Big Kid Adds (Week 2)

Syndication: Arizona Republic

While the NFBC Main Event garners most of the attention, there are a handful of leagues with even a larger entry fee ($2.5K to $15K). They got originally named “High Stakes Leagues” and this year there are nine of them. With so much money on the line, these fantasy managers are going to try to gain any advantage. Most of the time, these managers will be a week or two ahead of everyone else on their adds. Here are the players and some information on the ones added in four or more of these leagues.


Iván Herrera (9): Some suspect catchers were originally drafted, so this week, managers looked to upgrade with Herrera, McGuire, and Kelly. The managers made the right call by adding Herrera the most. The 23-year-old hit .297/.409/.351 last season and .304/.308/.565 so far this season.

Projections value him with 12 HR and 5 SB with a .250 AVG in 450 PA. The stolen bases might be on the light side after he stole 11 bases in AAA in 2023.

If given a full-time role, he might be a top-12 catcher but Willson Conteras is also on the Cardinals. Over the weekend, Conteras got hurt (hand) and couldn’t catch so Herrera is getting some run. If rostering Herrera, monitor his playing time going forward.

Oliver Dunn (8): Dunn was off everyone’s radar coming into the season. In the NFBC, no one even drafted him until Spring Training started. Even then, he was added in just a few leagues.

And here are his comps from the Steamer600 preseason projections so show why no one was interested.

An uninspiring list of names.

So what has changed? An insane run of BABIP luck. In Spring Training, the 26-year-old lefty posted a 36% K% but a .476 BABIP kept his batting average up at .282. So far this season, his .412 BABIP offsets the 30% K% leading to a .296 AVG.

On top of the batting average, he’s always posted a walk rate over 10% (down to 7% this season), so he’s getting on base which gives him chances to run. During Spring Training, he stole five bases and two steals so far.

With the hot start, he’s been in the starting lineup in seven of the last eight games while leading off in the last two. On top of playing, he has started five games at third base to possibly increase his eligibility (already second-base qualified).

Dunn’s value will come down to keeping the BABIP up or lowering high strikeout rate.

Blaze Alexander (7): Besides one of the best names in baseball, the 24-year-old is getting a chance with Geraldo Perdomo on the IL. Blaze (I’m going full Ichiro and only using his first name) is similar to Dunn in that both will run high strikeout rates and rely on a high BABIP for a decent batting average. Blaze has a 31% K% but a .400 BABIP this season.

So far, he hasn’t shown elite speed or power but if given a full season of plate appearances, he should provide double-digit numbers in both categories. A middle infield or bench option in deeper leagues.

Will Brennan (6): Brennan is on the strong side of a platoon and over the next two weeks, the Guardians are scheduled to face 11 righties in 13 games. In over 400 PA against righties, the 26-year-old has hit .288/.325/.388 with 6 HR and 15 SB (Kwan twin?).

So far this season, Brennan has eight hits, all singles, and a couple of stolen bases. A streaming option while hoping for a few stolen bases.

Josh Smith (6): Smith seems to be Josh Jung’s replacement be I wonder if there is a platoon in place (career .589 OPS vs LHP, .609 vs RHP). In all fairness, both OPS values are below major league replacement levels.

The deal is that Smith has cut his strikeout rate from 24% to 8% (O-Swing from 22% to 17% and Contact% from 89% to 96%) while hitting .316/.458/.421. No major-league manager is going to bench anyone on that hot of a streak.

With Justin Foscue’s injury, the team just promoted the 27-year-old Davis Wendzel (.314/.419/.657 with 3 HR) from AAA. Wendzel has been playing third base and who is on the hot corner on Tuesday will say a lot when the Rangers face a lefty.

Reese McGuire (6): Even though Connor Wong is hitting (.333/.333/.400), the Red Sox have started McGuire in six of the 10 games. McGuire has shown a strong hand in parking himself at the catcher position by hitting .333/.385/.625 with 2 HR and 1 SB.

Michael Busch (5): Busch is playing (at least against righties) and hitting fine (.258/.333/.419, 1 HR) while being qualified at first and third base. Maybe he’s a 20 HR talent (the projections disagree). With the depth at the first and third base position, he is at most either a corner infielder or a bench bat.

Jurickson Profar (5): I had some bids in for Profar because he’s playing (started all 13 games) and productive (.308/.426/.487, 1 HR). No major breakout, just a steady bat.

Carson Kelly (5): Started in six of 10 games as Detroit’s catcher. He’s cut his strikeout rate from 27% to 14% and has a .286 AVG. Also, an insane 94 mph avgEV has him with a 56% HH%. For those streaming catchers, he’s someone to consider.


Cody Bradford (7): While a starter with a 91-mph fastball won’t garner too much excitement, Bradford does because of his extremes. First, he doesn’t walk any batters (0.7 BB/9). This is especially helpful since he’s an extreme flyball pitcher (33% GB%) and will eventually give up some home runs. Until then, his flyball nature will keep BABIP low (.125 in ’24, .257 for his career).

Even with the low velocity, his fastball is missing bats (11% SwStr%) and his changeup has been decent (15% SwStr%). The one problem is that he doesn’t have anything close to a league-average third pitch.

The other issue with Bradford is that the Rangers may go with Michael Lorenzen in the rotation soon. Bradford’s next major league start might be his last one for a while, but at least it’s against Oakland.

Paul Blackburn (6): Anyone who’s thrown 13 shutout innings will get noticed. He didn’t get there by striking batters out (4.9 K/9). Instead, he limits walks (0.7 K/9) and keeps the ball on the ground (51% GB%). His 3.93 xFIP and 4.09 SIERA are respectable, so he shouldn’t be unplayable once regression hits.

Patrick Sandoval (6): I’m sure some managers rage-dropped Sandoval after his 1.2 IP and 3 ER (5 R) performance on Opening Day. In his next start, he got 7 K and allowed just 2 ER going 5.2 IP. He throws five pitches (four-seam, change, slider, sinker, curve) at least 10% of the time. His bread-and-butter pitch is his changeup (27% SwStr%). None of the rest grade out as average.

Sandoval’s production has bounced all over the place so there will be good and bad games but in the aggregate, he’s a productive starter.

Javier Assad (5): I’m unsure how the 26-year-old remains productive. Currently, he has a 28% K% but only an 8% SwStr%. Usually a pitcher’s K% = 2 * SwStr%. Not in this case. His average fastball velocity is down 0.7 mph. None of his five most-thrown pitches grade out as average or better. There is just nothing to get excited over.


Most Added Players in NFBC High-Stake Leagues
Name Leagues added Max Winning Bid Min Winning Bid
Ivan Herrera 9 36 2
Oliver Dunn 8 95 18
Cody Bradford 7 136 10
Blaze Alexander 7 45 11
Paul Blackburn 6 44 15
Patrick Sandoval 6 38 10
Will Brennan 6 32 3
Josh H. Smith 6 26 1
Reese McGuire 6 16 1
Michael Busch 5 184 30
Javier Assad 5 48 37
Jurickson Profar 5 37 4
Carson Kelly 5 6 1
Graham Ashcraft 4 79 12
Chad Green 4 61 23
Connor Joe 4 36 2
Gio Urshela 4 32 2
Shelby Miller 4 29 18
Miguel Sano 4 27 2
Jake Irvin 4 24 8
Jacob Young 4 23 3
Joey Gallo 4 20 2
Kyle Isbel 4 6 1
Cole Irvin 4 3 2

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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1 month ago

The way I ended up with Paul Blackburn this weekend was I didn’t bid enough on the good pitchers. I think I got him and JP Sears in the league where I had Strider and Framber. Fantasy baseball is fun? If I am gonna punt wins that hard, might as well just load up on RPs.