Building a 2021 $251 NFBC Offense

Last week I decided to have a bit of fun by building various starting hitter rosters and pitching staffs based on NFBC average auction values (AAVs). One of those exercises was building a $9 pitching staff. It’s something I always wanted to try in my local 12-team mixed league, but have never really come close to executing on. It’s very difficult to do because you’ll likely end up overpaying for your offense just to spend that $251, since the top players’ prices typically get pushed higher than the value they are projected to earn. Sure, your $9 pitching staff is likely to be projected to earn more than $9, but overall, you’re not going to leave the auction with a roster forecasted to earn anywhere near the profit you could if just playing it straight as a value-based auctioner.

Anyhow, enough about why I haven’t gone with the $251 offense and $9 pitching staff. Now let’s pretend I actually bought my $9 staff and it’s now time to pick out my ultimate hitting squad just the NFBC AAVs.

As a reminder, I’m displaying ATC projections, but actually used my Pod Projections and values to assemble the team. As you could guess, I’m more bullish on the majority of these batters than ATC is.

The $251 Offense
Position Player AAV HR* R* RBI* SB* Avg*
C J.T. Realmuto $23 24 76 77 8 0.267
C Christian Vazquez $9 15 55 54 6 0.261
1B Paul Goldschmidt $16 28 86 81 3 0.269
3B Matt Chapman $13 32 83 85 1 0.246
CI Anthony Rizzo $14 27 85 85 6 0.264
2B Ozzie Albies $26 24 93 84 14 0.280
SS Adalberto Mondesi $36 15 79 63 52 0.252
MI Keston Hiura $17 30 81 85 11 0.253
OF Charlie Blackmon $14 22 84 75 3 0.289
OF Mike Yastrzemski $9 24 86 76 6 0.256
OF Victor Robles $11 15 75 58 20 0.249
OF Eddie Rosario $15 29 79 91 5 0.271
OF Marcell Ozuna $25 33 89 105 4 0.285
Util Aaron Judge $23 35 95 86 3 0.258
Total $251 353 1146 1105 142 0.265
*ATC Projections

Surprised? Disappointed? Simply looking at the names, it certainly doesn’t seem like a loaded team. I’m also not even sure if these projected stats would figure to finish first in any categories. The home run total seems like a contender for first, depending on the league, while stolen bases might be in the mix, but probably top honors in only a few leagues. That projected batting average is definitely no threat to lead the league! But the beauty of batting average is how much it could fluctuate, so as long as you’re not buying a projected .220 mark, and it’s in the ballpark of where teams generally finish, you have as good a chance as any to win the category.

My strategy for this exercise was to sort by projected profit, as defined by the dollar values I calculated for the LABR Mixed draft compared to the AAV, and then select players I was projecting to earn at least $15 or so. I wanted mid-tier guys to earn a hefty projected profit, while trying to find the top-tier hitters that were the least overvalued or even projected to earn a slight profit.

Buying catchers was interesting. I know that everyone values catchers differently and the vast majority of the time, a catcher is bought for less than his calculated value. As a result, nearly every single catcher picked in all 10 auctions were projected to earn a profit. It’s not often you find a near $30 player yield a projected profit of more than $6, so I went with J.T. Realmuto, by far the most valuable catcher available. If I could get the best at a position at a discount, I’m grabbing him. Next, Christian Vazquez was the catcher with the highest projected profit using my own forecasts and calculations. His stolen bases from a position that rarely contributes in the category boosts his value, and the fact he’s a reasonable bet for 500+ PAs means he’s got a huge advantage over many lesser catchers with fewer projected PAs.

For some reason, I find corner guys are often undervalued. Comparing them to the middle infielders, it seems as if drafters (in snakes) and auctioners (in auctions) overpay for perceived position scarcity that doesn’t exist, so money is pulled from the corners and into the middle, making the former undervalued, and the latter overvalued. That said, the corner undervaluation came in the mid-tier, where I’m betting on two boring vets to enjoy a rebound off the disappointing short 2020 season. Paul Goldschmidt’s power went MIA, while Anthony Rizzo’s BABIP plummeted, and it appears fantasy owners may be punishing them too harshly. I can probably blindly say that a boring vet coming off a disappointing 2020 is going to be undervalued in 2021.

Matt Chapman is no boring veteran, but his walk and strikeout rates went way too far in the right direction, while both his BABIP and power remained in line or better than expectations. At age 28 now, I’m not too concerned about a random 152 plate appearances in which he struck out significantly more and walked less frequently.

While there is definitely a smattering of middle infielders that are undervalued, they are mostly clustered in the lower tier, guys projected to earn just $5-$10 to begin with. Those aren’t the players you need to buy for this exercise, or you might not spend your entire budget.

I’m pretty shocked to learn that I valued Keston Hiura above his AAV as I thought he was overvalued heading into 2020. Now after his BABIP came crashing down to Eartn as expected, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. What’s clear is that Hiura owns big power and will swipe some bags. Obviously, strikeouts remain an issue, so his value is going to be highly dependent on where his BABIP lands. He’s shown serious BABIP skills in the minors though, so I think it’ll get back over .300 in 2021 and he’ll come closer to his career average, or close enough that he won’t be a major negative.

Ozzie Albies is my top valued second baseman, and yet his AAV is a couple of bucks below my projected value. Once again, any time you could get the top player at a position at a discount, you have to pounce as that doesn’t happen very often. With him hitting out of the two spot during Spring games so far, his value will get a further boost if it sticks, as my projection assumes he bats fifth. You shouldn’t be surprised to find Adalberto Mondesi’s name here, as I drafted him in LABR Mixed. What’s bizarre is based on ADP and AAV, it appears that he’s significantly undervalued in drafts, but not auctions. I have no idea why that would be the case. That said, I’m still projecting him to earn a slight profit, which you can’t say for any of my other top seven shortstops (speaking of top shortstops, it’s crazy that the top seven shortstops I’m valuing higher than the first second baseman). We still don’t know for sure where Mondesi will hit in the lineup with Andrew Benintendi’s arrival, but I’m still thinking second. His value would take a hit if he drops down in the order.

If you thought the corners were often undervalued, take a look at the outfield! Every single year, the outfielders lead the pack in top profit potential (excluding catchers) and it baffles me. It’s one of the main reasons why my outfield is never stacked, because the early ones (early drafted or top tier in an auction) are typically fairly valued, and why would I pay fair value if I could wait for the mid-tier to collect all the discounts? Here, I had my pick of the litter, and essentially sorted by projected profit, picking out those whose projected value was still good enough in my mind. That resulted in a projected value of at least $17. I considered going with some cheaper players projected to earn even more profit, and even assembled some other teams going in that direction. But I settled on my original decision as it resulted in a better combination of power and speed.

Charlie Blackmon was my second most profitable outfielder, though his projection doesn’t seem very special. It was really just the power that took a dive last year, so I’m betting on a rebound, which isn’t reflected in the ATC projection. Clearly, I won’t need to pay for that expected rebound. He’s another boring veteran coming off a down 2020 that I think could be a bargain. I guess fantasy owners still don’t believe Mike Yastrzemski is legit, even after following up his surprise 2019 breakout with skills improvement in various places, including a wOBA over .400. I certainly don’t expect another .370 BABIP, but the power is real and his fly ball tendency makes the most of his HR/FB rate.

I can’t believe how quickly fantasy owners have given up on Victor Robles. He’s a guy that would never come close to joining my team because in the past I thought he was overvalued as expectations were far too high. Now he has a disappointing 189 PAs over a wacked season and fantasy owners have lost interest?! He’s still only 23! I was already projecting a hefty profit with my projection assuming he hits seventh. If he actually opens the season hitting leadoff, and holds the spot all year, he’s going to be one of the season’s most profitable buys.

Dear fantasy owner, does Eddie Rosario bore you? Because he’s undervalued like every single year. And every year, he delights. He now moves from a home park that slightly suppressed left-handed home runs to one that boosts them. If there was ever a time to pass on Rosario because you feared skills regression, now is not that season.

With my last two slots, an outfielder, and a utility, I was essentially just buying the most value with that $48. Since I felt satisfied with my projected stolen base total, I went with power and even ignored the power/speed combo guys as well. If I sort my outfielders in projected dollar value order, Marcell Ozuna is one of just three in the top 16 I’m forecasting earns a profit (barely) compared to his AAV. So he was the perfect final outfielder, especially given the categories he contributes in. Finally, Aaron Judge is projected to lose me a couple of bucks, but that’s actually better than 11 of the 15 outfielders I am valuing ahead of him, so in a relative sense, his price is pretty decent. Judge gives my fake team even more of the power I was seeking to round out this squad.

If I wanted to do this exercise the mathematically perfect way, I could have used the Solver tool in Excel to buy the most projected value, and hope the categories looked fairly balanced. That’s no fun though. It would be fun to compare teams to see if you can come up with a better offense for $251 than mine.

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.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

I almost did this in my league last year. Spent $19 on pitching (I kept Giolito, Ryu and Colome for $7 total). My $241 offense was Harper, Judge, T Turner, Jose Ramirez, Semien, Albies, Cruz, K Marte, Chapman, Voit, Gallo, W Smith. Spending that much on hitters, you should get 3 first rounders. Your hypothetical team has none.

Anyway, I won it all. Plan to repeat the strategy as I can now keep Giolito, Gallen and Ryu for $8 total

Curacao LL
1 year ago
Reply to  Turgid

His methodology passes on first rounders because he argues (probably correctly) that first rounders’ values are (almost) always inflated. Better to pay $23 for Realmuto who is worth $30, than the full value –or more– of a $50 guy in the first round… because someone really is stumping up $50+ for Acuna, Betts, Soto, Trout…

1 year ago
Reply to  Curacao LL

Yeah, but $40 each for Turner, Harper and Ramirez is pretty nice. Aim for the back end of the 1st beginning of the 2nd. It’s like his Mondesi, Judge, and Albies, but way better. And I got Judge and Albies anyway.

Does NFBC have waivers? I guess that matters, because I deliberately left C, 1B and 2 OFs cheap thinking someone would break out (Voit) or be replaced with a pop up guy (Yaz in for Gallo). I like stars and scrubs anyway. It’s a fun way to play.

1 year ago
Reply to  Turgid

Yup again Turgid. You are correct.

1 year ago
Reply to  Turgid

I agree with Turgid. You have that much to spend, you need to come away with 3 elite hitters. There are plenty of $1 that play every day to balance it out.