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, now 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 latest FAAB period, which concluded on April 11. I’m going to keep my focus on the 15-team leagues this week as the pick ups here may still be readily available in your 12 or 10 team leagues, so keep an eye out.
A Sign of Relief
Remember the closer carousel operator from last week? He’s still hasn’t turned off the ride to let everyone off, but he has slowed things down to a speed that doesn’t make the majority of riders throw up on their horse. At least that’s the case in TGFBI, where reliever spending was down 10.75% across the 29 leagues compared to the previous FAAB period. Though total dollars spent on relievers was down, almost the same amount of players were added, with 67 being picked up on April 4th compared to 65 being bid on in the past FAAB run. Perhaps managers have caught on to the pitfalls of spending big bucks on the shiny new toy that may break as soon as you open the box, or perhaps those who are willing to spend on those toys already emptied their wallets on other options in the first two periods. Who’s the say.
Over in the NFBC Main Event, relievers were as popular as ever. We saw a nearly 50% increase in spending on relievers, with three more players being added compared to the April 4th FAAB period. Considering there are 43 leagues across the Main Event, there’s a bit larger sample size here compared to TGFBI’s 29 leagues, not to mention the obvious cash investment almost every player in the ME makes just to be there. Here’s a couple players that stood out.
Lou Trivino, OAK
Main Event: 40 adds, $186 average winning bid
TGFBI: 27 adds, $83 average winning bid
The winner of the highest single bid across all leagues in the Main Event, Trivino was picked up in 40 leagues across the Main Event this past weekend. To be fair, he was snagged in the other three leagues the week prior. Here’s the best part — for the three teams that speculated that Trivino might be in the mix for saves in Oakland a week early, while most other teams were looking at Jake Diekman, they spent $10, $1, and $1 respectively to bring Trivino to their roster. Meanwhile, fast forward a week later and Lou Trivino‘s average winning bid in the Main Event across the 40 teams that won his services was $186, with a max bid of $356. Listen, Lou Trivino might end up with 50 saves on the season, but odds are he won’t. Those single-digit spec bids can pay off dividends when they work out, but can’t really hurt you too much, if at all, when they don’t. They won’t work out most of the time, but you can make 18 separate speculative bids at $10 for the average cost Trivino went for this past week. Think about that.
Corey Knebel, LAD
Main Event: 37 adds, $82 average winning bid
TGFBI: 25 adds, $75 average winning bid
Kenley Jansen has been a mixed bag so far this year, looking shaky one minute and solid the next, and with Dave Roberts coming out and saying he is reluctant to use Jansen three times on four days it provides extra opportunity to other pieces of the Dodgers’ bullpen. So far, Knebel has been the beneficiary of such opportunities and looks to continue in the role. Even without the primary closer role, Knebel looks to vulture more than a few saves for the Dodgers, as it’s expected they’ll continue to win games whether Jansen is available or not.
Kendall Graveman, SEA
Main Event: 37 adds, $82 average winning bid
TGFBI: 25 adds, $75 average winning bid
Sure, the Mariners traded for Rafael Montero this offseason to presumably be their 9th inning guy but man, has he looked awful thus far. Enter Graveman, who has gone from undesirable streaming starter to dominant late-inning relief threat ready to move into closer territory at a moment’s notice. Luckily for those who tried to get in “early” this weekend, Graveman has already returned on the investment. Expect his price next week to increase considerably next week where he’s still available.
Here are a few of those aforementioned speculative picks. Romo, Rainey, and Bleier combined for five adds in the Main Event. Interestingly enough, the pair of Romo and Rainey was dropped a combined 41 times this past weekend, making them relievers to watch for next weekend as the week develops. Rainey is obviously behind Brad Hand in Washington at the moment, but Hand has been one of the most overworked closers in the game while with Cleveland. Romo’s past experience will always keep him in the mix for a few saves in any bullpen that doesn’t have a set closer. Bleier was the most interesting of the bunch, as his manager in Miami actually mentioned him by name saying that he would use Bleier in save opportunities if the match ups dictated. So, of the three, Bleier could walk away with a save this week and see his acquisition numbers skyrocket in the next FAAB run.
New Life for Old Bats
A few bats have come into view over the last week for different reasons — some the beneficiaries of teammate injuries while others just made the most of the opportunities they were given.
Zach McKinstry, LAD
Main Event: 32 adds, $37 average winning bid
TGFBI: 15 adds, $36 average winning bid
McKinstry looks like your run-of-the-mill Dodgers’ hitting prospect without a clear spot to play. Blocked at almost every spot, McKinstry has found a way to wiggle himself into the lineup regularly to start the season, mostly thanks to a few injuries in the Los Angeles outfield. He’s made the most of his time and very well could find himself being used to relieve regulars around the field as needed, making him viable in most formats, especially those with daily moves. Though he does not have a position in NFBC formats yet, he should become OF eligible soon with a possibility to add other positions (like 2B) throughout the year.
Tyler Naquin, CIN
Main Event: 42 adds, $128 average winning bid
TGFBI: 29 adds, $108 average winning bid
We all know you don’t get the stats that a player put up BEFORE you bid on them, right? Just making sure. One Main Event manager figured this out early, and threw down a $1 winning bid on Naquin during the April 4th FAAB period, saving their leaguemates the time to consider a triple-digit bid on the Cincinnati outfielder. With Jesse Winker back in the lineup, it’s really only a matter of time before Naquin goes back to his fourth outfielder status.
Jed Lowrie, OAK
Main Event: 35 adds, $38 average winning bid
TGFBI: 22 adds, $26 average winning bid
Don’t look now, but Jed Lowrie is healthy. For now. He’s been the starting at the keystone for the Athletics since Opening Day. Typically I may just say something like “playing time is king” in deeper formats, but Lowrie is making his bat known in the early going, collecting four multi-hit games before the April 11th FAAB bidding period. Lowrie becomes a necessary addition to those teams looking to fill their MI position due to various other injuries (Kolten Wong? Tim Anderson?) and becomes a decent bench piece to hold onto until he makes himself unviable for one reason or another.
Phillip Evans, PIT
Main Event: 22 adds, $26 average winning bid
TGFBI: 18 adds, $15 average winning bid
Evans has filled in admirably at the hot corner while Ke’Bryan Hayes sits out, collecting hits in six of his seven starts leading up to this most recent FAAB bidding. With three home runs and four multi-hit performances of his own, it’s no wonder why he was added in many leagues and at an even lesser cost than Lowrie. There’s no reason to believe Evans won’t continue as he sits near the top of the lackluster Pirates’ line up.
Travis Shaw, MIL
Main Event: 26 adds, $55 average winning bid
TGFBI: 13 adds, $29 average winning bid
It may have been expected Travis Shaw would see the bulk of third base playing time for the Brewers once they decided to trade Orlando Arcia to Atlanta, making it clear Luis Urías would see after shortstop duties. The injury to Kolten Wong all but solidifies Shaw’s place on the diamond in Milwaukee. Shaw had started five straight games leading up to FAAB bidding and looks to be solidifying his spot in the middle of the line up.
Tyler Stephenson, CIN
Main Event: 8 adds, $18 average winning bid
TGFBI: 0 adds
Though he’s expected to be the catcher of the future for the Reds, Stephenson continues to back up starter Tucker Barnhart. Fantasy manager got a taste of what Stephenson can bring to the table in 2020 and a speculation like this one is hoping for a changing of the guard, for one reason or another, sooner rather than later.
Edwin Rios, LAD
Main Event: 3 adds, $8 average winning bid
TGFBI: 0 adds
If Rios had more flexibility it may be him seeing the added playing time in Los Angeles rather than Zach McKinstry. As it stands, Rios had started in just four games leading up to the April 11th FAAB run, but for fantasy rosters that have the room Rios makes for a tempting stash in the case an injury at one of the corner opens up more playing time.
Garrett Whitlock, BOS
Main Event: 5 adds, $6 average winning bid
TGFBI: 1 add, $21 winning bid
Long relievers are all the rave these days, and Whitlock, a Rule 5 pick-up for the Red Sox, has put himself in that mix. In his two outings thus far, he’s combined for five-and-a-third innings without giving up a run and collecting eight strikeouts. Those making speculative bids on Whitlock now are obviously holding out hope he may get a spot start if he stays stretched out or vultures a win as the majority of the Red Sox’ rotation fails to impress.
The “time manipulation deadline” is coming up April 16th, and these three guys fit the bill to be called up by their respective teams shortly after. García may be in the mix sooner after impressing during Spring Training and an opening being created recently with Domingo Germán being demoted. Gilbert and Gore have yet to earn any MLB playing time and become logical additions to their team’s rotation to keep their development moving.
Short Term Solutions
Johnny Cueto, SF
Main Event: 23 adds, $64 average winning bid
TGFBI: 16 adds, $41 average winning bid
Aaron Sanchez, SF
Main Event: 24 adds, $23 average winning bid
TGFBI: 19 adds, $22 average winning bid
Wade Miley, CIN
Main Event: 34 adds, $24 average winning bid
TGFBI: 20 adds, $23 average winning bid
Caleb Smith, ARI
Main Event: 6 drops
TGFBI: 14 drops
Archie Bradley, PHI
Main Event: 12 drops
TGFBI: 9 drops
A.J. Puk, OAK
Main Event: 19 drops
TGFBI: 10 drops
Photos by Kiyoshi Mio and John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)