2018’s Fantasy Baseball Auction Bargains

The date is March 19, 2018. You are about to compete in a live NFBC fantasy baseball auction. You are prepping vigorously for your draft auction. You are reading over your player lists, mulling over which OFs you will go for at the auction table.

Fast forward to September 27, 2018. Now that the season is almost all in the books, you can now look back at your fantasy auction and see all the good, the great, the bad and the terrible decisions you had made just 6 months prior.

Let’s start with a simple OF decision. Which player should you have bought back in March?

Mike Trout (OF, LAA)


Eddie Rosario (OF, MIN)

Sounds like a fairly easy decision, no?  But to help you out, before you answer the question … I’ll provide you with some 2018 statistics (as of 9/26):

Player Comparison
Name Team Position R HR RBI SB AVG
Mike Trout Angels OF 99 38 77 24 .313
Eddie Rosario Twins OF 87 24 77 8 .288

Don’t answer the question just yet … let me also provide you with a full season dollar valuation for the two players in question.

Value Comparison
Name Team Position $ Value
Mike Trout Angels OF $37.20
Eddie Rosario Twins OF $21.90

For those new to subtraction, Trout’s valuation is larger than Rosario’s valuation by $15.30, or another way to look at it … Trout was worth almost 70% more than Rosario was in 2018.

So which player of the two should you have purchased for your fantasy team on March 19?

The answer is ……  Eddie Rosario!!!

Wait just a minute … Trout had the same number of RBIs, but more Runs, more SBs, a higher BA, and more SBs than Rosario. You may even ask, “Ariel, didn’t you just tell me that Trout was worth 70% more than Rosario?” How can that be???

Well, to answer that – you need one more piece of information, namely, what the price was to acquire each player.

First, let’s define three quantities:

  • $Value – The full season 5×5 roto value of each player. For this, I am using FanGraph’s auction calculator on YTD 2018 stats, with NFBC standard settings (15 teams, mixed AL/NL, $260 budget and positions – 9 P, 2 C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, 5 OF, U). This represents what a player was actually worth in 2018.
  • $AAV – The average auction value for each player in 5×5 roto / NFBC style format. For this, I am using the average of a set of actual NFBC online auctions run by Andy Saxton that Todd Zola of Mastersball had provided. This will represent the cost that it would have taken to acquire a player back in March. For those players who weren’t drafted, or who were only drafted as a reserve, we will set a nominal price for them of $0.10.
  • $Bargain – The difference between the $Value and $AAV. This represents the profit that each player had provided over the 2018 season, from his initial pre-season draft price.

Let’s go back to that OF comparison now …

Player Comparison
Name Team Position $ Value $AAV $Bargain
Mike Trout Angels OF $37.20 $47.19 ($9.99)
Eddie Rosario Twins OF $21.90 $12.38 $9.53

Winning fantasy baseball is All. About. Value.

Although Mike Trout will finish the season as a top-10 performer, if you had purchased him in a fantasy auction this year, you would have paid some $47 – which meant that you LOST MONEY on him. Had you purchased Eddie Rosario, which would only have cost you about $12, you would have profited … by over 75% of what you paid.

Below are the top 20 most profitable players for 2018:

2018 Top 20 Player Bargains
No. Player K / R W / HR SV / RBI ERA / SB WHIP / AVG $ Value $AAV $Bargain
1 Blake Snell 211 21 0 1.90 .960 $35.60 $7.06 $28.54
2 Javier Baez 98 34 111 21 .293 $36.50 $11.50 $25.00
3 Trevor Story 85 34 104 26 .290 $34.70 $10.94 $23.76
4 Jesus Aguilar 78 34 105 0 .275 $23.20 $0.10 $23.10
5 Miguel Andujar 79 26 87 2 .295 $21.80 $0.10 $21.70
6 Blake Treinen 98 9 37 0.79 .830 $30.90 $9.63 $21.28
7 David Peralta 75 30 87 4 .296 $23.40 $2.56 $20.84
8 Michael Brantley 88 17 76 11 .309 $23.50 $2.81 $20.69
9 Scooter Gennett 86 23 92 4 .313 $25.90 $5.31 $20.59
10 Mitch Haniger 88 26 91 8 .283 $24.50 $4.56 $19.94
11 Nick Markakis 77 14 93 1 .301 $19.00 $0.10 $18.90
12 Matt Carpenter 108 36 80 4 .259 $24.70 $6.88 $17.83
13 Christian Yelich 112 33 104 21 .321 $43.00 $25.63 $17.38
14 Jeremy Jeffress 86 8 13 1.33 1.020 $16.80 $0.10 $16.70
15 Jed Lowrie 77 22 96 0 .267 $16.60 $0.13 $16.48
16 Max Muncy 72 33 73 3 .259 $16.50 $0.10 $16.40
17 Josh Hader 140 6 11 2.28 .800 $19.60 $3.31 $16.29
18 Matt Chapman 98 24 68 1 .281 $18.60 $2.75 $15.85
19 Juan Soto 75 21 66 5 .295 $15.80 $0.10 $15.70
20 Eugenio Suarez 76 32 101 1 .280 $23.20 $7.56 $15.64

Assorted Player Notes & Facts (in no particular order):

  • Blake Snell was clearly the best pitcher to buy pre-season 2018 at a roto auction. For a mere $7 average auction value, he will finish as the 3rd most valuable pitcher this season worth $36, behind deGrom ($40 value) and Scherzer ($39 value). His 21 W currently leads all of MLB, his 1.90 ERA leads the AL, and add in a healthy 211 Ks too (only 14 pitchers have more than 200 strikeouts).
  • The next most profitable starting pitchers were Mike Foltynewicz ($15 bargain), Walker Buehler ($14 bargain) and Miles Mikolas ($13 bargain). [Does Mikolas remind you at all of Colby Lewis?]
  • Blake Treinen was clearly the most profitable RP in roto this season, with 37 saves and spectacular roto ratio stats (0.79 ERA / 0.83 WHIP). He even added nearly 100 Ks to boot. He was the 16th most expensive closer to purchase pre-season at an AAV of under $10.
  • Yasmani Grandal ($19 value) and Yan Gomes ($13 value) were the two most profitable catchers this year. Grandal could be had for only $4 AAV, and Gomes’s AAV was less than $1.
  • The three most valuable undrafted players were Jesus Aguilar ($23 value), Miguel Andujar ($22 value) and Nick Markakis ($19 value). Of those three, Aguilar and Andujar were high skilled players not assured of playing time – which is why their draft price was so low. Javier Baez’s price was also depressed, because most projection systems didn’t give him enough plate appearances, with the Cubs’ logjammed IF roster on opening day.
  • Nick Markakis on the other hand, was simply a mistake by pre-season drafters. Markakis was handed the cleanup spot on day #1 in Atlanta. Surrounding him the lineup was Inciarte, Albies, Freeman, and Acuna (knowing he would come up to the MLB shortly). They all cost a minimum of $12 in AAV, which suggested a good ATL lineup this season. Given who the players surrounding him were in his lineup, Markakis, who has a history of a high batting average – should have been projected for a much larger R and RBI total. At the very least, he should have been drafted in NFBC formats.
  • Of the top 20 bargain players, Christian Yelich was the most valuable returning a $43 full season value. Yelich had an MVP-caliber season amassing a 33/104/.321 campaign with 21 swipes. He was also the most expensive player on this list to buy, with an AAV of $24. Javier Baez is the next closest to Yelich in pre-season cost at an AAV of $11.50. The huge bargains this year typically came from players which cost just $2-8 pre-season.
  • Of the top 20 highest priced players pre-season only 1 player returned a profit – Mookie Betts ($47 value / $39 AAV). The other 19 highest priced players averaged a loss of $16 (A $Bargain of -$16).
  • Jacob deGrom ($40 value / $29 AAV) was the highest priced pitcher pre-season who turned a profit. Only deGrom, Justin Verlander and Aaron Nola cost over $20, yet turned a profit. To note, pitching this season accounted for about 37% of NFBC auction budgets, which is rather high historically, and much higher than the traditional 70/30 split rule would indicate.
  • The average cost of the top 20 bargain players (including undrafted players at $0.10) was $5. The average returned value of the players was close to $25.


Ariel is the 2019 FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year. Ariel is also the winner of the 2020 FSWA Baseball Article of the Year award. He is the creator of the ATC (Average Total Cost) Projection System. Ariel was ranked by FantasyPros as the #1 fantasy baseball expert in 2019. His ATC Projections were ranked as the #1 most accurate projection system in 2019. Ariel also writes for CBS Sports, SportsLine, RotoBaller, and is the host of the Beat the Shift Podcast (@Beat_Shift_Pod). Ariel is a member of the inaugural Tout Wars Draft & Hold league, a member of the inaugural Mixed LABR Auction league and plays high stakes contests in the NFBC. Ariel is the 2020 Tout Wars Head to Head League Champion. Ariel Cohen is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA). He is a Vice President of Risk Management for a large international insurance and reinsurance company. Follow Ariel on Twitter at @ATCNY.

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Love the article and the takeaways, and I also caution that saying “you should have taken Eddie Rosario” is looking past what we are looking for in a draft, which is total value. Every winning team needs to capitalize on bargains (also can be called surplus value), but surplus value in and of itself doesn’t win a league. It’s about getting the most value, and that’s why the Trout’s of the world routinely go for more than their $Value might indicate and it’s commonly worth it (to some degree).

To illustrate this point, the sentence “Of the top 20 highest priced players pre-season only 1 player returned a profit” is misleading – if you avoid the top 20 because they don’t return surplus, you miss out on some of the routine high-value guys every year. It’s hard to win a league only off of surplus guys, and it’s hard to predict who will return surplus. Getting high-floor, lower-risk investments is important too – I’d imagine Lindor or Machado owners aren’t upset that they returned about what they paid for this year. Another way to look at this idea is opportunity cost: on draft day, what else would you have done with that draft money? Spent it on Corey Seager? Not spent it at all and only gone for $1 breakouts?

Simply put, it’s about getting Trouts *and* Rosarios on your roster, not one or the other. You need your top picks to perform like top picks, and your mid-to-low-cost picks to generate surplus. One cannot hope to win a league by scooping only players they hope to make this list, although winning teams at the end of the year often have many members of this list on their roster.

Thanks for the article!


Yeah I don’t think most people expect the 1st/2nd round guys to provide “value” for their inflated cost, but the people who come into auctions focused solely on value are the ones who end up with $60 leftover.