Building a 2021 $14 NFBC Offense, A Review

One of the more enjoyable exercises I performed before this season was building a $14 NFBC offense, using the contests’ average auction values. The idea was to choose from the 59 hitters that averaged $1 in cost and put together an entire legal offense, filling each required slot. Let’s see how this squad performed, with final FanGraphs calculated auction values included.

The $14 Offense
Position Player HR R RBI SB Avg $ Val
C Danny Jansen 11 32 28 0 0.223 $1.84
C Elias Diaz 18 52 44 0 0.246 $8.66
1B Rowdy Tellez 11 34 36 0 0.242 -$4.68
3B Eduardo Escobar 28 77 90 1 0.253 $13.61
CI Bobby Dalbec 25 50 78 2 0.240 $7.12
2B Ty France 18 85 73 0 0.291 $14.31
SS Nick Ahmed 5 46 38 7 0.221 -$3.80
MI Cesar Hernandez 21 84 62 1 0.232 $6.34
OF Aaron Hicks 4 13 14 0 0.194 -$11.36
OF Mark Canha 17 93 61 12 0.231 $10.52
OF Oscar Mercado 6 27 19 7 0.224 -$6.17
OF Willie Calhoun 6 26 25 0 0.250 -$6.86
OF Myles Straw 4 86 48 30 0.271 $15.45
Util Hunter Renfroe 31 89 96 1 0.259 $17.60
Total 205 794 712 61 0.247

The first thing that jumps out at me is the number of injuries or reduced MLB time due to minor league demotion or slump-fueled benching. No matter what collection of players you select, it’s near impossible to ensure that group will remain healthy and every day players all season long. Because of the injuries and lost playing time, the roster’s counting stats all handily missed their ATC projections. The good news is that nearly all of them were immediately replaceable, so your actual final counting stats would have been much higher if you decided to challenge yourself and actually draft this roster for the fun of it.

Amazingly, not one hitter recorded 600 at-bats and only six of them even reached 500 at-bats. Four of them failed to even reach 300 at-bats. Aaron Hicks spent the majority of the season on the injured list that I forgot he even played at all!

Fortunately, there were a bunch of nice hits on this list. Five hitters earned double digits, resulting in hefty profits for those in real leagues who actually bought each for a buck.

I was a big fan of Hunter Renfroe this year in his first season with the Red Sox. I figured his new home park would help cover up his biggest flaw, BABIP. Sure enough, he posted a .311 mark at home, versus just a .253 mark away, and finished with the highest BABIP and batting average of his career. Clearly, fantasy owners were too focused on his poor 139 plate appearances in 2020 and left him in the bargain bin. He was the roster’s highest earner.

I had seriously mixed feelings on Myles Straw heading into the season. On the one hand, this is a guy who will easily earn a massive profit at a buck just from his stolen bases alone. You figure with his speed, he’ll probably be a positive in runs scored as well and likely would be neutral at worst in batting average. But those two categories were just gravy as you were buying the steals. The other side of me wondered whether he would actually hold a starting job all season. With no power, he would need to keep up his solid plate discipline and post a strong BABIP to ensure a respectable OBP to offset the low SLG and there was no guarantee either would happen. So I easily saw a downside of 300 at-bats with 15 steals and negative earnings in the rest of the counting stats. But at a buck, there was absolutely no reason to pass on the profit potential, and it ended up being the right decision.

Perhaps this exercise was run too early as I would be surprised if Ty France remained just a buck all auction season long. While I’m still not sure what happened to the power he teased back at Triple-A in 2019, he was still solid enough to earn double digit value. The zero steals hurts though so you really need to see him jack up his home runs at least to over 20.

After an awful 2020, Eduardo Escobar was another of those “what have you done for me lately?” victims discarded into the bargain bin and then making owners who passed on him cheaply regret such a decision. His power completely rebounded and his performance returned right back to his 2018 and 2019 levels.

It was weird for me to select Mark Canha for this team only because I had never rostered him and never felt like I was particularly bullish on him compared to others. But I knew he was a leading candidate to hit leadoff and all those extra PAs could really boost the counting stats. That’s exactly what happened, as he recorded the majority of his PAs in the first slot and ended up scoring 93 runs. The 12 steals weren’t exactly expected and represented a pleasant surprise, certainly boosting his fantasy value into double digits. I wouldn’t bet on those continuing.

When in doubt, go with a Coors Field guy. That’s how I ended up with Elias Diaz, who rewarded my roster with 18 homers. His power actually wasn’t just a Coors artifact as he homered nine times in both his home park and away parks. But he batted .289 at home versus just .203 away, so he clearly benefited from the Coors boost. Danny Jansen battled injuries and lost playing time due to an early slump, so he was probably swapped off rosters several times during the season. His only issue has been BABIP, as this year’s .233 mark was actually the highest over the past three seasons. That’s surprising given his above average LD%.

At the time of my original article (published March 1), I had no idea what the Indians plan was in the outfield and whether it included Oscar Mercado. For a buck, I took the chance that he wins a starting job and rebounds from his poor 2020 season and his combination of power and speed would remind fantasy owners how exciting he could be. It didn’t work out. He failed to win a starting job and actually didn’t make it back to the Majors until the end of June. He ended up staying in the Majors the rest of the season, but never took full hold of a starting job. While he did rebound somewhat from a fantasy perspective by hitting six homers and stealing seven bases (a 15 homer and 18 steal pace over 600 PAs), he posted just a .294 wOBA, so he didn’t exactly force his way back into the team’s long-term plans.

It was another lost season for Willie Calhoun as he once again battled injury and failed to show the power he displayed during his half season breakout in 2019. I love his contact ability and his maxEV tells me he still has ample power in his bat. But with no fielding ability, it’s tough to bet on him holding a starting job all season, even if he remains healthy. My concern from the minors is that he hits too many pop-ups which have crushed his BABIP potential and resulted in a batting average well below what you would expect given the combination of his power and strikeout rate. That concern hasn’t been alleviated. He remains a big question mark with some obvious standout skills and potential, but also some obvious flaws.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Good work, Mike! I appreciate this kind of odd strategy and later analysis. The chart, at least on my computer, doesn’t include the fangraphs final auctions value as you apparently intended.