Building a 2022 $14 NFBC Offense

You know what’s fun? Drafting a fake team, selected using values from completed drafts. Several years ago, I debuted a series of posts using NFBC average auction values (AAV). Let’s start that up again as we’re just over a week away from opening day. I’ll start by building a $14 offense. That’s right, 14 hitters, all just a buck each. Isn’t that exciting?! I can only imagine the thrills that will be had choosing between players most fantasy owners have no desire to roster. But think of how amazing your $246 pitching staff would be!

There were 25 auctions (versus 265 snake drafts, woah) that took place in March and a total of 78 players with an AAV of $1. Of course, since I’m trying to fill a standard 14-player roster, I don’t have 78 choices for each position, so some slots will be slightly more difficult than others depending on how many options I have.

Introducing, the ultimate frugal Pod Squad:

The $14 Offense
Player Position Avg* HR* R* RBI* SB*
Jorge Alfaro C 0.241 9 33 38 6
Austin Nola C 0.259 9 37 42 1
Christian Walker 1B 0.251 17 62 63 1
Mike Moustakas 3B 0.240 24 59 70 1
Eric Hosmer CI 0.263 15 56 63 4
Luis Arraez 2B 0.300 4 57 42 2
Ha-Seong Kim 김하성 SS 0.244 11 48 47 8
Jeremy Pena MI 0.243 15 49 47 9
Brandon Nimmo OF 0.263 13 72 48 7
Lorenzo Cain OF 0.264 8 50 42 12
Rafael Ortega OF 0.249 12 56 44 13
LaMonte Wade Jr. OF 0.241 15 55 49 6
Sam Hilliard OF 0.229 17 44 44 8
Keston Hiura Util 0.230 13 37 38 4
Team Totals 0.248 182 715 677 82
*ATC projections

Sadly, this squad projects for far fewer home runs, runs scored, and RBI compared to the team I assembled last year. However, steals is about the same, and my batting average is actually slightly higher. Much of the discrepancy is due to forecasted playing time. None of the players on this roster are projected for more than 447 at-bats. Seven of them are projected for less than 400 at-bats, and another is projected for less than 300 at-bats.

For this exercise, I generally preferred young hitters I thought were undervalued based on a reasonable projection (like my Pod Projections) and young hitters whose projections are worth no more than a buck (i.e., not undervalued), but are a dart throw for a big breakout. There’s little reason to buy an established veteran worth a buck or two for a buck, knowing there’s only a small chance to earn a lot more than that, as you could easily find that level of production on free agency throughout the season. However, I did need to find some sort of balance by rostering some undervalued veterans that bore us, but still contribute the stats we need.

As you could imagine, my catcher choices were quite unappealing. I ended up with a pair of Padres, who combined are a reasonable duo. Jorge Alfaro was formerly a starting catcher for the Phillies and Marlins, but now will play a utility role, likely earning time behind the plate, in the outfield, and at DH. He owns a true talent high BABIP ability, has excellent power curtailed by his penchant for grounders, and is the rare catcher that steals bases. Austin Nola missed a chunk of time last year to injury, but makes good contact, and showed good power in 2019 and 2020 over small samples.

Christian Walker stunk last year, but I’m totally fine with any hitter expected to hit clean-up for any team for a buck. Obviously, his power will need to rebound, especially to secure his playing time. If it does, he’ll easily exceed those projections. We’ve all forgotten about Mike Moustakas, eh? He still strikes out infrequently for a power hitter and you have to assume his power rebounds this year. He still plays half his game in one of the league’s best parks for homers. Blah, Eric Hosmer puts me to sleep. However, he has a starting job (for now), will hit in the middle of a strong Padres lineup, and will contribute a bit everywhere without killing your batting average. You can’t speculate everywhere.

I’m rarely a fan of buying a player whose main contribution is batting average, but Luis Arraez is as safe as it gets. This group needs a batting average anchor and he should find himself near or at the top of an excellent lineup. While I’m not banking on it, he’s only going to be 25 this season, and he’s got the bat-to-ball skills to potentially choose to hit for more power. Even just 10 homers would make him significantly more valuable.

Even with Fernando Tatis Jr.’s injury, fantasy owners still don’t care about Ha-Seong Kim?! If Kim hits, he’s got at least a couple of months to hold a starting job and contribute both power and speed. He’s seemingly an ideal post-hype candidate now that the playing time is his for the taking. That cheering you heard when Carlos Correa signed with the Twins and then Trevor Story signed with the Red Sox wasn’t from those organizations, but from Jeremy Pena owners. Pena is now the assumed starter at shortstop for the Astros and is coming off an insanely major power breakout, over a small sample, at Triple-A last year. It was only 122 at-bats, but his HR/FB rate skyrocketed from mid-single digits in 2018 and 2019 to 37%, while his ISO jumped over .300. He also owns speed, which combined with his homers, put him on a 49 homer and 25 steal 600 at-bat pace. At his cheap price, it couldn’t hurt to speculate that some of that power breakout was real.

Brandon Nimmo has been hit by injuries in recent years, but has power, steals some bases, and will hit atop a pretty good Mets lineup. There’s nothing exciting here, but a reasonably safe stats stuffer if he remains healthy. Yeah, Lorenzo Cain is old and has barely played the last two seasons. But he still managed to knock eight homers and steal 13 bases in like half a season last year, so his fantasy contributions haven’t deteriorated. I love my power/speed contributors, regardless of age. Speaking of power/speed threats, Rafael Ortega surprised us all by recording a strong half a season, both in real baseball (.355 wOBA) and fantasy, given his 20/20 pace. I’m not optimistic he’s actually this good, but he does own both power and speed and the rebuilding Cubs might as well give him a long leash to see if they found a hidden gem.

LaMonte Wade Jr.’s 2021 performance wasn’t all that different than Ortega’s in that it was surprising, but good enough to give him a starting job in 2022. Again, fantasy owners might as well pay the little it costs to see if he can come close to replicating the performance. His xHR/FB rate was actually slightly higher than his actual mark, so his power was no fluke. I can’t stop my Sam Hilliard fascination. Yes, he strikes out a ton, and yes, the Rockies continue to do everything in their power to not give him an extended look. But man, that power and that speed potential is just too exciting for me to ignore.

Keston Hiura was one of the many reasons my 12-team mixed local league team disappointed last year. The team is looking to improve his positional flexibility and while his strong spring training so far isn’t going to change my rate projections at all, it could help him at least solidify a bench spot. It wouldn’t take that much more for him to win a spot back in the starting lineup either and we know what he’s capable of. The best part is that my xHR/FB rate equation suggests he was mighty unlucky last year, as his marks have actually been relatively stable since his 2019 debut.

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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Nicklaus Gautmember
8 months ago

You had me at Nimmo+Peña.