josh Donaldson in their corner spot.

Marwin González, BOS
The beauty of Marwin is he replaces anyone, almost anywhere. As he’s finding ways to play every day with the Red Sox, he’s become a popular cheap grab in the first two FAAB periods, being picked up in 7 TGFBI leagues. Marwin isn’t a sexy option, and may ride the bench more weeks than not, but the simple fact that he can replace anyone for a short period of time does allow those who use a roster spot on him to be a bit more flexible with their FAAB bids moving forward – not feeling forced to overbid on other positional replacements and perhaps allowing his teams to roster extra pitching depth as well.

Just Happy To Be Here

Yermín Mercedes, CWS
What else can be said about the man like no other. Winning bids were all over the place in TGFBI, where he was picked up in 26 of the 28 leagues where he was available after his 8 for 8 start to the season. Yes, that means someone actually drafted the UT-only phenom. Good on them. Now if Mercedes can just back his way into 10 games behind the plate that might be the cherry we’re all hoping for.

Jonathan India, CIN
The former 5th overall draft selection made the Cincinnati opening day roster as their new starter at the keystone, providing future roster flexibility to those who drafted Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suárez. India went undrafted across the 29 leagues of TGFBI, but is now 100% rostered after being picked up in all leagues across the first two FAAB periods. If the Eugenio Suárez: Starting Shortstop experience doesn’t work out, India may be the one that is hurt the most if pieces have to move around. India himself has experience at short, but one would wonder why he wasn’t moved there over Suarez to begin with.

Taylor Trammell, SEA
Trammell finds himself hitting in the heart of the Seattle batting order just about every day after making the opening day roster. There’s a lot of questions as to how long that may last once the expected call up of Jared Kelenic and the return of Kyle Lewis loom large. Even for a short fix, especially for possible stolen bases, Trammell was a popular addition to TGFBI rosters in the first two weeks, being added to 19 rosters with a max bid of $200.

Kyle Isbel, KC
Like India, Isbel went undrafted across TGFBI but is now fully rostered across the 29 leagues and for good reason. After winning the right field job in Kansas City, Isbel has only missed one game in the young season and collected five hits across those four games to go along with a stolen base. He offers a welcome speed addition to most rosters that were able to pry him off the wire in the early going.

Akil Baddoo, DET
Quietly making his way onto fantasy rosters, Baddoo has forced himself into the bottom of the line up in Detroit in the early going as well, aided by his strong start to the season. He has yet to start a game against a left-handed starter and Baddoo does have a history of striking out his fair share as he put up a 24% K rate at A ball in 2018, rising to just shy of 30% in 2019 at high A while in the Minnesota system.

Josh Rojas, ARI
With the injury to Nick Ahmed in Arizona, Rojas may enjoy even more consistent playing time than he has started off with. He’s led off in 3 of the 4 games he’s played for the Diamondbacks, but his bat will have to pick up if he wants to stay up there. Drafted in most TGFBI leagues, Rojas is now rostered across the board after being picked up in the first FAAB period with a max bid of $301. If he holds on to the lead off spot he could be worth that payout amount.

Jazz Chisholm, MIA
The centerpiece of the Zac Gallen trade has made Miami’s opening day roster. After being picked up in the first FAAB period in the 13 leagues that didn’t draft him in TGFBI, Jazz is 100% rostered there but still sits on wires in 12 teamers. Like Baddoo, Chisholm comes with some swing and miss in his profile, but Miami has committed to their infield centerpiece and should get plenty of run. If he’s still out there in your league you’d be well off to pick him up.

Logan Allen, CLE
Allen won a rotation spot in Cleveland to start the season and was promptly, yet quietly, picked up across 24 leagues of TGFBI with the 12 early bidders getting the better deal as his max bid in the first period failed to surpass $55, while the second period saw 12 more leagues pick him up with a max of $101. Cleveland has a history of casting pitching voodoo with young pitchers and Allen has the pedigree to work with.

 

Short Term Solutions

Jake Arrieta, CHC
Opening the season with two straight starts against Pittsburg, especially when they’ll be without Ke’Bryan Hayes in the second visit, with make anyone, including Jake Arrieta, appealing off the wire. Across the first two FAAB periods Arrieta was picked up by 19 teams and only maxed out at $55. Well worth the investment for a spot starter. As Arrieta is expected to face the Brewers, Mets and Braves to round of the month, he may end up on the most dropped list in the coming weeks.

Matt Shoemaker, MIN
A nice fill in, Shoemaker joined 11 TGFBI rosters in the first two FAAB periods, with fantasy managers eyeing matchups against Detroit and Seattle to start the season, including a two-step in the first full week. As he would be expected to face off against the Angels, Pirates, and Royals in his next three starts, Shoemaker may stick around on some rosters, but he’s someone to monitor on drop lists in your leagues if teams are just streaming him for his two start week.

 

Photos by Kiyoshi Mio and John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)

Adam Howe

Adam resides in Indianapolis after spending the better part of a decade in Oakland, CA and growing up in Massachusetts. He co-hosts the On The Wire podcast with Kevin Hasting, analyzing your weekly FAAB options before your bid deadlines every Sunday.

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